Rebecca St. James has distinguished herself as one of contemporary Christian music’s leading artists. The 25-year-old native of Australia, who immigrated with her parents to the U.S. in 1991, has sold some two million recordings throughout the world, and garnered a Grammy Award for best Christian rock album in 1999. She has also had nine Dove Award nominations, currently serves on the honorary committee of the U.S. Presidential Prayer Team, and works with and promotes the children’s aid charity Compassion International.
Family has been at the heart of St. James’ work, and she has gained distinction through her commitment to, and promotion of, sexual purity among young people. She frequently mentions the topic at her concerts, has written a song about the subject – Wait for Me – and has composed a book with the same title. Her most recent recording, a greatest hits compilation, is her seventh and is also called Wait for Me.
The Interim had the opportunity to interview St. James by telephone recently during a break in her busy touring schedule. We asked about her music ministry and her emphasis on chastity issues. More information on St. James and her music can be found at her website: www.rsjames.com
The Interim: A big aspect of your ministry, that you’ve become very well known for, is your encouragement of chastity among young people. How did you get drawn to this focus?
St. James: I went to a True Love Waits rally in Peoria, Ill. when I was about 15 or 16. I saw all these young people taking a stand for God and saying, “I’m going to wait and save sex for marriage.” I was really inspired by that and decided then and there that I was going to wait, too. I’m still that way – a virgin, and I’m going to stay that way until after I’m married. I’m very upfront about that in my concerts. I encourage other young people to wait and to really stand with me on this issue. There are so many young people believing the lies that have been put out through so much of media today … It’s saying, “Hey, have sex whenever you want to, with whomever you want to, at any time.” It is so damaging to young people. I see the end result, the consequences … I see the victims of rape and abuse and they share their hearts with me. I just know how beautiful God’s way is. His way is one of protection, freedom and hope. I just want to encourage people to go that way. The other thing I talk about when discussing purity is second chances, because a lot of people haven’t waited. There is complete forgiveness in Jesus. We all make mistakes, but there is hope and forgiveness in Him. I encourage people to wait from now on, and see his hope and forgiveness.
The Interim: What responses do you get from young people to your messages?
St. James: Wherever we’ve gone, we’ve received great responses to this whole message of sexual purity, even when we’ve shared it in Europe – places where you’d think there wouldn’t be such a great response. Almost every time I talk about my virginity, I’m applauded for it. People are very positive to it. I get a whole lot of secular press in Europe and the States for this message of sexual purity. It’s like people see me going against the flow and taking a stand. Because it is, I suppose, so unusual, they’re very intrigued by it. But also, I think that deep down, they know it’s the right way to go.
The Interim: You’ve taken another step recently by writing a book, Wait for Me: Rediscovering the Joy of Purity and Romance. Can you tell us about this book and why you wrote it?
St. James: I wrote a song a few years ago called Wait for Me. It’s a love song to my future husband, talking about the fact that I’m going to wait for him. It’s a song all about sexual purity. We received such a response to that song from people all around the world that we felt there was a need for a book in which we could go deeper than just a three-minute song. We could say: “Okay, we know we should wait, but here’s how to wait in what seems so often a just-do-it society” … The book has been translated into French and Norwegian, and is being translated into Dutch as well. We’re very excited about that and praise God for how He’s used the book so far.
The Interim: For the average Christian and parent, how could they go about encouraging chastity among young people?
St. James: Just talking about these kinds of issues within the family is really, really important. My mom had her birthday just a few days ago, and we had a family meal together. I said to both my parents, “Thank you so much for treating us not just as kids who need to be disciplined and set in line, but as friends as well.” They’ve done that by talking to us, sharing with us and treating us with respect as friends. That’s so awesome, because it promotes that conversation about issues like purity. I’ve always felt I can go and talk to my parents about anything, and there don’t have to be any secrets or hiding. That’s an amazing blessing, and I encourage parents to foster that friendship and openness within the family. Talk about why you should wait, what is the importance of this, what is the culture saying, what is untrue about it and what is the truth? I think those kinds of conversations are beautiful. They’ll be remembered for the rest of our lives.
The Interim: Do you have plans from here in terms of things you’d like to do in your life and musically?
St. James: I am working on a brand new book for women – on being a Christian woman in the 21st century and (will) broach some of the issues women are struggling with. I’m quite excited about that … During the summer, I’m doing festivals in the States and touring in the fall. I’m looking at going out on a tour for a musical rock opera called Hero. I’m playing a part in that, too. I’ve got quite a lot going on; it will keep me out of mischief, that’s for sure.