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Even Evangelical Teens Do It

This “Slate” article by Hanna Rosin is pretty wild. She writes that of “Teenagers who identify as “evangelical” or “born again” …80 percent think sex should be saved for marriage. But thinking is not the same as doing. Evangelical teens are actually more likely to have lost their virginity than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. They tend to lose their virginity at a slightly younger age—16.3, compared with 16.7 for the other two faiths. And they are much more likely to have had three or more sexual partners by age 17: Regnerus reports that 13.7 percent of evangelicals have, compared with 8.9 percent for mainline Protestants.

I remember back when I was touring with the band, there was this tour called the “true love waits” tour. As it turns out, the young single girl who was headlining the show became pregnant while on tour. The bass player for one of the other bands turned out to be the guy. I don’t say that to throw them under the bus. We played a show with them about a year after their baby was born. They were about the cutest couple you’ve ever seen. They had the baby on the road with them and they were doing really well.

I have no idea whether programs like this are a good thing or a bad thing. My guess is that they run about like the article explains. It seems like there has to be something that can be done to try and help young people navigate this part of their lives. The most important thing is helping people find a way to relate to each other in their brokenness. They missing element in all of this is a place for kids to relate to each other if they break the pledge some night. What do they do once the deed is done?

I thought the article was really interesting. I was actually not surprised by the fact that evangelical teens were actually more sexually active at a younger age…forbidden fruit!

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • Weeping Willow

    This is what happens when being “saved” is defined as praying a prayer off a card or developing warm and fuzzy feelings for God. Also contributing to the moral squalor among the evangelical young is the absence of biblical teaching and preaching in churches. You won’t learn about the Christian life while wriggling and writhing to the sounds of the latest Christian boy band/girl band at a church- sponsored concert. Getting “amped” for Jesus usually lasts about as long as the energy drinks the kids consume at the concerts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Thanks for your thoughts, Willow. I’m inclined to agree with what you said about preaching and teaching. I see both sides of the issue sort of this way.

    I get that we need to be relevant. But I just think the scripture narrative is incredibly relevant. However, I don’t think that is true when it is treated like an answer book or like “timeless truths,” that we must acquiesce to. This is largely the approach of fundamentalists and biblical inerrancy folks and it is a bowing to the plausibility structures of modernity. I believe the bible is living and active and tells the story of God as God interacted with and formed a people of God and invited them into relationship with God. The key to biblical teaching is to help us see ourselves in that narrative. Not to coerce some sort of emotional confession.

    You said “learn the Christian life” and I appreciate that language. You phrase it in terms of a way of living – this is our worship and this is our vocation. I think you are right. We are to be a people who join in Jesus’ mission on earth and this requires of us that we live in certain ways. It simply does not require that we believe exactly the right things because that is impossible. And it certainly has little to do with pep rallies & jumping for Jesus.

    That being said – it’s still great or kids to go to concerts and jump around and learn how important it is to play around and enjoy life/music/friends, etc. It’s just not something which should then manipulate them into some sort of emotional decision for Jesus. That can be really damaging and it’s something I probably participated in far too many times.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Weeping Willow

    I trust it does not give us any sense of satisfaction that “evangelical” teens look a lot like their mainline protestant and catholic peers (as well as their unbelieving neighbors). The statistics pointed out by Slate aren’t wildy favorable to any of these kids.

    The Bible is crystal clear that the fruit of impure sex is “forbidden” to all the groups you mention on your blog post, not just “evangelicals,” who scored your headline. That they are seriously struggling with the pursuit of sexual purity is troubling, and perhaps, telling.

    The article rightly points out the watered-down meaning of “evangelical” today. Perhaps we need a new word. And a letting go of old prejudices.

    That said, if so-called “Evangelicals” do not differ statistically in their beliefs and practices, it is a reflection of their ignorance of God and neglect of the gospel of salvation through Christ.

    1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 … 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: [1] that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body [2] in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. (ESV)

    Have these kids been taught that sanctification is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one? Have they ever even heard the word? Or that during this process, God plants desires for holiness (re-read verse 7 above) that were not there before?

    That Christians are to become increasingly “Christlike,” as the moral profile of Jesus (the “fruit of the spirit”) is progressively formed in them? That despite the inner struggle the Christian faces(Romans 7:14-25), the Holy Spirit will help “put to death” (Romans 8:13) these particular bad habits (Col. 3:5) that plague those that are simultaneously justified and yet still sin in their flesh?

    That Christians also will experience many particular DELIVERANCES and VICTORIES in their battle with sin, while not being exposed to temptations that are impossible to resist (1 Cor. 10:13)?

    Sadly, many are not hearing this message because the evangelical church has lost its rich spiritual heritage and encourages the flock to leave their Bibles at home, where they begin to gather dust.

    See, these kids don’t know the gospel. And not knowing it, they cannot believe it. And not believing it, they cannot trust in it. If you cut out the root of truth embodied in doctrine, worship and life, then the fruit will disappear. Root = Fruit.

    So all the statistics aren’t surprising.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Willow,

    Nice…another good post with several idea that get me going. Two things that I’ll simply agree with & give my thoughts: first, I agree with you about “evangelical” as a word. I’m just not sure the word evangelical is really that helpful anymore. It doesn’t mean what it should. I’m starting to prefer the term “Missional.” It has the effect of being less church-centric and more Christocentric. It also helps us to engage the world for Christ’s sake and the world’s sake without an agenda which fosters some sort of coercion as we mentioned in earlier comments on this post.

    I like Missional because I think the issues evangelicals grapple with are deeply theological as much as anything. It seems to me that in large part evangelicals (and I’m generalizing, here) have allowed building their churches to become synonymous with building the KOG. Evangelicalism often embraced evangelism as “their” mission, building tactics to support that view. But I’ve come to believe that this is not the purpose of the church. It is God’s mission through Christ to draw the world unto himself (2 Cor. 5:17-19). Putting the world back together again is Christ’s mission. It is this mission which forms the church. Jurgen Moltmann says is really well:

    “What we have to learn…is not that the church ‘has’ a mission, but the very reverse: that the mission of Christ creates its own church. Mission does not come from the church; it is from mission and in the light of the mission that the church has to be understood…the real point is not to spread the church, but to spread the kingdom. The goal is not the glorification of the church but the glorification of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.” – Jürgen Moltmann – The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 1977

    For this reason, I think Missional is a better term than evangelical. It seems to more accurately represent who we are supposed to be. The church should be a called people on a mission which is brought into being by God, commissioned by God, which is embodied not simply by ratification of certain beliefs (though that is part of it), but by a certain way of life. Which brings me to the second thing I woudl comment on: sanctification.

    I’m also not that fond of “sanctification” as a word – but you named the word that I would currently pick to replace it in the same sentence, which is “transformation.” I think sanctification isn’t a great word anymore because there is too much baggage with it. I haven’t formed a comprehensive list, but there seems to be undue tension around this word. I think it comes partly from the reformed idea of the ordo salutis versus, the holiness movements use of entire sanctification – sort of these ideas that push what I believe is a false dichotomy between justification sanctification. I like to hold both of those words together in the word transformation. Most simply put I believe that is to “take up your cross and follow me.”

    Combine mission with transformation and you’ve got some words with some “play” that we can use to have a conversation about what the church is and what it’s for.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    If you want to add more to this thread, please email me at tims@heartlandk10.com

    peace,

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Weeping Willow: I’ve received your next submission & I’m happy to post it, but not until you come out with your real identity. I’m not going to engage somebody who doesn’t have the guts to just be themselves online.

    Sorry friend, no more hiding behind a pseudonym!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    That’s what I figured.

  • http://www.juvaa.com Kevin Bailey

    Tim-

    Thanks for doing this. I’m tired of people who feel free to pontificate online, yet aren’t willing to attach their actual name to their “musings.” Thanks for trying to change that aspect of online culture in your little corner of the blogosphere.

    Kevin


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