Research consistently shows that young people who wait until after the wedding have a better chance for a stable, fulfilling, happy marriage. They also do not have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. Though this does not fit with contemporary assumptions about human beings, obedience to the Lord’s loving plan always works best, and brings incalculable benefits into our lives.
While we may or may not hear this kind of moral clarity in church, it’s been quite a while since the government has admitted the negative consequences of unmarried sex, particularly for teenagers. However, a 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated clearly that young people who are virgins register much higher in nearly all health-related behaviors than those who are sexually active. These behaviors included everything from using seat belts to avoiding drug abuse, eating a healthy diet, going to the doctor, exercising, and avoiding riding with a driver who’s been drinking. In addition, one finding that the media did not mention at the time is that while sexually inactive teens are healthiest, sexually active homosexual and bisexual teens fared significantly worse than their sexually active heterosexual peers.
At the time, the CDC conveyed the blockbuster conclusions of their report as drily and bureaucratically as possible: “Significant health disparities exist.” A summary of the CDC study provided by Focus on the Family clarified just how significant these disparities are.
First, smoking. The study found that sexually active heterosexual teens were 3,300% more likely to smoke tobacco products daily than their virgin counterparts. “Same-sex/bisexual-active” teens were 9,500% more likely to smoke daily than the virgins.
Second, drug abuse. The study found that sexually active heterosexual teens were 500% more likely to have ever injected a non-prescription drug than the virgins, while a whopping 2,333% of the “same-sex/bisexual-active” teens were more likely than the virgins to have done so.
Now, as Focus noted at the time, correlation is not causation. The research did not prove that abstinence causes other healthy habits. However, the very fact that the CDC noted a relationship between sexual behavior and other habits is more than a little significant. Though the CDC would never put it this way, the summary offered by Focus on the Family was clear and succinct: “The sexual choices and values our young people hold have real-life consequences far beyond sexuality itself.”
Parents who care about the health and wellbeing of their children should especially take note of this data and have confidence that they can make a difference for their child. Researcher Mark Regnerus highlighted in his book Forbidden Fruit that the intensity of teens’ religious beliefs is more important when it comes to sexual activity than exactly what religious beliefs they claim.
The first thing, then, for parents to care about is our kids’ faith. A strong, informed, and vital relationship with Jesus will help them resist the kinds of temptation and peer pressure—sexual and otherwise—that assault them every day at school and online.
In other words, worldview matters. The CDC report demonstrates there are consequences for a secular worldview that sees bodies as something we “own,” something external to who we are, something we use (or abuse) depending on our desires, our will, or our “identity.”
The Christian worldview, in sharp contrast, teaches that our bodies are integral to who we are, both in how humans were created and in that Christ took on flesh to make all things new. The extent that we and our kids truly embrace this will determine how we treat our bodies and the bodies of others.
For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to breakpoint.org.
This Breakpoint was revised from one originally published on December 9, 2016.
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