Abstinence is Not the Answer

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ImageI’ve been researching statistics on teen sexuality the past couple of weeks in preparation for a series we’re doing at Crash (our student ministry) entitled, “Sex on Fire.” I am more than saddened by some of the numbers that I’ve been seeing. The United States still leads among other developed countries in regards for teenage pregnancy rates. States that teach abstinence only have some of the highest pregnancy rates in the nation. 

For a nation that boasts in being a “Christian Nation,” our numbers sure do not prove that to be true. By saying that, I am not saying that I support the idea that America is a “Christian Nation.” That opens up a whole can of worms that I am not willing to dive into at this time. I am simply saying that the American evangelical church boasts in this title and yet, we lead among other developed nations in teen pregnancy.

As I’ve been preparing for the next three weeks of this series, I’ve come to the following conclusion: abstinence is not the answer. 

The problem is, biblically speaking, we are only teaching half of the answer. I have sat in on many purity rallies. The speakers talk about how sex is fantastic but should be saved for marriage. They encourage students to not participate in sex until marriage. They talk about the dangers of premarital sex. But that’s it. We talk about abstinence. But we never talk about pursuit.

I’m not talking about the pursuit of a relationship. I’m talking about the pursuit of holiness. Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4.28, ESV).

The Church Father, John Chrysostom, wrote about this passage: “Where are they which are called pure; they that are full of all defilement, and yet dare to give themselves a name like this? For it is possible, very possible, to put off the reproach, not only by ceasing from the sin, but by working some good thing also. Perceive ye how we ought to get quit of the sin? They stole. This is the sin. They steal no more. This is not to do away the sin. But how shall they? If they labor, and charitably communicate to others, thus will they do away the sin. He does not simply desire that we should work, but so work as to labor, so as that we may communicate to others. For the thief indeed works, but it is that which is evil.”

It is not enough to just say, “STOP.” There has to be more. There has to be something else. There has to be the pursuit of holiness. This applies to so much more than premarital sex. This applies to any sin in our life. I fear that we teach “stop,” but not “pursue.” Of course, this line of thought is prominent in our society; it’s not a problem if we don’t talk about it. We ignore things and hope they will go away. But Paul never supports this idea. 

One must stop, but one must also pursue and labor. 

No longer should the evangelical church be promoting abstinence only. We should be teaching something more. We are teaching half-truths. We must begin changing the mindset from only “stopping” to “stopping and pursuing.” 

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6 thoughts on “Abstinence is Not the Answer

  1. Too often the rising number of teen pregnancies and STDs and what not are used to further promote abortion, artificial birth control, and immoral living sadly. Stopping and pursuing is a great way to look at it. Separating ourselves is key. St. Thalassios the Libyan said, ‘A wise man is one who pays attention to himself and is quick to separate himself from all defilement.’ Paying attention to the passions and how they control us helps us to create a virtue out of them.

    Thanks for the thoughts man.

      • I did not get notified that you replied to this haha. I’m glad you liked the quote. I believe he was a desert Father. not sure. what did your research tell you?

        If you like that I really recommend you check out Eastern spirituality. and by that I mean the Orthodox view of it. the Fathers in general wrote very much about the passions and our spiritual lives. I think you’d enjoy that, man.

  2. Reblogged this on The Ruminations of an Orthodox Catechumen and commented:
    Too often the rising number of teen pregnancies and STDs and what not are used to further promote abortion, artificial birth control, and immoral living sadly. Stopping and pursuing is a great way to look at it. Separating ourselves is key. St. Thalassios the Libyan said, ‘A wise man is one who pays attention to himself and is quick to separate himself from all defilement.’ Paying attention to the passions and how they control us helps us to create a virtue out of them.

  3. Matt D

    Excellent article Caleb. I agree with what you are saying. The challenging part is the states that teach abstinence only can not teach what to pursue because of reinterpretation of the establishment clause. States that teach birth control and not abstinence would fall in line with other developed nations and there are other statistics that have to be considered there. As many have wisely stated, the birth of a child is survivable, but what about the STD. Their prevalence is so common. I recently heard the prevalence statistic of one STD at a local university: 72% of sexually active students had this STD on campus. What does it say about us when our biggest concern is pregnancy? That’s like saying I’m afraid of walking down the center yellow line of the road because of exhaust fumes. That doesn’t even touch the value of human life.

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