There are some more stats to add to the list provided in my last post. These come from the National Association of Evangelicals, who in a recent video say that 80% of young evangelicals have had premarital sex. Furthermore, a third of unwanted pregnancies resulting from premarital sex have ended with abortion.
An article from the Religious News Service makes a couple of very good points about this situation. First, modern culture finds young people experiencing a very long period of sexual maturity before marriage: The average time period from the onset of puberty to marriage is 15 years. It simply isn’t realistic to expect people to remain celibate over such a long period. (I’m tempted to say that it is especially unrealistic for young people at or near their sexual prime, but I think it is significantly unrealistic for people of all ages.)
The second point is that young people aren’t given a good reason for why they should remain celibate. One person interviewed for the article said that “The Bible says not to do it, but I think, for most people, they need more than that”.
This really gets to the heart of what I think is an important factor behind young people’s growing tendency to either leave the church or ignore its teachings. Young people are not known for blindly following authority, so they are very sensitive to cracks in the authoritative facade. Access to the internet (where arguments against religious ideas can easily be found), and a slowly growing acceptance of agnosticism and atheism, have both made young people less enamored of church authority. And it doesn’t help that when young people leave the church, the average age of the congregation rises, making it even harder for the remaining young people to fit in.
At the end of the end of my last post, I said that I looked forward to seeing what strategies churches employ to reverse the loss of young members. I wouldn’t be surprised if they realize that a much better justification for their beliefs will have to be presented – they can no longer rely on their own sense of authority alone.