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July 27, 2005

Absitence Only Programs Ill-Conceived

Catallarchy tackles the subject of teen sex. (HT: Instapundit). I expect to be hung for saying this here, but I think abstinence-only education is an ill-conceived approach to a very basic and age-old problem - temptation.

God created us to be sexual beings and to enjoy sex within the parameters of marriage. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, this I know, but what power do I have to resist the lust of the flesh without Christ? Yet, abstinence-only program advocates tend to assume that non-Christians are equipped to combat the wiles of the devil and they simply are not.

I hope never to teach my children abstinence only. Surely I will teach my children God’s plan for marriage and sex. I will teach them that the only way to realize God’s plan for them is to submit their hearts Christ and conform their will to His. If I’ve done my job as a father, the word “abstinence” need not enter into the equation. They will understand that God’s plan is the ONLY plan that guarantees safety. If I’ve failed as a father, I pray God extend to them mercy and that they would exercise prudence and protect themselves the best *they* can.

Posted by Rick at July 27, 2005 07:14 PM

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I didn't become a Christian until I was 19, and I'm now about to me a 25-year-old virgin.

I disagree about abstinence only education being flawed. Here's a cliche to explain why: Is their ever a RIGHT way to do a WRONG thing? Sex outside of marriage is wrong, and doing it with contraceptives does not eliminate the negative natural consequences. By saying that kids will not be able to resist temptation and providing them condoms etc., we give them the false impression that sex is safe. And by promoting abstinence and then contraception as a back-up, you're giving these kids mixed messages. It's like telling your child, "DO NOT have a party while I'm away this weekend, but if you do, make sure you clean up after yourself." or "Do NOT take my car for a ride, but if you just can't help yourself, don't spill anything on the seats." They think, Okay, I can have sex, just not get pregnant. But that's playing with fire and expecting not to get burned. When they do become pregnant, they turn to Planned Parenthood, the comprehensive sex-ed champions (and the suppliers of their birth control,)
who will gladly kill their babies for a couple hundred dollars and even ship them across state lies to thwart her parents. Not a slippery slope I'm willing to ski down.

I may be an anomaly in your approximation for having decided to abstain as a non-believer of my own sound mind, but abstinence education programs do work. Other programs give kids the impression that they are freaks if they are NOT having sex, that they are "behind" their peers. Wow, they think. I'm learning about sex, I should be having it by now, right?

I know that you're thinking that kids having contraceptive knowledge is the lesser of the two evils. It's not. Besides, when you are given two evils, chose neither. Spurgeon said that. :)

Posted by: Jacqueline at July 27, 2005 07:58 PM

"It's like telling your child, "DO NOT have a party while I'm away this weekend, but if you do, make sure you clean up after yourself." or "Do NOT take my car for a ride, but if you just can't help yourself, don't spill anything on the seats."

Not really. God did not give us strong natural urges to throw a party. Have sex, yes. That's the difference. My point is that abstinence only programs are going against very strong natural urges that are sinful outside of marriage. But, teaching abstinence only to people who may not believe in sin, or may not be empowered with the Holy Spirit to have triumph over sin, seems contra-Biblical.

Posted by: Rick Brady at July 28, 2005 09:12 AM

Rick, I'll say more on this later, but you haven't defined your terms. Are saying that abstinence-only programs in public schools should have a Christ-centered view of sex? Or are you referring to abstinence programs in churches and private schools?

Telling kids "no" won't cut it for long, I grant you. But you don't go deep enough in establishing specifics. Talk about some specifics programs and we'll have a better understanding.

Posted by: Matt at July 28, 2005 10:11 AM

Matt, thanks. I'm speaking of abstinence only programs in public education. Clearly, abstinence when taught in context of faith in Christ is on target. Abstinence only, when the message includes only "abstinence only" and not the power of Christ to overcome temptation and sin is "misguided."

I don't have specific programs right now. Basically, my post was prompted by Glenn's post, which followed a discussion that I had with some Christian parents who are steadfast against sex ed in public schools that teaches more than abstinence only. That just doesn't make sense to me.

Posted by: Rick Brady at July 28, 2005 10:27 AM

I was raised by Christian parents, in a Christian home, and accepted Christ at age 4. My Moody Bible Institute graduate mother put it this way: Sex outside of marriage is a sin, and against our beliefs. You will be happier and healthier if you wait to experience this gift within the bonds of a loving marriage. If you don't, for heaven's sake, go on the pill."

And you know what, I think she handled it correctly. I didn't get a mixed message. She made it quite clear that she was forbidding me to have sex outside of marriage, and more importantly, that it was not pleasing to God. But I can't tell you how many nice, young Christians I've known, who ended up pregnant (particularly prior to when HIV became a big issue) because they essentially didn't want to face the fact that they'd made up their mind to have sex outside of marriage. Not planning ahead made it a less deliberate sin in their eyes, maybe? I don't know. I do know though, that Christians have a higher divorce rate than atheists, and whenever I'm confronted with that unpleasant statistic, I wonder how often the failed marriages were made in haste because of "accidental" ;) sex.

If my children are going to err, and they'll err in lots of places, even if they don't in their sex lives, I would just as soon they not compromise their future, or put their health at risk. There are enough consequences (spiritual and emotional) of extra-marital sex, even when a couple doesn't conceive, or doesn't contract a disease. Similarly, I am appalled by the people fighting the vaccine for HPV. No, my children should not be having sex outside of marriage, but if they do, I don't want them contracting a virus that, at least for my daughter, can cause cervical cancer.

The public schools are not just for Christian children. Our secular culture no longer has any tabboo against sex outside of marriage, particularly for unmarried, consenting adults. Those children/teens/young adults know literally no reason (to them) to abstain from sex. I think abstinence education should always be included in public school ciriculum, and stressed as the only foolproof way to prevent the spread of STDs, and to prevent unintended pregnancy. Still, I think a good health education course needs information on contraception and how to minimize the chance of contracting STDs. Besides, even those people who do wait for marriage will benefit from education on contraceptive methods.

Now, as Christians parents, my husband and I can, do, and will teach our children that their sexuality has been given them of God, to celebrate within the bonds of marriage. I hope that when they're of the age where it is an issue, our church offers some back-up education too, through the Youth Group maybe, to reaffirm the abstinence method they'll get from us.

P.S. The name of this blog makes my heart flutter, every time I read it. Lovely!

Posted by: Cindy at July 28, 2005 11:45 AM

I saw a sans religion/value-free abstinence program that focused on risks and self-esteem, not sin. It was on-target. I was 14 at the time and I then committed myself to not risk pregnancy, diseases or heartbreak. The program reinforced the flaws in birth control and the emotional dangers (and physical dangers) of premarital sex. It worked. He reinforced that you are INDEED in control of yourself and you have the brain and the choice to make healthy decisions- the healthy decision to not risk sex outside of marriage.

Now, had he held up a condom at the end, "just in case" he would have negated that entire message.

I'm offended that people say that I can't control my strong natural urges. That's offensive. I certainly can and I certainly have. I am not an animal- I have a fully functional brain and that brain has calculated a cost/benefit analysis regarding sex. It has looked at the fail rate and the probability of lifetime diseases, sterility and death. And that brain decided that the benefits were nothing compared to the potential loss.

But then I became a Christian and it became easier (also because I began dating Christians) but I have non-beleiving friends that have also abstained. Now that they're grown up, they're questioning why to stay that way- and then I mention Jesus.

I think it's demeaning to children to say that they can't control themselves with sex while we demand them to control themselves in other ways. We say that a man with road rage must control himself and not act out. We say that a frustrated man can not rape a woman because of his strong, natural urges. We say that people can't urinate in public places. But you're saying it's too much to suggest that people can decide not to engage in harmful activity? Then why do we wage anti-drug abuse campaigns?

I think we should give kids more credit and stop providing "outs" for them to not do the right thing. We are hurting them by giving them fake means to continue a behavior that is harmful. It's not merciful to pretend to sheild them from the consequences, because the consequences will be there. Sex is a law, like gravity, and when you break it, consequences follow. We don't let kids jump out of planes regularly with parachutes with a 7% fail rate. It's quite similar.

Posted by: Jacqueline at July 28, 2005 01:13 PM

The pill is abortive.

And to say, if you're going to sin, sin this way "For Heaven's sake"...Heaven will do fine without you sinning. Not Christian, ya'll. Not at all.

Teaching your kids to compromise on this is not good. Why is sex excused? Why not, "Robbing a store is a sin and against our beleifs, but if you do, for heaven's sake, wear a ski mask so they can't recognize you during the line-up."

Most hormonal contraceptives are abortive and they are certainly not healthy. So I wouldn't benefit at all for learning about them.

Posted by: Jacqueline at July 28, 2005 01:39 PM

Jacqueline, I'd like to pose an analogous question, because sometimes, the church (me included) seems to get hung up on sex-related sin, as if it were the only sort of sin.

I see this as analogous to underaged drinking, rather than to the illicit drug use mentioned upstream (I fully understand alcohol is a drug, but it is not completely illegal). Under our civil laws, people are allowed to consume alcohol in a responsible manner, once a certain benchmark has been reached (in the U.S. that benchmark is an age--generally age 21). Within a Christian moral framework, sex is allowable (more than that actually, something to be celebrated, and enjoyed, and understood as a symbol of Christ and the church) once a certain benchmark has been reached--namely the couple has been united in marriage.

Now what am I going to teach my children about using alcohol? Some Christians will teach their children to abstain for life, but I'm purposefully restricting my analogy from going that far, because that concerns not just their underaged years, but adulthood.

To answer my own question, I am going to explain to my children how harmful alcohol abuse can be, in all aspects of life, and that it is all too easy to abuse. Furthermore, I am going to explain to them the reasons for the drinking age, the consequences of breaking that civil law, and what the Bible has to say about drunkeness, and how easy it is to cross the line from moderation to drunkeness. And, I'm going to make it clear that I forbid them to drink while they are under age 21. I am also going to explain how deadly dangerous it is, to drive under the influence of alcohol, and how severe the civil penalties are when one is caught doing so, even when no harm has come (no accident).

But I'm also going to take it a step further. I am going to make it clear that if they break my rules and the law, and drink while underage, they are still to call me for a ride home. Granted, they shouldn't be drinking in the first place. By disobeying me, and by disobeying the civil authorities, they are sinning. But I don't want the consequences they'll suffer for their sins, to be compounded by a life changing or life ending car accident.

Posted by: Cindy at July 31, 2005 08:21 AM