My daughter, Claire, was selected to help teach sexual abstinence to sixth graders in South Saint Paul. She’s a good choice because she has strong views about it herself. She believes that God intended sex for married couples. Sex outside of marriage is just wrong. This view is so at odds with the prevailing view in our culture that it at first seems ridiculous or even nonsensical. Yet a little reflection shows how wise it really is.
Suppose people actually began to act on the principle that God intended sex to be reserved for married couples and that he intended marriage as a lifelong partnership rather than the temporary arrangement it has often become. Think of the number of social problems that would be solved. The number of one-parent families would drop dramatically. The number of adults and children receiving welfare would decline. Most sexually transmitted diseases would disappear within a generation. Since four out of five abortions are performed for unmarried women, the abortion rate would likely decline by at least two-thirds. Crime would fall as the number of stable, two-parent families increased. The effect of universal obedience to just one commandment (You shall not commit adultery) would be overwhelmingly positive.
So why don’t we teach abstinence?
Of course, we do teach abstinence—as one choice among many for children to handle their developing sexuality. The trouble is that allowing children to choose any behavior but abstinence brings with it all the problems we would like to solve. By presenting abstinence as one strategy among other value-neutral strategies, we guarantee that it will not be widely adopted. We teach abstinence but only in school and only in sex education classes. In every other way—in the movies we watch, in the books we read, in the television shows we like, in the music we listen to—we encourage sexual adventuring, and we ourselves rationalize our own sexual misbehaviors.
Values are caught not taught. My daughter believes sex should be reserved for marriage not because I have told her so. She believes it because I live it myself. If I see a beautiful woman, I don’t gawk and make puerile comments about her body. But every day I hug and kiss my wife and tell her I love her and stare at her in open admiration. I bring her coffee every morning in bed. I live to serve her. My daughter sees the impact of marital faithfulness every day. Why would she want anything less for herself?