Thursday, June 20, 2013

Faith As A Factor In Teen Pregnancy. . . .

I distinctly remember a conversation I had back in the 1980's regarding youth ministry and criticisms that youth pastors were talking about certain things way too much. At the time, this oft-criticized topical trifecta that most youth ministries like ours was addressing was sex, drugs, and rock &roll. At the time, the sexual revolution of that same 60's decade was bearing fruit in loosened values, attitudes, and behaviors that were encouraging all of us who felt sexual temptation (all of us!) to no longer see those struggles as temptations to fight, but as natural desires to indulge. We needed to talk about sex. The drug culture rooted in the 1960's had grown and was bearing fruit in broken lives, horrific addictions, and crime related to drug trafficking. It was bad. We needed to talk about drugs. In addition, And then there was the world of rock & roll, which tended to evangelize the young into adopting and indulging the changing mindset on the prior two topics. We needed to talk about music.

Yes, we talked about a whole lot more than sex, drugs, and rock & roll in our ministry. . . a lot more. We talked about how faith mattered in all of life. But we also learned that where the culture is speaking to matters of life and defining for kids what matters, our responsibility is to channel that Other Voice that speaks clearly, plainly, and truely on those matters. And the louder the culture speaks, the more diligent we need to be about bringing the light of God's Word to bear on the spirit of the times.

While leading a Bible study for a group of biblically-illiterate high school kids back in 1981, I mentioned the issue of temptation. I illustrated the idea of temptation by talking about sexual temptation. i figured that was something they could identify with. I knew I could! They had blank stares on their faces. Then I mentioned that the Bible talks about sex in very positive ways. That it's a good thing. That God created it and wants us to indulge it. They were blown away as they had never heard this before. One kid asked, "You mean the Bible talks about sex?!?" I directed them to the Song of Solomon. . . and our discussion of temptation was tabled until another time! These kids had been steeped in sex talk, but it was horribly unbalanced.

Sarah Brown, the CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, has issued a call to Christian parents and youth workers to turn up the volume and frequency on our conversations with kids about sex. In a Washington Post op-ed piece earlier this week ("Can faith prevent teen pregnancy?"), Brown offered this directive. . . .

"It may be even more surprising for adults to ponder the role that faith and individual morals and values have played. Among those teens who haven’t had sex, the primary reason they give for…well…not doing it is that having sex at this point in their lives is against their religion or morals, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research makes clear that religion, faith, and a strong moral sense play vital roles in protecting teens from too-early sexual activity and teen pregnancy. In particular, being connected to a religious community has been linked with a decreased risk for teen pregnancy. Moreover, a survey we released this week suggests that the majority of Americans want more from religious groups rather than less. Some 52 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens think religious leaders and groups should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy."

We need to continually show how faith matters in all matters of life. And talking about how faith matters in the matter of sexuality. . . well, it matters!

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