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First Comes Love, Then Comes the House Keys

In early 2019, the internet was aglow with news about Chris Pratt and his fiancée, Katherine Schwarzenegger, moving in together. Media outlets cited the couple’s evangelical Christian faith as the reason they did not cohabit until they were engaged. Few suggested there was any contradiction between Pratt’s cohabitation and his status as a “devout Christian,” a “folksy, popular evangelical” who urged “living boldly in faith.”

This may seem odd to those who recognize that Scripture forbids all sexual activity outside marriage. But the choice that Pratt and Schwarzenegger made isn’t contained to Hollywood—it’s the new norm among young, professing evangelicals across America.

Evangelicals are much less likely than Americans overall to approve of cohabitation. Still, a Pew Research survey in 2019 found that 58 percent of white evangelicals and 70 percent of black Protestants believe cohabiting is acceptable if a couple plans to marry. The youngest Americans are far more liberal on cohabitation, with less than 10 percent finding it morally problematic.

This age difference is clear among evangelicals as well. In 2012, only four in ten evangelicals ages 18 to 29 told the General Social Survey they disagreed with the statement: “It is alright for a couple to live together without intending to get married.”

The idea of waiting until marriage comes across as even more antiquated in other studies. The most recent 2019 National Survey of Family Growth, done by the CDC, has found that 43 percent of evangelical Protestants ages 15 to 22 said they definitely or probably would cohabit in the future. Only 24 percent said they definitely would not. Over two-thirds of those ages 29 to 49 had cohabited at least once. And 53 percent of evangelical Protestants currently in their first marriage cohabited with each other prior to being legally wed.

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