I have been thinking about this issue for a long time, but the recent debates over abortion and women’s health care have brought it to the fore in my mind once again. I have come to some conclusions, though I think it should be said that on just about any issue, I am open to honest discussion that presents a differing and coherent point of view. These remarks use theological categories and are therefore directed at those who are in the Christian camp, but others might find them useful as well. Let me know (courteously and thoughtfully, please).
I have decided that I disagree with an abstinence-based Sex Education program for our public schools. I disagree, not in spite of the fact that I am a fairly orthodox Christian, but because I am. You see, I think that an abstinence-based program fails utterly to take into account the doctrine of sin. Supposedly, as Christians, we believe (at least from the orthodox point of view) that everyone is a sinner. We acknowledge the difficulty of dealing with temptations. We think that a relationship with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit is necessary for a life of holiness. So teaching ourchildren, many of whom do not share our religious views, that they should simply abstain from sexual activity is not consistent with our beliefs.
Having said that, I do, in fact, believe that abstinence is the best practice. And I think any Sex Education program should encourage abstinence, but that should not be the focus. I think the fundamental reason for having Sex Education in public school is for protection: protection from disease and protection from pregnancy. I don’t think that the schools should be in the business of helping our young people develop a “gender identity.” And I don’t think they need more than the basics of physiology and mechanics. (though maybe a bit more than the children at right) But they DO need to know how diseases are transmitted and how pregnancy happens. And they need both information on and access to birth control.
Now about the birth control: no, I don’t think we should be handing out birth control pills or IUDs to minors without parental consent. The reason for this is medical: birth control pills are hormones that can have effects on still developing young women; IUDs are physical devices that can have physical consequences. But I would urge parents to give consent. Your child will not engage in sexual activity because you give them birth control pills.
Everyone, boys and girls alike should be able to get condoms easily and freely. In fact, I think if I had it to do over again, I would give my girls a package of condoms on the occasion of their first period. Not, not, NOT because I would want them to have casual sex, but because the consequences of even one “moral failure” are so high.
As Christians we understand moral failure and we have a remedy – grace! We believe in the power of God’s grace to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But we can’t “fix” unintended pregnancy, at least not without abortion. We really can’t fix an STD like HIV/AIDS, which we need to emphasize can be spread to females as well as males.
Along with teaching about how to protect themselves from disease and pregnancy, I think we should also try to instill in both young men and young women a sense respect for their own bodies. We need to encourage each of them to make intentional decisions about their bodies, not just fall into something because everyone is doing it and it looks like such fun on the sitcoms.
We need to make sure our young women know that rape is never, ever their fault, though they also need to understand under what conditions they are more likely to be at risk. We need to let them know that telling immediately is smart and courageous; though we also need to make sure they know that falsely accusing is shameful and wrong. We need to teach our young men that rape is not to be joked about and that rapists are the lowest of the low.
Now here is where the church can do its part (though not in public schools). We also need to teach our children that they are made in the image of God and that this is the basis for the Christian view of sexuality. We should give them a view of sexual intimacy as a beautiful gift of God and help them
understand that casual sex for momentary pleasure just can’t compare to sexual intimacy that truly joins a man and woman together for a lifetime of love, pleasure and (potential) fruitfulness.
As Christians, we know the world is broken and that our children live in a highly sexualized culture. To assume that all children can live up to moral standards that adults break all the time is contrary to our belief in the reality of and pervasiveness of sin. Particularly those of us opposed to abortion should make sure that children (and adults, for that matter) have the knowledge and ability to protect themselves from having to make choices where no one wins.
Comments? (Or is that a silly question?)