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Internet becomes symbol of purity for 31,000 teens who ‘seized the Net’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Often a forum for racy exchanges, the Internet became a symbol of purity Feb. 14 for thousands of teens who logged on to take an electronic stand for sexual morality.

In the 47 hours it took Valentine’s Day to rise in New Zealand and fall in Hawaii, 31,338 teenagers pledged to God and their future mates they would abstain from sex until marriage.

“We were really pleased with the response from teens on this,” said Paul Turner, spokesperson for True Love Waits. “On Valentine’s Day 2001, 31,000-plus students made a commitment to live a life of purity. A lot of kids’ lives will be spared much heartache because they have made that decision.”

LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsors the international campaign, which urges teenagers to choose a sex-free lifestyle until they enter a biblical marriage relationship.

Seize the Net, the latest incarnation among several annual pushes to interest teens in sexual purity, called for young people to enter the True Love Waits webpage (www.truelovewaits.com) and sign an online pledge card to remain abstinent until marriage.

Those who did were able to see the results on Feb. 15 and download a participation certificate that stated: “On Valentine’s Day 2001, [teen’s name] and 31,338 members of my generation Seized the Net to make a True Love Waits pledge to sexual purity.”

Teens from South America to Asia and California to Maine took part in the Internet-based crusade that allowed young people to join forces with others of like-minded values, Turner said.

“The Internet is a great way to unite young people all over the world — people who have never even met each other — for the cause of sexual purity,” he said.

LifeWay launched the sexual abstinence campaign in April 1993. In 1994, more than 211,000 True Love Waits cards covered the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; in 1996, more than 350,000 cards were stacked to the roof of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta; and in 1999, teens carried 100,000 pledge cards across the mile-long Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

National True Love Waits leaders estimate more than 1 million teens have signed cards pledging sexual abstinence until marriage.

The covenant cards signed online Feb. 14 by teens state: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.”

According to organizers in the True Love Waits headquarters at LifeWay, teens in churches across America participated in True Love Waits celebrations on Valentine’s Day with rallies, parties and ring-and-commitment ceremonies.

While the Seize the Net campaign was focused on Valentine’s Day, 2001, Turner said teens can continue to go into the website and sign the online commitment cards.

“Our main push for the Seize the Net campaign was to get teens from all over the world to sign a commitment card on Valentine’s Day so we could give it that display feel it’s had in the past,” Turner said. “But True Love Waits is an ongoing effort to show teens the importance of waiting until they are married to engage in sexual intercourse.”

However, Turner said, TLW is more than just a pledge to remain abstinent.

“At the heart of the pledge, these kids are committing to God to live a life of purity,” Turner said. “We have told teens that there is nothing magical about signing a pledge card.

“But when a teenager seriously takes into account the pledge he or she is making and to whom the pledge is made, a lifestyle emerges that is true to the biblical standards that God established for sex,” he said.

A study published in the January 2001 American Journal of Sociology, meanwhile, found that teenagers who pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage are 34 percent less likely to have sex than those who do not take virginity vows.

“Pledging decreases the risk of intercourse substantially and independently,” the study’s authors, Peter S. Bearman and Hannah Brückner, wrote.

“Of course, we believe pledges do make a difference,” Turner said. “We have witnessed the leveling off and decline of teen pregnancy since True Love Waits began, and while we can’t take all the credit, we certainly have been a part of it. This study provides us with strong data that prove pledges do actually make a difference.”

In the 1999 study, Bearman, professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Social and Economic Theory and Research at Columbia University in New York City, reported that 2.5 million teens in the United States have taken public virginity pledges. However, he believes that figure is closer to 3 million by now.

“The biggest predictor to [having] sex is being in a romantic relationship,” he said. But teens who are in relationships and take abstinence pledges are less likely to have sexual relations than teens who don’t take the pledge, Bearman’s study found.

“A ‘pledger’ with four romantic partners has the same relative risk of sex as a ‘non-pledger’ with no romantic partners. That’s a huge effect,” Bearman said.

The delayed effect of sexual intercourse is substantial and almost impossible to erase, Bearman reported. “Taking a pledge delays intercourse for a long time.”
(BP) logo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Logo title: SEIZE THE NET.

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  • Terri Lackey