Saturday, January 31, 2009

Touching Base! Part 25


Over the last month we have been doing a series on sexuality at Bethel. We have had several questions come in on the theme of sexual boundaries in a dating relationship. The following are several statements that are designed to help couples concerned about sexual purity to establish healthy, God-honouring boundaries.

Boundaries reflect value.

Imagine the following crazy scenario. A two-month-old sleeping child, no doubt deeply valued by her parents is placed on a curb, then the parents get in their car and begin to drive by the sleeping child at high speeds. They start at 50 feet but with each pass they get closer – 40…30…20…10…5 feet. What’s happening inside you as you observe what’s going on? Concern? Any sane person would be deeply disturbed by what they were observing and would no doubt experience increased levels of stress as the car gets closer to the sleeping baby on the curb.

Now repeat the same exercise with a bag of garbage – 50…40…30…10…5 feet! What’s happening inside? Probably not much. I mean who cares, it is just a bag of garbage. You see: boundaries reflect value.

Now the question about sexual involvement- how close to the curb do you want to go? Based on what the Bible says about the value of sexual purity, what boundary reflects wisdom? 50…40…30…10…5 feet? Scripture says to flee sexual immorality. Driving really close to the “curb” would not seem like fleeing but flirting with danger.

Boundaries acknowledge my humanity/brokenness

Regardless of the area of life, we all have a tendency to indulge, go too far, cross over the line, whether it is because of a sweet tooth, an undisciplined tongue etc. What is your area of greatest vulnerability? Isn’t setting a boundary a healthy self-realization of who I am?

Let me illustrate. Would we agree that winning over alcohol is dramatically increased when the alcohol is beyond reach, out of sight, locked up? Would we agree that if we were to take an alcoholic (recovering) and fill his/her fridge with beer, place cases of beer in his/her bedroom, that the chances of him/her withstanding the pressure decrease dramatically? Exposure would reduce composure.

Thus in the area of sexuality how would you respond to the following question? “What would you say to a young man and woman who love each other and want to live together so that they can be together more and find out if they are meant to live together but not have sex?” Are they reducing the chances of sexual purity by this kind of lifestyle?

Here is another set of questions. “My question is where do you draw the line? Some very strong Christians I know interpret the Bible as 'anything goes', up until the act of sex. Whereas others will not even kiss.

Is sleeping together in the same bed too far even if there's no fooling around? Spooning? Snuggling? And what about acts such as oral sex? Does the Bible talk about this?”

Boundaries don’t just help guard the body, but also the mind.

Can I honestly be involved in all levels of physical involvement (minus intercourse) and not be going places in my mind that are unhealthy?

"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

Where your head goes, your body will follow. One writer has said, “Ideas become words, words become actions, actions become habits and habits become character.” The mind can pollute the body.

Also, one person wrote in and said, “Today's average dress code says, "see what a great body I have first and foremost, but if you check closely enough, I have a great mind as well!”

Let me say that both sexes, when it comes to dress, need to be asking the question “Am I dressing in a way that helps others walk the road of sexual purity in their mind?

Boundaries prioritize building the relationship.

How many of us have been in family situations where we come home and we all become entranced by the Blue Hue (TV)? Instead of talking and pursuing each other, we zone out and on to the television.

What can happen in a dating relationship that is not properly sexually defined is that instead of pursuing, conversing, engaging, and developing intimacy, these are all compromised, the relationship zones out and in onto the “blue hue”…sex! What happens time and time again in dating relationships is that the guy gets what he wants – sex – but the girl is left not getting what she wants – intimacy. The relationship fails to develop the skills of relationship-building because sex has come to soon in the relationship.

Boundaries are set up to protect us.

Whether married or single, the sexual boundaries God has put in place are for our good. If you are planning on getting married be assured that God’s premarital boundaries will lead to blessing. If you are married, staying within the boundaries will help build your life and love on a strong foundation. The good intentions of God’s truth are announced in the following texts.

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Touching Base! Part 24

At Bethel, teams are incredibly important. But we often find that our weekly staff meetings do not provide the time needed to pursue one another. Weekly meetings are frequently full of “business” items, thus not allowing as much time as may be needed to pursue getting to know each other. And yet, high performance teams must be, first and foremost, connected at the heart, prioritizing building strong relationships and attempting to pursue each other!

So this past week some of the Bethel staff took off for a day to spend it at Camp IAWAH. The following is Carmen’s (our office administrator) reflection on the day together.


January 22

I spent the day with my colleagues yesterday at Camp IAWAH near Westport (about an hour from Kingston)... and no, for those of you thinking it (as I did), IAWAH is not named after an Indian tribe or anything, it's an acronym for In All Ways Acknowledge Him!

A wonderful, simple day of getting to know Fred, Pam, Tara and Mark better through a great format: we all sat together in front a cozy wood stove and each person got asked a question by the other four, and then we could ask clarifying questions as needed. No matters were off the table unless we felt uncomfortable answering, and it led to some really interesting discussions as well as and prayer for each individual.

I would wish that kind of level of relationship and trust existed in all workplaces, because it surely would change how people work together, and probably how people view work at all.

Then after an awesome lunch (soup, salads, burgers and sausages... IAWAH is very good at that!  ), the 5 of us took off on a long rambling walk through the snow, led by Mark, who has known IAWAH since he was a wee tot, and Fred, whose job at Bethel actually involves spending his summers working at the camp... we wound up on the (now frozen) lake (who says people can't walk on water?!) and we trudged down to Fred's ice-fishing shack, a cozy box for two, including a small wood stove to keep you warm while you're waiting for 'em to bite. I learned that walleye is one of the best fish you can catch and eat (if you can catch and eat 'em that is: the other night Fred was close to finally landing one when, just as it came out of the hole, it fell off his hook right back into the water! Very annoying...)

All that through some pretty snowfall all the way... before heading back to the main building, having a quick cup of tea and then saying goodbye to Fred (he was going to stay behind and do some fishing before heading home - apparently, fish can tell the time because they bite best after four o'clock) and the rest of the IAWAH crew, we headed back into Kingston.

Tara took some great pictures and video, and I hope to be able to put 'em in my blog and on the Bethel website when she sends them over.

Just one question remains: Hey Mark, how about doing an overnighter next winter?!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Touching Base! Part 23


Have you ever given much thought to what we talk about? Conversations are constantly going on in this world. >From the North Pole to Antarctica, chatter can be heard in different languages among people of different races. Conversation is as universal as Coca Cola. Chatter,chatter chatter! If there were Aliens and they were able to listen in to our chatter what might they think of us? Imagine if we were able to track every conversation on planet earth for a 24 hour period. What would be the top 10 themes? What might we learn about the condition of our souls?

Seeing that there are no Aliens listening in (at least I don’t think there are....) let me share some of my insights about what I learn as I listen, observe and chatter back.

Longing to connect
I think regardless of the topic, the fact that we converse demonstrates our need to connect. I imagine that one of the first things Adam did when Eve was created was not just to look (Wow) but to connect through words. Words help us build bridges to people (most times) and allow us to share the private thoughts of our inner person. Words help us validate our experiences, express our frustrations and reassure us that we are not alone with some of our very personal and deep struggles.

Uncomfortable Moments
One observation is that words sometimes pop up and out because people are uncomfortable with the silence. People do different things with awkward silence. Some just walk away, others look down studying the floor, others stare off.....somewhere. However, others fill the void with words and lots of them.

Listening to some people’s words and the tones they are packaged in, quickly shows that their words are bleeding their pain. Every word, every sentence reveals a hurting heart. For some their pain has lingered for so long that almost every personal dialogue is framed by pain. You can hear it in their words and you can see it in their faces.

Small World
One thing I have been recently challenged with is how conversations can reveal how big or small our world is. Certainly, there is a place for small talk, after all what would we do without small talk on an elevator or in the foyer of a church? Unfortunately, for some, their conversations reveal that the world they live in is very small. Instead of dreaming and envisioning, their chatter reveals a heart that is not growing, not risking, not asking big questions.

Our conversations sometimes reveal that we are in ruts. We talk about the same thing day in and day out. Our conversations are like tire tracks on an old dirt road. We’ve been down that road hundreds of times. I think we sometimes struggle in knowing how to go deeper. Sometimes I do! Some don’t want to go deeper because deeper means being more vulnerable, thus it is safer to stay with the usual safe talk. Ruts can represent safe places, calculated responses and measurable risk.

As I move into 2009 I am looking forward to conversations. Conversations that will challenge me, inspire me, draw me closer to God and to the hearts of people. I am looking forward to encountering people who will help me go deeper in my chatter and think clearer in my dialogue. I am also looking forward to those seemingly meaningless conversations we sometimes have, and looking for God in the chatter. Sometimes conversations we may think are going nowhere are a God moment! I want to be sure I am listening!


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Touching Base! Part 22

Over the next several weeks, Bethel is going to be looking at the issue of sexuality in our morning services. We are a community that believes loving God passionately involves yielding our sexuality to God as well. We believe that a Biblical view of sexuality and the secular worldviews are becoming increasing polarized and thus making it more and more difficult for followers of Christ to remain faithful in this area. The following are three articles that were referred to in the message spoken on January 11th 2009. To download the message please check out our website at


By Vigen Guroian

The Sexualization of the American College

“Dorm Brothel”: That was the name of my article that Christianity Today published two years ago. I cited students at Loyola College, where I teach, to support my argument that the American college has been radically sexualized, and that this is doing great harm to our sons and daughters. Subtitled “The New Debauchery and the Colleges that Let It Happen,” my article garnered lots of attention from newspapers, radio talk-show hosts, bloggers, and chat sessions on the Internet. What is more, the magazine and I heard from dozens of students, parents, pastors, physicians, and educators, most of who wrote to thank me for exposing what goes on at our colleges “after hours.”

By contrast, Loyola College practiced a studied discipline of silence. A popular syndicated columnist at the Baltimore Sun penned an article on the subject in spite of the fact that, as she told me over the phone, the college “stonewalled” her inquiries. I suspect, however, that the administration heard from parents and alumni. I was on a sabbatical for the year, but I heard that the Student Life staff held meetings on the matter. I know that at least in one apartment house the student resident advisors (RAs) read and discussed my article. That was a bit of encouraging news.

In the fall of 2006, returning Loyola students found that new, more stringent dorm visitation regulations had been put in place. Undoubtedly, the administration was worried about criticism and needed to show that it was doing something about the situation. Resident advisors, however, who attended my classes, told me that the new procedures were easily circumvented. None seriously thought these restrictive rules would, or could, be enforced effectively.

I wrote “Dorm Brothel” to lend a voice to many young men and women at my college who try to lead good Christian lives and need the assurance that someone cares. In the spring of 2003, nearly two years before my article was published, I presented an early version of it as a lecture at Loyola. After I had finished speaking, one young woman stood up and challenged the faculty in attendance to say something about the issues I had raised. “Why don’t you [the faculty] tell the administration to do something?” she pleaded. “They won’t listen to what we [the students] have to say.”

I did not write “Dorm Brothel” with the expectation that it would move the college to seriously reform. Parents might, I thought, and the president of Loyola College certainly could, were he to speak from the authority of his priestly office and invite students and parents to join him in a genuine transformation of campus life. But this kind of moral courage and leadership is hard to find at our colleges today. Nearly a decade ago, over lunch with several Jesuit friends, I raised this issue and inquired why we heard nothing from the Jesuits on campus. Someone answered: “They’re afraid of becoming a laughingstock!”

Don’t be misled by news about fraternities and athletes, that they are the main offenders and that if we sequester the athletes and close down the fraternity houses everything will be all right. Sensational stories about the aggressive sex of athletes and debauchery in fraternity houses or at off-campus clubs spotlight only the tip of an iceberg. Sex is deeply and seriously disordered at the basic level of college life. As one young Loyola College co-ed wrote, “Here we can do everything we were told at home was wrong, and no one really cares, and no one is responsible. It’s like we live in a glass bubble; only no one looks in.”

What goes on every day in co-ed dormitories and apartments is far more significant than what comes into public view. How colleges structure and arrange student life and the supervision, or lack thereof, that they give to our sons and daughters determines a lot about their behavior at college and the attitudes toward the opposite sex that they take with them into life.
College experience has an impact on the marriages our sons and daughters make, and it contributes to the divorces with which many of those marriages end. The statistics are irrefutable. Sexual promiscuity and pre-marital cohabitation are strong predictors of marital trouble and divorce. It is at college that many young people first experiment with cohabitation and become accustomed to multiple sex partners.

The complicity of our colleges in the subversion of courtship and marriage was on my mind when I wrote “Dorm Brothel,” and I wish to raise that issue again here. This complicity is a legacy of the decision colleges made in the 1960s and ’70s to abandon the practice of in loco parentis. Before this decision religious and secular colleges, alike, actually supported courtship and marriage—though they may not have thought it or made it policy. The student living arrangements they supervised and their careful attention to bring the sexes together in suitable settings served these ends.

In “Dorm Brothel,” I stated that “courtship and dating require an inviolable private space from which each sex can leave at appointed times to meet in public and enjoy each other.” Today in our colleges, the lives of our sons and daughters are arranged so that dating and traditional courtship are positively discouraged. In the unisex world of the contemporary college, distinctions between public and private, “in” and “out,” formal and informal disappear. Dating is not only unnecessary, it is inconvenient. As one Loyola co-ed wrote: “It may not be that dating is at the brink of extinction, but . . . it certainly has taken a back seat. . . . Why bother with the responsibility and formalities of a date when [there] is a better chance of getting immediate satisfaction after buying a few drinks at a bar” or having one in the room, after which one can “cut to the chase for sex.”

Where marriage is not arranged what chance does it have if courtship fails? Many say that sexual promiscuity weakens marriage, and I agree. But another way of looking at this is that where courtship languishes, marriage weakens, and sex loses its moorings and drifts where it does not belong.

A recent article on courtship astutely observes that “the social scripts that directed Americans of an earlier time toward marriage have become confused [if they have not, in fact, disappeared], leaving many young adults clueless about how to find a mate.” The living environment at most of our colleges persuades young men and women, who are already unsure about how to conduct themselves with the opposite sex, to tear up that script entirely. Without a script or guidance, they quickly run amuck, haplessly making up rules as they go and often ruining their lives for years to come.

This testimony of a young woman a decade out of college attests to an experience that tragically is all too common:

I graduated from a small, private, liberal arts college in the Midwest eleven years ago . . . one that prides itself in high academic standards and boasts of numerous successful alumni. Yet, I felt the same pressure the young co-ed student in the article (“Dorm Brothel”) described—“the peer pressure and the way things are set up make promiscuity practically obligatory.” . . . I was raised in a Christian home, educated at a Christian school, and accepted Christ as a young girl. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for coed dorm life. . . . I was so afraid of sticking out . . . and made some very poor choices . . . and have reaped the consequences. By God’s grace, he has restored the “years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). He has given me a loving husband and two wonderful children. I pray regularly that He gives me the wisdom to guide them as I prepare ultimately to send them off into the world—one that is increasingly hostile to the standards we are called to as Christians.

A physician wrote to Christianity Today in more clinical terms about the harm that many young men and women head into at college.

Professor Guroian . . . provides a sad, but strikingly accurate assessment of the dysfunctional and decadent level to which higher education in this country has descended. As a parent, one recognizes the senselessness embedded in the search for meaning, community, and love in these lifestyle choices that are selected by many students and condoned either implicitly or explicitly by the enlightened leaders of the institutions of higher education.

As a physician familiar with the college health setting and adolescent/young adult medicine, I can readily attest that there is an extremely high medical price for collegiates to pay for living out the risk behaviors described in the article. . . . Amid free-flowing alcohol that quickly impairs the judgment of young men and women, there is the stormy sea of intoxications, sexually transmitted infections, infertility, unintended pregnancies, abortions, HIV, AIDS, depression, suicide, accidental deaths in an ocean of brokenness.

These risks increasingly seem to be accepted in the context of the peer group where the philosophy “Everyone is doing it” prevails. This attitude begins to take root [even] as early as middle school or junior high.

The most moving letter I received was from a young African-American woman who attended a well-known Negro college in the South. She reminds us that rules alone do not make the man or the woman; and she understood that my article was not just about sex, but, more importantly, about the fact that, culturally, courtship and marriage are in jeopardy.

I am a senior at ______, a small historically black college and university. I cannot say that the rules it has in place for students is anything like those described at other colleges. Students living on campus have a curfew; the campus separates the “boys’ side” from the “girls’ side,” meaning that in order to get to a girl dorm, boys must walk over a mile.

There are visitation hours monitored by a security guard and dorm director. Nevertheless, during those unsupervised hours of visitation occur the most rampant sexual escapades known to man. Nobody goes to see someone of the opposite sex during those hours to chat, watch TV, or play Monopoly. Those hours are used to catch up on sex games, homosexual activity, or group sex.

I can personally attest to [this]. After contracting 2 STDs (both curable), I decided enough was enough. To find a pair of students who are in a relationship, engaged, or married, is literally one in a million. Every time I hear that someone has a boyfriend or fiancée, I am in shock. This is the state of college students when it comes to dating or courtship. Nobody does it anymore.

It has been over a year since I have had a boyfriend, a steady courtship, or even a date. Guys are being conditioned to think that during these years they don’t have to date, take a girl out, or even call her regularly. And if she isn’t giving up sex, there are always 5 other girls who will. This leaves women like myself lonely, and thinking of compromising their chastity for a quick, emotionless fling. But I made a promise to God long ago that I would not live this life of promiscuity anymore, that I would be the set apart, a “chosen generation.” . . . I just wanted to let you know that I was inspired and encouraged by [Dr. Guroian’s] article.

I have no easy solution for the conditions that the two young women and the father and physician describe. It is not as simple as returning to single-sex dorms—witness the comments of the young woman I just cited—though, in many places, that would be a good start. More is required than the physical rearrangement of bodies. I believe that much that is wrong at our colleges owes to the fact that the “grown-ups” are absent, except in the classroom. What genius came up with the idea of entrusting the enforcement of dormitory rules and procedures to 20-year-old young men and women, who are mere peers of the persons whose behavior they are assigned to oversee? Again, this is not just about, not even principally about, imposing and enforcing sanctions. What is missing is moral authority.

So now every fall, young 18-year-old boys and girls leave home and their parents and enter a brave new college world in which parental figures are almost completely absent. Once upon a time college presidents modeled this role. One has to look far and wide to find that today. Mostly they are away from the campus raising money or at committee meetings. The wisdom of in loco parentis was that it is the college’s responsibility to ensure that our children are not “left alone.” In my classroom, I announce to my students: “You no doubt think of me as just another professor. But I think of you as my children.” I wish that you could see the surprise and also the sense of relief on their faces.

Recall also the comments of the physician who reports that the self-destructive behavior of college students is learned as early as in middle school. Our children bring these habits and behaviors with them to college. There they engender a dangerous culture of debauchery in a hermetically sealed environment.

A female chaplain at a southern women’s college wrote to criticize me. “In our society,” said she, “the time from birth to puberty is shorter than the time from puberty to marriage. Therein lies a problem.” I agree, and this is a reality that the churches have hardly considered or addressed. We have left the village. It’s sex and the city, and even when people do marry, especially those who are college-educated, it is not at the age of 16 but 26—or older. Abstention may be the right thing, but how? Where is the reason? Where is the support?

Nonetheless, we must not be satisfied with the status quo. We must not resign ourselves to the collapse of sexual morality and to such foolish formulations as: “What others do in the bedroom, including our children at college, is none of our business.” Or, “So long as what I do doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s okay.” As the Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson has said, this kind of talk is “the mere triumph of Humpty Dumpty.”

Sex is not a private matter, though it certainly is personal. Sexual intercourse is the ultimate creaturely gesture of promise. If we behave as if sexual intercourse is something less than a mutual promise of man and woman to be completely and wholly present to one another, and not just for the fleeting moment but always, society is left with no gesture of final commitment as the foundation for all other commitments.

Community requires promise and abiding commitment, faithfulness and fidelity, or it does not endure. Ideally, we learn and practice these virtues and habits of being through courtship and within marriage and the family. This is a wisdom all humankind knows.

The Christian faith gives us special reasons for following this wisdom. Scripture tells us that God created humankind as Adam-and-Eve, a community of being in His own Trinitarian image. Male and female, God created them, and God blessed them, and by their union they became one flesh (Genesis 1:27-28 and 2:24). Marriage honors God’s original creation and the goodness and beauty of it. Man and woman, who in marriage are faithful to one another, glorify God in their body and spirit (1 Corinthians 6:20). Marriage is not only the home of our God-given sexuality. It also is a public profession of charity, chastity, honesty, constancy, and fidelity in community.

When we ignore or deny these virtues in our relations with others, we remove ourselves from the presence and protection of God and undermine community. We wander farther and farther from the gates of Paradise into which God first placed Adam and Eve and into which He has invited us back through Jesus Christ. We get lost in the dark wood of disordered passions. The Church’s interest in sex is not prurient; nor is it an offense against privacy. Rather it is a defense of community that all of us need in order that we may mature as children of God.

I have argued that the American college has become an arena of sexual anarchy and a dangerous place for young people, subversive also of courtship and marriage. Our colleges are undermining the common good in whose name they justify their existence. They are weakening the society at large and foreshortening the future of a free society. We should hold them accountable.

Vigen Guroian, a Wilberforce Forum fellow, is professor of theology and ethics at Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland. He lives with his wife, June, in Culpeper, Virginia. His books include The Fragrance of God; Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening; Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination; and Rallying the Really Human Things: The Moral Imagination in Politics, Literature, and Everyday Life.

For Further Reading and Information
Regis Nicoll, “On Campuses, Purity is a ‘Relic’,” The Point, 26 March 2007.
Regis Nicoll, “Desperate Coeds: The Confusion of Campus Romance,” BreakPoint Online, 1 September 2006.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 070214, “A Chaste Approach to Sex: Princeton’s Anscombe Society.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 060214, “Providing a Rationale: The Biblical Case for Chastity.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 060110, “Dorm Brothels: Is Promiscuity Obligatory?”
Lauren Winner, Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity (Brazos, 2005).

By Dr. Warren Throckmorton

A Growing Concern over Sexual Transmitted Depression
Nearly every discussion about sexual education focuses on preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. However, recent research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that, especially for girls, the discussion needs to include a third negative possibility: depression.

Most medical and mental health professionals would agree that there is a link between depression and sexual behavior and drug use in adolescents. It is commonly assumed that depressed teens use sex and drugs to “medicate” their depression. Thus, when faced with a depressed, sexually active teen, adults may overlook sex and drug use with the hope that the risky behaviors will cease once the depression is gone.

Although the link between depression and such behaviors makes sense, a new study, which followed over 13,000 middle and high school students for two years in a row, found that depression did not predict risky sexual behavior or drug use.

Instead, the study found that depression often follows risky behavior. The lead author of the study, Dr. Denise Hallfors, told me in an interview that her research team found evidence that heavy drug and alcohol use significantly increased the likelihood of depression among boys. For girls, the findings are stunning: Even low levels of alcohol, drug, or sexual experimentation increased the probability of depression for girls.

Breaking down the results, Dr. Hallfors found that 25 percent of surveyed teens were complete abstainers—meaning they were virgins and used no substances, not even tobacco. Only 4 percent of these teens experienced depression.

Another group could be considered “dabblers,” in that they had experienced sexual intercourse and engaged in some kind of substance usage during the first twelve months of the study. For the boys, there was no increase in depression from this pattern of behavior (the significant risk was heavy drug use). However, for girls, the study revealed a more troubling pattern. Girls even experimenting with drugs were slightly more than twice as likely to be depressed (8 to 10 percent). Those experimenting with sex were three times more likely to be depressed than abstainers (12 percent versus 4 percent). For sexually promiscuous teen girls, the results are staggering: 44 percent of girls with multiple sexual partners during the study period experienced depression.

Did depression ever come first? Boys and girls appeared no more likely to begin or increase their sexual and drug use behavior when they were depressed than when they were not. In fact, depressed girls who were also abstinent were much less likely to engage in risky behaviors during the second year of the study. However, if they were already "dabbling" with substance use, depressed girls were more likely to go on to very risky sexual behaviors.

In other words, sex and drug use are not only associated with depression, but most often precede it. As a public policy matter, the drug-use findings are not surprising and hardly controversial.

On the other hand, for opponents of a strong abstinence message in schools, the study may be difficult to reconcile with their public policy activities. For instance, two groups opposed to abstinence education, Advocates for Youth and Sex Etc., are now sponsoring a contest for teens to promote condom usage. Teens can craft an e-postcard to send to their friends (and potential hook-up partners?) extolling the virtues of condom use. One such card has a picture of a heart and a condom with the caption “Dream Team.” Based on Dr. Hallfors’ research, for many teen girls the caption should read: “Sad Nightmare.”

More research is needed to isolate the causes and cures for the link between experimentation and depression. However, there is no reason for policy makers to hesitate to encourage abstinence given these research findings. Citing the devastation and feelings of worthlessness that accompany depression, Dr. Hallfors warns, “Parents, educators, and health practitioners now have even more reason to be concerned about teen risk behaviors and to take action about alcohol, drugs, and sex."

Instead of cheery postcards, teen girls need to know that their sexual behaviors may put them at risk for more than STDs and teen pregnancy. “Once a girl crosses that boundary,” says Dr. Hallfors, “she puts herself at risk for a spiral of negative effects,"

It seems to me that the evidence is consistent that teen sex is not a good idea, especially for girls. Why can’t everyone get behind that message?

Teens are nearly united in this sentiment. According to a poll conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, nine out of ten adults and teens want society to send a clear message that abstinence is best for teens.

Whatever we think about the morality of sexual behavior, can't we agree that teens should be given a clear and consistent message that it is best to wait to engage in sex until they are ready to accept the financial, relational, and emotional consequences of making that choice? For nearly all teens, this would be adulthood.

My suggestion for a post card? A picture of a gold nugget and a heart with the caption: “I’m worth the wait.”

Warren Throckmorton, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology and a fellow for psychology and public policy in the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College (Pa.). Dr. Throckmorton is a past president of the American Mental Health Counselors Association and is the producer of the documentary, I Do Exist, about sexual orientation change. His columns have been published by over 70 newspapers nationwide and can be viewed at his website.

Why We Whisper
The Economic Costs of Sin
Breakpoint ministries
May 2, 2008

Imagine the following social experiment: You divide up Americans into two groups. Those who agreed to live by traditional moral values live in certain states. Those who reject traditional values take up residence in other states that would allow them to do whatever they pleased, morally speaking.

After 20 years, which states would be better off—economically speaking? The traditional values states would be far better off, because the liberal states would be spending $500 billion dollars every year dealing with the economic costs of their moral decisions.

Senator Jim DeMint and David Woodward outline those costs in their book, titled: Why We Whisper: Restoring Our Right to Say It's Wrong. As the authors note, "As elected officials and judges continue to throw traditions overboard from the ship of state," conspicuously absent from the political debate "is the mounting cost in dollars [and] debt."

For example, there is the cost in treating sexually transmitted diseases. Research shows that more than half of all Americans will contract a sexually transmitted disease at some point. The cost: Some $17 billion in higher taxes and health insurance costs every year. And that does not include secondary costs, like treating cervical cancer, infertility, birth defects, and brain damage. And yet, our government does little or nothing to discourage premarital sex.

And then there are the huge costs of out-of-wedlock childbearing. Welfare costs alone to single-parent families amount to $148 billion per year. We pay indirectly, as well, through costs associated with child abuse—much more common in single-parent homes—and in higher crime rates.

We know about this at Prison Fellowship. We see it in the faces of the inmates day after day. Crime and incarceration rates are soaring—so much so that corrections budgets in many states exceed education budgets. And what is the leading cause of crime? Fatherless families, the lack of moral training during the morally formative years, according to respected studies.

Americans spend billions on abortions—mostly to single women—not counting the expense of treating post-abortion medical and psychological problems.

We also pay huge economic bills associated with pornography and government-sponsored gambling. We pay for the easy availability of divorce and for the choice of many to cohabit instead of marry. In time we will, like Scandinavian countries, be asked to pay the economic costs of destroying traditional marriage.

As DeMint and Woodward write, the quest for unfettered moral freedom has come at a very steep price—a price we all pay, whether we engage in these behaviors or not. And at the same time as we pay—more and more each year—we are being told we are narrow-minded bigots if we speak out against the destructive behaviors that are causing the increased costs.

The economic costs—not to mention the costs in human suffering—are why you and I need to speak out. We ought to insist that our lawmakers support policies that make good economic sense and relieve human misery. Instead of making biblical arguments, which sadly, most people do not listen to anymore, we ought to make prudential ones: that encouraging destructive behavior is destroying the economic health of our nation. And it is demonstrable.

If special-interest groups and liberal lawmakers tell us to pipe down and stop trying to "impose our morality" on everyone else, we need to remind our leaders of that little clause in the Constitution: the one that talks about promoting the general welfare.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Touching Base! Part 21

Six tests you may encounter in 2009!

This exercise accompanies the teaching on Sunday January 4th, 2009. You can also download this message on our website.

Text: Ephesians 6:10-20

The Foundation Test

“Stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around your waist….”

Do you have “loose laces” in this area? Are you a student of the Word of God? How do you work it into your life? What’s your greatest challenge in this area?

The following are questions you can ask the text as you study God’s Word.

Is there an Attitude to adjust?
Is there a Promise to claim?
Is there a Priority to change?
Is there a Lesson to learn?
Is there an Issue to resolve?
Is there a Command to obey?
Is there an Activity to avoid or stop?
Is there a Truth to believe?
Is there an Idol to tear down?
Is there an Offense to forgive?
Is there a New direction to take?
Is there a Sin to confess?

The Identity Test

“ …with the breastplate of righteousness in place…”

Our true identity is that He has made us righteous. (1 Corinthians 1:30).

If you have “loose laces” in this area then the enemy will have free reign with you. He will take your area of failure, weakness, struggle, vulnerability and will throw it in your face to shame you and beat you down. The enemy uses shame and embarrassment to imprison Christians.

Have you ever sensed the enemy attacking your identity? Is there an area in your life that the enemy uses to bring shame and repeated failure? How does understanding God’s righteousness as my breastplate help you?

The Peace Test

“ … and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.”

The enemy will try to make us feel like we have no footing. That we have lost our grip, and that we are falling, out of control. He tries to rob us of peace and then we panic, lose perspective and then we plummet - action(s) we may latter regret.

How’s your sense of peace these days? Rate it out of 5. Can you relate to the 4 p’s listed above?

The Alertness Test

“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

The attack can come from above, behind, ahead. You must be willing to move that shield to protect yourself. “The devil has more temptations than an actor has costumes for the stage.”

Finish this sentence, “I am most vulnerable when….” Who is holding you accountable in that area of your life?

The Hope Test

“Take the helmet of salvation…”

In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul refers to this helmet of salvation as offering hope. Every soldier in battle needs to have hope. This is not speaking of salvation from sin. This is not saying that everything will turn out as we want it to. This has to do with believing that I can work through this challenge, that God is with me, and that I can be strong.

What are hope killers in your life? (Unresolved sin, failure, etc)

How important is hope on the journey?

The Agreement Test

“…and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God.”

I call this “The Agreement Test” because, when we pull out the Sword, we are saying “I choose not to agree with the lies of the enemy.” Note in Matthew 4 how Jesus used the Sword and chose not to agree with the lies of the enemy.

What are common lies people believe? How do these lies affect behaviour, and relationships? What books are you reading that are helping you work through some of the attacks upon Christianity? I mentioned in my message that I am reading, The Case For The Real Christ (Lee Strobel), The Language of God (Francis S. Collins) and on order The Reason For God (Tim Keller).

Are you well versed in Scripture to counter the lies with truth?


Notice Paul’s emphasis on prayer in v18-20. Even though this is not listed as armour it is something we need to be constantly doing. (Why do you think Paul didn’t list this as armour?) Take time to pray back to God some of the issues that have surfaced as you have worked through this exercise. Also be sure to weekly, if not daily “put on” the armour of God!