Two weeks ago during the State of the
Union address, President Bush called for increased funding to
promote abstinence among our nation’s unmarried youth. The
idea struck me as ludicrous, so in my last column I dismissed the
president’s call as part of his “not-so-hidden
Christian agenda.” I stand by that statement, but based on
the correspondence I’ve since received, it became clear that
my casual dismissal was inadequate for this topic, and if
you’ll indulge me, I’d like to explore it further.
Let me begin by saying that I believe that choosing whether or
not to have sex prior to marriage is a personal decision.
It’s not my place to tell you whether you should or should
not engage in premarital sex, so my displeasure with the
president’s comments is not part of any pro-premarital sex
agenda. What upset me about Bush’s call for abstinence-only
education is his true motive. Under the guise of preventing the
spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the president is in fact
promoting the spread of Christianity.
With more and more of the avenues of direct promotion (the Ten
Commandments in public courthouses, for example) closing in recent
times, Christian politicians are being forced to use back doors.
Instead of promoting Christianity explicitly, they take Christian
principles and promote them sans the Christian label. It’s in
the nation’s best interest, they argue. And if everything
that’s in the nation’s best interest happens to be
eerily similar to the tenets of Christianity, they can’t be
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that abstinence-only
education simply will not work. Bush’s plan operates on the
assumption that if you tell a teenager not to have sex, he or she
will not have sex. But telling a teenager not to have sex is like
… well, no analogy can appropriately encompass the stupidity
and absurdity of the idea.
It’s outrageous to assume that American teenagers will
suddenly take what their teachers and parents tell them to heart,
suppress their hormones and abstain from sex until they’re
married. It’s simply in the nature of American teenagers to
ignore their parents and teachers. Based on stories about the Bush
twins that have circulated over the past few years, the president,
if anyone, should understand that. And if good Christian girls like
them (I’m assuming he raised them to be good Christian girls)
behave in such a manner, just imagine what all the other kids are
up to. Still, he remains steadfast. At exactly what point in life
do parents all of a sudden forget what it was like to be a teenager
and start assuming that their teens will mind them perfectly?
But what if we forget the president’s true motives for a
moment and believe that the plan really is aimed at ending the
spread of sexually transmitted diseases? It still doesn’t
make any sense. It’s eerily similar to the war on drugs
— the second coming of Nancy Reagan and “Just say
no!” And we all know how well that worked out. Just like that
war on drugs, the president’s plan sounds like a good idea,
but in practice it will have little or no effect. It won’t
work, because it addresses the problem at the wrong place.
Didn’t the president see “Traffic?”
A proper sex education program should take that into account and
then concede the point that most teenagers will have premarital
sex. Not doing so is both irresponsible and dangerous. Bush,
parents and teachers need to understand that teenagers face a
constant barrage of sex-related material in their daily lives.
From music to movies to television and Super Bowl halftime
shows, sex is everywhere. It’s a part of modern American
culture, and it’s here to stay. So, sure, tell teenagers
about abstinence and how it’s the safest option available to
them. But don’t expect them to take heed, and certainly
don’t advertise it as the only option. Scare tactics will
never win out over raging hormones. Instead, tell them every option
that’s available to them. Teach them that sex is healthy and
normal and that it can be conducted safely and responsibly. Most of
all, be open and honest. A little bit goes a long way.