50 Shades of … Confusion (Christians, Youth, and Sex)

My job (pastor and high school teacher) and age (I’m 26) both mean that I have an inside track to what’s really happening in the world of kids. They trust me and let me see the things they usually hide from adults. As one who thinks he has a pretty good feel on today’s youth (both inside and out of the church) it always amuses me to see Christian leaders react to the continued sexualization of our media.

It is obvious that they have no idea what these kids are already watching and doing. Trust me, it’s worse than watching a sexually-charged movie.

I have two theses that I’d like to explore about sexuality (particularly among Christian youth):

1) Christian youth are (about) just as sexually active as non-Christian youth.

It’s built into our DNA, people. If you think there is a significant difference in the sex life of an average Christian young person and the average non-Christian, then I can’t help but think that you are (either intentionally or unintentionally) hiding your head in the sand. Now, if you defined “Christian” as a “very committed Christian” then I’m guessing there would be a difference. But your numbers and sample size would drop even more significantly – most who self-identify as Christians don’t meet the average pastor or priests’ definition of “committed.” Further, I’m not sure that this is all that big of a change from earlier history. The narrative we’re often sold is that “back in the day” kids were so pure and innocent and now we have corrupted ourselves into a sexualized hell on earth. I agree with the premise that the media has changed significantly, but I’m not convinced that kids actually behave all that differently. Then again, I wasn’t alive 50 or 80 years ago… I am just imagining that kids have always been curious and a good portion of kids are sexually active (and the ones who aren’t are not restraining based on choice, they just can’t find a willing partner – – – trust me… this again is a very real thing in the world of Christian youths).

For older readers of this blog – would you agree or disagree? Was there plenty of sexual activity at the High School / College you attended as a kid? Would there have been even more if there were more opportunities or willing partners? Was there a significant difference between the average “Christian” and the average non-Christian?

2) The reason Christian youth do not embrace a healthy view of sexuality is related to our lack of proper theological teaching.

I teach 9th graders and every year I survey them about what they have heard about sex outside of marriage. Every year I hear the same thing: they’ve been told it’s against God’s will and that dangers abound: unplanned pregnancy, STD’s, emotional damage, etc. Unfortunately, they either usually have the second reason over-emphasized to them and/or the first reason left unexplained.

Guess what: everyone (Christians and non-Christians) know the dangers of sex. It’s a simple risk-reward calculation . . . and most human beings usually decide its worth the risk. If we teach our children the same things about sex, we shouldn’t be surprised if we get the same results.

Instead, I suggest that Christian youth need to be taught to think theologically about sex. Why is it outside of God’s will for creation? What happens, spiritually, during sex? What does it mean to be united to Christ and how does that relate to sex? Only when our youth truly understand the spiritual implications of sex (instead of just telling them loudly that it’s against the rules), might we see a difference in their behavior.

Thoughts?
Do you agree or disagree?

8 thoughts on “50 Shades of … Confusion (Christians, Youth, and Sex)

  1. Wow…lots of stuff here, Mike. I can speak a little for my generation (I’m in my late 40s so I guess that makes me an older “Gen-Xer”). Back in high school in the early 1980s, I definitely knew quite a few kids who were sexually active. I should say these weren’t Christian youth. The church we attended was so small that we really didn’t have a youth group per se. So I don’t know much about my Christian peers. But, yes, kids in general were sexually active back then and most knew the risks of STDs and unwanted pregnancies, thanks to a rather robust sex ed program in place in Portland schools at the time. AIDS was just starting to make headlines, so that didn’t factor much into the equation until the mid-80s.

    As for myself, I did not become sexually active until after I got married. Not trying to brag or anything like that…I was definitely tempted on several occasions. But my parents taught me that love was not about self-gratification and that love also meant considering the other’s needs ahead of my own. They also modeled this behavior in their marriage. Despite the fact that they were (and still are) strong Christians, we never had a sit-down “premarital sex is a sin” meeting that I can remember. I just knew that I would likely regret such an encounter were I allow that to happen.

    Now that I’ve been married for over 27 years, I am realizing that love is the key, and by that I mean the self-sacrificial love we see described and portrayed in the Bible. Perhaps before we teach our children about sexual sins, we should get them thoroughly familiar with 1 Corinthians 13 and discuss all that it implies. That might be a nice segue into a discussion of the spiritual implications of sex, as you described.

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    1. Matt, thanks for your comment and your perspective!

      I think your suggestion is a fine one – understanding love (Christ-like, sacrificial, love) is much more basic than the intricacies of sexuality. It would be a good starting place!

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        1. Thanks – we haven’t done a great job of keeping the blog up in 2015. But I’ve got a couple posts in mind for the next month or two. Knowing that you read and seeing you comment is what makes us even think about keeping the blog going.
          Blessings, Matt.

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  2. Mike,

    “Guess what: everyone (Christians and non-Christians) know the dangers of sex.”

    I would argue that this is sadly not true. I used to work at a pregnancy center and we encountered a lot of girls that really didn’t know much about the risks of sexual activity. Many girls didn’t even understand how pregnancy worked (when they could and could not get pregnant). And many of the people that came in didn’t have a good understanding of STDs. So, while I agree that we do need to teach people (not just kids!) to think theologically about sex, we still have a lot of work to do in providing proper information and education on sexual activity and the risks involved so kids can at least make an attempt to be safer.

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    1. That’s an important part of the conversation. Thanks, Jessica. This is where your experience is valuable to the conversation at hand. Perhaps expectations like mine play into these very scenarios, where young women are victimized by lack of information. Do you think schools just aren’t doing a good enough job of sex-ed? Or is that combined with situations where someone has dropped out or been forgotten from the system? Thoughts?

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  3. I think as you start talking about the spiritual consequences (both good and bad) of sex, you have to be really careful. There is enough shame about sex within the church already. I loved my time in public schools because there wasn’t so much shame clouding the conversations. We could actually just talk. I think listening to students/youth about their views and perspectives on sexuality is way more important than me talking about what I think/know. Once you know where they are at, you can approach it accordingly. The church, schools, etc. don’t need yet another system or program. We need community and long-standing relationships between many different generations to wrestle with these conversations.

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