The results of a survey were released last week. According to its data, 95% of Americans have sex before marriage. The survey's indicators are being used by many groups to question the use of abstinence-based sex education. If premarital sex has become normative behavior, goes the reasoning, then isn't it time that sex education reflects that fact?
I was saddened and also confused by this survey in several ways. First, saddened because so many people are missing out on what I have experienced to be true- that starting a marriage with no prior sexual experience is absolutely wonderful. I can't truly compare it with the opposite (no one can compare the two with personal experience, since you start a marriage either having had sex previously, or not), but I know that it provides a solid base of trust and actual intimacy. Obviously, this lines up with exactly what God says in the Bible- that sex is created for marriage and not for any other use. That's the reason that I waited until marriage- God said it, so I better obey it. I certainly haven't followed what God says in every aspect of life, but in this one at least I was able to.
The confusion, for me, comes with the question, 'How can this trend be reversed and more people convinced to wait until marriage?'. I don't see a lot of convincing reasons to put off sex OTHER than the 'God said it, I better obey it' reason. Outside of religion and faith-based motivations, the main reasons for abstinence that I see being given are:
1. reliable protection against sexually transmitted diseases
2. no danger of pregnancy
3. emotionally healthier
However, each of these reasons is growing weaker over time. Some possible rebuttals:
1. science is developing protections against most diseases without having to abstain (witness the recent vaccine against cervical cancer)
2. there are plenty of reliable methods of birth control
3. a shaky reason that cannot be tested. If 95% of Americans are having sex outside of marriage, then it would seem emotionally healthier to be with the majority, not the small minority
So the only real motivation for waiting till marriage for sex is the motivation outside oneself- motivation driven by God because He is the authority, not you. All the other reasons can be explained away, or at least rationalized to a minimum. So is it worth it to keep promoting abstinence in the culture at large, without it being tied to a religious motivation?
Therein lies my confusion- and this goes for many areas of how Christians should speak publicly about matters of morality. People who aren't Christians (and by that I mean those that aren't actively trying to follow God and take the Bible as authoritative) have no reason to hold to biblical standards of morality. Yes, I believe that God's laws are still practical and hold the best plan for every person- that's what makes me so sad, that millions of people are missing out on the great experience of having true, marriage-only sex. But should I, as a Christian, speak publicly about abstinence as a way of life? (and not only speak, but support Christian organizations that try to influence public policy, curriculum in schools, etc) Is that putting the cart before the horse, so to speak, asking people to follow God's plan when they don't follow God? I just wonder if actions like that will push people farther away from Christianity. "Oh, those Christians again, trying to stick their nose into other peoples' business." On the other hand, it's pretty clear in the Bible that Christians, if they stick up for God's way of doing things, are going to be salt to the world, and not make too many friends along the way.
Please feel free to comment on this topic or on the larger issue of Christians involved in public policy. That's a field that I find myself drawn to, but I have a hard time figuring out what a Christian's role should be. Groups like Focus on the Family and others, which take a solid stance of wanting to see legislation and public policy follow a biblical morality, cause a lot of people to turn a deaf ear to anything having to do with Christianity. How much should Christians push for biblical public policy, and how much should they let the culture go where it will and stick with dialoguing with individuals?