I’ve been thinking a lot about what we tell girls at the pregnancy clinic when they come in for a pregnancy test. It’s something that weighs heavy on my mind.
I started volunteering there to help stop abortion. Killing people seems to be wrong in just about every religion. You can even argue that killing babies before they are born is wrong from a secular, humanist standpoint. I watch these women do their best every day to warn others about abortion and what it does to the baby they are carrying and themselves. It may seem like raising a child or having one and giving him or her to another family to raise is difficult, but it’s nothing compared to the emotional trauma you will go through if you decide to kill that child before it is born at any stage of development. We can justify it to the ends of the earth, dress it up in flowery and medical language, but our human minds know by instinct what we’ve done, and the dissonance runs through the rest of our lives whether we face it or not. What we do at the clinic is try to show women that they are capable of doing great things, so that aborting that child is the furthest thing from their mind not the first and easiest option to an unexpected pregnancy.
But that’s not what’s got me thinking this time. Recently, I’ve learned more and more about what we tell girls about sex and their bodies. We promote abstinence from sex before marriage as the one and only option, whether or not they are Christians. And we do it by attempting to scare them into abstinence by telling them they will get horrible incurable diseases that they will unknowingly spread to others and possibly die from. Not only do I believe this is not true, I just don’t think it is effective.
What would I do? What do I tell my son or daughter? I have told them that sex is a beautiful, awesome and, yes, a super fun thing to do. But like Peter Parker’s uncle said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” As Christians, we believe that sex between a husband and wife is the only place you can do it and be safe. If we stay faithful to our spouse and take the vows we made seriously, we satisfy that need to be physically close to another human while protecting that person from harm both physically and emotionally.
But what if you are not a Christian? What if you don’t have a religion at all? Does telling them that sex outside of marriage is forbidden by God effective? Does attempting to scare them into not having sex work for anyone? I don’t think so. But there does seem to be an alternative.
What if we used secular, humanistic methods instead when talking to people that aren’t of our own faith? What if we gave them the medical facts about sex instead? We could counsel them on monogamy, sex with one stable partner at a time. We could counsel them about how to avoid bringing a child into the world before they are ready to provide a stable two-parent home for them, other than killing it after it is conceived. We could counsel them on the importance of staying medically clean, that there are ways to protect themselves from disease and that they should be seeing a doctor often to be sure they are still clean and if they aren’t, to be treated before they spread that disease on to their next partner. Personally, I would have liked to hear more about other kinds of birth control when I was younger.
A doctor tends to be busy and one-sided. As volunteer counselors, we have the time and the sensitivity to help people explore what’s out there. We could be helping them to better understand their bodies, their needs, and pointing them to places to get more information. These things would be far more effective in preventing the spread of disease, future child abuse and neglect, and killing the unborn.
But as a Christian, shouldn’t I be promoting what God has commanded for us? Of course! But I say treat the symptoms first, so no worse harm is done, and then start looking at the cause. When we are sick, we take the medicine to bring down the fever before we find out what is causing it. We should be living happy, content, and fulfilling lives, so much so that when people see us they wonder what it is that gives us that peace. I’d rather start by telling a lost young person about the love I find in Jesus and how my relationship with the Father has given me a new sense of pride and responsibility in this world. When that young person begins to have that same relationship, they begin to feel the love that compels them to behave in different ways. That’s when we start to talk about what a real earthly relationship is supposed to be like. That’s when the drug use, the alcohol, and the promiscuous sex can stop. I want them to know God loves them even on drugs, even if they are angry, and even if they are prostituting themselves. Once we begin to really feel that love, we begin to love ourselves.
When we love ourselves, we act in better, more loving and responsible ways. Until these children hear and feel the love of God in their lives, can’t we try to mitigate the damage they can do to themselves and others?