Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sexual Education: Church's Responsibility

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Part two of my three-part series answering the question:
Who has the responsibility to teach sexual education?
This week's answer: the Church.

A sad trend in our modern society is that we've kicked the Church out of our bedrooms. "It's none of the Church's business who I'm sleeping with," we say to ourselves and others. "What happens between two consenting adults is no one's business but their own," we try to justify. All the while, we forget the Sixth Commandment and meaning:
You shall not commit adultery. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we lead sexually pure and decent lives in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other. (Luther's Small Catechism)
While I certainly could spend this whole post talking about the Scriptural definition of "sexually pure and decent lives," that's not what I'm here to do. That's the responsibility of our congregational leadership. I am here to explain why the Church has a responsibility to teach sexual education.

When I assert that the Church has a responsibility to teach sexual education, I do not mean that congregations need to teach the same things the schools are teaching. Schools teach the mechanics--the definitions, causes and symptoms of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) and pregnancy, forms and effectiveness of contraceptives, etc. Congregations, then, have the responsibility to give a moral lens through which to view these mechanics.

Schools, at least in the public system, rarely teach that sex outside of marriage is wrong. Rather, they teach how to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy both in and out of marriage. They teach what different forms of sexuality and gender identity are, but they do not teach which forms of sexuality and gender identity are acceptable before God. They teach what forms of contraceptives are available, but they do not teach which ones kill an unborn child.

The Church has an obligation to teach what schools cannot or will not--the morality of sexual issues. Congregations have freedom to do so as they will; seminars or classes, parochial schools that provide sexual education, studies on the Sixth Commandment and sexual ethics, and many more options are available for congregations to educate their members on sexual ethics.

Sexual education is best when it is team-taught. If any part of that team fails to do its job, our youth suffer. Schools teach the mechanics, and the Church teaches the morality. When the school fails to teach the mechanics of sexual issues, youth may make physically unhealthy decisions regarding their sex lives. When the Church fails to teach the morality of sexual issues, youth will make spiritually unhealthy decisions regarding their sex lives. And next week I'll be talking about the parents' role in sexual education, as well as what is lost when parents neglect that role.

What are your thoughts? Does the Church actually have a responsibility to teach anything regarding sexuality? What about schools? Who has the primary responsibility--or are all parts of the "sex ed team" equal?

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