September 12, 2017

‘Cheap Sex’ and the Single Christian

Editor’s note: The original version of this article was first published by The Christian Post. Click here to read it. 

The Washington Post ran a fascinating op-ed by Mark Regnerus on September 5 that examines just how negatively society’s dating patterns are impacting young Christians and what this could mean for the Church’s future.

You’ll recall Regnerus, an associate professor at the University of Texas, is the sociologist whose research found children raised by same-sex couples experienced more negative adult outcomes compared to children in traditional family structures. Now Regnerus is turning his attention to unmarried Christians.

His Washington Post article is well worth the read. Regnerus briefly touches on topics including online dating, delayed Christian marriages, clergy’s uncertain responses, and our overly-permissive culture.

Where to start? Premarital sex as an acceptable sin.

Chastity is a lifelong onus for all Christians—married and unmarried. The problem is premarital sex seems like a more acceptable sin among the Millennial generation.

Regnerus identifies “Cheap sex,” as the culprit. Proliferation of the Pill, pornography, convenience of cohabitation, and efficient online dating apps has cheapened sex.

“Young Christians are suffering the bruising effects of participating in the same wider mating market as the rest of the country,” Regnerus writes.

“They want love, like nearly everyone else,” he adds. They couple. Sex often follows, though sometimes after a longer period of time — a pattern that confuses them more than most, because premarital sex remains actively discouraged, but impossible to effectively prevent, in the church.”

The stats hint this may be more than a mere fluke. Eighty percent of unmarried Evangelicals between 18 and 29 had engaged in sex, according to a study in 2009 by National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

So what can we expect?

Honestly, it’s difficult to imagine challenges to the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics could get worse. Amid religious revisionists’ efforts to turn gender into self-expression and marriage into free-for-all groupings, now we face the impact of devalued sex.

The much-maligned purity culture is taking its toll on young Christians. Sex is a good gift. It’s a physical and spiritual union between husband and wife within a lifelong covenant reflective of Christ and His Church. From my own personal observations, this message doesn’t seem to be getting across in youth groups.

Following the same dating methodology as secular culture is a devolving, destructive trend for young Christians’ marriages. Not because online dating for example, is a corrupt medium. In a transitional metropolis like Washington D.C., online dating has its benefits. The problem occurs when users approach online dating like a supermarket, wandering up and down the aisle in search of the best product for the lowest price.

Following this same no-strings-attached dating patterns as non-religious 20 and 30-somethings could result in Christians’ delaying marriage. And Regnerus warns not to underestimate the negative effects delayed marriage could have on the Church.

Lower marriage rates could mean dwindling church membership. Local churches have historically offered a support system for couples and their children. Previous trends saw younger Christians leave the church during college years and inevitably return after marriage and family. Unmarried 20 and 30-something Christians could lose sight of churches’ vital role in their lives.

“All this puts pressure on American pastors, operating as they are in a free religious market,” Regnerus concludes. “‘Meeting people where they’re at’ becomes challenging. Congregations are coming face to face with questions of just how central sexual ethics are to their religious life and message.”

These dynamics raise important questions to consider:

  • How is the sacredness of sex passed down to future generations?
  • How can local churches better support singles as equally well as families?
  • Are Christians defending sex as vehemently as marriage?

Sex is under siege. The marriage culture war goes far beyond the same-sex or transgender dilemmas. Neglecting to defend the value of sex, chastity, and fidelity will have its consequences. Because, as Regnerus puts it, “It’s not science that’s secularizing Americans — it’s sex.”

4 Responses to ‘Cheap Sex’ and the Single Christian

  1. Nora Lee says:

    People today of all ages need help with socializing and dating chastely. Customs must be revived, and some part of the broader community must take responsibility for providing safe and enjoyable group venues, such as parties and even dances. Happily married women should counsel single women, and happily married men should counsel single men–informally and without necessarily waiting to be asked.

  2. Byrom says:

    This article focuses on young single Christans. However, this is also a concern for those of us older Christians who find ourselves single again via being widowed (my case) or divorce. I find Scripture to not directly cover some of our situations. All I have concluded is that, as an adult with a close relationship with the Holy Trinity and looking for the same in a woman, I will make the right decision in whatever situation I find myself.

  3. MarcoPolo says:

    All due respect to Mark Regnerus, I’d need to review his findings to fully appreciate his claim regarding negative outcomes of children raised in same-sex households.

    Gender isn’t a “self expressive” notion or a whim, that has negative affects upon society. We’re ALL just people, only different from one another! Accept it and move forward.
    As for delaying marriage, I can only imagine that that would be a healthier choice than getting hitched before turning thirty years old. There’s a lot of Life to discover before “settling down”. And there is research that has found that to be true!

  4. g says:

    Three quotes warrant comment:

    “…premarital sex remains actively discouraged, but impossible to effectively prevent, in the church.”


    “…it’s difficult to imagine challenges to the Church’s teachings on sexual ethics could get worse.”


    “…this message doesn’t seem to be getting across in youth groups.”

    From the last two quotes, I question the message that many churches (if not most) are broadcasting. Notice the assumed goal from the first quote was to effectively prevent sexual immorality, and that goal is essentially admitted to be unattainable.

    Turns out that’s exactly the case. It is an impossible outcome. Further, I assert that the outcome of sexual purity should not be the primary goal of any church teaching. That outcome is a fruit of what should be the primary goal of all church teaching: the gospel.

    The reason it’s an impossible goal is that it is impossible to address any sin apart from an understanding of and submission to the gospel. So I suspect the message that is being broadcast does not illustrate how sexual purity relates to the gospel and should be a holy result of a gospel-transformed life, and instead I bet it’s essentially being broadcast as a moral code. But, how can a group of “youth-ified” or “single-ified” dry bones live according to any Godly moral code? They can’t, and so the gospel is the thing that is needed as the main ingredient of this mix.

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