Q & A: Two Perspectives on OkCupid’s Sex Attitudes Study

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Several weeks ago, The Atlantic reported on a study conducted by OkCupid detailing how attitudes towards sex (at least of the 12 million people who use the app) have changed over the last ten years.

I (Julia) and Jason decided to come up with five questions based on this article to see how our perspectives of the past decade line up, especially because I was transitioning from a teenager to an adult and Jason had just reached his 30s.

Take a look below to see our different takes on the changing attitudes about sex over the past decade:

What do you think is the biggest factor in the decline of people who reported they would sleep with someone on the first date (69% in 2005 vs. 50% in 2015)?

Jason, 40: “As the world of dating has changed people have become more aware of the danger of sleeping with someone on the first date. Most of this is due to online dating and apps like Tinder or OkCupid. Yes, some people use these apps to hook up, but many others use them to meet others in the hopes of finding a mate. Because of this, people are learning to be more cautious in the short term; individuals using such services to find committed relationships are typically more careful in the early stages.”

Julia, 25: “In general people have way more access to information about sex via the Internet. Not that sleeping with someone on the first date was ever a ‘novelty’ per se, but it seems like the idea/risk of a one-night stand became less ‘glamorous’ as people had more information about not only STDs, but now unlimited access to accounts of sex and/or pregnancy horror stories. Because this study was done by OkCupid, I believe there’s a possibility people became more aware that because of the now limitless options of partners online, it’s more established that you may not be ‘as special’ right away; your date can easily move on from you with a plethora of other partners at the touch of a button.”

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From OKCupid’s research: “Would you need to sleep with someone before you considered marrying them?”

In 2005, what was the general attitude among your peers towards online dating?

Jason: “Online dating was still in its infancy. In fact, the most common places to meet someone were through friends, family, and church. Yes, church still played a role in helping people meet in 2005! Today that stat has all but disappeared. Most people I knew, including myself, didn’t really see online dating as a viable option. And those that did kept it a secret. I knew people who met, fell in love, and even got married, yet never told anyone the truth of how they had met (online). Online dating only recently became normalized, and these couples finally admitted how they met because they didn’t feel as judged as they might have back in 2005.”

Julia: “I was 15, so online dating had a huge stigma; only older people desperate for a relationship used online dating! So online dating was not really a thing among my peers. Our biggest online space at the time was MySpace. MySpace was not explicitly conducive for dating, but it was one of the first spaces online where you could declare your relationship status. You could also flirt back and forth with someone or your significant other in the public comments section of their profile or your profile. So in a way, 2005 marked the first time, for me, that dating became more of a public thing to be ‘judged’ in an online setting, outside of face-to-face relationships at school.”

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“Is it okay for a woman to talk openly about her sexual exploits?”

In 2005, what was the cultural attitude (among your peers) towards women talking openly about their sexual exploits?

Jason: “There has been a gigantic shift when it comes to women and sex. I was always aware of some women sharing exploits with other women but never openly so all could hear. Something I find striking about this data is it is in line with the impact pornography is having on our culture. Women (and men) are being sexualized at a rate never before seen. Our thoughts on sex, the conversations we have surrounding sex, and ultimately the way we practice sex are all being shaped by a culture largely impacted by the use of pornography. In 2005 this would have only been a much smaller segment of the population; now it is the majority.”

Julia: “I was a freshman in high school, so women talking about their sexual exploits would have been, in my limited opinion, promiscuous. Especially if those women had been my own peers. Girls who talked openly about their sexual exploits at school (and I don’t recall this being frequent) were considered to be ‘easy’; not necessarily easy sexually, but easy to date because they were always willing and not usually in long-lasting relationships.”

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“Is there such thing as having too many sexual partners?”

In 2005, what would you have qualified as the biggest cultural influence on dating? In 2015? 

Jason: “In 2005 I would have argued the media (movies, tv, and music) would be the largest cultural influence. The hook-up culture was in full swing and ‘friends with benefits’ were all the rage. Along the same line I was one of the few people speaking about how pornography was shaping a generation to think and act differently when it came to sex. Today, In 2016, we’ve visibly been able to see the impact pornography has had on our society. Yes, media still drives and influences our thoughts on sex and sexuality, but even the media’s influence has grown exponentially since 2005. This is mostly due to the birth and growth of social media where an idea or thought can become a reality within in minutes, from any source.”

Julia: “I might have to say the cellphone, because this was the year when most people my age got their first cell phone. So the fact that you could text someone outside of school, in private, was a big deal. It opened up the world to not just face-to-face, in-school conversations anymore. Dating or liking someone could now be a private thing, rather than in front of all your peers. For 2015, I would say the biggest cultural influence was still very much your cell phone, in the form of apps. Social media and dating apps suddenly put a lot of pressure on dating; no one had an excuse anymore not to be dating, or at least trying to date, because you now had so many ways to meet people. Social media also upped the pressure, in my opinion, to have the most ideal life possible, relationships included.”

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“Would you consider sleeping with someone on the first date?”

How has the cultural opinion of sex and dating shifted in the last 10 years, from your personal experience and viewpoint? 

Jason: “There is something about this question that saddens me. I’ve been speaking on the issues of sex/sexuality/relationship for a little more than 10 years. Everything I thought we would see (and this data now shows) has become a reality. I think the only thing that is surprising to me is the data showing fewer people sleeping with each other on the first date. But even that data is in line with what I see happening around me today. Specifically, I see a lot of data that shows we are becoming both more liberal AND conservative in our views surrounding sex. Our ideas surrounding sex are all over the place!

Julia: “I grew from teenager to adult during this time, so my experience is based on a very specific life stage. I would say that sex seemed like something that was still very taboo to most people my age in 2005. Dating was frequent, but not necessarily because people wanted to be frequently dating. We were just high school students who didn’t know how to maintain a long-lasting relationship. Dating and sex still very much seemed to hold an element of love; those things should be experienced for the sake of experiencing love. I would say that now dating and sex are treated among the culture at large as a personal life goal, one that adds to our own unique personas and can be recounted as stories that make us seem interesting. Sex in particular has become very individualistic, especially with the drastic rise of gender fluidity, etc. Sex is about finding ourselves and determining how we form our identity.”


What do you think? How do you think the attitudes surrounding sex have changed since 2005?

Why Aggressive Rhetoric Hurts Real Dialogue

By Jason Soucinek 

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I debated whether or not to write this post.

I’ve sat on it for some time. However, the further I think about the ramifications of this political cycle on the dialogue we have with one another the more I feel compelled to share.

I am worried that we’ve lost the ability to have civil dialogue.

And why do I care about this as someone whose profession is to share a message of sexual integrity? Because I’ve seen this same thing happen around the topic of sex education. One person shouts their view and then the other shouts their opposing view even louder.

A barking dog only attracts more barking dogs.

I’ve learned over time and mostly from my own mistakes yelling louder doesn’t make our message more accessible. In fact, it usually misses the very people we are trying to reach.

I’ve watched both up close and from afar how those in the same field as myself, on both sides of the sex education issue, spend more time fighting one another than helping the students they want to aid. They spend more time telling others what they are against. I for one am tired of this. I’ve always believed telling people what we are for works much better.

A year ago I had the opportunity to sit down with several people around the country who opposed the work and the message I share on sexual integrity. However, I was not met with hate filled dialogue. Why? Because I was willing to listen and engage the points they shared. I sat side-by-side and built relationship.

My posture dictated the nature of the conversation.

In 2000 the Boston Globe conducted a “public conversations project” where they asked three pro-life and three pro-choice leaders to sit down and have conversations around the issue of abortion. This conversation grew out of a need to deescalate the rhetoric which had grown to a fever pitch after a shooting of an abortion doctor in the area.

The amazing reality of these meetings is that they worked! Posture changed what was said and how it was shared. Everyone who sat at the table learned to treat each other with dignity and respect. In fact, genuine friendships formed.

I find this radical compared to the world we live in at the moment.

Violence through our speech and especially through our action should never be acceptable. If we are going to contribute to a more civil dialogue we need to be willing to model it.

As a follower of Christ, I want my work to contribute to a more civil and compassionate society. This does not mean I have to compromise on my beliefs. In fact, the individuals who participated in the public conversations project grew more convinced of their own worldview, not less.

Our love for another should not be dependent on our affirmation of their worldview.

I don’t want to be another barking dog when it comes to sex education, nor politics for that matter. However, I do want to stay true to my convictions. I think both are possible and without violent rhetoric or action. But we must be willing to listen and sometimes that requires sitting side by side rather than going toe to toe.

 

The Struggle is Real: Virginity in a Hook-Up Culture

By Amy Juran

male with flag

Rather than face that awkward conversation of, I’m still a virgin, many young people want to just get rid of their virginity.

In an article about the sex culture at Wesleyan University, several college students were asked whether or not they viewed virginity as a big deal and if the first time should be special. The interviewees had different responses as to whether or not it’s fine to lose their virginity during a one night stand or if it’s important to be in a committed relationship. However, the general consensus showed that in whatever way the deed was done, students just felt better that it was over and the virgin stamp was off their back.

One student who ended up hooking up with a guy for the first time during her time at Wesleyan admitted, “It was just an opportunity to get rid of this [virginity]. It was kind of gnawing at me. I didn’t want it anymore.”

Clearly the expectation to have sex has started to overrule a real desire to save the act for a special person or situation. The potential of being the oddball has become a more fearful risk than the repercussions of premature intimacy.

The problem with getting it over with, though, is that it strips the value of sex altogether.

Our “hook up” culture, as author Janie Mortell calls it, has already done a pretty good job of degrading the whole enterprise, saying that sex is okay at any time with anyone. But just because everyone is telling us that sex doesn’t mean anything, or that we’ll feel better when we’ve taken care of it (as if virginity is a condition that needs some sort of medical treatment) doesn’t mean that our hearts and minds aren’t impacted by sharing such a deep intimacy with multiple people, or people to whom we aren’t committed.

The article presents the question:

If there is a resounding assumption that everyone else is “doing it”, how, then, do we lessen the stress some might feel about wanting to “lose” their virginity in order to fit in or those who want to “keep” their virginity without being ostracized?

girl looking away

My response to this would be–remember God’s plan for us.

For me personally, if I were saving myself for purely legalistic reasons — I’m not having sex before marriage, because those are the rules! — then I honestly probably would have had sex years ago. However, when I consider how God has a plan for my life and my sexuality, and that his plan is good and will ultimately bring me to a place of wholeness and satisfaction, waiting becomes much more purpose-driven.

Does that mean that I never feel social pressure, or sexual urges? No way. Friends, the struggle is real. I completely understand how, especially getting into your twenties and later, virgins become a dying breed, and it becomes more difficult to find others’ to relate to in this area.

Actress Amy Poehler said, “Keep your virginity as long as you can, until it starts to feel weird for you, then just get it over with.” This statement is an accurate representation of the current attitude surrounding abstinence. We tend to start out with great resolve and good intentions, but as society wears us down with the opposing message that waiting is weird, it can get more difficult to hold to what you believe.

In high school, being a virgin often made me feel cool and unique. Then when I entered college people were a little shocked and curious about it. Now I can honestly say when I tell people that I’m waiting for marriage there tends to be this brief pause that basically translates to, “Hmm… weird.”

At the end of the day, though, all the weirdness is worth it.

By keeping sex off the table until marriage, it opens up a whole new world of freedom. Freedom to focus on things like common interests, goals, and ambitions. Freedom to be myself apart from worrying about physical performance. And from there we can proceed into our relationships with a clearer head, learning to love one another genuinely–not out of passion or physical desire.

Instead of being something to “get rid of,” virginity can be a mark of value we place on ourselves and those we’re in relationships with (tweet this!).

By being able to stand before my future husband and give him this gift, I can show him how much I value him, even already. And even with men that I don’t marry, I can honor them by not asking them to compromise their gift that was meant for someone else. It’s a great act of patience and self control, but I sincerely believe that those who choose to wait–though they might presently be taking a little cultural heat–will be rewarded in the end by getting to share in the amazing blessings of God’s plan.

Culture’s Newest Curse Word

There was a time not to long ago that I remember going somewhere like a doctor’s office with my parents and being asked to wait patiently. Waiting seemed to be something I did a lot of as a child. It seemed everywhere we went we would spend a certain amount of time waiting. Today, however, waiting seems to be a lost concept.

When I go to the doctor’s office today everyone is on a cell phone playing games, answering email, or watching a video. No one is just ‘waiting’ like I did when I was a kid. I see this at restaurants, hospitals, parks (as children play), and just about every other place I go.

Waiting has become a curse word. People cringe when they hear it.

Learning to wait is an exercise. It takes practice. Unfortunately the world around us very rarely allows for this discipline to take place. In fact, one teenager I was speaking to summed it up perfectly when he said ‘I never wait.’

Our lack of waiting is having an impact.

Most of this is due too the fact that a growing number of teens own smart phones. In fact, owning a smart phone has become a rite of passage (even more important than getting a drivers license, as is evident from a recent NPR article). A smart phone provides 24/7 access to a number of activities meaning a teen never has to wait to be entertained.

We also see this in how we watch TV. An entire season of some of the more popular shows like Empire, Better Call Saul, and The Walking Dead are all between 10-12 episodes that show over a 3-month period. Just a few years ago an entire season would span over 6-8 months and include close to 25 episodes. Today’s audiences are unable to sit and wait for the plot to develop, which is why seasons are shortened so we can get to the end quicker. We can’t wait for it! In fact, a whole new term for watching shows has been developed…it’s called binge watching.

Last year Hollywood released a movie called Boyhood that took over 12 years to film. Every actor was seen through three distinct time periods in a young boys life. The patience and the commitment it took from the actors, the producers, and the director to make this movie is incredible. It gives me hope.

 

Waiting needs to be…..

 

Wait for it…

 

Wait….

 

…..taught and modeled. It needs to be a part of our every day vernacular. It needs to be something seen on TV and in the movies. Not in the plot but in how that plot develops over an entire season. It needs to be seen in how we spend our downtime.

There are physical reasons for waiting. It teaches our bodies to sit and be still. To learn how to engage the world around us without always having to be entertained

There are emotional reasons for waiting. When we don’t display every life detail on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and Vine we leave opportunity for self-discovery.

There are relational reasons for waiting. We hurt in isolation but heal in community. This doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time.

We need to relearn this idea of “waiting” and begin the process of removing the stigma that has made it so akin to a curse word in our vernacular.

Pornography as art?

keira knightly interview magazine

Never before has pornography been as accessible as it is today.

I was reminded of this fact when recently Paper magazine tried to ‘break the internet’ with images of Kim Kardashian showing her backside on the front cover and going fully nude on the inside. Many have celebrated and praised the magazine and Mrs. Kardashian for these ‘tasteful’ images. But we have to ask the question: How is this any different than Playboy which, as of this writing, is still considered pornography?

In our oversexed world it is becoming easier and easier to pass these images off as art. No longer is sex or nudity something we reserve for the bedroom but as something to be exploited and treated as a commodity. In the instance of Kim Kardashian what seems to keep these images from becoming x-rated is the photographer who took them, Jean-Paul Goode. Goode is famous for his work, which is featured in museums around the world, making Kim Kardashian more of a muse and icon than someone posing naked for a magazine.

Over the years magazines have rarely shied away from gratuitous nudity. Jennifer Aniston, Miley Cyrus, Zoe Saldana, and even pregnant Demi Moore have taken it all off, though with creative placement covering up important parts. While nudity in the public forum is nothing new, the public discourse on whether or not this is pornographic has all but disappeared, even as the frequency of these images has increased.

A similar thought passed my mind this last summer when Keira Knightley posed topless for Interview magazine. She is most famous for her starring role in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Her desire was to show the public what she ‘really’ looked like. She was tired of having her body manipulated by airbrushing and wanted to share an image free of editing. At the time she said, ‘OK, I’m fine doing the topless shot so long as you don’t make them any bigger or retouch.’ She went on to say, ‘I think women’s bodies are a battleground and photography is partly to blame. Our society is photographic now.’ And she’s right, we do live in a photographic society, which is the reason it becomes important to clearly define ‘porn.’

Historically, most dictionaries define pornography as printed or visual material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal. Groups like Fight the New Drug share how pornography rewires the brain, heart, and ultimately the way we engage in relationship with the world around us. Harvest USA says that pornography is anything the heart uses to find sexual expression outside of God’s intended design for relational intimacy. For all of my life, my parent’s life, and my grand parents life that has been true of pornography, until now.

Britannica online points out that porn is defined by society: Because the very definition of pornography is subjective, a history of pornography is nearly impossible to conceive; imagery that might be considered erotic or even religious in one society may be condemned as pornographic in another. Thus, European travelers to India in the 19th century were appalled by what they considered pornographic representations of sexual contact and intercourse on Hindu temples; most modern observers would probably react differently. Many contemporary Muslim societies likewise apply the label “pornography” to many motion pictures and television programs that are unobjectionable in Western societies. To adopt a cliché, pornography is very much in the eye of the beholder.

That is exactly what we find happening here in the United States. Magazines like Paper and Interview are changing the way we think about pornography by labeling it art. But in reality this is pornography. Or, to be more exact, this is soft-core pornography, which is sexually explicit images that are ubiquitously found in advertising. Dr. Gary Brooks, a psychologist at Texas A&M, has published many articles on the harmful effects of pornography and in particular, soft-core pornography. He states, ‘The problem with soft-core pornography is that it’s voyeurism – it teaches men to view women as objects rather than to be in relationships with women as human beings.’ According to Brooks, pornography gives men the false impression that sex and pleasure are entirely divorced from relationships.

The sad truth is that soft-core pornography, like the images of Kim Kardashian and Keira Knightley, are appearing now more than ever before. If you disagree that these images are art you’re labeled a prude or someone who lacks the ability to see this for the beauty the rest of the advertising world says it is, art. That is one reason we do not see much discourse on this in the public sphere.

Interestingly, three years ago she was crying on the shoulder of her mother, Kris Jenner, on the show ‘Kourtney and Kim Take New York’ after a W magazine spread came out and she was unexpectedly naked saying, ‘You can see my nipples, you can see my asscrack.’ She did agree to be naked, though she was supposed to have been painted silver with objects digitally cover her privates. When the magazine was published she found something very different exclaiming, ‘Oh, my god, I look more naked than I did in Playboy.’ In fact, she goes on to share how she wanted to be known for something more than her naked body. Well, it’s obvious she changed her mind…much like the rest of the United States is changing its mind about how pornography is defined.

We need to be alert to the desensitization of how we view pornographic images. As pornography is being redefined by advertisers, we need to also remember what science and research shows it to be, a force that is destructive and changes the way we see others. In an effort to counter some of what we see in our media, it is important we take the following steps with our kids and ourselves:

Clearly define what pornography is. As our society begins to change how it perceives and defines images like those of Kim Kardashian and Keira Knightley, it is important that parents and churches don’t do the same. One of the clearer definitions comes from Tim Chester in his book ‘Closing the Window.’ He says anything we use for sexual titillation, gratification, or escape, whether it is intended for that purpose or not, is pornographic.

Understand the impact that pornography has on our culture. We have to start being honest with the fact that pornography is rewiring our brain. In his book ‘Wired for Intimacy’ Dr. William Struthers says, ‘As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on [pornographic images], the exposure to them creates neural pathways. Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed. Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography. They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with woman are routed….They have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image.’

Realize that we are made for relationship. Scripture tells us that we are made in the image of God. We are created to be in relationship with Him and others, just like He is in relationship with Himself through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But pornography demeans and objectifies others. It causes us to see the other as someone who is there to meet our needs. Research shows that when we are exposed to pornography, it becomes harder to be aroused by a real person or relationship.

Recognize that porn distorts God’s design for sex. Whether they want to or not, the majority of teens are getting some of their sex-ed from pornography. Researchers have repeatedly found that people who have seen a significant amount of porn are more likely to start having sex sooner and with more partners, and to engage in riskier kinds of sex. Sex is meant to unite two people. It is meant to lead to children and it is meant to recall, and even reenact, the promise that God makes to us and that we make to one another in the marriage vow. Pornography promises only to leave us lonely, empty, and unfulfilled.

Don’t believe porn is something we just have to accept. Although the number of images has increased over the last few years we should not think it is ever okay. Porn is never part of a normal and healthy relationship. As more and more data shows the negative impact images like these have on the brain and heart, the more important it becomes to educate our youth and young adults to push back.

Evolution of the Definition of Sex

Every time I step foot into a classroom I am reminded how much has changed since I graduated high school 20 years ago.

Pagers have been replaced by smart phones.

Desktop computers have been replaced by tablets.

Blackboards have been replaced by an online version called blackboard.

The Simpsons have been replaced by…well, they are still around.

And conversations on sex have been replaced with an ambiguous collage of ‘do what feels right’ sentimentality. 

Specifically, our conversations on sex no longer come with a clear definition. What sex is and how it is practiced is different from one person to the next. Over the last few weeks I have been reminded of this reality as I relive the impact that a President’s fling with an intern had on the definition of sex.

On January 26, 1998, President Bill Clinton took to the microphone and issued a denial that would eventually come to haunt his presidency and his private life.

“I want to say one thing to the American people. I want you to listen to me. I am not  going to say this again: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” declared a remorseless Clinton.

clinton-lewinskyIt was later learned Clinton did in fact have sexual relations with his intern, Monica Lewinsky. After six months of repeatedly denying his innocence he admitted to having a relationship that was “not appropriate.” However, he never spoke of having sex with her. Only that it was not appropriate. Thus, the beginning of what I think was an evolution in the way we talk about sex that has stayed with us to this very day.

Earlier this month, Monica Lewinsky was interviewed by Vanity Fair and the story that so many had forgotten made headlines once again. From what I can tell, it is about how she has moved on from the scandal that paralyzed a presidency. Whatever your thoughts on what happened between President Clinton and Miss Lewinsky it is important to realize that their history has forever impacted the way we talk about and even practice sex in our culture.

sex-educationMost young adults agree that vaginal intercourse is sex, but less than one in five think that oral-genital contact (oral sex) as “having sex,” according to a 2007 survey of undergraduate college students.

This attitude toward oral sex represents a dramatic and sudden shift in thinking since 1991, when a similar survey found that nearly twice as many young adults (about 40%) would classify oral-genital contact as sex.

I would argue, and so do many researchers, this shift has happened in large part because of the statements President Clinton offered on that cold day in January 1998.

When we begin to look at the church we don’t find much difference. The percentage of those whom engage in oral sex are more than individuals choosing to have vaginal sex. Now it might not always be as high in the church (in fact, one study recently suggested that it is 40%-60% lower on Christian college campuses compared to their secular counterparts) it is still important to understand that many of these youth believe that they are not having sex. This especially becomes evident from the ages of 18-22 when they have left the home and are no longer a part of a faith community.

Our need to define and have honest conversation is needed now more than ever before.

We cannot be afraid to speak plainly in church and outside of it. One of the reasons the definition of sex has evolved is because we’ve failed to clearly define what it is.  Some of this is due to fear. We are afraid that speaking the words, “oral, anal, vaginal,” will in some way harm our youth. Not realizing that they have probably already heard these words and that by not defining them we are actually doing more harm, not less. We need to be age appropriate but I would argue our need to be honest with our children is needing to happen earlier and earlier because of the internet.

Also, youth need parents to be more involved in their sex education. That means programs like the one I direct need to do a better job of engaging parents and empowering them to become the authority in their son and/or daughter’s life. This includes educating parents on sex, defining it when needed, and assisting them with best practices for communicating their value when it comes to this topic.

Something worth considering, this is the first generation of parents impacted by this scandal. This means they too may need help with defining sex. They need the tools and encouragement to make this happen in their home but also in their own life. We can’t expect parents to communicate this correctly if they themselves don’t have a clear definition.

Just because the definition of sex has evolved that doesn’t mean that it can’t look different in another 20 years. Let’s learn to speak honestly, candidly, and clearly about sex. It will make a difference.

Please…No More Answers

Always looking for answers

Always looking for answers

We seem to be living in a time where answers are plentiful but not very good. The missing Malaysian flight is proof of that fact. I turn on the news and it seems every single detail is shared, “this just in, a U.S. navy ship is now 400 miles away from a potential wreck site in the Indian Ocean. When we last reported they were 410 miles away. We will track this story as it unfolds along with every other detail.” Now this could be an exaggeration of how news works these days, but not by much. In our 24/7 news cycle we are constantly looking for new answers. However, in our constant search for answers we find that we are unable to be comfortable with the unknown.

Maybe that is why we see fewer and fewer young people who confess a faith in Jesus and even less in God. A solid majority still do – 86% – but only 58% say they are “absolutely certain” that God exists. That is lower than it has ever been according to a 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project.

This reality came to life this week like never before. For the first time ever, one of our volunteers was in a school classroom where not one student had been to church or confessed a faith of any sort. That has never happened! But I am sure it will happen more and more in the future.

Faith doesn’t play a part in our lives as much as it once did. But our search for answers only continues to grow.

Remember, faith is a belief in the unseen. That includes a belief in things we just can’t answer. And for this generation, heck, even mine, that is not a comfortable place to sit.

Levi's Ad

Levi’s Ad

That is why I was so intrigued when I saw the ad to the side. It reads, “#equipped to be true.” This is a tribute to the narcissistic world we live in. It says that what I believe is truth, while also pointing to the fact that truth is not found in God but in relationship with others and in material goods.

Recently I asked a professor I deeply respect what the different is between how he used to teach when he was younger and now. His response was powerful. He said, “When I was younger I wanted to teach everything that I knew. Now I only teach the things I think are important and equip my students to find answers to the rest on their own. Thus, allowing them to learn how to learn. I am teaching them that not everything needs an answer. Sometimes they just need to have faith and allow for time to reveal what is needed to be seen.”

Now I know that as we grow older our questions change. And if our past is prologue, these young adults may develop a stronger belief in God over the course of their lives, just as previous generations have. But we have to provide dialogue, not just give in to the temptation to always give answers.

As I speak to youth I am constantly reminded that in my own journey it was when I didn’t have all the answers and had to start living by faith that God became more real, not less. It began to influence decisions I made because He was placed above everything else.

May we not forget this truth so that a new generation can live by faith and not some made up answer to fill the void of the unknown.