I took a trip to Colorado this past summer, and it was during multi-hour drives between locales that I had the immense pleasure of listening to AM 760, Colorado’s Progressive Talk. It drove my wife absolutely mad, but I really find leftist talk radio very funny, and it also gives me an idea of what sort of ideas are floating around the liberal-progressive mindset that I may need to confront or rebuke.
It is through listening to this station’s podcasts here at home that I learned of a liberal argument that is being made with regards to the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, and her daughter Bristol’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy. They assert that this pregnancy demonstrates the weakness of abstinence-only sex education, which is the variety of sex education Governor Palin allegedly supports. From this, of course, they assert that “comprehensive sex education,” which involves “safer sex” recommendations, including contraception, is necessary and superior. They often cite a few supporting studies, which indicate that participants in abstinence-only programs are as likely to fornicate as teenagers as those who do not, and are less likely to use “safer sex” practices when they do so. Recent statistics have questioned the accuracy of the second statistic. However, statistics they use in their own defense similarly do not show a reduction in sexual activity among participants in comprehensive sex education, but they boldly defend themselves with statistics indicating that comprehensive sex education programs “do not increase rates of sexual initiation, do not lower the age at which youth initiate sex, and do not increase the frequency of sex or the number of sex partners among sexually active youth.”
I think it clear that neither program is going to do what makes sex education desirable–reduce premarital sexual activity. Comprehensive sex education supporters (scroll down to “Is it realistic to encourage abstinence until marriage?”) admit that they do not share that intention, believing it to be unrealistic, or, as one opposing site framed their position, impossible to get to marriage without copulating. So since neither abstinence-only nor comprehensive sex education has a statistical advantage to silence on this point, what can be done to accomplish the goal of reducing premarital sexual activity?
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Short of a transformed, redeemed, regenerate mind and spirit, I think the comprehensive sex-ed supporters are right–it is impossible to, by power of will, abstain until marriage. But to follow Paul’s words above can and should be a delight for every Christian single. But I think even that advice is incomplete, and by itself weak to support the Christian’s will during a time of temptation. A simple admonition to abstain is insufficient. “Just don’t have sex!” will never be a compelling motivation.
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. – Proverbs 5: 15-19
This is where the real drive for abstinence can come–a true biblical vision for the delights of marital sexuality. With the knowledge both that God not only condemns fornication (and other sexual sins), but also approves and blesses a bevy of delights within marriage (I’ve had even unsaved friends comment on the sexual license indicated by the Song of Solomon.), one has both the negative and the positive motivations to delay sexual activity until within the bonds of marital oneness.
And that, I think, is where abstinence-only education fails–it cannot (in the current public school environment) point either to God’s condemnations of fornication, nor to the glorious beauty of marital sexuality as designed and blessed by God. Without those two ingredients, any program will fail to produce meaningful increases in abstinence.
P.S. The Mathematica study, frequently cited as proof that abstinence-only education programs fail to improve abstinence rates, concluded that only two things are truly meaningful positive predictors of sexual abstinence: personal support for abstinence, and peer support for abstinence. Interestingly, among the more religious teenagers, as well as among those who desire a good marriage and believe it possible, the abstinence-only courses have a negative impact on overall abstinence. Therefore, I amend my previous conclusion:
Without those two ingredients, [A]ny program will fail to produce meaningful increases in abstinence. Without those two ingredients, individuals will very likely fail to abstain.