In two small ways I have been reminded in the past twenty four hours how much our culture has changed. First, last night our family went shopping at Sam’s Club and my tasking was to watch the kiddos while my wife did the actual shopping. This invariably leads the three of us to two section – electronics and books. It was the latter that I parked last night while the three of us perused various books.
Looking at books in Sam’s Club is not like going to Barnes and Nobles. They only stock high volume titles (if there is one you are interested in, they offer a good price). In the novels section I spotted one cover that looked unusual with the title, “Bared to You” by Sylvia Day. I opened it up and the page I read, simply put, used to only be found in adult magazines twenty years ago. But here it is in Sams Club along with “Hunger Games”, “Diary for a Wimpy Kid”, Bibles, and other family titles.
Then today, when I was catching up on the news, I came across and article on NBCNews.com with the title “Teens Who Don’t Have Sex Still at Risk for HPV.” The story is about how teens who had been physically involved with a partner, but had not had intercourse, yet had still had gotten Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The article was written to encourage parents to make sure their children get the vaccine even if they know they aren’t sexually active. All this was not what shocked me. What did was when they started giving statistics: 73% of the young women had had sexual intercourse, 70% had the HPV virus, and the average number of sexual partners was six. Six. Keep in mind we are not talking about women in their thirties or forties but girls aged 13-21.
This was a study done in a public health clinic in a lower income neighborhood in Cincinnati. These statistics would not be true everywhere. But I think most adults today may be failing fundamentally in their estimation of the world their children and grandchildren are living in if they use their own experiences from when they were those ages as a reference point.
Some will say we just need to go back to teaching “traditional values” like in the Bible. But, despite what is commonly believed, we have relatively few images in the Bible of one man and one woman dating for a period, marrying, and then living together as a couple (just with each other) for the rest of their lives and later raising a family together in the Bible (which is what I think most people mean by ‘traditional values in the Bible). Many of the patriarchs in the Bible had multiple wives (David, Solomon, etc.). The major characters in the New Testament were either unmarried (Jesus and John the Baptist), marital status was unmentioned (Paul, and most of the disciples), or their marriages were only mentioned in passing (Peter, Aquila and Priscilla). Most marriages were arranged and women got married in their early to mid teens. Concubines were also common in Biblical times (often mentioned with no condemnation). I raise this not to uplift these as social norms to emulate but instead to suggest that some of what was “normal” in Biblical times are practices we would consider immoral today.
For the church, I believe that we need to go back and underscore that one of the big differences between God’s people and the people around them throughout Biblical times was that God’s people were told never to treat physical intimacy casually. We have always considered it a special gift only to be shared with someone special. Second, physical intimacy (that was blessed) was always shared by people who were committed to one another. From there, in families and beyond, we can launch into a deeper discussion of what that should mean today.
The cold fact is promiscuity, once considered shameful in our past, is increasingly the norm. And in the end that hurts, most of all, the promiscuous person. Young people are learning that promiscuity from the world around them rather than what God encourages as what is best for them. Can Christians, will Christians, uplift fidelity as a different pattern of behavior? Can we champion this as a better way of life?
I hope so. The lives of our children can become fundamentally better if we can convince them to take a different path.
What do you think?
Until next time,