A review of available Student Relationship Assessment data reports from previous years suggests a downswing in commitment to sexual purity at John Brown University, coupled with an upswing in sexual activity before marriage.
According to SRA data, commitment to sexual purity among John Brown University students has decreased by almost 12 percent from 2008 to 2014.
In 2012, questions about sexual activity were added to the SRA. Data from 2012 to 2014 shows that the percent of unmarried students who report having engaged in oral sex in the past year has doubled. The same is true for reported engagement in sexual intercourse.
The SRA is an assessment developed by Gary Oliver, Executive Director of the Center for Healthy Relationships at JBU. Students from John Brown take this assessment in the spring on a volunteer basis.
Oliver said that while he was concerned when he noticed the SRA trends, he wasn’t surprised. In fact, he saw the positive.
“I was encouraged in that it’s not worse,” Oliver said, adding that he believes JBU has high rates of sexual purity compared with other universities, including Christian ones.
In 2014, 25 percent of unmarried respondents reported having engaged in oral sex in the past year. In the same time frame, 14 percent of unmarried respondents reported having engaged in sexual intercourse.
This SRA data mirrors results from a 2012 study by the National Association of Evangelicals. According to a press release from NAE, the study found that 1 in 4 unmarried Christian Evangelicals have been sexually active in the past four months, which matches the 1 in 4 John Brown students who reported in 2014 having oral sex in the past year.
On the other hand, the NAE also reported that, “Most Unmarried Evangelical Millennials Have Never Had Sex.”
University Chaplain Rod Reed said that the SRA trends are part of an overall trend of increased sexual activity among Christian young adults.
“I think there has been a clear shift in our society, even over the past five years, of rejection of Christian morality,” Reed said.
According to the SRA, in 2014, 53 percent of John Brown respondents strongly agreed with the statement, “I agree with what the Bible teaches about appropriate sexual behavior.” In 2012, this statistic was 5 percentage points higher.
In Reed’s opinion, this growing doubt in the traditional biblical ethic is partially caused by the way Christians have responded without love to homosexuality and the gay-rights debate.
“Christians are seen as mean-spirited angry gay-haters,” Reed said.
“The perception is: Christian attitudes about sex are messed up in our culture,” Reed added.
CHR Coordinator of Relationship Education Derek Gwinn affirmed Reed’s theory on the connection to the gay-rights debate. He added that, while Christians are often known for what they’re against, such as homosexuality or extramarital sex, this “anti-” identity is becoming unpopular with younger generations.
“Christian identity is less about what we don’t do, and more about what we do,” Gwinn said of millennial Christians, or those aged 18-21.
Gwinn described this phenomenon as the ‘“hipsterizing’ of Christianity,” and listed social justice, reconciliation, and reaching out to make the world a better place as being central to millennial Christian’s identities, rather than the things they deny themselves, such as sex.
Oliver, like Gwinn, affirmed Reed’s understanding of the issue. Oliver added that the decrease in commitment to purity could stem, not just from a poor response to homosexuality, but also from an oftentimes non-existent response to sexuality in general.
“Most churches don’t give young people a theology of sex,” Oliver said.
“The only voice that many hear is, ‘don’t,”’ he added.
According to 2014 SRA data, 30 percent of students strongly agree with the statement, “I think engaging in oral sex and/or sexual intercourse before marriage compromises my relationship with Christ.” In 2009, that statistic was 12 points higher.
However, Oliver said deepening one’s relationship with Jesus is an important motivation for purity.
“The reason why I encourage abstinence,” Oliver explained, “is that it’s about having a more intimate love relationship with Christ and being able to experience all he has for us.”
Oliver said he is not interested in debating whether engaging in a particular activity is sinful, but instead wants to know what God’s purpose for his life is, and what kind of decisions will help him to experience abundant life.
“God’s rules, in the end, are always designed for us to have more pleasure, not less,” Oliver said.
Last modified Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 11:45 pm.