ATHENS (BP)–Sexual abstinence will rise to a world stage — at the base of the Acropolis — when True Love Waits makes its Olympic debut Aug. 22.
True Love Waits, a ministry of LifeWay Christian Resources, is partnering with Lay Witnesses for Christ International to host “An Evening with the Olympians: True Love Waits” in Athens’ Dora Stratou Theatre located at the base of the Acropolis.
The event will feature several athletes, including Carl Lewis — named the greatest Olympian of the 20th century — and 1988 gold medalist Joe Deloach. The Aug. 22 event begins at 5 p.m. and will be taped and available that evening for viewing via the Internet at www.truelovewaits.com and at www.lifeway.com/news.
The athletes will encourage students to make a commitment to sexual purity by remaining abstinent until marriage. The call for abstinence ironically finds itself in a setting where more than 130,000 free condoms are being provided to the 17,000 athletes in the Olympic village. Condom supplies ran short at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, and an additional 20,000 had to be quickly shipped before the Games ended.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us to communicate God’s design for human sexuality,” said Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits and director of student ministry publishing at LifeWay. “Sex was designed by God to be between a man and a woman within the boundaries of a marital relationship. True Love Waits is a call to purity, especially to youth, to save themselves for that experience.”
The pledge card young people sign reads: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship.” More than 3 million youth have signed the cards during the 10 years of the True Love Waits ministry and more than 100 organizations — secular and religious — have adopted True Love Waits to promote sexual abstinence.
According to the National Vital Statistics Report, teenage pregnancy in the United States reached an all-time low in 2002 of 23.2 births for every 1,000 girls ages 15 to 17, and 43 births for every 1,000 girls ages 15-19. The 1990s saw a significant increase in high school students who say they are virgins, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which publishes the National Vital Statistics Report. By 2001, high school virgins outnumbered students who were sexually active 54 percent to 46 percent. Ten years earlier, those percentages were reversed.
Earlier this year, the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., assessed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health’s tracking since 1994 of virginity pledges versus actual sexual behavior. The national study shows that young women who take a virginity pledge are at least 40 percent less likely to have a child out of wedlock and 12 times more likely to be virgins when they marry, compared to young women who do not make such a pledge. The study concluded that public abstinence pledges made by teenagers still had an effect six years later. Those who make pledges are less likely to initiate sex and more likely to marry.
Despite the impressive declines over the past decade, the United States still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy and births in the industrialized world. In 1997, pregnant teens 17 years old and younger cost the United States at least $7 billion annually in direct costs and an additional $8 billion indirectly, according to information appearing in “Kids Having Kids: Economic Costs and Social Consequences of Teen Pregnancy,” published by the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.
“It is easy to see the personal and societal implications of teens having sex,” Hester said. “Unwanted pregnancy and STDs [sexually transmitted diseases] affect us all, and the sad thing is that the consequences for high-risk behavior are totally avoidable. True Love Waits began in 1993 in response to requests from teenagers and their parents for some way to express their beliefs that people should remain sexually abstinent until marriage. We hope this call to purity in Athens raises the awareness of abstinence worldwide.”
Much has already been done internationally through True Love Waits. The ministry is receiving credit for a remarkable drop in the AIDS rate in Uganda where the rate of new HIV/AIDS cases has fallen from 30 percent of the population in the early 1990s to around 6 percent today. True Love Waits has been introduced and is showing its effectiveness in countries like Botswana, Germany, the Philippines, Thailand, South Africa, Guyana and throughout Latin America. Several hundred thousand commitment cards from youth around the world will be displayed during the Athens event.
“The reason True Love Waits is cross-culturally effective is because it teaches biblical principles,” Hester said. “People are not expected to battle for abstinence by themselves. There is a spiritual element involved as well as the positive peer pressure within a group.
“So much is thrown at kids these days through television, advertising and music and is designed to promote their sexual failure. We believe that True Love Waits taught within the context of the church and supported by encouraging adults fosters a great opportunity for their sexual success.”
More information regarding True Love Waits and the Athens event can be found in the e-press kit located at www.lifeway.com/news.