We are often told that young evangelicals are rejecting biblical teaching on marriage, premarital sex, and homosexuality. However a study to be released by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist from the University of Texas, indicates that Evangelicals ages 18 to 39 are resisting liberal trends we see in the culture.
Regnerus introduced his findings at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s leadership summit in presentation called “Sex in America: Sociological Trends in American Sexuality”
Listen to the entire presentation:
Russell Moore and Andrew Walker wrote about this study in National Review last week:
According to Regnerus, when compared with the general population and with their non-observant peers, churchgoing Evangelical Christians are retaining orthodox views on Biblical sexuality, despite the shifts in broader American culture.
Regnerus surveyed 15,378 persons between the ages of 18 and 60, but he focuses in particular on respondents under 40. Significantly, Regnerus did the important work of differentiating between those who identify merely verbally with a particular religious tradition and those who actually attend church weekly. A political poll that didn’t differentiate between likely and unlikely voters wouldn’t be an accurate representation of the electorate, and for the same reasons, a survey should distinguish between someone who says “Catholic” or “Baptist” when asked for a religious identity and someone who actually shows up in the pews.
While support for same-sex marriage characterized a solid majority of those identifying as atheists, agnostics, liberal Catholics, and liberal Protestants, only 11 percent of young Evangelicals actively expressed support for same-sex marriage.
Approximately 6 percent of religiously active Evangelicals expressed support for abortion rights, while over 70 percent of their non-believing peer group said they believed in abortion rights.
While a large cross-section of all Americans believe in marriage’s importance, Regnerus found that, for example, Evangelicals are less likely than most to perceive marriage as “outdated.”
Evangelical Christians were also drastically less likely to believe that cohabitation is a good idea. While upward of 70 percent of those who claim no religious affiliation or those who are “spiritual but not religious” agree that cohabitation is acceptable, approximately 5 percent of Evangelicals agreed that cohabitation is acceptable. “While left-leaning Evangelicals have received considerable media attention lately, it pays to survey the masses and see just what’s going on,” says Regnerus. “These data suggest that while a modest minority of Evangelicals under 40 profess what we might call more sexually liberal attitudes, it’s not a significant minority. Minorities can be vocal. Survey data help us understand just how large or small they really are.”
It is great to see that young evangelicals are not embracing what is becoming a cultural norm. This is a significant study. What the study probably doesn’t address is the “graduation evacuation” that many churches experience when their students graduate high school and go onto college.
Those who do stay are faithful to biblical teaching on sexuality. Moore and Walker also point out:
Beliefs aren’t assumed but are articulated over and against a culture that finds them implausible. Evangelical views on sexuality seem strange, but young Evangelicals in post-Christianizing America have already embraced strangeness by spending Sunday morning at church rather than at brunch.
They can’t be assumed, they must be articulated to our young people before the leave the nest and after at home and in the church. With the pressures that our young people face when leaving for college it is vital that they are well prepared to stand firm.