[Note: I had made it a goal to write at least one post per day. However, I was sick yesterday with some kind of intestinal-stomach bug. Thus, Wednesday was spent almost entirely on the coach...]
Based on my experiences from premarital counseling as a pastor, the latest AP article in yesterday's paper was not a surprise. A disappointment, perhaps, but not a surprise. "New study finds nine in 10 had premarital sex encounters," was the title several pages from the front. I guess for the editor it wasn't really all that new either. In fact, if I found an honest-to-goodness couple who didn't fit this profile I'd probably fall off my chair.
The study notes that "the high rates extend even to women born in the1940's, challenging the perceptions that people were more chaste in the past." However, given that those born in the 1940's were young women in the sexual revolution of the 1960s, I can't say that I'm all that surprised. Now, what I'd like to see is how dramatic the change has been among those born, say in the 1920's and 1930's who came of age in the 40's and 50's.
The study's author, interestingly, is a research director at the Guttmacher Institute, a a private New York-based think take that studies sexual and reproductive issues and which disagrees with the government-funded programs that rely primarily on abstinence-only teachings. Thus, it makes sense when the author, Lawrence Riner, says: "This is reality-check research. Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades."
So, we are supposed to design programs for the good of people based on their behavior trends? I don't see the people opposing the cigarette industry with this logic. But then again, in the minds of today's cultural elite, there are really no dangers to premarital sex - as long as reasonable precautions are taken to reduce the risk of pregnancy or STD's. Even though established studies will show that those involved in cohabitational arrangements are far more statistically prone to divorce.
One may have thought that we would have learn from the mistakes of the free-love 60's that sex outside of marriage carries a huge price, not only physically, but also in terms of the health of relationships.
As one who works with young people, many of whom are sexually active prior to marriage, I see it as part of my calling to educate them on what God desires and requires of his people. In all the history of the scriptures I fail to see where prophets or apostles accommodated the trends of their day and simply 'gave in' because 'everybody is doing it.'
This is a challenging time for the church. Too often we are tempted to follow trends and polls and studies as our guides. Churches are built and ministries formed to accommodate in just this way. Witness the history of Willow Creek. But that is not what we are called to do. May God grant us the strength to proclaim against the grain.