Thursday, December 21, 2006

95% of Americans Have First Sex Before Marriage

While I was away finishing up my new book, a couple of news headlines caught my eye. The Guttmacher Institute released a new analysis of people from 1953 - 2003 and found that 95% of Americans had first intercourse before marriage during those 50 years. Despite impressions to the countrary, the proportion of people having premarital sex has not changed in at least fifty years, and it's nearly everyone. Remember (and I've done other posts about this) that there is a national abstinence-only-until-marriage program that says the "expected standard for human sexual behavior" is no sexual intercourse until marriage. NOT, as my son might say.

There was also a story about Rev. Haggards' church which has now fired its youth minister for a consensual sexual relationship that happened before he was married (no details provided), saying it was against Biblical standards about sex. Apparently Christopher Beard was behaving pretty much like the rest of us, and it cost him his job.

Now, what I wondered when I read the story was "which Biblical standard" they were refering to? Because the Bible isn't really a very good model for us today when it comes to its heroes sexual lives. Could they possibly have meant Jacob with his two wives and two concubines? David with his 21 wives? Solomon with his hundreds of wives and concubines? The levirite law that required women to have sex with their brother-in-laws if their husband died leaving them childless? Mourning Jepthah's daughter because she died a virgin? Paul's admonition about marriage that it was "better to marry" than burn with passion? How about the women at the well with the multiple husbands and lovers that Jesus revealed himself to?

I believe that the Bible offers us a relational ethic -- love your neighbor as yourself -- as well as a sexual ethic that teaches us that our bodies are good, that pleasure is good, that sexuality is a wonderful gift but it can be abused, and that we must exercise that gift responsibly. It doesn't teach a consistent message though that the expected standard for sexual intercourse is wait until you are married.

It is past time for America to recognize that an ethic based on chastity until marriage alone does NOT help people make moral, ethical sexual decisions...according to the Guttmacher Institute study, it didn't help your parents and grandparents; it's not helping your children either.

P.S. For my regular readers, I'm pleased to tell you that the book is 98% finished and will be at the publishers on time for release in August 2007.


Anonymous said...

I found your blog today while searching for Chanukah. I've read several of your blog posts, and am relieved to find more and more clergy -- like you -- who base their doctrines on love and the essence of the Bible, versus cherry-picking verses that allow them to beat children or condemn gay people.

I'm fortunate to have a rabbi that thinks along the same lines as you.

Merry Christmas to you and all those you love. (And Happy Chanukah to all your Jewish friends.)


Anonymous said...

{turns sarcasm on} I actually think the best standard we have for sexual morality is David. Hero of the Old and New Testaments, David ever so subtly cheats on his wife(wives), gets a girl pregnant, offs her husband, and keeps the girl. Plus, of course, there's Jonathan. And the part where he overlooks that his son raped his daughter.
{sarcasm off...}
He's at least an accurate picture of how people really are, and how they are still beloved of God.
Thank you for publishing this--it's important to have our clergy voices out there!

Anonymous said...

I've got a few comments. First, I don't think it's terribly surprising that human beings are lusty creatures. Dante devoted the first ring of Hell to fornicators. As a priest once said to me, your passions die 15 minutes after you due. Such is the human condition. Our lower passions oftentimes not controlled by our will. Perhaps I misunderstand you, but you seem to imply that since everyone's doing it, then it must be OK. I don't think it's a stretch to say that 99% of Americans have been gluttonous at some point in their life-I admit I was just yesterday, in fact. I think you'd agree that it would be foolish to conclude from this that gluttony is OK. The fact that everyone is doing something does not make a particular action moral.

If you understand the New Testament to be a fulfillment of the Old Testament, I think the model for our sexuality is pretty clear in Matthew 19:3-9. Yes, people are lusty, gluttonous, slothful, deceitful,prideful, envious, and God loves us in spite of our sins, but, as the lady he met at the well, he tells us to go and sin no more.

As for the youth minister, I don't understand why they would fire him for a sexual incident that occurred before he became a minister and was married. This is assuming, of course, that he was sincerely sorry for his indiscretion and was not attached to sins of the flesh, I don't see the issue.

Anonymous said...

i just wanted to say that i'm excited to have finally read your blog!

so glad you are here!

Anonymous said...

that's sad... there are no more virgin males out there?!