The word for passing on moral values and behavior through regular instruction in the faith by parents and pastors is catechesis. The kind of catechesis necessary for this cultural moment not only involves the “what” of biblical morality, but the “why” and the living out of the “how.”
Recently, researchers at State University of New York determined that descendants of immigrants to the United States typically lost the ability to speak their mother tongue by the third generation. Something similar, but far more serious, seems to be happening with Christians in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Each successive generation is losing the understanding of, not to mention the will to live by, Christian sexual morality.
Two years ago, a Pew Research survey found that half of American Christians think casual sex is “sometimes or always” morally acceptable. The slight silver-lining in that survey was that evangelical Protestants were by far the least likely group to express acceptance of casual sex.
Unfortunately, a new analysis calls into question just how committed the children of evangelicals are to Christian teaching in this area. These numbers reflect a larger trend among evangelicals. With each generation, American evangelicals increasingly adopt the attitudes of the wider culture toward sex and marriage. This time, the behavior in question wasn’t casual sex, but cohabitation.
In 2019, Pew Research reported that a majority – 58 percent – of white evangelicals said cohabitation is acceptable if a couple plans to marry. Views on cohabitation become noticeably less Christian among younger respondents. As early as 2012, the General Social Survey found that over 40 percent of evangelicals in their 20s agreed that cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple has no express plans to marry. And, earlier this month, David Ayers at the Institute for Family Studies found that nearly half of evangelical Protestants aged 15-22 who were not currently cohabiting or married, said that they would probably or definitely cohabit in the future.
Still, as dismaying as the attitudes of young evangelicals are toward sex, behavior is what most effectively erodes the Christian norm. Among those ages 23-44 who had already cohabited, a whopping 65 percent indicated they would likely or definitely do so again.