Category Archives: Teens

The Sex Lives of Christian Teens

On the radio, popular songs declare the thrills of casual sex. On the Internet, pop-up windows beckon Web surfers to erotic destinations. The fashion world touts midriff-baring designs, while prime-time TV rolls out one sexual innuendo after another.

Today’s adolescents must navigate this cultural morass just at a time when hormonal surges and emerging feelings are making life confusing enough. But what happens when faith gets thrown into the mix? How does being a Christian affect a teenager’s perceptions and responses in this sex-drenched society?

Much has been written lately about abstinence education and how more teens are choosing not to have sex. Newsweek even touted “The New Virginity” on its cover last fall and acknowledged that religion—along with caring parents and an awakening sense of personal responsibility—has played a major role in why teens are deciding to wait. Indeed, programs like True Love Waits (an international campaign launched by the Southern Baptists in 1993) have challenged millions of teens and college students to remain sexually pure until marriage. And the Centers for Disease Control reports that the number of high school students who said they’ve had sex has dropped notably, from 54 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001.

Still, polls and studies only tell part of the story. Despite signs that things are improving, the reality of sexual temptation remains—and Christian young people are not inoculated against these pressures. Hearing their voices, in fact, suggests that their plight might be even more precarious than their non-Christian counterparts:

“I know the Bible says you can’t have sex before marriage. But why can’t you, if you’re in love with the person? It doesn’t feel wrong. —Kendra, 14

“My boyfriend and I don’t want to mess around anymore. But how do we keep this commitment? I never realized how powerful passion can be.” —Shari, 15

“Kids at school are pressuring me and my girlfriend to have sex. I want to wait until marriage, but I worry about how this makes me look.” —Darryl, 17

“I feel cut off from God. I want to do what’s right, but I can’t seem to. Recently I had sex with a guy, thinking that it would bring us closer. I know now that was a mistake, and I feel totally ashamed.” —Aimee, 16

A lot of Christian teens are having sex and suffering painful, sometimes devastating consequences. Meanwhile, those not having sex are thinking a lot about it, many of them wavering between fear and curiosity.

Parents, youth pastors, and other concerned adults might hope that the influence of biblical principles on their young would help them withstand the onslaughts of peer pressure, physical longings, and conflicting signals from secular voices (“Don’t have sex, but when you do, use a condom”), but the several teens who spoke candidly with Christian Reader reveal a far more complicated picture.

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Teen Christians campaign against pop culture

(CNN)
“I had to stop listening to them for a while,” said Hutchins, who lives in Cumming, Georgia, and plays the piano, guitar and harmonica. He said the group’s world view “had a negative effect on me,” and made him irritable and angry.

“God owns my life, not the Beatles,” he said simply. Although Hutchins said he enjoys a wide range of music — from Pink Floyd and Arcade Fire to Christian bands such as Hillsong United — he said he has to be careful of what music he listens to, for the same reason he temporarily turned off the Beatles.

Hutchins, a 16-year-old graced with poise and thoughtfulness, is one of many teenagers who say that some part of popular culture, with its ubiquitous references to sex, drugs and violence, has harmed him.

Last year, Hutchins and his Christian youth group attended an Acquire the Fire rally in Atlanta, Georgia, he said. Acquire the Fire — regional rallies held across the country — and BattleCry — the larger rallies held this year in only three cities — are the products of the evangelical Christian organization Teen Mania. Video Go behind-the-scenes with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at a BattleCry event »

One part concert, one part Christian revival, the rallies seek to “stage a reverse revolution” against secular popular culture. They have the pull of headlining rock concerts, drawing thousands of people regardless of the region of the country, the month of year or the day of the week. The audiences are nearly always predominantly teenagers and young adults.

From 2006 to 2007, a total of 127,830 people attended the 34 Acquire the Fire rallies, and 71,414 people attended the three BattleCry events held in San Francisco, California; Detroit, Michigan; and Bristow, Virginia, according to Teen Mania. Watch flags, fireworks and teens at rally Video

For Hutchins, who said he struggled in his early adolescence to fit in and be cool before having a personal experience with God about four years ago, the organization’s message is exactly right.

“We don’t have to be branded by the culture, we are branded by God,” he said. “Be who God created you to be.”

But the glossy, glamorous appeal of popular culture too often obscures that path to God, Teen Mania followers say.

And so, Ron Luce, the 46-year-old founder of the organization, has waged a modern-day crusade against “purveyors of popular culture,” whom he has condemned as “the enemy.” More than two decades old, Teen Mania estimates it has reached more than 2 million teens with its message “of living completely for Christ.”

The organization is sprawling. In addition to its live stadium rallies, there are BattleCry shirts and hats, mobile screen savers, books and a television program. There are international mission trips — Hutchins attended one in Tijuana, Mexico, this summer. There is even a Teen Mania internship, a one-year program called the Honor Academy, based in Lindale, Texas.

In the live events, Luce couples the earnest appeal of a young father with a preacher’s ability to mobilize a crowd. He weaves disturbing statistics about teenagers amid his gospel.

Today’s teenagers are in crisis, he says.

“We’re fighting for those who don’t know they have a voice, that are being manipulated by our pop culture indulging in things that, really, they’re not mature enough to be thinking about yet,” Luce told CNN.

“Kids are hurting,” he said. And of those who he feels inflict these moral wounds, Luce said, “We call them terrorists, virtue terrorists, that are destroying our kids.”

“They’re raping virgin teenage America on the sidewalk, and everybody’s walking by and acting like everything’s OK. And it’s just not OK.”

To some, Luce’s rhetoric is off-putting, hateful and divisive. Opponents point to his views on homosexuality — not “in God’s plan” — and abortion — the “ending of a precious life” — and say Luce is imposing conservative values on vulnerable teenagers. Explore Americans’ views on religion

It is this criticism that Luce and his followers confronted head-on in March at BattleCry San Francisco.

There, in arguably the most liberal city in the United States, protesters, armed with megaphones and poster board signs, rallied against BattleCry on the steps of City Hall as the Christian teenagers circled and prayed in a demonstration of their own.

“Ron Luce is a liar!” one protester shouted. “Let me hear you say Christian fascist,” another yelled.

Luce and the youths, some as young as 11, also raised their voices.

“God, I ask that as we do this BattleCry, Lord, that you would reveal yourself to the teenagers, God, here, God,” Mindy Peterson, shouted. Peterson is a member of Teen Mania’s Honor Academy. Afterward, Peterson railed against what she said was the protesters’ mischaracterization of BattleCry.

“These people think that our war is against other people. They think that our war is against man. And our war isn’t. Our war’s against … the pain in teenagers’ hearts, like depression, alcoholism. Those things that — that are, like, tearing our teenagers apart,” she said.

While much milder in his terms, Hutchins agrees. “We’re a generation that is kind of troubled,” he said. Luce wants to “rescue the hearts of our generation,” he added.

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And of the critics’ contention that the rallies, the organization, the message is neo-conservatism wrapped in Biblical verse? Hutchins smiles, nods patiently. “I don’t go because I have a political agenda,” he said, adding that his friends don’t, either.

“Mostly, what we’re concerned with is Jesus.”

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