The Pew Research Center released a report last month that suggests what we have long known: Evangelicals screw around just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world — albeit with more guilt and fear.
Many Christian traditions disapprove of premarital sex. And even though Christians in the United States hold less permissive views than religiously unaffiliated Americans about dating and sex, most say it’s acceptable in at least some circumstances for consenting adults to have sex outside of marriage.
Half of Christians say casual sex – defined in the survey as sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship – is sometimes or always acceptable. Six-in-ten Catholics (62%) take this view, as do 56% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition, 54% of mainline Protestants and 36% of evangelical Protestants.
Among those who are religiously unaffiliated, meanwhile, the vast majority (84%) say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable, including roughly nine-in-ten atheists (94%) and agnostics (95%) who say this. The religiously unaffiliated, also known as “nones,” are those who describe themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or as “nothing in particular.”
When it comes to sex between unmarried adults who are in a committed relationship, the gap between Christians and the unaffiliated is less stark. A majority of Christians (57%) say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable. That includes 67% of mainline Protestants, 64% of Catholics, 57% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition and 46% of evangelical Protestants.
Eight-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans (79%) say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable.
There’s less acceptance among Christians – and Americans in general – of a range of other sex and dating practices asked about in the survey, such as: having sex on a first date, exchanging sexually explicit photographs with other consenting adults, and having an open relationship (defined as a committed relationship where both people agree it’s acceptable to date or have sex with other people).
Evangelical Protestants are less likely than most of the other Christian groups in this analysis to find these practices acceptable.
“Evangelical Protestants are less likely than most of the other Christian groups in this analysis to find these practices acceptable.” No surprise here, right? Evangelicals are front and center in the culture war against any and all sexual practices except missionary position, heterosexual sex between monogamous married couples. Any other sexual behavior, including masturbation, is considered a grievous sin against God. How could it be otherwise? When you attend churches pastored by men who excessively focus on sexual sin in their preaching — while ignoring or hiding their own sexual peccadilloes — is it any wonder Evangelical churches are filled with people who think God will punish them for having “impure” sexual thoughts or daring to enjoy being a sexual being?
Based on the Pew Research report, it sounds as if an increasing number of Evangelicals are ignoring what their churches and pastors say about sex, and are experiencing the wonders of human sexual activity. Something tells me that God and his spokesmen on earth aren’t going to win this battle.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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