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.

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