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But Christians are hardly exempt from wider mating market dynamics.
Sex has become cheap — that is, not hard to get — because it’s much less risky and consequential in the era of birth control.
But if trends in sexual norms hold, most who once claimed neutrality eventually drift toward the more permissive position.
Cheap sex, it seems, has a way of deadening religious impulses.
In step, many Christians’ expectations about marriage have dimmed. Many Orthodox Jews and Mormons have eschewed the wider mating market, while Christians in their 20s and 30s have not. Sex often follows, though sometimes after a longer period of time — a pattern that confuses them more than most, because premarital sex remains actively discouraged, but impossible to effectively prevent, in the church. Online dating treats human beings as rank-able commodities and speeds up our ability to circulate through them.
Whereas only 37 percent of the least religious never-married adults in the 2014 Relationships in America survey said they would prefer instead to be married, 56 percent of the most religious never-married adults said the same. These Christians’ narratives are seldom radically different from nonreligious Americans. Moreover, plenty of American Christians have taken breaks from the faith, been burned, returned and then struggle to navigate new relationships in a manner distinctive from their previous mating-market experiences. It can be navigated for noble purposes, but its baseline principles can’t really be reformed.
It’s not science that’s secularizing Americans — it’s sex. Follow Acts of Faith on Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.
Don’t misunderstand me — American Christianity is still a friend of marriage, and vice versa.
Married people make up 68 percent of all weekly church attendees between ages 24 and 35. Baylor sociologist Jeremy Uecker, assessing longitudinal data from the Add Health study, concludes that cohabitation does not mix well with religious behavior.
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(It’s not easy to raise the price of sex.) To be sure, there are those who hew to a more orthodox path — that is, dating without sex, followed by marriage in a timely fashion. Alternative online dating sites geared specifically toward Christians often disappoint, because their underlying template is no different. [Reverend and rabbi: Removing symbols of racism isn’t enough.