Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Abstinence hurts??

Sometimes I feel like a liberal but I guess my upbringing in religious N.I. has resulted in me being quite conservative in reality.

Therefore I found the article I was reading today uncomfortable. I used to volunteer with Christian Aid. As it is World Aids Day this Saturday I wanted to read up on the current issues. I found an article on the C.A. website quite shocking.

They are basically saying that Christians should not teach abstinence as it is causing people to catch HIV. They claim that (according to their partners) the teaching of abstinence is fueling the AIDS pandemic.

Here are some quotes that Christian Aid have included in their article:

In the US, the much-publicised True Love Waits programme, under which teenagers vow to keep their virginity until marriage, has left young people vulnerable to unwanted pregnancies and sexually-transmitted infections.

'Abstaining is not realistic. The church says to abstain, but it is a lie. It is better to tell the truth and use a condom.’

'I stand on the side of comprehensive programmes. Abstinence alone does not work; we have to face reality. Abstinence preaching is unrealistic, and it is not Christian.

‘Those who preach abstinence are running away from responsibility, not facing life.’

I am passionate about the world finding a way to end the spread of HIV/AIDS. I understand where they're coming from but find it really hard to accept. Firstly in the light of scripture and secondly in my own experience of 27 years, in which I have found that abstinence is difficult but definitely possible.

You can find article here.

I would love to be better informed by those with more knowledge. Any thoughts?


Alain Emerson said...

John, great post bro. We are not saying people have to abtsain (people have to make their own choices) but to suggest that presenting abstinence as an option is suicide is going far to far i think and surprising to say the least.

Anonymous said...

In response to Alain's comment, i must say that it is the first time in Northern Ireland that I have ever heard/read abstinence presented for Christians as a choice. 'Thou shalt not have sex before marriage' was always up there with 'Thou shalt not drink alcohol' as commandments no 11 and 12. It took me 9 years studying and working in England to start to begin to reconcile the authoritarian religion I thought was Christianity with a little of the freedom of God's grace.

Surely it's a choice along with all the other things we make choices about (putting extra hours down on the time sheet, nicking paperclips from work, etc) while trying to be the people that God wants.

Does God view it as any bigger or smaller than our hypocrisy or stretching the truth? It's just something that's a million times harder to resist.

Do we accentuate the issue coming from a very biased Northern Irish perspective?


Molar said...

Hmmm...like you John, I see what they are saying. However, it is clear that abstinence before marriage is very Christian; it shows respect for the opposite sex by not sleeping with every third person, it shows respect for your own bosy (created by God) by not opening yorself up to the physical (STDs) and spirtual (becoming one flesh) with multiple partners.

It is very shocking that a Christian organisation would say this; there is pragmatism (namely the realisation that many who aren't Christian may sleep around, and what our response should be to that) and then there is downright anti-biblical, anti-christian teaching.

I like to think of myself as a fairly liberal guy, but on this issue I have to call a spade a spade-it is very dangerous to say that abstinence before marriage (for all the reasons listed above) is not a moral responsibility for the Christian.

Sorry about the rant. Good blog

Anonymous said...

okay, which is the more morally responsible: A) we're not going to have sex, we're not going to have sex, oooops i'm pregnant (feel like shit because let myself everyone else down and the whole world, including all non christians that are watching thinks 'how hypocritical') or B)i won't sleep with every 3rd person because that's just rubbish but this is a pretty serious relationship, if we decide that we probably will have sex then at least be sensible about it?

davymull said...

interesting discussion...

lms - interested to know what you learnt in England. Does the 'freedom of God's grace' give us license to do what we want?
You compare sex before marriage to nicking paper clips, being hypocritical, stretching the truth. Surely we aren't to legitimise our actions by comparing them to other 'wrong' actions.

Anonymous2- you forgot to include C) That it's actually possible to abstain and not have sex before marriage!
Yes it may be hard but is possible.

Anonymous said...

Davy, yes, you are right, apologies. i was too hasty in replying to molar's post. i think my intention was to point out that not everyone who has sex before marriage sleeps with every third person, and that it is not always morally irresponsible to have sex before marriage.

Alain Emerson said...

Ims (anonymous)
I must not have mademyself clear. I am a firm believer that GOd's way is that a man and woman have sex within the boundaries of marriage and anything outside of this grieves him.

I was simply stating that in the wider world we cannot make other peoples choices for them. We therefore cannot always expect people to abstain (although we should present it as an option). As christains we are called I believe to continue to love and care for those who have made wrong choices and continue to help educate them in a way that is helping them to be responsible and respectful to themselves and others.

Jbam said...

Harrowing statistics suggest that 95% of those affected with HIV/AIDS live in developing countries, with a large proportion of that being in Sub Saharan Africa. I think Christian Aid are prob coming at it from their partners in the field, where HIV/AIDS is a reality not an abstract statistic. All kinds of cultural heritage will come into play here. Things that are acceptable here and understood have a whole other meaning elsewhere. E.G. Christian student group faced with a decision recently. Do they give out condoms with HIV/AIDS literature to Northern Irish students? I would have said not as many would interoperate this as an excuse to have sex with the approval of a Christian?? On a South African township this is a very different story...

Abstinence is possible, no doubt. However, for too long we have imposed a blue print on developing nations without understanding what is relevant FOR THEM!


J-Mac said...

I agree with all of that J(ohn)BAM(artin). You is a wise man!

Would you not agree with Al though that (even on a SA township) abstinence should still be presented as an option?

That's what surprised me most about the article....they seem to be suggesting that it's not even an possible alternative, even in the West!

jbam said...

Brian Andrew are the middle to just in case your wondering. Yea i totally agree, it takes people to live it out in front of them, so leadership from Christians (aka the Church) is key is guess.

dave wiggins said...

well ... commenting here as a sexual health expert. i do believe, as someone who is living to please Jesus, that abstinence until marriage is the best option emotionally, spiritually and physically. However, not everone lives to please Jesus? I personally believe that no matter what the culture is, what the age group is, what the colour is, we should all be taught that abstinence is the best policy, to be given the support and encouragement to live this way. I also think that people should be given information on contraception and sti's alongside this, with the emphasis still being on waiting. Having said all that, there are lots of people in the world who just want to have sex at whatever cost and i think it is responsible to give them sound medical advice. Also, a lot of Christians speak about abstinence and living an abstinent life, might not have intercourse but engage in other activities that could leave them with a sexually transmitted infection too. Yes, the article was weird and hard to swallowbut as usual, nothing is black and white.

Dave Wiggins GNVQ Business Studies
OCN Level 3 Youth Work
OCN Level 3 Sex Health


Alan said...

A few years ago I worked in Kibera (the largest shanty town in Africa - quite a claim).
One of the problems associated with the AIDS issue is ignorance. What causes it? and What stops it?
These are not matters of faith.

Christains are entitled to make choices based on faith (and to explain this is part of their faith), but telling people who have little access to education or other sources to help make informed decision that they should wait til their big day is equivalent to handing out a death sentence. With some adults (in Africa) believing sex with a non-infected person cures them leading to a massive rise in child rapes.
The Roman Catholic church have been very anti-condom in Africa (the only real non-abstinence method which will prevent AIDS) claiming that condoms will not protect you from AIDS, as the virus can penetrate the condom, is more about the fear of losing control of their congregation than in saving them from death.

John, you are bang on that abstinence through peer pressure is likely to fail, Christains should inform people about the perceived pros and cons, but this should not be part of a health message as it is potentially exploiting the vulnerable.

As a non-abstainer I don't accept the Christain premise of waiting. But then I am not a Christain either so its not a matter of faith for me.

Anonymous said...

I think we may have misinterpreted each other. The Christian way of dealing with sex can often be presented as 'you are not allowed, end of story'. But God does not twist arms up peoples back, he does not take away free will when they become Christians, rather he says that if you want to please Him (which Christins do, per se)you will wait. It is still a CHOICE, it's just that Chistians will ineveitable choose to abstain. The problem then is how this is viewed by the world. They see Christians not having sex and perceive it as 'they are Christians, so they can't', whereas it is more of a case of 'they are Christians, so they choose not to'.

Anonymous said...

yes, I compared having sex to nicking paperclips. My intention was not to legitimise by comparing to other wrong actions. (Btw, when you put wrong in quotes, are you implying that putting extra hours on timesheet, nicking paperclips and being hypocritical is not wrong?) Rather I was using the argument that sin is sin is sin. Unless you are implying that there is a sliding scale of sins? (All sins are wrong, but some are more wrong than others?)
I have no issue, however, with the fact that there is a sliding scale of implications and consequences of sins, ie. the consequences of sex before marriage can be slightly more serious than those of nicking paperclips.
What may be a pertinent question is: do we culturally perceive sexual sins as more wrong and more sinful just because of what it is, whereas we perceive more innocent sins to be more okay?
ps. I'm not trying to legitimise sexual sin here, it's just a question!

Anonymous said...

just thinking bout the whole issue of soul ties .not only the physical scarring but also the spiritual scarring. i think as christian leaders it is our responsibility to expose satans schemes to entrap our young people binding themseeking to rob steal and destroy.god does not give us rulesa to annoy us us but that we may choose life and life more abundantly .

Molar said...

Let me repeat a key sentence of what I said for anon...

"there is pragmatism (namely the realisation that many who aren't Christian may sleep around, and what our response should be to that) and then there is downright anti-biblical, anti-christian teaching"

I wholeheartedly believe that each person will, and indeed should, make their own minds up in this issue. However, as I christian, I believe and indeed am compelled to say that for those who follow christ, then abstinence is key. However, for those who slip up, I wont be judgemental, I will support, love and encourage them regardless of any mistake they make (we are still human).

However, I just don't think it is an option to say that maybe its ok as a christian to partake in premarital sex as long as you practice safe sex. As a christian, sex is kept within marriage. If you're not a follower of christ, then that is your choice to make.

Hope that makes my viewpoint clearer?!

Ralph said...

I believe sleeping with someone means that you are married to that person.
This is why it hurts like Hell, if you break up after sex.
Take it from me, sex before marrige is all wrong, and extremely hurtful for a Christian.
Non Christian's will do as they please, only after recieving the true light of the gospel, will you think abstainence is right.
Is it just me, or is standing for what is right getting harder.
When you see Christian Aid saying things like this, what's it all coming to.
My opinion for what it's worth is this, only those who have a love for the Lord will see the truth.
Many shall be decieved, and all ready are.
Fight the good fight my brothers for we know what harms our soul, because we love him.