Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Principle versus policy

There is a Biblical principle that clearly demonstrates that sex should only be between a man and a woman inside a sacred marriage. I believe most every Christian believes in that principle. However, different policies are put forward both inside and outside the church to make this principle happen. One famous one was the Victorian, "don't talk about sex" policy or the most recent "abstinence-only" education. Neither work.

According to a study of 12,000 students, teens who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are more likely to take chances with other kinds of sex that increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. This story isn't all that new, but I haven't had the time to work it over in my mind. Working with teens, I sometime understand them and abstinence education fails on so many levels. First, teens are very concerned about their social circle. They care what their friends and parents think of them. If the pressure is there (say from family or youth group) to sign a pledge to remain a virgin, teens will do things they may not be totally committed to. Second, virginity pledges keep teens in the dark about sex. Teens are intellectually curious about subjects they care about. Try this...keep your teen from learning about Halo 2 or cell phones. Ain't gonna happen. They are into it and will get information either from you or others. Sex also interests teens and they want info, all of it about all of it. Saying "stay a virgin" doesn't satisfy that desire.

According to the eight-year study, although young people who sign a virginity pledge delay the initiation of sexual activity, marry at younger ages and have fewer sexual partners, they also were less likely to use condoms and more likely to experiment with riskier activities such as oral and anal sex, said the researchers from Yale and Columbia universities. Again this is symptomatic of teen thinking...it is the letter of the law and not the spirit. Since Christians are afraid to discuss all aspects of sex, lest we tempt teens, they think that oral or anal sex isn't really the sex that they agreed to avoid.

As a Church, let's get serious about dealing with sexual sin. We have a principle, but the policy isn't working. Teaching about condom usage and abstinence aren't contradictory. Some teens will agree that abstinence is the best option for them (sexual health, future choices, emotional health, reputation etc), but others will give in to sexual sin. At least they will be protected from some diseases and giving into sexual sin won't be a death sentence. God is a God of truth. We need to be truthful with our teens. If we aren't, the "world" will certainly tell them all kinds of lies.

Think I'm crazy? Ever made any New Year's resolutions? I have. This New Year's I decided I would walk to work each day (30 minutes or so) rather than take the bus (10 minutes). There are plenty of reasons why walking is better (health, save on transport, more time to listen to Al Franken on my iPod). I even told my wife to keep me accountable. I was very ernest about doing this because my I put on a few pounds in 2004. Yet, in the first 90 days of the new year, I've walked to work less than 10 times and home less than 20 times. Is this as bad as having sex outside of marriage? No, but taking the bus won't give me a life threatening disease either.

Isn't it time to ditch the policy to advance the principle?