Blog | Topic: Sex

A Woman’s Take On The Super Bowl Halftime Show And Human Dignity . . .

The conversation continues. . . and so it should. . . because these things do indeed matter. (Here’s what I wrote on Monday). And lest you think that all those who care are only singling out the few minutes and participants we saw on Sunday night, that’s not true. What we saw was a brief  and wide-open peek into a widely-held and fast-spreading cultural narrative that’s so deeply embedded in our world and ourselves that it is largely invisible. We know that’s the case for the simple reason that when it is brought to light, the push-back is that it doesn’t even exist. . . or if it does in fact exist, it just doesn’t matter.

I’ve been tracking with the back-and-forth on social media. This morning, I ran across some insightful and heart-felt words from my friend Mindy Summers. Mindy is a young wife and mother who six years ago began a ministry to people who are making a living in the sex-industry. The ministry is called “SoLoved.” Mindy and her team don’t desire any attention, and I asked her permission to share the focus of the ministry and her words. She says, “We are a team of women and men (prayer & security) who reach out to women here locally within the sex industry. Our entire goal is to build relationship & sisterhood with the ladies in the clubs. We want them to know they are loved, valued, seen & that we so enjoy who they are. Every month we bring gifts, homemade treats, handwritten love notes and homemade meals to each club. It has been a true honor & joy. Our vision statement is this: ‘Ministering to women in the sex industry, helping them see they are valued and dearly loved by Jesus, and believing for lasting freedom for their lives.’” Mindy and her team are living the Gospel.

Here’s what Mindy posted the day after the Super Bowl. Her words are filled with hope, truth, and compassion. . .

After I put my babies to bed tonight I ventured online to see this halftime show everyone was talking about…

As I watched two incredibly talented and beautiful women…my eyes welled up with tears.

This is the thing- I am not sheltered. I spend hours in strip clubs every month. Hours. I’ve been doing this for nearly 6 years. I’ve seen a lot of stuff. Our SoLoved team desires to build relationships with the precious women within the walls of these establishments. They are treasures. Most of them are there because of childhood trauma & abuse, lack of opportunity and/or manipulation or coercion. They didn’t dream of this. It isn’t empowering…it’s where they are and they are doing the best with what they’ve been dealt.

…and the men. The men who go…most of them are sorting out their own brokenness within these walls. Porn addiction, broken relationships, loneliness, power trips & addiction are many of their stories.

The supply for the USE of women is due to the demand. The demand is 100% fueled by a hyper sexualized culture.

This all seems expected within the walls of a strip club, right? Sad…but expected.

If that isn’t heartbreaking enough…this. Tonight on a Superbowl halftime show…two super talented women chose to share their God given talents with the football fans by pole dancing and thrusting with little clothes on. In front of the whole world. The moves, the poles, the song lyrics…the sex industry was glorified as empowering tonight.

Let me tell you. That is a LIE. These two ladies choose to shake their tails for the world to gawk at…but there is nothing empowering about women being the recipients of the onlooker’s sexual attention. They have body guards to walk them off the stage. Most women just get a can of mace.

We say we are tired of rape, sexual assault and young girls being told their body is what gives them value…BUT THEN we go and we INVOLVE YOUNG GIRLS in the very scene…at a football game…and the crowd goes wild & we clap and praise it.

So dear young girl-
I bet you are super confused. We tell you that YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY. We tell you that what’s inside is what needs to shine. We tell you that you have a MIND AND A SOUL. We tell you to take self defense classes, carry mace, watch out for date rape and don’t let a guy pressure you. BUT THEN…we entertain you with pole dancing, thrusting, hyper sexualized lyrics & seductive facial expressions…and we clap for it.

We tell you that women can do anything. Women are equals. Then we bring out two influential women to entertain us…with what? Sex.

Don’t buy into the lie. Women do have minds. They also have self respect. The things that are done in bedrooms and inside strip clubs should never be performed on a stage for strangers and children to watch. And you know what…I’m sorry that this is how things are. You deserve a better world. A world where women are empowered and can use their God given talents in ways that don’t scream sex. Because again…that’s not why women are here.

So dear girl…be proud to be female & don’t for one second believe the lies. Keep offering your gifts to the world in meaningful ways. Be kind. Be a friend. Dance. Paint. Sing. Play. Lead. Learn. Grow. Serve. Think. Do hard things. Change the world.

Again- I’m sorry that you live in a day when you can’t watch a football game without hyper-sexualization. How sad for us…all of us.

I know there will be some who shrug me off as judgmental and want to rave about how talented these superstars are…and let me just say…yes I know they are talented. No doubt. As for the judgmental part- my heart is not out of judgement…but concern for young girls and the messages we are sending about women. God help us.

Thanks Mindy.

(If you’d like to contact Mindy directly, you can do so at solovedcontact@gmail.com)

Here’s a link to one of our favorite books for teenaged girls. . . all about where to find identity in today’s sexually-charged/image- conscious world. . . Face Time: Your Identity In A Selfie World.

To learn more about the pressures on our girls, listen to episode 82 of our Youth Culture Matters podcast here.

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Shakira, JLo, and The NFL… Thoughts On Halftime

I’m really not sure how to put into words the cascade of thoughts, confusion, concern, and sadness that began last night shortly after Shakira took the Super Bowl Halftime stage. . .  and which have continued up to this moment.

My years in youth ministry and culture-watching have, I hope, been marked by growing skills in both the exegesis and interpretation of Word and world. At least that’s what I have endeavored to move towards. And, I hope that the fruit of that journey has been an ability to develop some kind of discernment that might reflect a growing commitment on my part to things that are good, true, right and honorable. It’s a journey that I’m still on and one that I believe all followers of Christ are called to pursue. I say this purely as a precursor to sharing some thoughts sparked by my ongoing study of Word and world, specifically how that all played out in an unsettling manner between halves last evening.

In case you are tempted to miss the significance of last night’s halftime show, remember that culture is both a map and a mirror. It serves both directive and reflective purposes. As a map, it tells us what to believe and how to live in the world. It’s an especially effective map when its pop culture forms are consumed by children and teens. . . who are in developmentally formative years which make them especially vulnerable to blindly following the maps with dedication and without question. What we watched last night was not at all benign. It served as a signpost pointing in a certain direction. As a mirror, last night reflected back to us our collective cultural heart. . . at least what the entertainment moguls desire and expect our collective heart to be. If we’re not all there yet, we at least know that our cultural leash is pulling us in that direction. As William Romanowski has written, “Culture refers to the way that we define and live in God’s world. It is a collection of ideals and beliefs, values and assumptions, that makes up a kind of master plan for living an interpreting life.” Last night that “master plan” played out on the halftime stage.

Rather than using this space to jump into a complete overview of the lives, careers, and worldview messages communicated through the entertainment brands known as Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, here are some thoughts prompted by last night’s cultural moment. . .

First, let’s never diminish or deny the reality of talent and where it ultimately comes from. We saw great talent on display last night. There were the players who have been given athletic talent. The performers. . . Yolanda Adams, Demi Lovato, Shakira, and Jennifer Lopez. . . those ladies can all sing! There were dancers who have been given the ability to move. . . something that I’m totally void of myself! The list of talented people who went into making last night’s Super Bowl game and broadcast a reality is long. . . coaches, producers, owners, administrators, graphic artists, videographers, marketers, etc. . . . all of them incredibly gifted and talented. And lest we forget, when all of them develop and pursue their talent, they are imaging the God who made them by exercising their creativity. The result might not be God-glorifying, but the talent in and of itself always is. Which leads to the next thought. . .

Second, let’s never forget that talent always moves in a direction of glory and praise. Our creativity. . . whether in work, play, academics, or the arts. . . always points in a direction of glory and praise. When talent moves in a direction that promotes the beauty of human flourishing, it gives honor and glory to God. It serves as a signpost where human eyes are not invited to stop and stare, but where human eyes and the hearts they lead to look beyond the creation to the Creator. But when it invites us to settle on the things of the world, the flesh, and the devil. . . then talent leads to the spread of cultural beliefs and behaviors that undermine our human flourishing and are ultimately idolatrous.

Third, we must endeavor to teach our kids how to discern media’s messages and maps. Here at CPYU, we’ve been relentless in our three-decade pursuit to help youth workers, parents, and kids alike learn how to process media critically and Christianly. Our popular tool to facilitate this is our How To Use Your Head To Guard Your Heart 3(D) Media Evaluation Guide.

And this is where I jump off into my great concerns and sadness over what was mirrored to us last evening. . . and the map that was laid out before the hearts and minds of children and adults alike. My thoughts during the halftime show unfolded in a short series of three social media posts.

When the children came on stage I couldn’t help but think, “Isn’t having children in this halftime show some kind of abuse?!?

A few minutes later I registered by dissatisfaction with Pepsi for their sponsorship of the halftime show: “I’m giving up Pepsi products.” And yes, I will be doing that.

And finally, I wrote these words: “I am currently reading Rachael Denhollander’s book, What Is A Girl Worth? I’m going to send copies to Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.”

If you are unfamiliar with Rachael Denhollander’s story, she was one of the main victims and whistle-blowers over physician Larry Nassar’s systemic molestation and abuse of young girls. As I’ve read, I have been reminded of how women are objectified, trafficked, and abused. I couldn’t help but notice the great irony last evening, as we viewed multiple commercials and messages touting the value of women. All humans are divine image-bearers. . . and we are served well when cultural outlets remind us of the value of the marginalized. But there were the reminders of the dark under-belly of the Super Bowl. . . an event that is now recognized as one of the main hubs for sex-trafficking. . . so much so that the this year the state of Florida teamed up with the NFL for a “Stop Sex Trafficking Campaign.”And on the half-time stage, there were the lyrical and visual reminders of the fact that we embrace an expressive individualism largely void of sexual borders and boundaries. The hypocrisy and mixed messages were unavoidable.

What is a girl worth? Far more than we saw last night.

Rachael Denhollander shared this quote from C.S. Lewis: “A man does not call a line crooked unless he some idea of a straight line.” It’s a clear reminder of our need to focus on the straight line of God’s revealed will and way, and to view all of life. . . our own and our corporate human endeavor. . . through the lens of God’s Kingdom priorities.

Some have pushed back saying that to criticize Shakira and Lopez is not an option if you understand Latino culture. The reality is that all culture reflects and communicates deeply held values. And where those values stray from the straight line, we need to pray and humbly push for change. . . not for change that results in conformity to one’s own cultural preferences, but for change that leads to fully experiencing the freedom and joy of true human flourishing. The Gospel confronts all cultures and cultural expressions. . . yours, mine, and ours. Last night’s message to me, to you, to my grandchildren, to all of us. . . it was deeply troubling. We’ve been made for so much more.

This morning, I took the time to read and ponder the lyrics from last night’s set-list. I would encourage you to do the same. You will see the map.

One little line from Jennifer Lopez’s “Jenny From The Block” jumped out at me. . . “Put God first.” That’s a powerful directive.

Perhaps it was timely that this morning as I continued my journey through the One Year Book of Hymns, I read about Frances Ridley Havergal and a hymn she wrote on February 4, 1874. She wrote “Take My Life and Let It Be” as an expression of “the blessedness of true consecration.” As I read the text of this old familiar hymn (see below), I was struck by what it really means to “put God first.” It’s a complete reorientation of everything. I made a list of what Havergal included in her hymn: life, time, hands, feet, body, voice, mouth, money, mind, will, desires, heart, love. . . everything. . . “Take myself – and I will be/Ever, only, all for Thee/Ever, only, all for Thee.”

As we pursue that end, let’s make sure that it is the One true God, His will, and His way that we have in our sights.

  1. Take my life and let it be
    Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
    *Take my moments and my days,
    Let them flow in endless praise.
  2. Take my hands and let them move
    At the impulse of Thy love.
    Take my feet and let them be
    Swift and beautiful for Thee.
  3. Take my voice and let me sing,
    Always, only for my King.
    Take my lips and let them be
    Filled with messages from Thee.
  4. Take my silver and my gold,
    Not a mite would I withhold.
    Take my intellect and use
    Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
  5. Take my will and make it Thine,
    It shall be no longer mine.
    Take my heart, it is Thine own,
    It shall be Thy royal throne.
  6. Take my love, my Lord, I pour
    At Thy feet its treasure store.
    Take myself and I will be
    Ever, only, all for Thee.
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Preventing Sexual Abuse: 10 Questions to Ask Your Childcare Provider

The following questions are tools for evaluating the safety of your childcare options and preventing, to best of your ability, your child encountering sexualized behaviors or sexual abuse in a daycare setting. 40% of sexual assaults against children happen by other children (1). In addition to evaluating the daycare workers, an evaluation of the children your child will be surrounded by is a beneficial step in ensuring safety. Some of these questions will be more or less relevant depending on the child care setting. A simple rule of thumb is the greater the supervision and the lesser the amount of children (of the same age and size), the safer the environment.

1. Call the licensing body of the childcare provider/facility and ask about sexual misconduct allegations.

These cases are public record. It’s not enough to just ask the worker themselves (though we hope they wouldn’t lie). The licensing body is legally obligated to tell you if there have been allegations or convictions of the childcare entity you are considering. If you are considering a childcare provider who is not licensed, make sure to receive consent to conduct a background check.

2. What is the acceptable age range for children in your care?

Sexual abuse happens when one child imposes more detailed sexual information/behavior on a child from a position of power. Age, size, physical dominance, and developmental advancement all are forms of power that can open your child to potential risk.

3. Have your children ever exhibited harmful behaviors towards others?

This is a great question to ascertain your prospect childcare provider’s level of awareness. If they’re not sure what you mean by harmful behaviors or can’t think of much— that might be a red flag. Behaviors for you to keep in mind and potentially specifically ask about would be physical aggression (biting, scratching, kicking etc.), stealing, unwanted touching, sneaking in pornographic materials, discussing sexual content, urinating on others, inappropriate nudity, threats, coercion, intimidation, secrecy, or foul language/name calling.

4. Would you sign a release of information for me to interview your children’s teachers at school to evaluate if they have ever had aggressive or sexualized behaviors?

This is relevant for a childcare provider who stays home with his or her children and is offering to watch your children as well (an optimal childcare situation). This may seem invasive to some— a preface to the question detailing your intentions in asking for it might be helpful. You’re not trying to determine if they are a good parent or trying to learn personal information about their child. You’re simply assessing if the child has shown aggressive, or sexualized behaviors towards other children in school. A refusal to give a release would not necessarily be a deal breaker for me but it would go a long way in building rapport if they did. In the case of the childcare provider having a teenager who would be active in the care of my child, I would be more insistent on this point.

5. Describe what supervision means to you?

Are children always within line-of-sight? Can they play in the backyard/pool when you’re inside? Are children permitted to play in the bedroom with the door closed?

6. What are your beliefs regarding nudity?

What’s an acceptable amount between children? With adults and children? Every family has norms around nudity: is it okay for a two year old to run around completely nude? What about a four year old? Is it acceptable for boys to have their shirts off? What is the expected swimwear at their house? Do children ever bathe together? Do children use the bathroom or change together? Do they change diapers in front of others or privately? If your child soiled themselves what is their parodical for clean up? It’s good to ensure you are aligned on these points.

7. What avenues are there for children to access the internet? What are the blocks and parameters?

Children’s access to inappropriate media or pornography can be a highly influential factor in sexualized behavior. Children act out and dramatize what they are exposed to through pretend play— it’s important to know what the children are exposed to.

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Ask about phone time, youtube, the apps on the tv, computers, iPads— get a handle on all the potential devices available in the home. Do children ever use devices unsupervised?

8. Was there ever a time you had to set a boundary with a child? What did you do?

Some examples might be a four year old child that wants to give open mouth kisses to every adult they see, a child looking through other people’s drawers, touching fragile objects, or wanting to snuggle in bed, or a child using profane language around other kids. Have their been times the child-care provider set a boundary with a child and how did they handle that? You’re looking for awareness around domains such as personal space, topics of conversation, conflict resolution, and authority.

9. Was there ever a time you had to set a boundary with an adult in regards to your children? What did you do?

This is valuable information. Does the daycare provider have awareness around children and other adults? Relevant topics would be personal space, inappropriate conversation, and discipline. Was there a time another adult tried to inappropriately discipline one of your children/children in your care? Was there a time an adult was using inappropriate language or talking about sexual topics in front of your child/ children in your care? What did you do? Can the childcare provider assert themselves and handle the conflict implicit in asserting boundaries with another adult?

10. What would you do if you witnessed sexual behaviors between children?

Daycare workers should have an understanding of what constitutes normal and problematic sexualized behavior (see “Was that sexual abuse? Or was that normal?”). Assessing the level of insight he or she has in regards to handling crisis situations is useful in knowing if you can trust this person to protect your child.

Bonus:

Ask for a list of 3 references of families who have left their children in the daycare provider’s care. When speaking to those references ask if there were ever any instances of aggressive or sexualized behavior. Did you feel they were adequately supervised or were there times the kids were off on their own? Was there access to pornography or inappropriate media? What was the discipline like? Ask questions regarding the content in the above questions to the point where you/they feel comfortable.

With these questions you will be able gather relevant information needed to promote your child’s safety.

1. Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.


Matthias Barker is completing his masters in clinical mental health counseling at Northwest University and is currently practicing at Lutheran Community Services fulfilling his internship. Matthias is working towards specialization in treating children who have undergone severe abuse as well as men recovering from childhood abuse. Before pursuing a counseling career Matthias held pastoral positions at various churches serving as a youth pastor and college internship coordinator. In his free time, he enjoys making ceramic, collecting house plants, and cooking BBQ. Matthias and his wife Paige live in Spokane, WA.

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Was That Sexual Abuse? Or Was That Normal?

It is difficult to determine the line between normal sexual exploration and harmful abuse. I see clients at an agency that specializes in treating children who have survived sexual abuse or have perpetrated against others. 40% of sexual assaults against children happen by other children (1). How does an individual rightly categorize the two when they encounter a nebulous situation?

Here’s a common question we receive at intake:

“They (two children) were playing in the bedroom/pool/backyard— I walked in and I saw them doing _______. Is that normal?”

I have also had conversations with youth pastors and para-church workers who, after witnessing an awkward/disturbing event, were not sure whether to call CPS, the child’s parents, a therapist, or if they should try and handle the situation themselves. There is a tremendous need for an educated understanding of what constitutes normal sexual behavior between children: studies have shown that 40-85% of children will engage in some form of sexual behavior before the age of 13 (2) (3). Children need caring adults who know how to respond.

So let’s start with an important question: what is normal? Is there such a thing as normal sexual exploration and play? Then let’s look at a criteria by which we can evaluate if sexual behavior is harmful or constitutes abuse.

Imagine you’re a kid and your parents tell you to cover up your toes at all times. “It’s inappropriate to show other people your toes…your toes belong to you and no one else… never touch anyone’s toes until you’re married.”

You would think that is pretty strange, right? You might even be curious as to why everyone is so worried about covering up their toes. Come to think of it… you have never really even seen anyone else’s toes.

What would you do?

Perhaps it’s in your personality to be cautious of this kind of thing. The idea of trying to sneak a peek at other’s toes seems pretty out there. Or maybe you’re more curious and you and your friends agree to trade peeks and see what the fuss is all about. Their toes look sorta like yours. Interesting.

Then you hear that the opposite gender’s toes look entirely different than yours— this is world changing news! You must see for yourself.

What kinds of behaviors would be typical of a kid who is curious about forbidden toes? What kinds of behaviors would be odd or indicate that the motive goes beyond innocent curiosity?

Prepubescent children do not experience eroticism in the same way adults do. Children, however, do have all the sexual hardware built in from birth and experience a broad range of pleasure sensations from the nerves on their genitalia. It is not uncommon for children to experience sexual arousal and even orgasm (while this has been observed in children even as early as the womb, sensations such as orgasm take place more typically when approaching puberty (7)). This pleasure, however, is not integrated into the same categories as adults have— children do not have a drive to seek sexual gratification (2). In the child’s mind, genitals are similar to toes. It’s a body part that sometimes feels good, sometimes tickles and sometimes hurts. Through this lens, it seems reasonable and even normal that children might peek, poke, and dramatize what they’ve heard about grown-up behavior. This exploratory play will normally be engaged in mutually and voluntarily, with kids of similar age, size, and developmental status, and be limited in type and frequency (2).

Part of how children learn is through acting out behavior in pretend play. So in addition to curiosity (peeking, and poking), behaviors might include dramatizations of topics such as how babies are made, going to the doctor, or playing house (to name a few). The play will reflect the level of detail they understand about a particular domain (2). Playing house might include a mommy and daddy lying in a bed under the covers— that might even include being partially or fully nude (depending on what they have heard about how babies are made). Kids often go to the doctor and are occasionally asked to undress for inspection of genitalia— this might be acted out in play. Normal sexual play will be driven by curiosity (as apposed to pleasure seeking) and reflect the low detail understanding that would be expected of a child who has not engaged in adult sexual activity (2).

Now when does that play become harmful or abuse? Abuse happens when one child imposes a significantly more detailed sexual experience upon another child from a position of power.

Power can occur on multiple levels— let’s break it down into three categories:

Knowledge power: Children who have been previously exposed to pornography or adult sexual behavior have an adult-level education regarding sexual behaviors. It’s not uncommon for a child who has been sexually traumatized by another to then at- tempt to regain their lost power by acting out sexually with other children in order to feel in control over their past experiences (2).

Physical power: Is one child older than the other? Does one of the children have a developmental delay or disability? Is one child larger in size (even if younger) and therefore have more physical dominance? Was there threat of harm made such as wrestling, pinning down, blocking an exit, or did one child have a weapon (2)?

Social power: Does one child have an authoritative status over the other child such as being the baby-sitter or being an older sibling? Children look up to people they admire, even if that person is not in authority over them. Is one child more socially outcast or isolated than the other? If so, the threat of, “I won’t play with you unless you ____,” is a lot more weighty (2). Were there manipulative social exchanges such as coercion, a bribe, or persuasion to keep a secret (2)?

With these dynamics in mind, let’s look at a few test cases and determine if the situation would constitute normal or abnormal sexual behavior and explore what next steps could be. After, we’ll look at a model to help us respond to circumstances like these that protects both the children’s safety and mental health.

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Situation #1(8)

Two seven year olds appear to be playing doctor and have disrobed down to their underwear. They yell at Mom when she enters their bedroom and tell her they are doing “private things”.

Take a moment and assess what we know thus far: is this normal or advanced sexual behavior? Is there knowledge power at play? “Private things,” could mean a lot of different things. When we as adults think of “private things,” we can fill our imagination with all sorts of sexual possibilities. But think of what the child experiences when they go to the doctor: the door is shut, they’re asked to disrobe, and the doctor might even explain his actions as, “protecting privacy.” This is not necessarily problematic behavior, but let’s continue to assess.

Is there physical power? Let’s say the children were the same age, size, and neither had developmental delays/disabilities. What we don’t know yet is if there was threat or coercion.

Is there social power? There is no status difference or coercion that we’re aware of.

What are possible next steps?

While the behavior does not necessarily look harmful, there is more information we need to gather to insure each child’s safety. We also do not want to needlessly alarm the children and cast shame by falsely accusing them. Without judgment or a tone of voice that would sound like anger, perhaps we start with a clarification that there are no “private things” that we keep from mommy. What happens next could be a list of questions or simply an announcement that mom is going to begin folding laundry in the room with them and they should continue playing their game. If they continue to play, mom can then offer coaching and feedback on what kinds of activities are appropriate and inappropriate. Playing doctor and listening for a heartbeat is fine but clothing should stay on. If the children begin to look ashamed, nervous, and want to leave the room, then more questions could take place to ensure that both children were safe and nothing dangerous was taking place.

When adults happen upon children engaging in nude or sexual play, the response from the adult has massive implications for how the child thinks about the event. I speak to adults all the time that were traumatized as children not by the sexual exploratory play, per-say, but by a teacher’s or parent’s stigmatizing accusation or fearful/hostile reaction (“pervert, what’s wrong with you! Stop being nasty!”). For children, reactions such as this produce shame, guilt, and the feeling that something is wrong with them. Rather than feeling the freedom to ask questions and seek understanding about these behaviors, they’re often avoided and transformed into feelings of self-hate.

Situation 2:

A nine year old boy plays with seven year old developmentally delayed boy. Father walks in the room to find both boys under the covers nude. When asked what was happening, both boys say, “nothing,” but the seven year old is in tears. The seven year old goes home and tells his mother that the nine year old asked him to put his mouth on the nine year old’s penis. The seven year old agreed to do this.

Is there knowledge power at play? Certainly. Oral stimulation is not a behavior that will naturally arise out of the child’s imagination. It is always a learned behavior and constitutes harmful sexual play for two children. Even if neither child ultimately told an adult what they were doing under the blanket, the seven year old crying upon being caught is a good indicator that the play was problematic.

Was there physical power? The nine year old in both age, size and developmental status has power over the seven year old.

Was there social power? We saw secrecy in hiding under the blanket and immediately lying upon being caught. We don’t know whether there was coercion or a bribe. Neither child was a baby-sitter or older sibling but the nine year old might have been given the responsibility watch out for the seven year old given his age and developmental status. The seven year old may have more limited play mates and be more socially vulnerable. There certainly seems to be social power at play.

What would be some good next steps?

Again, it’s not uncommon to be surprised and respond negatively to seeing a child doing something resembling adult sexual behavior. You may feel an impulse to shout, shut down, panic, cry, or leave quickly (2)— let’s look at some responses that we should avoid. From our observations, it is clear this constitutes harmful sexual behavior. However, disciplining or lecturing either child would not be a good step after learning this information. The nine year old seems to be in possession of information he doesn’t know what to do with (the advanced sexual education of oral-stimulation). It is likely that he learned this behavior either from media or an experience he had with another person. He might even be the victim of abuse that hasn’t been brought to light and is confused about this behavior. While his actions were harmful, it might not have been intended to be devious or malicious behavior.

Simply separating the children and ignoring the behavior would be destructive as well: it is likely the children were disturbed by the event that just took place and are feeling shame, fear, or guilt. Without healthy integration of this information and the under- standing of when it is harmful to exhibit this behavior, there is a chance of repeat perpetration.

So what should we do? In the moment, a very calm, nonjudgemental and matter-of-fact tone is best to start asking simple questions and gathering information of what just took place. After hearing what they are willing to disclose, respond with appreciation and positive affirmation for telling the truth.

In the case where they say, “nothing,” stating what you objectively saw would be helpful. “I saw that you both were under the blanket naked. Tell me more about what you were doing.”

If there were any signs of blood, vomiting or if you witnessed penetration, a trip to the emergency room would be your next step. Assuming the situation was as described, after the children’s disclosure, a simple statement about your house rules for this be- havior would be appropriate (without going into a lecture). Perhaps ending with a short statement like, “our house rules are there so that everyone is safe.” It would be best, then, to take your child’s friend home and explain to their parents what you saw. No need to interpret what happened, just a simple calm explanation of what you saw/ heard is adequate.

The first conversation with your child might be intimidating. Starting with love and gentle comfort would be an excellent first reaction. No need to discipline— a simple, “I’m sorry that was scary/confusing for you, I love you and am not mad at you,” is a great start. Follow this by stating what you saw objectively and see if they have any questions. Simple instruction around what that behavior is and when it is appropriate/inappropriate is optimal. If they don’t respond, tell them that you’re open to talking about this experience when they’re ready. No need to interrogate them. You might be thinking, “Okay, no discipline— but how do I make sure this doesn’t happen again? How do I make sure he knows this was wrong?”

Calling a therapist who specializes in “maladaptive sexual behavior” or “problematic sexual behavior” should be the next step. The therapist can adequately evaluate the situation, determine if the authorities need to be contacted and give advice in parenting through these kinds of experiences. The job of a parent is to be supportive and offer stability and love as the child integrates that experience into how they think about themselves, sexuality, and others for years to come (2).

Each potential situation presents unique intricacies that are beyond the scope of this blog to comprehensibly cover. For further information on this topic, see the recommended reading below. Regardless of the circumstance, using the following steps can be a useful tool in keeping children safe and responding to sexualized behaviors:

Assess:

  • Was there knowledge power?
  • Was there physical power?
  • Was there social power?

Respond:

  • In a calm, matter-of-fact, non-judgmental tone, ask what’s happening or state what you objectively see.
  • Make steps to keep children safe (separate and/or seek first-aid if needed).
  • Comfort, gather information, and create opportunity for questions.
  • Contact therapist/authorities

For more reading:Understanding Children’s Sexual Behaviors: What’s Natural and Healthy by Toni Cavanagh Johnson

Sources:

1. Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.

2. Gil, E., & Johnson, T. C. (1993). Sexualized children: Assessment and treatment of sexualized children and children who molest. Rockville, MD: Launch Press.

3. Albert B., Brown, S., & Flanagan, C. E. (2003). 14 and younger: The sexual behavior of young teenagers (summary). Washington D.C.: national Campaign to Present Teen Pregnancy.

4. Pereda, N., Guilera, G., Forns, M., & Gómez-Benito, J. (2009). The prevalence of child sexual abuse in community and student samples: A meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review, 29(4), 328-338.

5. Fehrenbach, P.A., Smith, W., Monastersky, C., & Deisher, RW. (1986). Adolescent sex offenders: Offender and offense characteristics. American Journal of Orthopsy- chiatry, 56(2), 225-233.

6. Hunter, J.A., Figueredo, A.J., Malamuth, N.M., & Becker, J. (2003). Juvenile sex of- fenders: Toward the development of a typology. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Re- search & Treatment, 15(1), 27-48. doi: 10.1177/107906320301500103.

7. Johnson, T. C. , & Mitra, R. (2007). A retrospective study of children’s (twelve and younger) sexual behaviors. Unpublished manuscript.

8. The following scenarios are adapted with minor changes from Gil & Johnson, 1993.


Matthias Barker is completing his masters in clinical mental health counseling at Northwest University and is currently practicing at Lutheran Community Services fulfilling his internship. Matthias is working towards specialization in treating children who have undergone severe abuse as well as men recovering from childhood abuse. Before pursuing a counseling career Matthias held pastoral positions at various churches serving as a youth pastor and college internship coordinator. In his free time, he enjoys making ceramic, collecting house plants, and cooking BBQ. Matthias and his wife Paige live in Spokane, WA.

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This School Year – Keep The Conversation Going

Over and over again I learn how important a parent’s voice is when it comes to the conversations surrounding sex and sexuality. Parental involvement is critical in forming healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors. There are three areas I think parents can focus on this school year that will make a big difference in the years ahead.

Communication is KEY

Yes, peer and media influences impact youth and probably more than ever before. However, parents continue to be the largest influence of sexual attitude formation among adolescents. An important piece of parental involvement is communication between parents and children. 

Parental expectations regarding sexual activity have significant impacts on young adult sexual activity, particularly regarding first sexual encounters. This can only happen though if the parent is communicating their value to their child. Parental attitudes and expectations have been found to be protective, and as parental disapproval and communication of sexual integrity messages are communicated over and over, the likelihood of your son and/or daughter living out these values increases dramatically. 

It is worth noting though, how we communicate matters! While communicating messages of sexual integrity can contribute to delayed sexual experience, too much control or authoritarianism can lead to the opposite effect. Simply challenging your kids to wait and make it more about a rule than a change of heart can have just the opposite effect! 

Children Need to Know YOU Care!

In addition to communication, general care is often correlated with timing of sexual initiation. Support, perceptions of closeness and connection all factor into an overall caring environment. A few years ago, I read about a Dutch study that found favorable perceptions of parental care, support and connection are correlated with delayed sexual experience. I think the Dutch were on to something! 

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Simply communicating is not enough if your children don’t know you really care about their overall well-being. Being connected to a parent functions as a tool that protects against early sexual involvement. Take time to be with your children, enter their world, and get to know the things they are involved with throughout the school year. This will have a tremendous impact on the way in which your words (communication) land on them during the school year. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Be The Parent

The popular notion is to be a child’s best friend but this can undermine your authority. Being close to your child is important but don’t forget the role you play as their parent! Studies that have looked at parental control and sexual experience find that higher levels of control (less permissiveness, more supervision, and parents perceived as more strict) correlate with a delay of first sexual intercourse. It is worth noting that control alone may be counterproductive in reducing sexual activity, but is effective if coupled with care and communication.

Making a distinction between authoritative control (clear and fair demands) and authoritarian control (an arbitrary insistence on obedience), is important to isolating the most effective factors of encouraging sexual health. Again, this all works together, but when you engage in your child’s world you become more aware of what they are watching, listening to, and who their friends are. Higher levels of monitoring were associated with lower levels of sexual risk-taking, and delayed sexual initiation. 

When a parent communicates effectively, shows they care, but also is not afraid to show their authority when it’s required, have youth that more often than not delay sexual activity and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. So as this school year begins take note of each and keep the dialogue moving forward!


Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He is an internationally recognized seminar and conference speaker and published writer on issues surrounding sexuality and youth culture. He can be heard on Project Six19’s podcasts, “DriveTime” and “Mixtape” as well as the CPYU podcast, “Youth Culture Matters.”

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3 Lies The Culture Tells Us About Porn

This blog was adapted from the third episode of the second series of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

The culture is full of stories of how porn doesn’t hurt anyone. Pornography used to exist in the dirt and dark shadows of society and culture. While it existed, there were commonly held standards and societal safeguards that kept it at the fringes and out of the mainstream. But that has all changed in a relatively short period of time. 

It’s no longer a matter of if you will see pornography…it’s only a matter of when. Those long held standards and safeguards have declined to nothing. Accessibility, affordability, and anonymity have all played a factor in making porn readily and easily available.

50 years ago, you had to interact with someone to personally purchase or secure pornography by buying it at quick mart or seven eleven. 35 years ago you could rent a VHS tape from a rental store. Both required you to stand before someone and make a purchase. 

Today technology allows someone to access pornography from their fingertips without ever having someone know, and the supply is unlimited. Type “XXX” into google you will get well over a billion results. 

Never before has pornography been so accessible and it also doesn’t cost you anything. Most of it is available for free online. 80%-90% of what is accessed is free material. All of which can be done sitting alone in your home while hiding your identity.

Because of this unlimited accessibility, our perceptions of pornography have changed. As society changes its standards and established safeguards, so too does our perception of pornography. 

Lie 1: Porn Doesn’t Hurt Anyone.

The truth is that the pornography industry regularly exploits the women and children they use in the making of their content.

In their analysis of over 80 million child pornography images since 2002, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that 1 out of every 6 runaways reported in 2016 were likely sex-trafficking victims. This means these children were likely involved in either the adult entertainment industry (pornography) or sex trafficking.

These statistics also reveal many “porn stars” are involved against their own will. A common practice is to “groom” women through online ads luring them to serve in an escort service. A trafficker or “madam” (female leader of trafficking victims) then continues to push the victim toward a one-time role and then ongoing role in prostitution, pornography filming or a combination of these practices.

And the problem does not stop outside the doors of the church.

Most pastors (57 percent) and youth pastors (64 percent) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past, the Barna Group reported in a 2016 study. “Overall, 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn.” More than 1 in 10 youth pastors (12%) and 1 in 20 pastors (5%) said they are addicted.

Lie 2: Porn Helps Increase Sex Drive and Sex Life.

First, pornography distorts your view of sex and sexuality. We must remember that sex is a GOOD thing created by God to experience and share with each other within the boundaries of lifelong, exclusive, covenantal marriage. Sex is a means to foster marital intimacy for mutual pleasure and for procreation.

Pornography takes all that and turns it into something entirely separate from this plan. Sex is seen as purely physical – void of intimacy, closeness, oneness, relationship, and commitment. It’s all about the mechanics of what you get, rather than what you give. It also teaches that sex is primal, hormone-driven, and conquest-driven. 

Second, it SUPER-SIZES sexual expectations. Women are taught to behave like porn stars, men are taught to be aggressive in their pursuit, and sexual perversions are normalized. What was once disturbing is now tame, normal, and acceptable. We become conditioned to act outside of our God-ordained destiny as it relates to sex.

Lie 3: Porn Doesn’t Have a Lasting Impact.

First, Pornography causes an earlier onset of sexual activity in our children. In one study it showed an association between pornography use and increased acceptance of behaviors such as; premarital sex, casual sex, multiple sexual partners, cohabitation, premarital pregnancy, and substance abuse.

Second, it can lower an individual’s libido. A 2015 study by researchers at the University of California found a rare positive correlation between porn watching and libido. Couple this with an increase in erectile dysfunction in recent years in otherwise healthy young men, and it is largely thought that excessive porn use was the most likely the factor at play.

Finally, let us not forget how it hijacks the brain. There is legitimate scientific research and evidence coming out all the time that shows how pornography is harmful to the brain. We’re seeing more evidence about porn’s capability to change how the brain functions. Neuroscientific studies show that repeatedly viewing porn causes the brain to literally rewire itself. It triggers the brain to pump out chemicals and form new nerve pathways, leading to profound and lasting changes in how one sees sex, enters relationships, and engages with both.

These lies remind us of the importance of healthy discussions we have surrounding pornography in the home. It’s a good thing to talk about pornography because it’s one of the greatest threats to the spiritual and relational health of ourselves and our children. It’s an unfortunate thing because it’s so pervasive and enticing in today’s world. The statistics tell us this, our own experience tells us this,  common sense tells us this, and the sheer number of stories we see, hear, and find ourselves in tell us this. 

But here is the fortunate part, you and I have the opportunity to talk about God’s good gift of sex as the sex-maker with our children.


DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around parenting and all the reasons you should be encouraged on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

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Lies The Culture Tells Us About Sex

This blog post was adapted from Episode 4 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

There are several lies our culture communicates about sex. As a parent, you have the unique opportunity to help your children navigate the many lies they hear and set them on a path that points to God’s plan as the sex maker. But what are those lies?

Lie #1: Sex is only physical.

If this is the case, sex is merely casual and only there for our pleasure, nothing more. But this is a contradiction in terms. Sex – even sex that does not feel intense or meaningful, even sex with someone you don’t love – is never truly casual. Sex is a life-uniting act. Simple as that! This is why Jesus says “what God has joined together not let man separate!” in the gospel of Matthew. Often we can focus so much attention on the physical act of sex that we place a 100% of our energy on protecting against the physical consequences. But there are so many other consequences – emotional, social, spiritual, and even future consequences – all of which we’ve discussed in other blog posts. 

Lie #2: Sex is the most important thing there is.

In a “do-anything,” hyper-sexualized world, we will do anything and everything as we allow our lives to revolve around the idol of sexuality.  Honestly, we are surprised we’re not hearing more stories like this. I believe that over time and in the very near future, we will be hearing more and more stories as a generation of kids nurtured by a boundary-less and border-less ambient sexuality comes of age. Sadly, many of the stories will involve both victims and perpetrators who haven’t yet come of age. That’s called “age-compression.” Something the Center for Parent Youth Understanding (CPYU) always says, “culture is the soup that our kids swim and marinate in 24/7.” If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised at how they are flavored. Is it possible that we might even be moving from a world where that which is “secret sin” becomes an “open celebration?” Then there’s the wildly mixed messages our culture sends to our developmentally vulnerable and easily influenced kids… things like “Go ahead and look at this!” but “Don’t you ever do this!” This is where so much of the difficulty comes in. Right is still right and wrong is still wrong… people are ultimately responsible for themselves and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions, regardless of what culture may or may not be saying at any particular moment. But we are not sure we can stand and point accusing fingers without any blame at all when we’ve been part of the horribly flawed nurturing process through commission or omission. Our culture is talking about sexuality. We need to do the same. And in doing so, we must redeem this horribly misunderstood and mis-used good gift of God!

Lie #3: Sex is no one else’s business.

Dale Kuehne, author of the book Sex and the iWorld,states that only three taboos around sex exist in today’s culture. Those include: “One may not criticize someone’s life choices or behavior, one may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others, and finally one may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent.”  Outside of these taboos all other sexual acts are permissible. Historically though, sex has always been something that held a place in the public discourse. It is also why there were probably several other taboos up until recently.

For most of human history, people of many different cultures have agreed that societies must order certain forms of exchange in order to survive. Communities have ordered language, practices, and division of labor that are agreed upon. And sex, as mentioned by novelist Wendell Berry says, like any other necessary, precious, and volatile power that is commonly held, is everybody’s business. But over the last several decades this reality has faded and “what I do in my bedroom is my business…plain and simple.” However, throughout scripture sex is spoken of as relational and as part of something bigger than ourselves. Christians have to work hard to overcome the pervasive message that my sexual behavior is none of your business. Scripture tells us to intrude into one another’s lives because of the work of Jesus… and as a brother or sister we are called to speak lovingly to one another and transform seemingly private matters into communal matters. Teaching this to your son or daughter will be an important task.

Lie #4: We can’t control sex, but rather it controls us.

“We can’t control sex, it controls us” is one of the most widely accepted lies in our culture. It’s this rumor that’s caused us to believe that we are slaves to our sex drive, and has reduced humans to hormone-driven, sexually motivated creatures that teach our children that if we want it, we hunt it…we stalk it.In this, we treat people as objects that are nothing more than prey, animals or pieces of meat. Or we simply starve this appetite, all the while holding up the same degrading view of humanity. However, God’s design for His grand and glorious gift of sex is this. . . that it be indulged by one man and one woman within the context of an exclusive, monogamous, covenantal, life-long marriage. That’s it, plain and simple. Sex is something God made, gave to us, and enthusiastically declared “VERY Good!” But like everything else, we can go and mess it up. And when the Bible commands us to “flee from sexual immorality,” the word that it uses is porneia, which means “to practice prostitution, sexual immorality, or fornication.” In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul frequently used the word in reference to any kind of sinful and illegitimate sexual activity. Porneia is, in fact, the very thing from which followers of Jesus are commanded to “flee!” 

Further, it’s by Gods grace we have everything we need to take charge of our sexual appetites by disciplining our mind, heart, and our body. And it doesn’t matter our relationship status. Because the very desires we are unable to control before marriage will be the very desires that haunt us after. That is unless we’ve taught ourselves how to come under the authority of the sex-maker.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around “Lies The Culture Tells Us About Sex” on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

This post originally appeared on Project Six19’s blog. Used by permission.


Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.

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You MUST Talk To Your Kids About Sex

My dad gave me The Talk in a Chinese restaurant when I was about 8 years old. 

I was playing in a little league game and after our victory my dad took me to a Chinese restaurant and gave me The Talk. I have discovered that most of my students’ parents never gave them The Talk at all, and that breaks my heart. 

Worse, many parents give such little preparation to their children that some experience sexual abuse and no one finds out until they’re in their 20’s and it finally explodes, all because their parents never opened up these channels of dialogue or created a space for their children to talk about these things. The girl in the article says she told no one because she didn’t even know what had happened, and no one asked her why she was acting differently.

If your role as a parent is to lead your kids into wisdom, to scaffold their transition into the real world, shouldn’t one of your most important duties be to explain the beauty of intimacy and the danger of unhealthy attachment? Danger doesn’t necessarily mean something is bad: Fire is both beautiful and dangerous. 

Sex is beautiful and dangerous. 

Like a stallion whinnying to run free, handing your child the reins involves built-up trust, and the willingness to say, “Wow! What a beauty! Be careful now. Control him and he will serve you well.”

I wonder if these parents think they’re doing their kids a favor by sheltering them from the dirty, dirty S-Word, and that their lives will be better if they never discover it.

The problem is, all kids will find out about sex. Parents are the ones who can decide how and when. If I ever have kids, I intend to get the first word in before the world has a chance to. When parents decide not to teach their kids about sex, the world is more than happy to. 

I remember being in middle school at a friend’s house, watching MTV in his bedroom (which I was not allowed to do at home; nor could I, since we grew up cable-less). I vividly remember a commercial in which a famous rapper spoke directly to the camera: “Remember dudes, no matter how banging her body is, you gotta strap up. Don’t risk it.”

I recall seeing that commercial through the filter of the wisdom my parents had already implanted in me. My dad gave me that first talk over Egg Drop Soup, but many more followed it. There were check-ins and updates and open communication about sexuality. Because of my parents, I could see a commercial like that and interpret the message as worldly more than biblical (or true), even if I wouldn’t have used those words. 

I can’t imagine how many others in my generation saw the same commercial but without the preparation. Perhaps that commercial was the closest thing they ever had to The Talk, so to them, the only sexual ethic was to not get or give an STD and you’re good.

Strap up and you’ve done the right thing. Simple.

I was recently talking to someone about this and he said his parents never gave him the talk either. He’s my age. 

“Why is it,” I asked, “that some parents don’t give that talk to their kids? If I ever have children, we’re going to be talking about it constantly!”

“Simple,” he said. “Shame. Their parents probably didn’t give them the talk, so the idea of bringing it up to their kids seems terrifying. Or they have some sort of trauma or sexual wound, so talking about it with their kids would be incredibly painful. So they just don’t.”

But you know what happens when those children grow up and pass through puberty with the internet as their primary sexual education? They go out and create their own sexual wounds, passing them down to their own children. The cycle continues from generation to generation as long as parents live by fear more than wisdom and love for their children.

If it seems like I’m being especially hard on such parents, it’s because I am. After being a youth pastor for three years, and now a teacher for one, I have seen that the majority of parents are failing. Whether they are drug addicts, abusive, apathetic, or simply not trying very hard, I have developed a thin patience for parents who don’t care for their own children. Sure, they all say they do, but where is the evidence? 

It’s easy to tell when a student has loving parents. Not only are they far more well-behaved, but they seem to operate from a sort of comfortable confidence which can only come from a place of having received love. But when they don’t receive rich, quality love at home, and their sex education is Xzibit telling them to strap up (or worse: pornography), where do you think they’ll turn to find that love?

For this reason, I adamantly place “The Talk” with your children under the umbrella of loving them. You can’t say you love them and then shrug and say ‘they’ll figure it out for themselves.’ 

In the film Lady Bird, when the eponymous protagonist asks her mother about sex, her mom reluctantly shivers and falls silent. She wiggles her way out of the conversation as quickly as possible and as you can guess, the high schooler ends up losing her virginity to a jerk. “You’ll have plenty of un-special sex in your life,” he tells her immediately after revealing that she wasn’t, actually, his first. 

Is this really what we want for our kids? To be throwing their bodies around to a plethora of suitors who may not even see them as special? Perhaps a scarier question to ask is, do most parents even care enough about the bodies and souls of their children to prepare them for these situations? 

Teach your kids or the world will teach them.

Love your kids or the world will love them—and this love is hollow, foolish and destructive.

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The original version of this article appeared on Ethan’s Blog on April 27, 2019. Used by permission.


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I’m Ethan & I love Jesus as much as my little heart allows. I’m an artist, traveler, and the Lord often speaks to me in poems. I’m a personal trainer, youth pastor and photographer. I graduated from Moody and now live in Colorado. Come check out my blog at www.ethanrenoe.com.

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We Were Sexual Before We Were Sinful

This blog post was adapted from Episode 2 of Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime.

You and I have been written into a wonderful story. God’s story is one that includes Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. However, our conversations surrounding sex usually only focus on the second and third parts of the story, Fall and Redemption. 

If we only engage these two parts, we see ourselves and others first and foremost as sinners, and the central focus is on our state of sinfulness and our acts of sin. Our job then becomes primarily about cleaning and fixing individuals, and our goal becomes modifying behavior rather than changing the heart, which ultimately leads to repentance. If we do not experience a change of heart, then the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes nothing more than rules and regulations. 

Another unfortunate side-effect of telling this partial version of God’s story is the fact that it can cause us to only see sex as sinful, and not a gift to be celebrated within God’s grand design for sex, as the sex-maker.    

However, if we instead engage in the whole story, starting in Creation, we see people (and ourselves) as first and foremost created in the image of God. This means all people have innate, Godlike beauty and dignity because they all, in their own unique way, reenact something of their Creator.

Putting the image of God before anything else places greater emphasis on truths about who we are and who were are created to be. At this point, we are able to see in this beautiful sphere of life that sex is to be protected within the place it was intended, marriage. 

One more food for thought. We’ll call it the dessert. The reason we start with Creation is that this is the point where sex first enters the picture. We were sexual before we were sinful! So what we do with it matters.

For too long, the model given to us has been built more on rules and regulations than walking with integrity. When our goal becomes primarily waiting and holding onto our virginity, we can easily choose to not include Jesus – which means we do it on our own strength. 

The model in scripture places Jesus at the center, and our lives revolve around Him. This is what makes living with sexual integrity – waiting – possible! Jesus is the one person that can make us whole, and taking hold of true life happens when we walk in obedience to Him.

DriveTime is a tool for you as a parent to get equipped, so you can better engage the world your son or daughter inhabits.

Check out further discussions around us being sexual before we were sinful on Project Six19’s podcast, DriveTime. Available now where ever you get your podcasts.

Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and has been working with young people and families for over 35 years.

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Why Christians Need to Think about Polyamory

I often get asked, “what’s the next discussion that Christians need to have about sexuality and gender?” My immediate answer is: “polyamory,” though the morality of sex with robotsis a close second.

Polyamory is often confused with polygamy, but they are actually quite different. For one, polygamy is a type of marriagewhile polyamory is not necessarily marital. Also, Polygamy almost always entails a man taking more than one wife, while polyamory is much more egalitarian. “Polyamory is open to any mixture of numbers and genders so it is just as common for a man to be in a relationship with several women as it is for a woman to be in lovewith several men,” writes Mike Hatcher.

Polyamory is also different from swinging or open relationships, though these do overlap. Open relationships are polyamorous, but not every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship. Sex and relationship therapist Renee Divine says: “An open relationship is one where one or both partners have a desire for sexualrelationships outside of each other, and polyamory is about having intimate, lovingrelationships with multiple people.” And that’s the key. Polyamory is not just about sex. It includes love, romance, and emotional commitment between more than 2 people.

For some Christians, polyamory seems so extreme and rare that there’s no need to talk about it. It’s wrong. It’s ridiculous. No need to defend why it’s wrong or think through pro-poly arguments. Just quote Genesis 2 and move on. But hopefully we’ve learned the hard way from our rather “late-to-the-discussion” approach with LGBTQ questions that it’s better to get ahead of the game and constructa view rather than just fall back into frantic reactive mode when the issue is in full bloom.

For other Christians, polyamory is only considered when being used in a “slippery slope” argument against same-sex relations—if we allow gay relationships, why not poly relationships? While I agree that the ethical logic used to defend same-sex relations cannot exclude poly relationships, merely using polyamory as a slippery slope argument is inadequate. We actually need to think through plural love, as it’s sometimes called, and do so in a gracious, thoughtful, and biblical manner.

Polyamory is much more common than some people think. According to one estimate“as many as 5 percent of Americans are currently in relationships involving consensual nonmonogamy” which is about the same as those who identify as LGBTQ. Another recent study, published in a peer reviewed journal, found that 1 in 5 Americans have been in a consensual non-monogamous relationship at least some point in their life. Another survey showed that nearly 70% of non-religious Americans between the ages of 24-35 believe that consensual polyamory is okay—even if it’s not theircup of tea. What about church going folks of the same age? Roughly 24% said they were fine (Regnerus, Cheap Sex, 186).

Why would anyone engage in polyamory? Doesn’t it foster jealousy? Can these relationships really last? Aren’t children who grow up in poly families bound to face relational harm? These are all valid questions, ones which have been addressedby advocates of polyamory. At least one argument says that people pursue polyamorous relationships because it’s their sexual orientation. They really have no other valid option, they say. They’re not monogamously oriented. They’re poly.

I’ll never forget watching Dan Savage, a well-known sex columnist, swat the hornet’s nest when he made the audacious claim that “poly is not an orientation.” Savage is no bastion for conservative ideals, and he himself admitsto having 9 different extra-marital affairs with his husband’s consent. This is why it was fascinating to see him get chastised for making such an outlandish statement—that polyamory is not a sexual orientation.

Is there any merit to the claim that polyamory is a sexual orientation? It all depends on our understanding of sexual orientation. How do you define it? Measure it? Prove it? Disprove it? What exactly issexual orientation? (Stay tuned for a later blog on this.) It’s not as if we take a blood sample to determine whether somebody is gay, straight, or poly. Sexual orientation is much, much messier than most people realize.

Celebrities, of course, have suggested that polyamory is an orientation when they talk about monogamy being “unnatural,” or that some people are just wired for more love than one partner can provide. Pop culture isn’t the only advocate, though. Scholars are also starting to argue that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. As early as 2011, Ann Tweedy, Assistant Professor at Hamline University School of Law, wrote a lengthy 50-page articlein a peer reviewed journal where she argued that polyamory should be considered a sexual orientation. Tweedy writes: “polyamory shares some of the important attributes of sexual orientation as traditionally understood, so it makes conceptual sense for polyamory to be viewed as part of sexual orientation” (“Polyamory as a Sexual Orientation,” 1514).

The logic is familiar: Those who pursue polyamorous relationships can’t help it. It’s who they are. It’s how God has created them. And it would be wrong to pursue a relationship, like a monogamous one, that goes against their orientation.No, I’m not retorting to the age-old slippery slope argument (e.g. this is where gay relationships will lead). I’m simply summarizing a growing opinion expressed in both pop culture and academia.

Polyamory might be, as a Newsweek article suggested 10 years ago, “The Next Sexual Revolution.”And several of my pastor friends tell me that it’s becoming more common to have people who identify as poly asking about the church’s view on the matter and if they will be accepted and affirmed. These are not abstract questions, and yet the discussion is still young enough so that Christian pastors and leaders have some time to construct a robust, compassionate, thoughtful response to the question—“what’s your church’s stance on people who are poly?” Put more positively, we have time to construct a truly Christian vision for monogamy, if indeed that is the only truly Christian vision.

My purpose of this blog is to put this topic on your radar, not to answer all the questions that you might have. With that in view, here are a few more questions that Christian leaders should wrestle with:

What are the relevant biblical passages and themes that mandate monogamy for those who are called to marriage?

How would you respond to someone who says that Genesis 2, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5 and others are just a few “clobber passages” that are used to beat down poly people?

How do you know that “one man, one woman” statements in the Bible apply to contemporary poly relationships? Perhaps they only prohibit abusive, misogynistic polygamous relationships.

If God’s love for us is plural, and our love for (a Triune) God is plural, then why can’t human love for each other be plural?

Is polyamory a sexual orientation? Why, or why not?

And what is sexual orientation, and should it play a role in determining (or at least shaping) our sexual ethic?

Is it helpful to talk about poly people or should we talk about poly relationships? (And can you pinpoint the important difference?)

Since the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn plural marriages that are polygamous (or does it?), could we say that monogamy is the ideal while still allowing for polyamorous relationships as less than ideal but still accepted in the church? Why, or why not?

If sexual expression is only permitted if it is faithful, consensual, and marital (which is what most Christians would say), then why can’t it be plural? That is, what is the moral logic that drives your view that monogamy is the only way? Is it just “God says so? Or is there some rationale why plural love is immoral?


A version of this post originally appeared on the Center For Faith, Sexuality, and Gender blog on June 7, 2018. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell(with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence(David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited(IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us(David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue(Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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Porn is Not Just a Man’s Problem

You may or may not hear this often, but women struggle with porn.

Over the past few years, there has been a new wave of what some have called “mommy porn” across the world of entertainment with films as controversial as 50 Shades of Grey and as mainstream as Magic Mike XXL.

No matter what you call it, the truth is that this kind of entertainment is definitely not just geared toward “moms,” but rather, women in general. It’s a type of entertainment that’s typically loaded with sexual innuendo, scantily clad men and, in some cases, explicit sex scenes.

But the truth is, this type of over-sexualized entertainment is not just found in recent blockbusters, it’s been slowly seeping into popular books, television shows and even commercials for quite some time now.

What bothers me the most about this new movement is how little attention it seems to be receiving. In fact, we often sit back and take it in without even batting an eye. While I’m happy to say that the objectification of women is finally beginning to gain some attention and push back in our society, it seems that we’ve neglected the other side to the story. Women struggle with porn, too.

Even the Church at large has had a role in the double-standard by pushing sermons, messages and ministries encouraging men to deal with their lust, porn and sexual immorality.

But what about women?

Women Struggle With Porn

We often view porn and lust as a man’s issue, so we don’t typically challenge women as much about the things they think about and the ways they entertain themselves.

Whether man or woman, as human beings, we are all wired with natural emotions and a sexual appetite that can become unhealthy if we continue to feed it with junk. It’s important that we remember that lust is not just a male problem, and start realizing how our culture has played a role in this important conversation.

Women Struggle With Lust

While I can’t deny that men and women perceive and process the world differently, when we focus the entirety of the conversation about porn and lust on men, we not only ignore, but also isolate the many women who are also struggling. By making light of female lust issues we actually enable and encourage the problem instead of offering a place for help.

According an article by the American Psychological Association, various studies report that porn use ranges all the way up to 99 percent among men and up to 86 percent among women. The difference is much less than we tend to talk about.

I had a personal realization of this truth when I received a barrage of emails from women stuck in porn addiction after an article I posted on my blogabout the subject.

Maybe it’s time to recognize that we’re all prone to get lost in sin, yet we’re all given the opportunity to walk in freedom.

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“Protect Your Eyes” vs. “Explore Your Sensuality”

Often, we challenge men to protect their eyes all the while encouraging women to explore their sexuality and sensuality. We tend to “scold” and even look down on men who struggle with porn use and addiction, while women are praised for being “in tune” with their sexuality.

And stranger still, some of the same women who are offended at the thought of their spouses watching porn are just as quick to run out with their girlfriends to watch the latest sex-themed film or book club for that racy novel. It’s time to challenge one another to a higher standard, starting with looking inward and working to remove even a “hint of sexual immorality or any kind of impurity” from our own hearts and lives.

Objectifying Men

True, women tend to be objectified far more than men in our society. But that doesn’t justify objectifying men. Objectifying men is just as degrading and detrimental to our society as men objectifying women. As a society, we are quick to get up in arms when women are used as sexual objects in films and in marketing, and rightly so. It’s devastating to fearfully and wonderfully made, complex and capable human beings reduced to the shell of their bodies.

But shouldn’t it be just as devastating when we see it happening to both genders? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll see that we tend to feel differently from one gender to another. It would do us all well to take a second look at our definition of “equality” and then apply that to the entertainment we allow ourselves to consume, learning to respect both genders in the process.

God’s Call to Holiness Has to Do With Each and Every One of Us

When we categorize sin into “gender specific” categories, we miss the mark. As children of God, we’re called to reflect Christ in the best way that we can—whether we happen to be male or female. Together, we portray to the world a clearer picture of who He is.

Whether we’re talking about lust, sexual struggles, or any other sin, let’s remember that the call to holiness applies to all. We shouldn’t shame one another about issues like porn—after all, the cure for any sort of sin is not shaming, it’s Christ—but we should talk about these issues with both genders. Because women struggle with porn, too. But too many of them are struggling alone.

Let’s challenge, encourage, and support one another in the Body of Christ as we take inventory of the things we’re allowing to enter our minds and influence our hearts.

How do you control your sex drive while you’re single? Check out the latest episode of the Love + Relationships Podcastwhere I answer this exact question!

A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on September 20th, 2018. Used by permission.


Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Porn and Relationships: When Are Sexual Struggles a Deal Breaker?

“I just found out that my boyfriend struggles with regular porn use”

“My girlfriend shared with me she’s struggling with compulsive masturbation”

What do I do?

The amount of questions I’ve received lately regarding the topic of sexual struggles and sexual integrity has been on the rise. Partly, because of how mainstream the pornography industry has become. Where a person had to sneak around with a Playboy magazine, now porn can be accessed anywhere, anytime, using a device that we carry around in our back pockets.

But, I also believe that the questions have also increased because of our changing culture, and the freedom to talk about things we never felt able to discuss out loud before. Sexual struggles have existed since the beginning of time, but now, I’d like to believe we have more awareness of the damage that unbridled sexual energy can do. More and more research is coming to the surface to reveal the damage that porn use has on a relationship. It’s important that we acknowledge that, and then take next steps to get ourselves to a better place.

So, what do you do if you find out that your boyfriend or girlfriend is struggling with sexual integrity in his or her life? What if you find yourself in that position right now? When are sexual struggles a deal-breaker when it comes to dating and relationships? How do you know if you should break up with someone, or see them through the struggle? While I don’t believe there is ever a one-size-fits-all approach to navigating these types of relationship issues, here are some questions I believe are important to ask with regard to contemplating next steps:

Is there openness and honesty or deceit and concealing?

I think the most important indicator of whether or not someone is on the path toward healing in this area of their life is their openness and honesty about their journey with sexual integrity.

Are you in a relationship with someone who has patterns of lying and covering their sexual struggles, or someone who is honest about where they are and how they’re desiring to get to a better place? If you’re with someone who is lying, covering up their struggle, or not taking it seriously – that’s a sign that they’re not on the journey of healing. Because even more dangerous than being stuck on pornography, is lying about it.

Healthy relationships involve two people consistently moving in the direction of healing in their life. If this doesn’t sound like your dating relationship, than maybe it’s time to pursue your healing alone. – (tweet this)

Are they seeking external accountability and putting boundaries in place as they move toward healing?

One thing I always tell people who are looking to change something in their life is that you’ve got to change the outside while you’re working to change the inside.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve got to fill your fridge with healthy foods and get rid of the junk in your pantry. The same thing applies to sexual integrity. What steps have you put in place on the “outside” (your house, your devices, your accountability) while you get the “inside” (your heart) in the right place? A couple things I recommend for this:

Find an accountability partner (of the same sex as you). Meet with someone who has victory over this specific are of their life, and talk through your struggles on a regular basis. A regular time of confession can bring so much healing and give you so much power as you’re moving toward healing.

Be proactive on the web. Download a program like Covenant Eyes to help keep you in check when you might have a tendency to struggle.

Take inventory of the not-so-obvious (yet still harmful) areas that might be fueling your sex drive and shaping your sexual palette such as your Netflix account, your social media, and your entertainment – and cut out the junk. Less junk in = less junk to deal with. (For more on the importance of shaping you sexual palette, check out Chapter 8 of Choosing Marriage).

If you’re in a relationship with someone who says they want freedom yet aren’t willing to put in the effort, that’s a major red flag.

Is this a struggle or a stronghold?

Most people are battling the struggle of sexual integrity in some way, shape or form. I think the battle itself is a normal part of life. If it’s not battling porn use or masturbation, it’s battling thought life or sexual interactions.

We’re all facing a struggle of some sort, but struggles don’t have to own us. There is a difference between a struggle and a STRONGHOLD.

A struggle is an area in our life in which we are moving toward healing day by day.

A stronghold is when give in to that struggle and decide we’d rather not even fight it.

With a struggle, you continue moving forward, but with a stronghold, you find yourself moving backwards.With a struggle, you have victory more times than not. With a stronghold, you give in more times than not. If you or someone you are dating someone is caught in a stronghold rather than a struggle – I believe it’s important to recognize this, and then take a few steps back in the relationship to make room for a focused time of healing.

Because when you get yourself healthier, your relationships become healthier as well.

Having victory from sexual struggles is not only possible, it’s completely and entirely probable for anyone who is willing to put in the work. I’ve met with countless men and women who have consistent victory over this area of their lives, and I really believe it’s a necessary part of having a healthy relationship — which in turn, leads to a healthy marriage.

*If you are caught in a sexual “stronghold” and your sexual struggle is starting to negatively impact your social life and relationships, your job, or even negatively impacting you more days than not, I suggest you take the time to meet with a professional counselor to help you discern if you’re battling a sexual addiction, and equip you with practical steps toward healing.

Looking for some more encouragement? Check out my talk about Sex and The Single Life.


A version of this post originally appeared on True Love Dates on June 27, 2018. Used by permission.

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Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, and Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the web! She’s the creator of this True Love Dates Blog, reaching over 4 million people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships!  Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter or book a session with her today!

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Some Thoughts For Those Single, Engaged, or Married

I feel like I should start this post with a slight apology.

You see, when I was single I absolutely hated getting advice on being single from married people. It was just the worst –as a happy married person they had no right giving me, an embittered single person, advice. Most of this hate was channeled into unpublished blog posts, because after reading them I realized they could never see the light of day. Thank god.

So yes, this post is a little advice for single people, but it’s also for people engaged or married (and me being married for five months means I can mostly provide advice on how not to write wedding gift thank-you notes, and that is to actually write all of them and not stop when there are ten left because your brain cannot handle anymore wedding-related activities).In fact, I wouldn’t even say this is advice. Rather, it’s some observations that I offer to you, whatever life stage you are in.

And to the married people I resented before for trying to tell me how to live my life, my bad. You were only trying to help because you were once there too, and it turns out that just because you’re married you don’t know everything either (which you also probably know).

So here are some thoughts, observations, and advice for those single, engaged, or married:

Marriage will not fix your problems. Instead, marriage will do two things: you will simply find yourself now with different, married-people problems, and hopefully your problems, both old and new, will feel a little more bearable because someone has your back forever.

Just because you are a Christian and this really nice person you are dating is a Christian doesn’t mean you have to get married to them. Seriously. This is a confusing one, I know.

Breaking up is not a sign of spiritual immaturity. In fact, it might be just the opposite.

Please stop feeling this pressure to get married immediately after becoming engaged. Being engaged is different than dating, and it’s different than being married. It’s unique, special, and refining. And it can (and should) reveal the realities of what you’re getting into with marriage – good and bad. Sit with those realities before marriage, together.

I fully reject the lie that sex is inevitable if you wait a long time to get married. You’d be surprised how resilient people are.

You are allowed to feel numerous ways about one thing, or person, or relationship.

Confidence is attractive and will probably get you a date or relationship, but if you’re in it for the long haul this person is eventually going to see all of your really ugly, unconfident bits.

It’s okay to be selective about who you take dating or marriage advice from. Everyone single person has had a different experience than you, somehow.

It’s also okay to be selective about which books you read about singleness or marriage. Or, stop reading them altogether. Sometimes all that advice can be really overwhelming.

Some reasons I’ve broken up with people, for reference:

He couldn’t support my boundaries.

He couldn’t communicate with me about faith or Jesus or spirituality.

He had trouble understanding me.

His presence made me feel like a different, untrue version of myself.

He didn’t pursue me – he made me pursue him.

He couldn’t figure out how he felt about me.

He made me feel like I made no difference in his life.

He wasn’t kind.

He made me believe me being with him was the answer to his problems.

And some reasons I started dating my husband, for reference:

He was steady.

He made me feel special, important, and cared for.

He actually took me on dates, and made it clear they were dates.

I wasn’t the answer to his problems.

He was kind.

He was really funny.

He was gentle to me in touch, respect, and speech.

He was super cute.

He was honest with me about really, really hard things.

He took initiative to learn things, learn me, and better himself.

He wanted a relationship with God more than he wanted a relationship with me.

I loved being around him.

He was super fun.

He wanted to wait for sex.

He didn’t make me feel like I needed to earn his love or attention, which I’m still baffled by to this day that someone can love me like this, especially when I have a dramatic mid-life crisis about once a month.

I don’t really know if God tells us to marry a certain person, but I do know that there is no such thing as one destined, perfect person for us all.

Even for us married people, it will never not be obnoxious when people excessively post sappy things about their spouse.

The first few months of marriage have only been hard when one of us has been selfish. Period. Other than that, marriage is pretty spectacular and I think we need to stop telling people that the first year of marriage is always so scary and tough.

If you’re single and need to unfollow people on social media whose lives appear to throw your singleness into sharp, painful perspective, unfollow them. Do it. Do it now. Take care of your heart.

It’s funny, because in the end advice or thoughts or observations from others only resonate so much in our own lives. I have found that one of the most incredible and frustrating things about love is that no matter how much you “know” it will probably not be enough, and you will have to learn for yourself and through your own actions and choices how to do all this well (or at least try your best).

But I think that’s what’s going on with this blog when it all comes down to it – it’s all just offerings. Offerings for both myself and for you. I really like that.

– XO


Julia writes about relationships, faith and identity at hellosoulblog.com.

 

  • Photography by Kat Skye Photography
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Sex Trafficking, Sexual Integrity, and the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl,  the single greatest reason to spend just over $80 on food that probably will only leave you with heartburn. This might be especially true of whichever fan base sees their team lose on Sunday.

But did you know the Super Bowl is often sighted as the single largest sex trafficking incident in the United States?

As more people become aware of this reality over recent years, many individuals and organizations have stepped up to raise awareness and stop this travesty from continuing to occur.

Groups like Fight the New Drug, A21, and Saving Innocence are organizations dedicated to ending sex trafficking (among other issues) through education and program initiatives. These are powerful change-makers made up of people who are united for a similar cause.

But even still, I ask what more can I do as one individual.

When I first began speaking on issues surrounding sex, sexuality and relationship, I never thought I would also be talking as much as I do about pornography, sex trafficking and dating violence. While these issues have always been a reality, they remained (and still often do) on the peripheral of most people’s consciousness.

Today these issues are part of every conversation I have on sexual integrity.

To not speak about pornography, sex trafficking and dating violence is to commit an injustice and disservice. Individuals and communities are in desperate need of education regarding these issues because in order to live with sexual integrity we must make a choice to look beyond ourselves. Our decisions, sexual or otherwise, impact others.

And this might be the hardest part.

The stain of sex trafficking that we see at the Super Bowl is on each of us when we fail to speak up or take action on a personal level about this situation. Yes, living with sexual integrity benefits our individual lives, but it also impacts the wellbeing of others and sets a precedent of moral integrity we demonstrate to an often immoral world.

For me this has meant looking deep within myself and admitting I am sexually broken. There have been times in my life I have not lived with sexual integrity, and this includes viewing pornography. As difficult as it is to admit, I too have contributed to the demand for sex trafficking that porngraphy fuels.

But that is not where the story needs to end.

Here are three things I’ve worked to do in my life that I believe contribute to a better society and less demand for this horrible reality.

Realize pornography aids in the creation and demand for sex trafficking.

The link between porn and sex trafficking is well documented. However, many people are still blind or unconvinced of this reality, believing instead that pornography is not harmful and sex trafficking is a separate issue.

Not so. Countless women have been kidnapped, abused, drugged, threatened and coerced into doing porn. This is sex trafficking. And it’s happening in the very cities we call home.  

Stop looking at pornography!

The impact pornography has on an individual, their brain, their relationships, and the community where they live is also well documented. Pornography is linked to higher rates of divorce, abuse in relationships, unrealistic sexual expectations,decreased energy, and the objectification of other people.  Pornography offers nothing healthy or helpful for our relationships.

The first step to breaking free from the grip of porn is to repent and confess this reality. The only way I ever stopped looking at porn was to understand its impact and abhor its influence. It was only then that I was eager to apologize and make amends. This requires a deeper look at yourself and how this sin impacts not only you.

Finally, I needed to have a clear plan of action for how this was going to stop. Those with the highest success rates of defeating a pornography habit have a clear plan on how they are going to do it. Find a friend or  trusted adult and begin laying out a plan for how porn will no longer have an impact on your life.

Encourage better dialogue around sex and sexuality

Pornography is not the only way sex trafficking is fueled. We can’t forget the demand goes beyond the computer screen. As we inch closer to kickoff at this year’s Super Bowl we need to remember there are individuals who will be trafficked around the city of Minneapolis.

The only way this part of the demand will change is through proactive dialogue that ultimately compels people to make better decisions regarding their own sexual wellbeing and the wellbeing of others.  We live in a time where our sexual appetites have almost no bounds.

Whether we need to change our own lives or change the way the world thinks about sex, this change begins within ourselves. Our actions and dialogue regarding these topics will ultimately lead to a shift not only in our perspective but the perspective of others, working to combat the ways a twisted idea of sex plays out in out culture.


 

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Jason Soucinek is the Executive Director and founder of Project Six19. Dedicated to talking honestly about matters of sex, sexuality and relationships. Jason has spent more than a decade engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He is an internationally recognized seminar and conference speaker and published writer on issues surrounding sexuality and youth culture. He can be heard on the CPYU podcast “Youth Culture Matters”

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A Theology Of Masturbation: Tackling One Of The Tough Questions

Yes, we want our kids to ask questions about God’s good gift of sex, gender, and sexuality. We might not be well-prepared to answer their questions, but as many parents have said to me, “It’s easier for my kids to bring up the questions rather than me!” But there’s one question that always seems to generate a period of hemming and hawing that can go on and on and on. That’s the question of masturbation.

Let’s be honest here. . . my informal surveys of an entire older generation of boys reveals they either a) indulged in auto-eroticism without borders or boundaries (“Ninety-five percent of all teenage boys say they masturbate. . . and the other five percent are liars!” . . . remember that?), b) never discussed the issue with their parents beyond hearing a one-sided “Don’t do it!”, or c) lived their lives in fear and trembling believing that they were going to go blind by the age of 19.

In today’s hyper-sexualized culture, the questions are rarely even being asked. And when a young person (or an old person) seeking to develop a healthy God-honoring approach to His good gift of sex and sexuality starts to ask questions about masturbation, most adults either go blank or have no idea how to answer. I’m fully aware that in the world of theology, and specifically youth ministry, there are a variety of perspectives on how to best answer the question.

Like all questions about sex, sexuality, and gender, this is a question that can only be answered in the context of the story in which we choose to live. If we choose to live in the cultural narrative, it’s not even a question. But for those who have been called into the biblical narrative, we need to listen diligently to that story as we faithfully ponder what God’s answer is. . . even if we don’t feel like His answer is the easiest one to accept and enlist.

Yesterday, I spotted a post on “Solo Sex and the Christian” from my friend David White at Harvest USA. I’ve spent years trying to think through the best way to hear the Scriptures speak and how to communicate those answers to the kids (and adults) I encounter who ask. David’s article is, without a doubt, the most thoughtful practical theology of masturbation I’ve ever seen. It is worth a few minutes of your time. . . and perhaps you will find it as helpful as I do.

We are all sexual strugglers at some level. . . all of us. Here’s what David writes about the struggle with masturbation. . .

One of the frequently asked questions at a Harvest USA seminar is whether masturbation is a sin. There has been a lot of debate on this issue in Christian circles, largely because it’s a behavior without a condemning, biblical proof text. Although I can’t point you to a specific chapter and verse forbidding this behavior, God’s design for sexuality makes it clear that there is no room for masturbation in the life of a Christian.

As I’ve written elsewhere, there is theological significance to our sexuality. Two things are crucial to have at the forefront when considering solo sex. First, in the Bible sexual activity is always reserved for marriage. It is designed to be inherently relational, a deep knowing of and intimacy with another. Second, the goal of sex is selfless service, the pleasuring of another. This latter point is particularly clear from 1 Corinthians 7:1-5, the only “how to” passage in the Bible prescribing sexual activity.

God designed sexuality to be like every other aspect of the Christian life: a turning away from selfish desires to honor God with my body and use it to serve others. Sex in Christian marriage should reflect the New Testament’s ethic in general. Describing discipleship, Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This is much more than a proof text for the atonement; it is the culmination of Jesus’ teaching on what it means to be his disciple.

As a solitary activity, masturbation is not rooted in relationship with another. There is no opportunity for deepening intimacy and knowing of another. Further, far from selfless service, masturbation is a picture of incarnate selfishness. To engage in this behavior is to say. . . (to keep reading, click here).

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Does The Bible Really Prohibit Sex Before Marriage?

God loves sex. The first two commands recorded in the Bible are “have dominion over creation,” and then “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:26-28). In other words, rule the world and have lots of sex. Not a bad day at the office.

Whoever said God was some cosmic killjoy? God created sex and declared it to be “good.”

Within Christian circles, it’s assumed God only wants us to have sex if we’re married. Sex outside of marriage is one of the clearest, unquestionable prohibitions in Christianity. But where does the Bible teach this? Can you name a verse?

Many will race to the Ten Commandments: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). But adultery means having sex with someone else’s spouse; it doesn’t refer to an unmarried couple sleeping together. Likewise, when Jesus condemns lust in Matthew 5, He does so in the context of adultery. In other words, we should not sexually desire another person’s spouse as our own.

God loves sex. But He’s designed us to have sex within the boundaries of a marriage covenant.

Others might turn to Leviticus 18. This “sex chapter” lists all sorts of sexual prohibitions including incest, bestiality, adultery and other sexual sins. It’s fascinating, though, that nowhere in Leviticus 18 is sex before marriage condemned.

Some might argue that when the Bible condemns “fornication” or “sexual immorality” this includes sex before marriage. And maybe it does. But this needs to be shown and not just assumed. Again, the Old Testament’s most detailed list of sexually immoral acts (Leviticus 18) does not include sex before marriage.

So Does the Bible Really Say It’s Wrong?

Before you book a hotel room and call up your girlfriend with the good news, please keep reading! Yes, the Bible does say that all forms of sex outside of marriage are wrong. Here’s how.

The early chapters of Genesis give a basic blueprint for marriage, and even though it never says “Thou shall not have sex before marriage,” it certainly suggests that sex outside of marriage flows against God’s design. God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1) is joyfully heeded by Adam and Eve after they are joined in marriage (Genesis 2:24-25; 4:1, 25). The same goes for their descendants. Noah, Shem, Abram and others all have sex and therefore have children within the confines of a marriage covenant.

When they turn to other women, such as Abraham’s sexual relations with Hagar (Genesis 16), the act was not considered an affair. Hagar was more like a modern day surrogate mother who bears a child in the place of an infertile wife. Nevertheless, these acts don’t appear to be sanctioned by God, even though they were widely accepted in Israel’s culture.

Throughout the Old Testament, it’s assumed that God designed sex for marriage. Deuteronomy condemns a soon to be wife who has had sex before marriage (Deuteronomy 22:13-19), and the love poetry contained in the Song of Songs delights in the joys of sex but reserves it for a husband and wife. Extra-marital sex is never looked upon with divine approval in the Old Testament, no matter how bright the love-flame burns.

The Role of Tradition

The Jewish tradition that flows from the Old Testament and cradles the New Testament was even more explicit in condemning pre-marital sex. For instance, it was believed that Joseph (Jacob’s favorite son) was adamant that he and his future wife, Asenath, remain pure until their wedding day. There’s nothing in the Old Testament that validates such concern; Joseph’s marriage to Asenath is only mentioned in passing (Genesis 41:45, 50-52). But the later retelling of Joseph and Asenath reflects a widespread Jewish view: Sex before marriage is sin.

And this is the ethical world that Jesus and His followers were raised in. Jews and Christians had many disagreements about what constitutes right and wrong (food laws, circumcision, strict Sabbath keeping, etc.). But when it came to sexual immorality, they found much in common. Sex before marriage was clearly condemned in Judaism, and the same goes for Christianity.

For instance, Paul—a Jew—argued that the only proper outlet for sexual desire is within marriage: “because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Again, if unmarried people can’t control their sexual desires, Paul doesn’t tell them to head to the brothel, or to their boyfriend, or their betrothed loved one. Rather, “they should marry” since “it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Corinthians 7:9). In other words, we should not satisfy our sexual passion with someone other than a spouse.

Not Just Adultery

Paul says in another passage: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

Paul’s words here can’t be limited to adultery. They clearly include all forms of sex outside of marriage. We know this because the Gentiles of the Roman world Paul refers to actually abhorred adultery and considered it a crime. However, sexual activity outside of marriage was perfectly fine—as long as it wasn’t with another man’s wife. So when Paul tells Christians to not engage in “the passion of lust like the Gentiles,” this can’t be limited to adultery. What separates Christians from other Romans was that Christians, like their Jewish brothers, believed that sex outside of marriage was sin.

Many other passages in the New Testament confirm what we see in the letters of Paul. Revelation 14:4 assumes that unmarried Christian men who desire to be faithful are not having sex. Matthew 1:18-19 celebrates the chastity of Joseph and Mary. And Hebrews 13:4 considers sex outside of marriage to be immoral: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” This verse can’t just be limited to adultery, since both “sexually immoral” and “adulterous” are listed.

God loves sex. But He’s designed us to have sex within the boundaries of a marriage covenant. To violate God’s design in an effort to lay hold of creation’s pleasure is not just foolish, but actually rejects the delights God wants us to enjoy. Sex outside of marriage mocks the Creator’s will and elevates human desire over God’s wisdom.

Christians can mess up and receive God’s free pardon. God’s scandalous grace covers all of our wrongdoings, and He dishes out such grace liberally. But it’s one thing to struggle and fail, and quite another to call sin good and wrongdoing righteousness. Christians—genuine Christians—must strive to live in line with the Creator’s intentions and celebrate the good gifts He gives to His people.

I originally published this blog as an article for Relevant Magazine 


A version of this post originally appeared on Preston’s Blog on September 15, 2016. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell (with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence (David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited (IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us (David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue (Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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Sex And The iWorld

Sex and the iWorld by Dale Kuehne is one of our favorites here at the Sexual Integrity Initiative, and when author Preston Sprinkle wrote an insightful summary on his blog, we thought we’d share it with you!

 

I just finished Dale Kuehne’s book Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationships Beyond an Age of Individualism and it was a fantastic and compelling read. Dr. Kuhne (Ph.D. Georgetown University) is a professor of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good at St. Anselm college and has been a pastor for the Evangelical Covenant Church of America. I’ve known about Kuehne’s work for about a year now and recently enjoyed a very friendly conversation with him over Skype. I learned so many things about culture, ethics, and sexuality from Kuehne’s book—too many things to reveal in this blog. I want to keep this review to a single post, so let me jump right in and summarize the book and highlight a few key take aways.

 

Summary

 

Kuehne (pronounced “Keen”) examines three different types of societies, which he labels the tWorld (t = traditional), iWorld (i = individual), and rWorld (r = relational). Specifically, he looks at how these three different worlds understand sexuality, along with related topics like anthropology, identity, relationships, and morality as a whole. In short:

 

  • The tWorld views sexual morality in traditional terms. Its primary founders were Plato, Aristotle, and the early church fathers. Sex belongs within the context of marriage between a man and women for the purpose of procreation and strengthening the marital bond between two partners. Most relations in the tWorld are given not selected—you are born into a relational matrix of family, community, and even though marriage is a choice, it becomes a relationship of obligation once you commit to it. “Hence in the tWorld the key to relational fulfillment was not to find the people with whom we most wished to relate, but to love and engage with those we had been given” (p. 37).

 

  • The iWorld represents the world we now live in (esp. in the West). Friedrich Nitzsche and the influence of the sexual revolution are the primary founders. “The iWorld makes individual freedom its non-negotiable value” (p. 67). “Freedom of individual choice…is the highest ideal of the iWorld” (p. 72). The iWorld “is predicated on the foundational belief that the expansion of individual rights will leader to increased happiness and fulfillment (p. 67). The only guidelines—Kuehne calls them “taboos”—are: (1) “One may not criticize someone else’s life choices or behaviors,” (2) “One may not behave in a manner that coerces or causes harm to others,” and (3) “one may not engage in a sexual relationship with someone without his or her consent” (p. 71 and throughout).

 

  • The rWorld is shaped by a Christian worldview and believes that intimacy and love are found in relationships—both relationships of choice and in relationships of obligation—regardless of whether these relationships are sexual. “The abundant life is a product of having an intimate love relationship with God and others, and sex has very little to do with it” (p. 161). In the rWorld, sex is a significant component of a marriage relationship, but a marriage relationship isn’t essential for human flourishing. The rWorld believes that “the sexual revolution” and the iWorld has “become so focused on finding happiness in sexuality and sensual or sensory experience that” it has missed “the love and intimacy for which our soul craves” (p. 163). “Unfettered sexual freedom can inhibit our ability to cultivate and enjoy love and intimacy” (p. 163). “In the rWorld, life is not spent searching for people to make us happy but is instead spent cultivating the relationships we already have” (p. 180).

 

Kuehne makes clear that the tWorld is not the same as the rWorld, even though there is some overlap. While the tWorld has many good things about it, it also devalued women, cultivated patriarchal marriages, and fostered societal systems of inequality. While Kuehne is very critical of the iWorld, he does admit some progress it has brought to society including equality among people and healthy tolerance for diverse cultures to exist together.

 

However, the rWorld is the best path for human flourishing and yet it stands diametrically opposed to theiWorld. “The aims of the two worlds are mutually exclusive” (p. 203). You cannot turn individual humans loose and expect this to produce a society where humans will mutually flourish.

 

Highlights

 

There were so many thoughtful points made throughout the book—way too many to highlight. Here are two of the most salient ones that gave my highlighter a run for its money.

 

Sex and Human Flourishing

 

As stated above, even though the ethics of the iWorld assumes that sex and sexual fulfillment is essential to human flourishing, Kuehne argues that this is simply untrue. We’ve been conditioned to think and feel this way; the propaganda of our hypersexualized age is overwhelming and it would be the pinnacle of ignorance to think that human desires are unaffected by our cultural narrative. Like a fish that doesn’t know what “wet” feels like, we swim through a sea of sexual propaganda unaware of how profoundly our cultural narrative shapes our desires. (This, of course, was a major point in Jonathan Grant’s book Divine Sex.) The iWorld is telling us that a person who’s not having sex is not a fulfilled person.

 

As this reasoning goes, if sex is an essential aspect of human fulfillment, then if Christians, or anyone else, are missing out on sex, and if God wishes us to have the most fulfilling life possible, then that which stands in the way of this fulfillment—divorce, remarriage, or cohabitation—must not be wrong after all. (p. 160).

 

We’ve actually lost sight of ancient wisdom. “The notion that sex was an essential part of human happiness was not in the consciousness of people in that time and place. Sex was considered to be a drive, an appetite, and a necessary means of procreation” (p. 162). But sex wasn’t seen as essential to intimate relationships or human flourishing. Sex is an important aspect of marriage. It “will sometimes produce children” and “provide a bond for the marriage that is useful in holding a married couple together. But sex in itself will not be the catalyst for happiness or fulfillment because that is not its innate purpose” (p. 162). Therefore, the hypersexualizing of our culture actually prevents us from finding and experiencing true, lasting, love and intimacy.

Unfortunately, the evangelical church has bought into the cultural narrative unknowingly. “Contrary to some contemporary popular evangelical theology, the two great commandments are not to get married and have sex” (p. 162). The idolatry of marriage (and therefore sex) in evangelicalism is actually hindering human flourishing, especially for those who are made to feel like unfulfilled second class citizens in God’s kingdom because they aren’t married.

 

Discovering our True Identity

 

The second salient point of Kuehne’s book is scattered throughout but comes to fruition in the final chapter. It has to do with discovering our true identity. Kuehne argues that the iWorld has wrongly searched for human identity by looking within ourselves rather than outside ourselves. Instead of asking the question, “Who are we” the iWorld asks the question “Who am I” and gives the individual the keys to discovering who they are by looking within. “Self-discovery and authenticity, not birth and nature, become the new source of human identity” (p. 209). Instead of seeing human identity as “something we derive from a common nature”—we are humans created in God’s image and designed to live according to His will—we view it as “an individual’s quest for self-understanding” where “people are encouraged to look within to find their true self and live lives that authentically reflect who they discover themselves to be” (p. 209).

 

This is where the iWorld and rWorld fundamentally disagree.

 

The iWorld sees the formation of self-understanding as primarily an individualistic enterprise…The rWorld, however, believes that we come to know who we are only by first coming to know our true human nature through relating with god and other persons. Then we can make sense of our individual characteristics (p. 212).

 

After the individual comes to discover who they are by looking within, morality is dictated by living out who they really are. But this confuses the “is” and the “ought.” Even if you can discover who you are by looking within, this doesn’t in itself sanction the morality of living according to who you are, as David Hume used to say “You cannot derive an ought from an is!” (p. 160). Even if we rely on science to tell us who we are—common in the sexuality and gender debates—“Science can tell us what is, but it cannot tell us how we ought to act” (p. 52).

Conclusion

 

One of the most helpful points made in the book is that we are still living in a transition between the tWorld and iWorld (p. 45, cf. 207, 213-14). That is, even from a purely, secular perspective, no one knows whether the iWorld’s promises of human flourishing are empirically true. Does sexual freedom lead to societal flourishing? Does letting individuals discover and determine their own identity and morality lead to human flourishing? Do biblical guidelines about sexuality and gender hinder human flourishing or promote it? Does the iWorld’s expanded definition of marriage lead to greater societal flourishing or does it lead to more long-term harmful effects on families, children, and society as a whole? Should sex be separated from marriage and procreation? Does consensual divorce enhance human happiness?

 

Empirically, we cannot answer any of these questions yet, because we haven’t lived in the iWorld’s way of doing things long enough. All the iWorld offer at this point is some individuals who say “it works for me” or “I’m happy” or “I’m flourishing.” But it cannot say we are flourishing. And since the iWorld doesn’t possess a moral code outside the individual, it has no way to measure whether its way of living is actually good for the human community. Not yet, at least. We have to wait several generations to see if the iWorld’s way of doing things will lead to greater, lasting happiness among humans.

 

So far, the trajectory is not looking so good. If you look at where things are going—depression and suicide rates, loneliness and anxiety, addictions, sexual dysfunctions, children born out of wedlock, lack of sexual and relational fulfillment, the global destruction of pornography—things aren’t faring too well for the iWorld’s ability to deliver what it’s promised, even by its own standards.

 

Perhaps the Christian vision for human flourishing might be on to something.

 


A version of this post originally appeared on Preston’s Blog on December 16, 2016. Used by permission.

Preston

Dr. Preston Sprinkle has authored several books, including the New York Times bestselling Erasing Hell (with Francis Chan; 2011), Fight; A Christian Case for Nonviolence (David C. Cook, 2013), Paul and Judaism Revisited (IVP, 2013),  Charis: God’s Scandalous Grace for Us (David C. Cook, 2014), and the recently released People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality is Not Just an Issue (Zondervan, 2015), and the newest Grace//Truth 1.0: Five Conversations Every Thoughtful Christian Should Have About Faith, Sexuality & Gender (2017). Dr. Sprinkle also hosts a daily radio program titled: “Theology in the Raw?” and frequently speaks at various venues including college chapels, churches, music festivals, youth camps, family camps, and anywhere else where people desire to hear relevant Bible teaching. Preston has been married to Chrissy for 15 years and together they have 4 children.

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The Not-So-Obvious Reason People Hate Sexual Restraint

I think I’ve figured out why people hate the idea of sexual restraint.

There’s of course the obvious reason: it’s real difficult to practice sexual restraint. It doesn’t sound fun, easy, or like anything that’s going to make you a member of the cool kid’s club.

But I think there’s a deeper reason our culture hates the idea of sexual restraint: We reject anything that appears to curb our personal freedom and by extension our self-fulfillment.

In 2017, we now live in a time where the height of self-actualization is dependent on our ability to live into our personal freedoms. This could be the freedom to pack up and be a nomad, freedom to practice any religion, freedom from a 9 to 5 job, the freedom to have sex with whomever we want and even the freedom to choose our own gender.

It’s the same foundational reason people reject Christianity; Christianity, with its instructions not to live into any and every whim and impulse, appears to be a religion clinging to a God who is both angrily conservative and a killjoy, one who wants to slowly eliminate the parts of ourselves that offend him; namely, the personal freedoms people believe they have a right to.

Sex is a point of special contention in the quest for fulfillment through absolute freedom.

One doesn’t need to look far to be inundated with the cultural belief that having sex whenever, however and with whomever is an act one is entitled to, a fundamental right that represents personal fulfillment through sexual identity and practice. Sex, and how we practice it and with whom, has become a facet of who we assert ourselves to be in our western culture. To ask someone to not have sex is not only perceived as unfair but as a violation of one’s very identity.

It does seem unfair sometimes, I know. But people perceive sexual restraint as unjust only when they do not understand how sexual restraint was divinely designed to impact our life.

I come from a generation that grew up in the nineties and were formed through messages about “purity” and kissing dating goodbye. The message of waiting my peers and I grew up with was one of straight-laced behavior modification and deeply conservative messages about modesty, sex, intimacy and dating, rather than an understanding of God’s big picture for sex.

As a result, we rebelled. Chastity was a prison – sex on our terms represented liberation.

What my generation now fails to see is that the restraint God commands of us, both in regards to sex and other areas of our life, is actually designed to give us freedom. If God is asking us to deny ourselves sex outside of a marriage relationship, it is because he has a grander design for our freedom: emotional freedom, spiritual freedom and freedom from the things that ultimately work against us and others.

God gives us boundaries in order to give us freedom.

For example, the ten commandments aren’t a list of rules simply for the sake of being rules – they represent certain boundaries to place on our lives because these boundaries keep us whole, healthy and free from sometimes disastrous consequences.

Think about it: ultimate freedom can actually have hugely detrimental effects on us, especially when it comes to sex.

If my conviction regarding sex is that freedom is my right, it won’t be long before I see just how detrimental absolute freedom can be. Freedom to sleep with whoever I want, whenever I want, can lead to emotional baggage, lowered self-esteem, emotional confusion, hurt feelings, etc. (and hey, maybe it won’t lead to these things – but it certainly opens the door to them).

It can also lead to physical baggage like STD’s or STI’s, which in turn lead to even more emotional hardship. There’s a lot there. Complete sexual freedom puts us at a higher risk of not only hurting ourselves, but hurting others as well. Sexual freedom impacts our self-identity and both our current and future relationships.

But the freedom God seeks to give us in sex are relationships and self-identities that are not defined by sex and everything that can come with it. By choosing to practice sexual restraint, we invite into our lives a whole host of freedoms:

The freedom to cultivate a relationship that is truly based on knowing one another and not clouded by sexual intimacy.

The freedom from shame.

The freedom to not worry about STD’s, STI’s or pregnancy.

The freedom in marriage from comparison (if both partners have practiced waiting).

The spiritual freedom that is cultivated in our minds and hearts when our actions are aligned with God’s desire for us.

God’s boundaries for us do not limit our self-identity – rather, they allow us to find our true identity (and freedom) in Christ.

Freedom is the divine purpose behind sexual self-restraint.

Julia writes about relationships, faith and identity at hellosoulblog.com.

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Matt Lauer, Teachable Moments, and Theologizing About Sexuality and Sin

Trending. . . Matt Lauer. . . at number one on my news feed. As of this morning, one of the voices that’s been sharing the growing cascade of #metoo stories over the last few weeks is now the subject of those stories himself. I watched as visibly rattled co-workers Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb explained Lauer’s absence on this morning’s Today Show.

How did you react when you heard the story? What thoughts went through your mind?

At times like this, I’ve learned that it might actually be a wiser move to focus on my own thoughts/reaction than on the story and its subject. And I’m not at all proud of the fact that the learning curve on this skill took much more time for me than it should have. And, I’m still tempted to default to focus on guys like Matt Lauer than on myself. That’s a blatant confession.

Upon seeing the news pop up in my feed this morning, I experienced a bit of jolt. Matt Lauer??? Come on. But that jolt very quickly morphed into the thought of “sad but not surprised” . . . a consequence of years and years of watching culture, pondering the reality of human depravity, and looking more deeply into my own broken and messed-up heart. This isn’t the last one of these stories we’re going to hear. . . not at all.

What is that you do with news like this? I think that there’s great value in self-evaluating how each of us evaluates and responds to these kinds of stories. In other words, before getting on with the rest of our day, it’s a good thing to theologize about, to learn from, and to think about how to process these stories with our own selves and with the kids we know and love.

I’ve been working on doing that this morning. In fact, I’ve put other tasks aside for the simple reason that my mind’s been racing. Here are some of my initial, typically-incomplete, and hopefully-helpful thoughts. . .

First, if your initial reaction is a smug, self-assured, disapproving finger wag in the direction of Matt Lauer and others like him. . . well, that’s quite telling. I’m ashamed to admit that in years past I was more prone to head immediately down this Pharisaical avenue than I am now. . . I hope. It’s easy to default into self-righteous finger-wagging when the subject of the story is someone who doesn’t share your views on faith and life, and who is one who sometimes pushes back hard on your views of faith and life. Let’s be honest here. . . if you’re a person of Christian faith you are tempted and even beyond tempted to rejoice in the downfall of folks who think, believe, and behave differently. But when that happens, we really aren’t thinking, believing, and behaving differently. Our actions prove that. Nor are we bringing honor and glory to the One who saved us when we had absolutely no hope at all of saving ourselves.

Second, if you politicize this and other stories like it, then you are making a horrible, horrible mistake. The reality is that this isn’t a political issue. It’s a human nature issue. It’s not an issue for either just conservatives or liberals. It’s evidence of a universal struggle. Sexual brokenness, temptation, and sin in thought, word, and deed is no respecter of persons, faith commitments, or political views. Whenever someone uses the issue as political or ideological ammo. . . no matter who they are. . . well shame on them. And shame on me if I cave into that temptation.

Third, this is a time to remember this rock-solid truth: “There but for the grace of God go I.” While my own human depravity should never be used as an excuse to write-off or justify the sin of others (or God-forbid, my own sin), I must also never forget that if I’m honest with myself, “there but for the grace of God go I.” And while I must reckon with the ever-present enemy of my own depravity and the one who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour,” I must always “stay alert” and watching out for this enemy who would love nothing more than to take me down. And, we all need to be reminded that even he might not be successful in taking us down through sexual sin, any self-righteous gloating over the fact is an indicator that he is very sneaky in other ways. . . like taking us down through pride.

And finally, today’s story and others like it offer us great opportunities to teach our kids in ways that will equip them for a sober-minded life which makes them continually aware of the enemy within. It was timely that even before seeing the story on Matt Lauer this morning, I prayed these words from today’s entry in Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers book: “Protect us from the evil one, and rescue us from ourselves.”

One good sin never deserves another. That’s why we need to spend so much time looking inward at ourselves. Today’s story is not one that should teach us about Matt Lauer. Why? Because in so many ways Matt Lauer is each one of us. Because of that, this is an opportunity to learn even more about ourselves and to teach our kids the increasingly-forgotten skill of doing the same.

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Looking For Sexual Clarity

In just a few more than 50 years, our media culture has gone from treating matters of sexuality as a hush-hush topic (your grandparents remember a time when you couldn’t even say the word “pregnant” on TV!) to putting all kinds of sexual practices and issues center-stage. That certainly has been the case in the past few months as a variety of high profile stories regarding (among others things) sexual assault, molestation, abuse and gender reassignment have filled everything from the news to reality TV.

I’ve been working hard to think more about the issues than the personalities involved. I’ve been trying to frame these stories in the bigger picture of our sexuality, God’s sex story, and the sexual stories our culture is communicating to us all. A recent walk through 2 Samuel took me to chapter 11 and the gut-wrenching story of David and Bathsheeba. After reading, I jotted some thoughts I found helpful to me, and which I hope are helpful to others (parents and youth workers)  as we engage in discussions with kids about all matters sexual.

First, we cannot deny or forget that sexual desire and curiosity is a good thing that we should expect to exist in all humanity. God is the Sexual Gift Giver, and we are the recipients of this good and wonderful gift. Sadly, the church has failed miserably to communicate this reality. Failing to see how our sexuality was made by God right at the start, woven in and through us, and given to us as a gift for our flourishing…well…we not only fail to communicate good theology, but our silence and uneasiness with things sexual communicates a horribly flawed theology of our sexuality, which leaves young and old alike scrambling to figure out how to understand and live out these powerful drives and desires. Our silence communicates that sex and sexuality is shameful. Could this be why Christian fundamentalism is a hotbed for sexual sin? While the church sometimes erroneously tells God’s story void of sexuality, the culture is guilty of telling a sexual story void of its rightful place in God’s story. We all struggle to get it right, but get it right we must.

 Second, all people are horribly broken. Our sexuality is broken, too. Yes, we need a robust and realistic theology of sin. When we understand human depravity, we will not be surprised by revelations of sexual sin. Perhaps more important, a robust and realistic theology of sin should leave us looking inward with great fear and trembling. “Know yourself” is a mantra I tell myself all the time. What I should know more than anything else are my points of weakness. As I tell youth workers all the time, “You are just one bad decision away from being a headline.” As sinners ourselves, we must be sure to help our kids see their default sexual setting is to rebel against God’s good plan for sex and do the wrong thing.

Third, we are responsible for developing self-discipline, including in our sexuality. Peter issued this warning in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I don’t know about you, but I easily can downplay and forget the unseen battle that rages all around and inside all of us. Mistake. Have you ever read the first three chapters of Genesis? Why is redemption necessary? Why is our world so broken? Know yourself. Know your default settings. Know your unique issues and temptations. Know your triggers. Don’t go where you can’t go. Seek accountability and help. If someone you know comes to you and says you have a problem and need help—listen.

Finally, in a do-anything and hypersexualized world, we will do anything and everything as we allow our lives to revolve around the idol of sexuality. Honestly, I’m surprised we’re not hearing more stories such as this. I believe that in time and in the very near future, we will be hearing more and more stories as a generation of kids nurtured by a boundary-less and border-less ambient sexuality comes of age. Sadly, many of the stories will involve victims and perpetrators who haven’t yet come of age. That’s called age-compression. As I always say, “Culture is the soup that our kids swim and marinate in 24/7.” If that’s the case, we shouldn’t be surprised at how they are flavored. Is it possible that we might be moving from a world where that which is secret sin becomes an open celebration? Then there’s the schizophrenic mixed messages our culture sends to our developmentally vulnerable and easily influenced kids, things such as, “Go ahead and look at this!” but, “Don’t you ever do this!” This is where so much of the difficulty arises. Right is still right, and wrong is still wrong. People ultimately are responsible for themselves and should be held accountable for their decisions and actions. I’m not sure we can stand and point accusing fingers without any blame at all when we’ve been part of the horribly flawed nurturing process through commission or omission.

 Our culture is talking about sexuality. We need to do the same. In doing so, we must redeem this horribly misunderstood and misused good gift of God!
All this said, I want to issue an invitation to my youth worker friends who want to think and strategize in deep and meaningful ways on the topic of biblical sexuality. This January 15-18, Duffy Robbins and I will be gathering a select group of 25 people on the beautiful campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, for a Symposium on Youth Ministry where we will be hunkering down to strategize together on the topic of “Traditional Biblical Sexuality in a Changing Youth Culture.” Here’s the descriptor we wrote for our upcoming days together: As debates about human sexuality dominate classrooms, coffee shops, and social media, youth ministers committed to a traditional Biblical ethic may struggle to find their voice. Some may wonder if there is a safe space in which to form a theologically informed and nuanced approach to these charged and complex issues. Join Dr. Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent Youth Understanding and Dr. Duffy Robbins of Eastern University for an intensive multi-day symposium to deepen your own Biblical and theological foundations, to broaden your apologetic for affirming the goodness of expressing sexual intimacy within the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, and to strengthen your pastoral skills in helping youth live out these truths. This Symposium presumes participants’ affirmation of a historic, orthodox Christian sexual ethic and will be building from this premise, not debating it. Participation is limited to 25 to allow for deep exploration of these issues and will require some preparatory work and active involvement in the Symposium.
If you are interested in learning more and to register, click here.
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