The Huge Problem of Sexually-Active Unmarrieds
Twelve years after I first heard it, John Piper's January 24, 1999 message remains the most personally-significant, abortion-related sermon I've ever heard. James 1:26-27 is his text, and he argues by reasoning from the lesser to the greater that abortion-vulnerable children are situationally worse-off than widows and orphans. And since widow and orphan care is at the heart of true religion, so must care for abortion-vulnerable children. Here's what James 1:27 actually says:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
The problem with most American evangelicals, Piper says, is that we tend to only apply half of James prescription. Some are naturally drawn to the first part of the verse. Piper calls it the social-justice side of true religion. Others are drawn to the second half of the verse, which Piper calls the personal-piety side. The essence of true religion is being faithful to both sides of the equation. This is how Piper describes the discrepancy that exists in so many of our lives:
There are a lot of Christians who like the second half (of James 1:27): sexual purity, financial integrity, keep a clean thought life, Amen. And let's stay home and watch TV… And there is another group of Christians who say, Hit the streets. It's justice that counts; it's peace that counts. It's weapons that count, It's truces that count. It's the poor that count; it's widows and orphans that count. Get off your seat and be a Christian. And live like the devil in your bedroom and in front of your computer.
He then tells the 2nd-hand account of someone involved in a "justice and peace" project on the west coast, a project that brought in Christians from around the country who were "pouring their lives out to do some significant things" and then sleeping around with each other on the weekends – with foul mouths. At the time, I couldn't help but feel that he might have been overselling the case. Certainly this one anecdotal account does not generally characterize the personal morality of young, socially-engaged evangelicals. Or does it?
On Friday, I received the latest issue of Relevant magazine. Tyler Charles' article, "(Almost) Everyone's Doing It," opens this way:
Eighty percent of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year. (65)
The article references a new study by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which surveyed the behavior of unmarried adults, aged 18-29. He notes that 42% of unmarried, self-identified evangelicals are in an active, sexual relationship. Among unmarried, evangelical women, 30% have gotten pregnant – which is 1% higher than women not claiming to be evangelical. According to the most recent abortion data (2008), 37% of aborting women in America identify themselves as "Protestant," which works out to roughly 450,000 Protestant abortions each year.
What this all means of course, is that young, evangelical Christians, who increasingly fancy themselves champions of social justice, are actually driving the single-greatest, social-justice atrocity in this country–all because they've become too progressive to submit to God's commands regarding personal, sexual morality. Charles notes that "if this generation of Christians was genuinely committed to saving sex for marriage–[abortion] would dwindle considerably." (66) That's actually an understatement. If you add the 28% of all abortions performed on Catholics, you arrive at the fact that approximately 65% of all U.S. abortions are performed on women in the church. For 2008, that works out to 786,500 abortions. If Christians in America stopped engaging in extra-marital sex, two-thirds of all abortions would be eliminated – without a single change to the current law.
Easier said than done.
As the evangelical church has largely freed itself from the Pharisaic legalism of its past, new vices have taken its place. Charles suggests that many young Christians seem to think that if "they can drink responsibly and watch movies and listen to music with a discerning spirit," they can also "have sex 'with discernment'." The article lists numerous reasons for this disturbing trend, including the ever-increasing, average age at which people get married. It's also suggested that more and more unmarried, 20-something Christians view abstinence as the tired, backwards morality of their parents. They've yet to find a reason beyond "because it's wrong" for remaining chaste. If this is so, it portends even greater problems for the church. The question of authority is at the heart of the gospel, and anyone who demands a reason beyond "because God says so" will eventually run up against something their limited, human mind can't wrap itself around. We must be willing to trust that God is working all things together for the good of those who love him, even when we can't see a hint of how he is doing that in a given situation or through a given restriction. But in regard to sex, there are all sorts of perfectly pragmatic reasons for abstaining until marriage. Here's 1,016,400 of them. Eighty-four percent of all abortions in the U.S. are performed on unmarried women. That means that each year, premarital sex in America causes the violent death of more than 1 million innocent human beings – which is certainly worth considering next time you're tempted to sleep with someone you're not married to.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.