“THE cult of virginity”—that is what Randall Balmer, associate professor of religion at Barnard College/Columbia University, calls the seemingly growing trend among teenagers to postpone sexual activity until they are older.
Not surprisingly, much of the urging toward sexual abstinence comes from religious organizations. “But the driving force behind the cult of virginity is secular, not religious,” points out Dr. Balmer. “The real motivation for remaining a virgin is fear—not fear of divine retribution, but fear of deadly disease.” Thus, he contrasts “the cult of the Virgin Mary,” which portrayed abstinence as a religious ideal, with the modern-day “cult of virginity,” which presents abstinence more as a health issue.
“It’s a sad commentary about the state of religion in the 1990s that fear of disease drives morality,” Dr. Balmer continues. “Religious leaders, so eager to avoid offending, have proffered a toothless morality, or none at all. And so it is left to the scientists and public health officials to advise adolescents on how to conduct their sexual lives.”
This is not the case, however, with genuine Christians. Consider Chad, a teenager being raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Chad was approached by a girl who struck up a conversation. But soon it became apparent that her intentions were more than just talk. “Then it hit me,” Chad says. “I couldn’t let Jehovah down. With the thought of always pleasing Jehovah on my mind, I told her I had to go.”
Like Chad, many youths among Jehovah’s Witnesses are maintaining fine morals not just for the sake of good health but primarily to please their Creator, Jehovah God. It is not fear of disease that drives their morality. Rather, such youths follow the counsel of Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood.”