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.