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Hypocrites at the Gates

October 4th, 2009 Comments off

To do or not to do?

To do or not to do?

Was it good for us? Premarital Sex

(Excerpt from the soon to be released, Belief & Behavior, by Don Barbera)

Evangelical political activists promote abstinence programs to reduce out-of wedlock pregnancy, but the sexual behavior of evangelical youth is not a lot different from the rest of the society.

In the last ten years, several million of the most devout American evangelical youth have signed the “True Love Waits” pledge to abstain from sexual activity until marriage but a massive recent study found that 88% had broken their promise within 18 months.[i]

Despite the high failure rate of such programs, four days ago, October 1, 2009, a Senate committee voted Tuesday night to restore $50 million a year in federal funding for abstinence-only education[ii].

Official views of premarital sex are largely hypocritical as moral conservatives are quick to condemn as long as it involves teenagers, but the moral police are not so vociferous when it comes to premarital sex between “consenting” adults. More than half of Americans believe that it is not wrong for adults to engage in premarital sex, while nearly 75 percent believe it is wrong for teenagers to do so.[iii]

Teens seem to catch the brunt of the criticism for behavior that is not only common among adults but also is accepted and is even depicted as acceptable in regular television programming and movies. In other words American adults have adopted a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude regarding sexual behavior. Also, most Americans say that “living together” is a morally acceptable lifestyle with barely 40 percent holding on to the “living in sin” mentality, which says that it is morally unacceptable for an unmarried couple to live together.

Today, most adults are comfortable with behaviors that have traditionally been forbidden. Six out of ten adults say that living together without the benefit of marriage is morally acceptable. The same percentage stated that having sexual fantasies is morally acceptable. It is interesting that among seniors who largely disagree with this stance there are many couples living together without being married for greater social security benefits.

If the recent revelations of megachurch leader Archbishop Earl Paulk are any indicator, it is clear that not even the clergy are not immune to the whims of human behavior. Paulk was sentenced to 10 years probation after lying under oath about a sexual affair, but the results of a court-ordered paternity test revealed that Paulk is the biological father of his brother’s son.

A Newsweek article pointed out that various surveys show that as many as 30 percent of male Protestant ministers have had sexual intercourse with women other than their wives.[iv] A survey of Protestant clergy by Leadership Magazine found that 12 percent admitted to sexual intercourse outside of marriage and that 23 percent reported doing something sexually inappropriate with some one not their spouse. The same researchers also interviewed a thousand Leadership subscribers and 45 percent admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior and 23 percent to extramarital intercourse.[v]

A 1969 Gallup poll found that premarital sex was frowned upon by two-thirds of Americans, while only 21 percent felt these relations were acceptable. That critical view dropped sharply by the early 1970s to 47 percent, and in 1985, Gallup found most Americans on the other side, with more than half saying premarital sex was morally acceptable. Today, a new Gallup poll shows that only 38 percent of U.S. adults say it is wrong for a man and a woman to have sexual relations before marriage, while 60 percent disagree. A slightly differently worded question on the same subject yielded a similar result.

Most young adults, 67 percent, think premarital sex is morally acceptable and their views are similar to those in the 30-to 49-year-old category. Both of these groups are much more liberal than those aged 50-64 where only 46 percent say it’s acceptable. Only 28 percent of adults aged 65 and older say it is acceptable.



[i] Probe Ministries, Adultery in the Church, November 14,1998, http://www.probe.org/docs/c-adultery2.html

[ii] Panel votes to restore abstinence education money, The Associated Press, October 1, 2009

[iii] Pregnant Pause: American Teens Are Either Abstaining or Practicing Safe Sex, Jenifer Joseph, ABCNEWS.com, http://abcnews.go.com/sections/living/HealthyWoman/healthywoman_57.html

[iv] Kenneth Woodward, “Sex, Morality and the Protestant Minister,” Newsweek (28 July 1997), 62

[v] Probe Ministries, Adultery in the Church, November 14,1998, http://www.probe.org/docs/c-adultery2.html

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