So it’s been officially about a year since I started writing this blog. I hesitated posting it for because it’s hard and touchy and sensitive. Also because it’s something I am passionate about and that could lead me to become preachy about it—but also because it’s something that strikes a revealing and convicting chord in a lot of us—myself included. But once I stopped listening to the hypothetical mess in my head about what people would think and how this would come off and etc…I decided that this was far too important to not talk about.
But I preface it with this: I am speaking from a place of passion from empathy. This topic - sex - I get it. Everything I write stems from the conviction I have in my heart because of the mistakes I’ve made. But I do think we love a wonderful, big, and forgiving God and I wouldn’t want anyone to think I think believe otherwise. Good?
About a year ago my (old) pastor gave a sermon, and while I admit that I don’t remember much about it, a statistic that he offered has been haunting me for quite time. He noted this article, which states that 88% of unmarried people 18-29 are having sex. Duh, not surprising. But the thing that got me was this: of those surveyed who self-identify as “evangelical,” 80% say they have been sexually active.
Since I believe this study was only inclusive of people having actual intercourse, the percentage probably drastically increases once we talk about oral sex. I also recognize that this might not highlight the number of people that have been sexually active vs. are still engaging in sexually activity. But I think the point still is valid - Christians are having premarital and extra-marital sex. A lot of it.
This flew by me at first. In one ear, out the other—with an inner dialogue close to this happening in my head “Of course they are. Our world is screwed up and people have sex and there is nothing I can do about it. Moving on…”
But as I lay awake in bed that night, I began to literally weep thinking about this. I think partly because I have a past and it hurts and this statistic brings said past into focus—but also because it shows how far away we have gotten as a culture from imitating the character of Christ.
I used to watch the show Glee. In fact, I have been ON the show Glee. The musical theater nerd inside of gets a little giddy with the idea of really attractive and talented people singing my favorite songs from musicals and Celine Dion and Barbara Streisand, but last season I watched an episode that turned me off completely from the show.
One of the characters was making the inevitable high school decision of whether or not to sleep with her boyfriend. Because you figure, they were both young and in love and really hot and sang duets nicely together, so they should obviously sleep together…right? The episode went on and on and the girl dealt with the inner torment through many a pop tune and ballad, and then finally she ended up with a group of her female schoolmates and fellow Glee members. She sought their advice as a last resort, since the “night” was approaching. Two urged her to wait. One told her that it wasn’t worth the risk (since she was the one who had gotten pregnant herself) and the other talked about the guy [in question] not being worth giving it all way too until marriage, even if she did love him. Two valid points.
Obviously I expected an opposing argument to be made, but I was shocked at the way they went about it. The girl who offered the argument spoke in hushed, romantic tones and came off as sweet, innocent and doe-eyed. She said that sex was the true sign of love between her and her boyfriend of a few months. The entire mood of her speech was painted in such a different light, as if subliminally, the show was trying to moralize the issue of pre-marital sex. It definitely was looked at as the more positive of the options—and the character ended up sleeping with her boyfriend.
Now, it’s not like I think the entire young adult word watched Glee and is influenced so heavily by the characters that they will base their decisions on what happens in the show. I am not saying that at all. What I am saying however, is that I believe it’s think kind of messaging mixed with a lot of other things that the world tells us, that slowly begins to warp our minds about the concept of waiting until marriage. It’s a slow machine—but it’s a dangerously effective one once it starts to unpack years of false ideas and teaching back into our brains and hearts.
The world tells us that pre/extra-martial sex is OK, because we are human and it’s natural. The so-called “Christian” world also tells it’s OK because God forgives our sins, and he knows we are going to inevitably make mistakes. It’s a potion-cauldron conglomerate of different messages, boiling over the fire for a few months or years, tempting us with it’s delicious aromas until we decide to take a sip and see how it tastes.
And from experience, I know that once we taste, we want more. And we keep “tasting,” getting our fill. Soon we are justifying and moralizing and reasoning with ourselves and others that what we are doing is OK.
Normal. Human. Expected.
I’ll be honest—this kind of reasoning drives me insane. Absolutely, positively, insane.
This is like me saying, “Well, God will forgive me anyway, so I am going to go ahead and kill someone,” or “Since I am already forgiven, let me go ahead and lie my way through life.”
Why has our culture adopted a sliding scale of sin? Why do we determine that there are some sins that are worse than others, sexual sin being on the lower end? Why have we settled with being people who do the expected? Aren’t we called to do unexpected, counter-cultural things on this earth to point people to Jesus? Aren’t we supposed to be anything but normal?
I work with middle school and high school students, and one of the biggest challenges I have been faced with is what to say when talking to them about sex. I hate to come off as a preachy, parental, over-stepping youth leader; but at the same time, I thought about the lack of council I received as a student about this topic.
We talked about sex once a year and it was basically summed into a 15-minute talk about why anything beyond kissing was a horrible and filthy thing. I think about the fact that I struggled for a while with an addiction to pornography in high school and was fooling around in seriously dangerous with boys, but didn’t have anyone to talk to about why I was doing those things. I think about the fact that I witnessed girls in college, including myself, being sexually mistreated in so many ways, but since I was so desensitized to sex—because of pollution and damage stemming from my former addiction and the conflicting messages the world was communicating to me—I spent four years thinking it was mostly our (as the foolish, often drunk girls who were essentially asking for it) own faults, so I never told anyone about the things that had happened.
When I start to think back to all of these things, I start to become less concerned about being seen as the preachy youth leader or camp counselor. I become more and more concerned with making sure that the precious girls in this generation don’t go through the same things I went through. Just last weekend I say with a group of sweet and beautiful 12-year old girls who had already experienced the world of sex in various forms. Losing their virginity before their 13th birthday. Rape. The horrific embarrassment that comes with “sexting.” And so much more. I can honestly say that it absolutely broke my heart.
I am concerned that the world is succeeding in getting it’s message about sin deeply engrained into their sweet hearts, and that I am standing here doing nothing to combat it. I am not naive enough to think that it’s smart to shelter people and hide them from the world of sex and sin and the like. But I think it comes down to the question: what message am I, personally, adding to the pot? Is the ingredient I am offering identical to every other one that is going in—or is it unique and Christ-like and unlike anything else?
[There is still fear in my heart that after reading this, you will still think I am being judgmental and preachy. That is not my intention, and the people-pleaser in me wants to tie all the loose ends and make everything nice. But the broken-hearted and passionate woman in me rises up above that and says, NO! This is something we don’t have the option of taking the backseat on. This is important. This. is. important.]
So I leave it there. For now. Part 2 and Part 3 now.