A word like chastity can set our teeth on edge. It is one of those unabashedly churchy words. It is a word the church uses to call Christians to do something hard, something unpopular.

Chastity is one of many Christian practices that are at odds with the dictates of our surrounding, secular culture. It challenges the movies we watch, the magazines we read, the songs we listen to. It runs counter to the way many of our unchristian friends organize their lives. It strikes most secular folk as curious (at best), strange, backwards, repressed.

Chastity is also something many of us Christians have to learn. I had to learn chastity because I became a Christian as an adult, after my sexual expectations and mores were already partly formed. But even many folks who grow up in good Christian homes, attending good Christian schools, and hanging out with good Christian friends—even these Christians-from-the-cradle often need to learn chastity, because unchaste assumptions govern so much of contemporary society.

I am not an expert on chastity. I am not a theologian or a member of the clergy. I'm just a fellow pilgrim. I offer only a flawed example, a few suggestions, and the reminder of why, as Christians, we should care about chastity in the first place.

Two-Thirds Unvirgin World

One reason we should care right now is because of the unchaste culture we find ourselves in. About 65 percent of America's teens have sex by the time they finish high school, and teenage "dating" websites that boast millions of members encourage teenage patrons to select not prom dates but partners for casual sexual escapades. A 2002 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 41 percent of American women aged 15 to 44 have, at some ...

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May 2005

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