Church and sex don’t mix, but they should
I was the music minister at a small church in Texas for a few years before coming to Colorado.
My wife, Amy, worked with the youth group, which varied in size from two to six kids at any given time. There was one 16-year-old girl who was mature beyond her years. She was intelligent, had plans for college and was a natural leader.
Then she got pregnant.
After conferring with her mother – a single mom raising both her and her twin sister – she opted to keep the baby, who was eventually adopted by a couple within the church. The child found a loving home, a couple’s dream for a family was fulfilled, and the young woman was able to continue with many of her future plans.
Although this was a best-case scenario given the circumstances, even this situation was emotionally, physically and financially traumatic. Unfortunately, most consequences of teen sex are not as easy.
Per capita, teens in the United States are twice as likely to become pregnant as their peers in Canada and Great Britain, and they are four times as likely as those in France and Sweden. Almost 50 percent of American high-school students report having sex, and one in seven report having four or more partners before they reach graduation. Eighty percent of first sexual encounters involve drugs or alcohol, and 60 percent of sexually transmitted diseases and two in three unwanted pregnancies occur when one or both partners are intoxicated.
These are only the tip of the statistical iceberg, but it’s enough to demonstrate that anyone willing to ignore the reality of teen sex and its consequences are doing so willfully. So who’s to blame for the lack of adequate information our teenage (or younger) children possess about sex?
Most churches are reticent to openly discuss sexuality at all, let alone with their youths. For many, the church’s stance on sex is that all parts under the belt are dirty, not to be used for any pleasurable activities until marriage, and all indiscretions – and even thoughts – should elicit shame. End of lesson.
Many parents depend on schools to teach kids what they need to know, yet they rarely take the time to review the curriculum or qualifications of the person teaching the class. Meanwhile, most schools offer only a superficial biological survey of sexuality at best, with little practical discussion about the emotional, social and hormonal pressures that a newly sexualized teen faces.
Biblically, shame is historically interwoven with sex too. From the chastisement of Adam and Eve to Sodom and Gomorrah and the story of the hemorrhaging woman, there are plenty of examples to draw from to impart indignity upon sex. If we want to assert that not only the act of sex is dirty, but also the parts of our bodies and feelings associated with sexuality, we can use the Bible to back us up.
Meanwhile, our children continue to engage in activities they hardly understand, and which we are hardly prepared to discuss with them until it’s too late.
We, as God’s creatures, are entirely made in God’s image, genitals and all. We are created to be drawn together sexually, to share intimately with one another, and, in most cases, to multiply.
Sexuality, and even the act of sex, is not a dirty thing. It’s the abuse of this power that causes damage for those both directly and indirectly involved.
There is a nonprofit called CLER Ministries that is committed to sexuality training for clergy and laity and the children they serve. It offers weeklong camps for eighth-grade kids, workshops at churches, and it works from the premise that it is a central mission of all of the nation’s churches to engage young people about their sexuality.
Some will disagree that church is an acceptable place to talk openly about sex.
If not in church, where? If not now, when?
Christian Piatt is a nonprofit consultant, freelance writer and music minister at Milagro Christian Church. He can be reached at email@example.com .