Evangelicals, Damning Statistics, and Bible Reading, Part I
By Uri Brito
The results are in and they don’t look good. Christianity Today reports on the Sex Lives of Unmarried Evangelicals. The two surveys offer differing numbers, but the conclusion is summarized in this manner:
Bible Reading? Evangelicals who infrequently read the Bible were 70 percent more likely to have been recently sexually active than frequent Bible readers.
Church Attendance? Evangelicals who attend church less than weekly were more than twice as likely to have been recently sexually active than weekly attenders.
Conversion? Of the sexually active singles, 92 percent had sex after becoming“born again.” That’s largely because the average age when evangelicals under 40 became “born again” was 8.
Evangelical statistics have a way of increasing our national Christian guilt, which is something that usually is already mighty high. Furthermore, the numbers usually paint a more pessimistic picture than what is actually taking place. My general principle when dealing with these statistics is to cut the percentage by a third. When the oft-cited “50% of Christian married couples end in divorce” statistic is referenced, this usually means about 35% of Christian married couples divorce. Those original statistics also included Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. A Non-Trinitarian marriage is anything but a Christian marriage.
But however you do the math, the numbers are still frightening. No one can deny that they reflect a weak evangelicalism. It is not that evangelical churches are fully entertainment driven without any substance, but that the substance they offer is not sustaining, and therefore leading our young generations to find pleasure is worldly entertainment. Part of this worldly entertainment is the casualness of the sex culture.
Since this is the case, we have responded in the way we evangelicals do best: we have over-reacted. We have bought into the “world is against us” slogan and we have acted upon it with zealous fury. We have sheltered our children to the point of stifling their rhetoric and making them miserable spokesmen for the Lordship of King Jesus. On the other hand, we have overly exposed them to the vastly sexualized culture. By the age of ten they all have their Lady Gaga lyrics memorized as accurately as a Puritan boy his catechism.
What can evangelical churches do to provide a culture that despises impurity and treasures purity?
The remarkable response–according to the statistics– is that by focusing on the simple means of grace of Church attendance, Prayer, and Bible reading one reduces dramatically the chances of engaging in fornication. I have stated many times that the evangelical problem is one of prioritization. And what does priority look like in the church? The damning news is that conversion is not enough. For many parents conversion serves as a perpetual moral babysitter. As long as words are spoken affirming the X,Y, and Z of Christian conversion then we are on our way to bringing up pure children. But conversion or its vocabulary are not enough! The evangelical culture has evangelized its children to death, and then we are left wondering where did we go wrong.
Here is a sample quoted above:
Evangelicals who infrequently read the Bible were 70 percent more likely to have been recently sexually active than frequent Bible readers.
Let’s say 50% of this is true. Without going into detail of what this “Bible-Reading” should look like–a worthy discussion to be had–in what ways are churches inculcating their children with the Sacred Scriptures? In other words, what are they doing to instill a desire in children to drink deeply of the Biblical narrative? Have churches made the Bible so one-sided and narrowly explicated that our children long to escape to a different narrative of the world?
As we affirm Sola-Scriptura, let us also delve into the Scriptures in a transformative way. “Your word is life,” says Yahweh. And this alone is enough to make the point of the study. When one saturates himself in life, then he will find death-like practices abominable.
To echo N.T. Wright, let’s return to a simply Christian view of life. Our understanding of sexuality needs to be transformed by a new understanding of who we are in Christ. Our new creation life is a life that treasures sex in its right context. Further, it sees the life of another human being as sacred, and therefore violating that sacredness–which is what pre-marital sex is–is a violation of life; a profound misunderstanding of the Imago Dei.
The Scriptures and its reading will help us re-shape our view of ourselves and others, but it must be done in a context that perpetuates the reality that the new world brings a new light and this light is filled with redemptive and ethical consequences. Therefore, forsake the works of darkness and drink deeply of the words of life.
*An additional post on “How to read Bible” will soon follow.
Uri Brito is the Senior Pastor of Providence Church in Pensacola, Fl. He is the author of the kindle book The Trinitarian Father.