Friday, December 22, 2006

Sex in America

The results of a survey were released last week. According to its data, 95% of Americans have sex before marriage. The survey's indicators are being used by many groups to question the use of abstinence-based sex education. If premarital sex has become normative behavior, goes the reasoning, then isn't it time that sex education reflects that fact?
I was saddened and also confused by this survey in several ways. First, saddened because so many people are missing out on what I have experienced to be true- that starting a marriage with no prior sexual experience is absolutely wonderful. I can't truly compare it with the opposite (no one can compare the two with personal experience, since you start a marriage either having had sex previously, or not), but I know that it provides a solid base of trust and actual intimacy. Obviously, this lines up with exactly what God says in the Bible- that sex is created for marriage and not for any other use. That's the reason that I waited until marriage- God said it, so I better obey it. I certainly haven't followed what God says in every aspect of life, but in this one at least I was able to.
The confusion, for me, comes with the question, 'How can this trend be reversed and more people convinced to wait until marriage?'. I don't see a lot of convincing reasons to put off sex OTHER than the 'God said it, I better obey it' reason. Outside of religion and faith-based motivations, the main reasons for abstinence that I see being given are:
1. reliable protection against sexually transmitted diseases
2. no danger of pregnancy
3. emotionally healthier
However, each of these reasons is growing weaker over time. Some possible rebuttals:
1. science is developing protections against most diseases without having to abstain (witness the recent vaccine against cervical cancer)
2. there are plenty of reliable methods of birth control
3. a shaky reason that cannot be tested. If 95% of Americans are having sex outside of marriage, then it would seem emotionally healthier to be with the majority, not the small minority
So the only real motivation for waiting till marriage for sex is the motivation outside oneself- motivation driven by God because He is the authority, not you. All the other reasons can be explained away, or at least rationalized to a minimum. So is it worth it to keep promoting abstinence in the culture at large, without it being tied to a religious motivation?
Therein lies my confusion- and this goes for many areas of how Christians should speak publicly about matters of morality. People who aren't Christians (and by that I mean those that aren't actively trying to follow God and take the Bible as authoritative) have no reason to hold to biblical standards of morality. Yes, I believe that God's laws are still practical and hold the best plan for every person- that's what makes me so sad, that millions of people are missing out on the great experience of having true, marriage-only sex. But should I, as a Christian, speak publicly about abstinence as a way of life? (and not only speak, but support Christian organizations that try to influence public policy, curriculum in schools, etc) Is that putting the cart before the horse, so to speak, asking people to follow God's plan when they don't follow God? I just wonder if actions like that will push people farther away from Christianity. "Oh, those Christians again, trying to stick their nose into other peoples' business." On the other hand, it's pretty clear in the Bible that Christians, if they stick up for God's way of doing things, are going to be salt to the world, and not make too many friends along the way.
Please feel free to comment on this topic or on the larger issue of Christians involved in public policy. That's a field that I find myself drawn to, but I have a hard time figuring out what a Christian's role should be. Groups like Focus on the Family and others, which take a solid stance of wanting to see legislation and public policy follow a biblical morality, cause a lot of people to turn a deaf ear to anything having to do with Christianity. How much should Christians push for biblical public policy, and how much should they let the culture go where it will and stick with dialoguing with individuals?


Bradwick said...

Good blog babe! I do think though that if God didn't want us to have sex until after marriage though He must have good reasons.

I think that reason #3 is the main reason but I think it needs to be expounded on. It's important to point out that sex after marriage is not just emotionally safer, it's emotionally and physically better.

It's like buying an ice cream cone. Sure you can get one in the winter, it'll taste good but it might give you a cold headache, they don't have any toppings, and it's just not the right environment. If you want one when it's hot out and tastes way better and they have special toppings... well then you wait for summer. Because it's an all around better experience.

Brandy said...

Hey Margaret! I got your comment on the names. Merry Christams to you guys too!

I laughed when i read your little tidbit about the parkour videos. John discovered them late last week and has been nearly obsessed with them. He checks everyday to see if there are any new one- and then re-watches the ones he really likes :-)

This is an interesting blog you wrote. I deal with the same runnign thoughts myself. SHould we push for anti-abortion, abstinence, prayer in schools, etc polkitically? isn't that "putting the cart before the horse" as you said. I had someone explain it like this once- in regards to voting anyway - EVERYONE votes based on belief systems. I am no exception. But i still don't know what to do with the whole pushing of such ideas. Ihave never been a big politically or platform minded person. In fact, i am lucky to know who the president is considering how little i pay attention to such things. When my head gets too pretzeled and i sit with God, i usually end end up feeling Him patiently smile. I still don't know how it all works, but little places of practically loving others and knowing God's heart always come back as the "mission". I can't force someone to hear me or to understand- but i can speak gently (though i often chicken out) what i have known to be true. It really seems to take God working to haev a person understand things that seem counterintuitive.

Dave said...

Hi Meg,

I do think that teaching abstinence is putting the cart before the horse. In a secular society, it is almost impossible to quantify a reason to remain abstinent.

I guess the tack I am taking is rather unrelated to the debate. I don't expect to be meeting very many high schoolers or older who have remained virgins for a reason other than religion. And given that my goal is to draw the non-religious into The Way of loving and serving others, even discussing abstinence policies seldom crosses my mind. It would become something they mock or perceive as judgment on my part. However, after they have been drawn into The Way, how they choose to behave becomes entirely relevant because an integral part of being on The Way is life in community. And for those who join, non-abstinent behavior becomes predatory and tangibly destructive to relationships. These are the times when talk of abstinence begins to make sense.

I have no doubt that if I someday marry, I might be able to relate to your experience of abstinence until marriage. I do, however, have few illusions about the possibilities of that girl not having waited. And if I were to choose to fight for abstinence-only policies, I could alienate her before ever getting to know her. So, extrapolating beyond this isolated example, I suspect I would alienate far more potential Christ-followers by preaching the subject than I would by simply encountering them where they are, loving them, and showing them the way of pure humanity.

I also hesitate seriously about legislating Biblical standards. These do not seem to me to be widely recognized standards by most Americans, even inside the church. It would appear to me to be equal to the oppression of any religious state to legislate the Word. It would also seem to be legalism at its purest form.

Does any of this help?

margaret said...

Thanks guys for your responses! It does help to be reminded of the difference between personal contact and things said in the public square. I think this is something I particularly wrestle with, since I naturally love government, policy, and issues of our judicial and legislative systems. It's something I would love to be involved with someday, but knowing how to approach it is difficult. It's true, everyone votes with a worldview in mind, and I think that to a certain extent, having laws that are biblically-based are just good for society overall. But as our culture moves more and more towards a postmodern view, when every person's truth is what they make it, more hostility towards laws and policy based in absolute truth might grow. And I don't want to get so wrapped up in these questions that I forget the personal, and the people God has put around me that I might personally be an example of Him. I definitely wouldn't want to be expecting Christian standards of morality from people that I associate with who aren't believers.
Thanks for helping me think through some of these things! :-)

Doug Parker said...

I would question the statement that 95% of Americans have sex before marriage. Where to they get that from? The survey may be from a group that does not represent all Americans.