Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sarah Palin, Abstinence and Education

It’s the conversation parents dread. The only thing worse is no conversation, and instead finding a stray condom in the washing machine. Meg and I often wonder what we would say if one of our kids was to tell us that they were (or planned to be) sexually active. Would we encourage abstinence? We also wonder what we would say if one of our kids did what we did- that is, get married in their early twenties. Would we encourage them to wait, or would we stay silent and let them live with their own choices?

It’s hard to predict the emotional ties that shape a parent’s response to their kids, but we hope we would encourage both sexual responsibility and waiting to get married.

Abstinence is not realistic. It was a huge moment last week when Bristol Palin stumbled onto this truth on national television, almost convincing herself as she said it- “everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it’s not realistic at all.” Then Sarah Palin appeared on set and surprised everyone even further by saying this about abstinence- “It sounds naive.”

I am so grateful to the Palin family for being willing to share their experience on the national stage. It can’t have been easy, considering that abstinence is the standard line for religious conservatives. My appreciation for their family has grown enormously. They are real. They have put real issues on the national agenda.

They have confirmed what studies have long shown; that abstinence doesn’t work, and may actually be a dangerous alternative to teaching responsible sexuality.

Hillary Clinton once said- “There is a great deal of political pressure to only talk about abstinence, and to deny support for condoms and education on using them. This policy (abstinence) will lead to the unnecessary deaths of many people.”

Open discussion of sexuality; in schools, in homes, and yes even in churches, is essential. It may even save lives.

On Sunday I made the most overt comments about sexuality that I have ever made in a church. I was nervous to see what the response would be. The C3 community again impressed me with their open embrace of direct and honest thoughts, in this case thoughts on sacred sexuality.

Our bodies are diverse, our experiences unique, but our spirits are joined in intimate embrace as together we create a spectacular, simultaneous, spiritual orgasm that has the foundations of the church creaking like a four post bed.

Please check out the sermon, and feel free to leave comments here about what you think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have two daughters, 12 and 15. While my wife and I have talked about what we might say when one or both were to tell us that they are sexually active, I know that this is not the same as what what we would say or do if the actual event occurs. Neither one of them is romantically inclined right now. We both hope that we have created enough of a trusting relationship that they would tell us if they are sexually active - if we were to ask - or if they needed help with the decision to become active.

I teach in alternative high school where we have a large number of teenage mothers, and we know that most of our students are sexually active. I see children raising children constantly. I do not get to see the babies very often, but I certainly get to see the moms and I know how hard they struggle to keep up with school, to mature themselves, and to take care of young children. I pray that I never see my daughters in that situation.

While I teach math, I also talk about sex and contraception in my classes. I feel as both a human and as an educator that I have to. I overhear the students talking with each other all the time. I can't ignore all the misconceptions I hear that they have about sex, contraception, and raising children. I absolutely believe that abstinence education does not work. Educators and parents need to talk openly about sex and how contraception works. I see the price of not doing so as being so high.

I wished that I lived near CC3. I discovered your church and sermons around Christmas. This is the best Christmas present I could have received. The Christianity that CC3has shown me is what I have been looking for for a very long time. I think that your sermon on sexuality last weekend hit the mark perfectly.