I'm going through one of those seasons of my life where, for any number of reasons, my interest in working out has diminished. My body needs rest from time to time, I suppose. Plan of the week: more sleep, less boxing, less running. I know I'll lose some fitness, but my body will be much happier.
In the comments below last week's post on "purity balls", we have a brief debate about Christian sex ed curricula. My commenter Glendenb is a fan of the Unitarian Universalist program Our Whole Lives, which is designed to offer sex education for everyone from children to adults in a series of age-specific modules. It's a program I know well, as we seriously considered adopting it at All Saints Pasadena back in 2002.
At the time that we were talking about sex ed curricula for the church, I was on the Vestry (the governing board in an Episcopal Church) and active on the Children, Youth, and Families committee. I was also very clearly the "token evangelical", and more often than not, I was prone to impulsive provocation. One issue I felt -- and still feel -- strongly about was sex education for teens, and I pushed for the adoption of a very different curriculum for our kids: Good Sex. Here's how the publisher's web site describes the Good Sex program:
A plethora of self-contained but connected segments are organized in seven major sections:
1. Plumbing and Wiring: From androgens to zoologists * Sex includes body, mind, emotions, spirit, and relationships *
2. Sexual Identity: How people think about sexuality * What we think about our sexuality affects everything – body, mind, emotions, spirit, and relationships *
3. Intimacy: Dating and non-sexual closeness * Sex does not equal intimacy and intimacy does not equal sex. Intimacy equals intimacy.
4. Desire: The difference between appetites and needs * Learning the limits of our obligation to sexual desires and grounds for self-discipline without denying the goodness of sex *
5. Sex: Sex isn't everything, and sex isn't nothing -- so what is it? * Building sexual hope and understanding, and diffusing sexual tension *
6. Responsibility: Our sexual responsibilities to God and each other * The Basic Speed Law governs our sexual choices for the rest of our lives *
7. Do-Overs: Mercy, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration from God * Help and encouragement for new beginnings (students) * Help in identifying and serving kids who are sexually broken (leaders)
Each of the many segments within these seven sections encompasses two or more of the following elements: * God's Story -- Bible passages and open-ended, learning-centered questions for discussion * True Story -- readings, short monologues, video, audio, on location opportunities to give information, stimulate thought, or ignite questions * Our Story -- reflection, small group discussion, large group talkbacks, debate, play, agree/disagree voting, storytelling and more * My Story -- writing, drawing, praying, worship, storytelling, seeking and giving help
Through the use of video, an extensive leader's guide, and a student book called What Almost Nobody Will Tell You About Sex, the Good Sex curriculum is an upfront, truthful, process-centered resource that invites students to consider, understand, and surrender their sexuality to the God who loves them and who made them sexual beings.
The church agreed to buy the book and the leader's guide, and several of us on the committee evaluated it. In the end, for a variety of reasons, the church decided not to adopt any particular sex ed curriculum, rejecting both the very liberal "Our Whole Lives" and the far more conservative "Good Sex." Instead, we who were youth ministers were invited to create our own model, one that borrowed from both curricula (and from others) and which reflected input from various constituency groups in the parish.
Now, teaching sex ed in a liberal parish isn't easy (something I've blogged about before). I don't make it any easier by vacillating in my views. Here's what I wrote just last spring:
It's easy to teach teens certainties, but harder to get them to embrace those certainties. When I was in my more evangelical phase, I pushed for a more directed sex ed curriculum at All Saints. While I was not prepared to advance an "abstinence until marriage" agenda, I was close to doing so. I don't see my job that way anymore. As I've grown less comfortable with at least some certainties, I've grown more comfortable with ambiguity. More important, I've come to understand that even teenagers -- yes, teenagers -- have the capacity to wrestle successfully with ambiguity!
I think the church has many jobs when it comes to teaching kids about sexuality. One, certainly, is to help sift through the many destructive messages that kids get from the culture, especially those messages which place our youth of both sexes in impossible double binds. The church must always be counter-cultural, even though a progressive church like All Saints would define "counter-cultural" differently than our brethren on the right. Conservative churches consider abstinence to be counter-cultural; we at All Saints tend to think that being "counter-cultural" is about what George Regas suggests, teaching that good sex is connected to the "building of a good society"where not only is every person valued and respected, but our individual desires are not shamed.
Last year, my evangelical phase was waning; now it would appear to be waxing once more. This doesn't mean that I gave the kids a completely different message in 2006 than I did in 2005, mind you! I haven't tried to organize an abstinence campaign, and I won't. But in the past year, I've spent quite a bit of time with kids who are struggling with the serious and painful emotional and physical consequences of impulsive sexual decision-making. Though some of "my teens" clearly can "wrestle with ambiguity", it's clear to me that others, through no fault of their own, are (at say, 15) developmentally totally unready to cope with the very real fall-out from sex.
I reread the "Good Sex" curriculum recently, and was moved by the remarkable way in which it accomplishes two seemingly contradictory goals: on the one hand, the program makes the clear and compelling case that God has a specific plan for human sexuality; on the other hand, it manages to avoid using "scare and shame" tactics to urge teens to live into that plan. I don't like traditionally liberal sex ed curricula because they downplay the importance of Scripture and church teaching in sexual decision-making; I dislike most modern abstinence programs because too often, they preach the head-spinning message of "sex is dirty, save it for someone you love." (That's when they aren't terrifying kids with wildly exaggerated statistics about STIs and HIV.) I like Good Sex (and rely on it informally in my leadership role) because it gently calls kids to restraint while loving unconditionally those who choose not to live into a traditional biblical understanding of sexuality. That's a tough needle to thread, but I'm trying to do it -- and Good Sex is a huge help.