This will come as no news to most younger evangelicals, but The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville has taken notice of the fact that a sizable number of younger evangelical couples are saving their first kiss for their wedding ceremony. As the paper reports, “In a culture where casual sex is the norm, some Tennesseans have taken the purity pledge to a whole new level, through a practice that some teens refer to as the ‘Virgin Lips Movement.'” Reporter Claudia Pinto began her article with the fact that Katy Kruger, who was married Dec. 13, experienced her first kiss at the moment her new husband kissed his bride. “The 22-year-old woman, who was married at Harpeth Hills Church of Christ in Brentwood, admits to being nervous and a bit self-conscious about having her first kiss in front of 200 people,” Pinto reported. “I wasn’t sure what to do,” said the bride, “I thought I would mess up.”
The Virgin Lips Movement will sound absolutely nuts to a culture that has openly embraced the sexual revolution. Sexual virginity is controversial enough, with authors like Jessica Valenti arguing that the expectation of virginity until marriage is unfair to girls and young women. In The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, Valenti presses her case, suggesting that when young women aim for virginity and fail, they suffer a loss of self-esteem. Valenti’s argument is all the evidence any sane person should need to see that the world has gone crazy when it comes to sex.
Over the past 30 years, Western civilization has undergone a near total transformation in sexual morality. Sex education programs assume that teenagers (and increasingly pre-teens as well) simply will be involved in sexual activity. Sexual purity, abstinence and sexual denial are written off as unrealistic, unfair and repressive.
Even so, the Virgin Lips Movement will come as a shock to some older evangelicals. For older Christians, the expectation was, as the Bible makes clear, for sex to wait until marriage. As for kissing, that was considered to be another matter altogether. To some of these older Christians, the Virgin Lips Movement sounds like overkill and over-reaction.
Listen to Katy Kruger, as reported in The Tennessean: “It was so important to me because I felt a kiss was something very intimate, and something I wanted to give only to one man, to my husband,” Kruger said. “He thought it was so special, and he was so proud to be able to be the only man I will ever kiss.”
While sexual abstinence until monogamous marriage is the biblical standard, these young Christians see virginity as requiring more than reserving sexual intercourse for marriage. They see kissing as an act of physical intimacy—a gateway drug to greater physical intimacy and involvement.
As any minister who works with youth and young adults knows, the “how far is too far” question is a constant. The Virgin Lips Movement represents a determination to stop that train before it leaves the station, so to speak.
Consider this: In the space of little more than a single generation, we have seen the breaking down of virtually every social and cultural support for sexual abstinence. Arousal and intimacy come with the romantic longing that marks the deepening relationship between a man and a woman. Young couples no longer court on the porch swing with the girl’s parents sitting inside and very close at hand. Now, most young couples face the temptation of romantic contexts in which intimacy—and this means sexual intimacy—is a likely outcome.
The Virgin Lips Movement represents a serious effort to push back against this expectation and to create boundaries that will protect virtue and honor marriage.
Alec Cort, minister to students at Tulip Grove Church in Nashville, told the paper that a significant percentage of the young couples in his ministry have taken the “no kiss until marriage” pledge. “I have always encouraged those people,” he said. “It sets the ultimate bar.” Well, perhaps not an ultimate bar, but a recognizably significant bar.
There is no explicit biblical ban on premarital kissing, but any honest person knows that there are kisses that can only be considered sexual, naturally leading to the sex act itself. These young Christians are not afraid of their bodies; they are afraid of sinning against God and losing something precious to themselves as well.
In a world that has made monogamy an embarrassment, these young Christians want to offer their future spouse the gift of monogamous lips. In an age of instant sexual gratification, these young believers believe that true lips wait. This is what a counter-revolution looks like.