Do I have your attention yet? While searching the web recently for data on current cultural trends, I came across an interesting article published in 2001 from the National Center for Policy Analysis in Washington, D.C., which included information submitted by social scientist, Laura Meckler, based on a survey of 502 teenage Americans. As a pastor, the title caught my eye; “Survey: Religion Affects Teen Sex.” Teens who took the survey said that morals, values and religion play a major role in their decisions about sex. Specifically, 40% of these teens said that morals, values, and/or religious beliefs were the most important factor affecting their decision about whether to have sex. By comparison, concern about sexually transmitted diseases was only the most important factor for 17 % of respondents. This is somewhat surprising given the significant media attention and sex education programs that have made diminishing sexually transmitted disease their primary focus. To me, this means that various faith based programs that have encouraged abstinence have flown in under the media’s radar and have been far more successful than many have realized. The only downside to this, as indicated by the survey, is that once “religious teens” do have sex, they are less likely to use contraception. To me, these findings suggest that we as parents (and churches) strongly encourage abstinence as the leading edge of our instruction about sex. It’s biblical, moral, healthy, and very much in the best interests of our teens. In addition, a discussion of this sort should provide ample opportunity to emphasize the grace of forgiveness available to any who have already fallen short in this area of moral conduct. In our culture, this is a subject that we as Christians simply can’t afford to ignore.
I also found that there are some medications that young people have taken to abusing, sometimes procuring them from their parents, unbeknownst to them. It seems a common search for them is how to buy hydrocodone on line if they have the money. It is not cheap medication at all so in some cases that isn’t an option. In its proper use as a health solution it is a great medication that makes a huge difference to those that have to take it for their condition, whatever it may be. It is deplorable that our youth can go this far in search of a high. There is still much work to be done in this regard.
A related finding of this survey was that fully half of teens said their parents were most influential in decisions about sex while only about one in six said friends were most influential. This was astonishing to me in light of the focus we have had in the church over the years on the role that peer pressure plays in influencing teenage behavior. Parents, no matter how your teenager may appear to be disinterested in what you have to say, your influence is still a vital factor in their decision making process in issues of sexual morality. Don’t sell yourself short in this area. Don’t assume that your teenager doesn’t want to hear what you have to say on a subject like sex. Don’t let your own personal discomfort due to a lack of training or a perceived inability to communicate about a question of morality stand in the way. Obviously, age appropriate communication about sex throughout their childhood will make communicating with teenagers that much easier, but even if you haven’t said much before, don’t assume it’s a closed subject. Furthermore, age appropriate materials from a Christian perspective abound today compared to previous generations. Give your teenager something to view or to read and use it as a basis for dialogue. Furthermore, questions about sexual morality arise in the course of normal TV viewing. Take these opportunities to question or affirm the moral assumptions being espoused by the characters in the program you’re watching. You might be surprised how meaningful this type of discussion proves to be. It seems to me that young people today want to know what key adults in their lives believe about a topic like sex.
As I’m writing, I’m reminded of Moses’ words to Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-9 – “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Who better to communicate our faith based values to our children than parents? Do you have comments, clarifications, or objections to anything stated here? I’d love to hear from you. – MAJ