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Abstinence Only?

September 16, 2008

In recent weeks in the Presidential election, one of our favorite issues has come up again.  Abstinence only sex education has come up, with the common rhetoric on both sides – cultural liberals pushing for comprehensive sex ed, and cultural conservatives talking about how we should be teaching abstinence until marriage.

Now, this is an important question.  I personally believe that the emphasis is in the wrong place in these debates.  I think that this debate is necessitated because of a cultural failure in America – one that is much deeper then how we talk about this in public school.  The fact that families are not considered up to this task of talking about sex is one of the main reasons we struggle with this issue.  I believe that a much more important fight should be taking place here: we should be emphasizing each parent’s responsibility in addressing how their kids learn about sex.

I am suspicious of the involvement of the schools.  Look at the studies: abstinence only sex ed produces the same results as comprehensive sex ed – they both result in teenagers having sex outside of marriage.  In my experience (admittedly, very small), children taught about sex in the home are MUCH better off then those who hear about it from the public schools.  After all, where do children get their cues on sexuality?  From their parents.  They see how their parents conduct their sex lives, and they also shape their vision for sex through the lenses created by their parents.  This aspect is much more important then if sex is simply something learned through school.

This is dismaying for cultural conservatives like myself, because while I think it is better to advocate for abstinence until marriage, I also don’t see that taking root in our current cultural environment.  We can fight all we want for abstinence only sex education, but that is not going to have a noticeable impact until this culture starts becoming more wary of extra-martial sex.  This is why we should fight for a God-glorifying vision of sex in our own homes, and promote this vision in the culture – not only when sex education comes up, but whenever the topic of sex is broached.  We need to cultivate strong marriages that treat sex in a respectful way that is not evident in the culture.  People need to see the true beauty of marriages which honor God, and where the spouses honor the marriage bond.  Otherwise, nobody is going to see the point of abstaining, especially in a society where the negative consequences of sex outside of marriage have largely been removed.  I pray for a day when this society will see that marriage isn’t only a contract, but a true UNION, where the mystery of Christ and the Church is played out.

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