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Understanding Homosexuality

abstinence, Christianity, conscience, culture, news, Rick Warren, same-sex attraction, social science 1 comment

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

Last Tuesday, evangelical pastor Rick Warren appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” to discuss the controversial question whether people are born gay or develop gay attractions.

With the recent political campaign we have heard this topic covered in the media as gay activists are pushing for same sex marriage to be legal. As of November it is legal in 9 different states.

After listening to Rick Warren’s statement I realized that at the core of the debate is our understanding of what it means to identify as gay. We need to talk about this issue and not just fight the legal battles. Talking helps plant the seed that will start people thinking about what it means to have gay attractions versus acting upon those attractions.

The first step in talking about it is to make a clear distinction about what sexual orientation means, as Peter Sprigg explains in “Debating Homosexuality: Understanding Two Views.” Sexual orientation is an umbrella term for three different aspects of sexuality: sexual attraction, when one is sexually attracted to someone of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both; sexual conduct, whether the individual chooses to act upon that attraction; and self-identification, whether the individual thinks of himself as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “straight.”

Gay lobbyists assume that all three are consistent with one another, but based on the research, that is clearly not true.

Should an individual who feels attracted to someone of the same sex (because of the environment he or she has been exposed to, peer pressure, loneliness, or some internal self-identification) act upon these attractions? No, not necessarily.

We all have tendencies that aren’t in accordance with our God-given nature, but it doesn’t mean we choose to engage them.  As Pastor Rick Warren explained, “I have all kinds of feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it.”

So, what if someone responds, “I was born this way, I cannot change my attractions”? To this we can answer, first, that the research has not found any “gay gene” or related biological issue that proves someone is born with gay attractions, but that it’s a result of a complex mix of developmental factors. For instance, MARRI research shows that a young woman is more likely to experiment with a lesbian partner if she was raised in a non-intact family.

Second, as Pastor Rick mentioned, we can all be drawn to something that is not good for us or that is not according to our nature, but that doesn’t make it right. He gave the following example: “Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right.”

Those individuals who feel same-sex attractions should be treated with the same respect and kindness we treat any person, but that does not mean we should embrace their actions. We must fight to defend an understanding of sexuality that is in accord with our human nature and human dignity.

In order to do that we must first understand the core of homosexuality: attractions exist, but attractionsare not actions. This is especially important for helping adolescents who are confused by a false explanation of same-sex attraction or caught up in homosexual behaviors. Young people should be educated about the moral nature of every decision they make, including their sexual decisions.

The State of a Woman’s Union

abstinence, Christianity, cohabitation, feminism, intact family, marriage, religion, sexuality, teen pregnancy, women's health No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern
 

Dear Florida,

I heard that you are spending $45,000to research women’s sexuality within your borders.  Apparently, this information is quite valuable to you.  I know you are offering gift cards if women will complete surveys on this topic.  Good news, I think I can provide you with some answers to your search – no gift card necessary. 

Abundant research has shown that disruption within a family structure increases the likelihood of sexual debut for children. “Women whose parents separated during childhood are more likely to have an out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancy, and men with divorced or separated parents are more likely to father a child with a teenage mother.”  As expected, women from intact-married families have the lowest risk of teenage sexual debut, and fewer partners.  Marriage positively affects not only the children, but also the man and woman in the union.  Since your survey touches on a woman’s emotional well-being in relation to sex, you really should know that married couples find their sexual relationship more satisfying than cohabiters do.”

Based on your survey’s questions, I see you are curious about religious affiliation.  You were wise to ask.  According to MARRI’s publication “The Benefits of Religious Worship,” females who attend religious worship weekly are less likely than their peers to sexually debut as a teen, have a premarital pregnancy, or abort their first pregnancy. The Christian abstinence program “True Love Waits” produces similar effects for its participants.  The American Journal of Sociology’s article “Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse” reports that, on average, pledging decreases the risk of sexual debut even for those in a dating relationship. 

Combining regular worship attendance with an always-intact family bolsters these effects.  As seen in diagrams here, hereand here, MARRI research verifies that teens attending weekly worship with an always-intact family are least likely to sexually debut as a teen or have a premarital pregnancy. 

Florida, you mentioned your hope “to design the state’s service offerings, including pamphlets and counseling,” based on the survey’s findings. How about offering marriage counseling to strengthen families?  What if your pamphlets included the benefits of an abstinence pledge? 

Well, I hope this letter has helped.  In case you find the survey a bit superfluous now, it is almost Christmas, and gift cards make great gifts.

Belonging to the Exception

abortion, abstinence, conscience, economics, education, family, MARRI No comments

By Lindsay Smith, Intern

Over the weekend, I was privileged to attend a lecture taught by a woman who devotes her life to pregnancy center and maternity home ministries.  Her presentation focused on the differences among generations, and how to best reach and engage the current generation, Gen Y (born 1977-1995).  According to her notes, my generation has the most disposable income and is very technologically gifted, but we also suffer from short attention spans and the inability to discern actions and consequences.  On average, Gen Y is passively characterized by (and too often actively boasts in) high levels of sexual promiscuity.  Highly influenced by the media, Gen Y’s are devoted to the doctrine of “cool,” and consequently, they explore true Biblical doctrine only when it enhances (and never contradicts) their fleeting idol of fame. 
“Why?”  Quickly this became the pervasive murmur among the audience.  She gave a few reasons, but implored us to engage in individual research, as she didn’t have time to explore all the factors involved.  Sitting there, pondering this less than glowing portrait of my generation, I could not help but recall MARRI’s “Second Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.”  
According to MARRI’s report, in the United States, the national rejection score was larger than the belonging score.  Putting faces to these figures reveals the majority of children are living in a broken family as of 2009.  As the speaker described, our culture (sitcoms saturated with sex, personal credit cards, and adult privileges sans consequences) bears some responsibility for Gen Y’s behavior, but the formation of these characteristics begins with a fractured family.  As Dr. Fagan and Dr. Zill predict, “It is unavoidable that the major institutions of future families, church, school, the marketplace, and government will be similarly weakenedas these children gradually take their place within these institutions.”
And indeed, we are seeing breakdowns in these institutions as time progresses.  This weekend’s speaker noted that most of Gen Y holds only part-time employment, and many articles report an unemployed or underemployed status for Gen Y’s.  You can blame a poor economy or the need for a graduate degree, but as articulated in “162 Reasons to Marry,” we need look no further than the broken family for the origin of this trend.  A child glimpses his first working marketplace through his family.  “Within a family built on such a marriage, the child gradually learns to value and perform these five fundamental tasks of every competent adult and of every functional society” – marketplace (work) being one.  If the teaching unit is damaged, how can we expect the lesson to be whole?  If the marketplace isn’t functional in the family unit, how do we expect it to flourish on a national level?
This weekend’s speaker also commented that some large corporations won’t even hire Gen Y’s, and a quick internet search brings up quite a few articles with similar headlines.  As Kelly Clay concludes, based on recent statistics regarding employment and economy issues, “It seems more like a strong indicator of a generation with an issue of entitlement and extreme laziness – despite the opportunities that await them.”  Another recent article titled “The Go-Nowhere Generation,” seems to agree with Clay’s depiction of Gen Y or rather, “Generation Why bother.”   This article describes their lackadaisical reliance on “random” chance rather than an energetic pursuit of opportunity throughout the country. Clearly rejection at the family level is permeating the workplace and the work-ethic applied there. 
A married family does not just positively impact the marketplace.  Children from intact-married families also perform better in school, misbehave less, are more likely to remain abstinent, less likely to live in poverty, and more likely to attend church.  All of these tendencies contradict the typical characteristics of Generation Y.  Clearly, there are exceptions to this generation generalization, and belonging within a family greatly enhances one’s ability to belong to the exceptional group. 

Charitable Pornography?

abstinence, culture, pornography No comments

By Sarah Robinson, Intern 

I was flabbergasted last week after reading an article titled “Pornography for a Better Tomorrow.”  This article introduced a non-profit pornography organization that allows its users to upload videos and link them to the charitable organization of their choice.  Every time an individual watches one of these pornographic videos, money is donated to that specific charity.  
According to the article, this concept was developed in order to “rethink, critically, the relationship between the internet and sexuality” and “foster a healthy culture that ‘reflects the natural plurality of human sexuality.’”  There are so many fallacies in this article that it is honestly difficult to pinpoint just one.  This idea crosses the threshold of moral relativity into dangerous territory that debases the value of human beings and sexuality.  How do you place a price tag on sexuality?  No charitable organization should receive money made by degrading human beings who were created in the image of God. 
The degrading nature of pornography makes it imperative that we address the harmful effects ofpornography on individuals and marriages.  Men who view pornography can become addicted, and can even become desensitized to the type of pornography they use and seek more dramatic and perverse forms. Men who view pornography regularly have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality, including rape, sexual aggression, and sexual promiscuity. Using pornography encourages men to view women as commodities or “sex objects,” and engenders greater sexual permissiveness, which leads to an increase in out-of-wedlock births and STDs. Child sex offenders are more likely to view pornography regularly or to be involved in its distribution. 
Regarding marriage, married men who are involved with pornography feel less satisfied with their sexual relations with their wife and also feel less emotionally attached to their wives. Pornography increases the chance of infidelity and divorce. A spouse is addicted to pornography is likely to experience a loss of interest in sexual intercourse and even a loss of interest in good family relations. 
There are very few laws regarding pornography in our country, with the exception of child pornography. Knowing the harmful effects of pornography on individuals and marriages, how can we justify any furtherance of this activity?  Specifically, how can we condone a pornography organization that attempts to hide the obvious evils of pornography under the cover of charitable donations?  

Politics Posing as Medical Science

abortion, abstinence, contraception, mothers, news, reproductive technology, women's health No comments

By Pat Fagan, Ph.D., Director of MARRI

NBC News and many others have lauded the results of the Peipert program evaluation of the effects of LARCs (long term reversible contraceptives), namely IUDs and implant contraceptives, which they claim have (unsurprising) effects in lowering abortions.  However, there is much to dispute about the study.   Its method is almost non-existent though a lot of words are used to describe it.  This means their results may be a massive underestimation of the effects or even a massive overestimation of the effects.  We just don’t know;  the “method” is totally unreliable.  It is analogous to going into a library to find out the level of reading in the local population, or to giving a book to those you find at a library to figure out the effect of reading on such people!  In this case they go to a group of women desirous of reversible control methods.  To make matters worse: they have no comparison control group. They do not line up treatment and control (absolutely fundamental to this type of study), but they insinuate comparisons. The project team went through all sorts of contortions to estimate the effects, but they avoided the obvious simple, fundamental step of having a control group.  This is political correctness trumping good scholarship (a dangerous trend in the social sciences that will eventually come back to haunt academia).
Though I am opposed to their way of thinking and acting (more anon), I would have expected LARCs to have had much better results than they did.  There is still way too high a rate of abortion from a method one would expect to virtually totally eliminate it. This much-lauded method does not come close.     
 
Other big concerns I have about this approach to avoiding abortions is the effect of this form of behavior on the long-term marital, family, parenting, and sexual habits of the women involved.  My prediction is that young women who use these methods (who would not feel sexually liberated with totally effective birth control methods) will have many more sexual partners, behavior that itself increases the likelihood of procuring an abortion.  The program will also have high STD effects, likely have very significant effects on future marital stability, and in turn have significantly weakening effects on these women’s future children’s life outcomes.  That STD rate effects would be tracked and measured is something one would expect to be second nature for OBGYNs to report upon.  Maybe there is a second study coming (but that would be useless too, given no control group.)
So: failing grades on method and on narrowness of their view of effectiveness.  And failing grades also are given to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology for rushing shoddy work to press in order to influence the Presidential campaigns.  That is really sad.  It definitely is not good science, nor good politics either, though we would expect medical science to stay above the political fray.  All in all, it is a sad day for medicine and science. 

For an in-depth analysis of the study, see Dr. Michael New’spiece.

We Live in a Polyamorous Society

abstinence, culture, divorce, family, monogamy, Pat Fagan No comments

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

It’s common to hear complaints of how horrible it is that in certain cultures and religions, polygamy is respected and normal. We hear an outcry that it attacks woman’s dignity and reduces them to objects. But have those who are raising this outcry ever stopped to question whether their own sexual behavior may be reducing their human dignity?
Where is the difference, when men and women in Western society embrace sexual activity with whomever they please, whenever they please, leading to multiple sexual partners by the time they are thirty? The difference between the culture of the traditional family, based on a lifelong sexual relationship with one person, and our present culture is in the way sexual conduct is viewed, practiced, and taught. My question today is this: Have we ever considered that we might be living in a polygamous society?
  
As Pat Fagan points out, in the Western culture of polyamorous sexuality, family life is just one option among many other lifestyles. This culture treasures sexual freedom, meaning whatever is desired by the partners (two or more partners, as the case may be). It wants to eliminate religion and suppresses its public manifestations, attacking religious freedom. One’s moral code is individual and consequently relative; anyone should do as he or she pleases, not only sexually but in any arena of life (so if I need to kill an unborn child, I should have that right). In short, the idea of freedom is to have no constraints imposed on you, to have a carefree life.
The consequences of this misguided view of “freedom” range from HIV and unwanted pregnancies to child depression and adolescent suicide. Yet they are never seen for what they are: the results of sexual license.
On the other hand, a monogamous way of life defends marriage to one person of the opposite sex for life. In this culture, family life benefits not only the spouses but the children and community. Couples who are married report being happier; children who grow up in intact families are more likely to grow up mentally stable, to finish college, and to delay sexual activity, as MARRI research explains in 162 reasons to marry.
The monogamous culture also treasures the worship of God, which strengthens relationships, education, and psychological wellbeing. In addition, the culture of monogamy defends universal moral norms, the freedom to pursue the good, and the defense of human life.
So what kind of society do you want to live in? What kind of culture do you want your children to grow up in? I would like to live in an environment where my moral code is protected and defended, where education in virtue is present in our schools, and where the defense of life and marriage is unquestioned. I encourage you to take active part in this lifestyle and become an example to others who have never acknowledged the importance of marriage and commitment. The monogamous culture does far more than our Western polyamorous society to uphold human dignity.

Reality Check: What Do Teens Really Want?

abstinence, contraception, marriage, teen pregnancy 1 comment
Katie Staudt, Intern
 
A project to prevent teen pregnancy was recently launched by the City of Baltimore’s Health Department called “Know What U Want.” From the campaign’s title, it appears to be an admirable undertaking. After all, no one wants teen pregnancy nor does anyone object to empowering teens to know what they want in life. However, on their website, teens will only discover how to choose their method of birth control and learn how to “get the goods” (which teens are assured can done without their parents’ knowledge). Is this really empowering teens to know what they want? Well, not according to social science.
Such a campaign presupposes that what teens want is sex and the only thing left to “know” is what method of birth control is best for them. But the reality is sex is not ultimately what teens want. While it is true that many teens engage in sex (nearly 48% of all high schoolers), a majority realize afterward that sex and hooking up is not all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, research shows that 91% of girls who “hook up” have regrets due to guilt or feeling used, and 80% wish it never happened. Even MTV reports that nearly 2/3 of teens wish they had waited to have sex.
Of course, this same data could be used to suggest we need to help that small percentage of teens who don’t have regrets know what birth control they want. But, the reality is teens who begin sexual activity at a young age are likely to deal with permanent negative physical, psychological, social and economic consequences that they might not immediately realize. A Heritage research report shows that sexually active teens have a higher probability of becoming infected by STDs, fall into depression, and eventually have unstable marriages and live in poverty.
Even with all these facts, it might seem worthwhile to give teens “what they want” to at least prevent teen pregnancy. But, the reality is a number of studies have shown that contraceptives do not prevent teen pregnancy. In fact, a recent study conducted by  a professor from Duke and Yale found that“programs that increase access to contraception are found to decrease teen pregnancies in the short run but increase teen pregnancies in the long run.”
Teens, like all humans, want happiness and fulfillment. Even though some seek happiness in sex, they haven’t found it there. So if we really are trying to empower teens to know what they want, perhaps we should begin by explaining how we are designed as humans as well as the negative consequences when we go against our design and positive outcomes when we live in line with it. It also might not be a bad idea to promote healthy families and worshipbecause, in reality (see hereand here), that’s where the most happiness is found.

Safe Sex?

abstinence, contraception, marriage, sexuality No comments
Amanda Brennan, Intern 
 
When did sex become dangerous?That’s the question my theology professor, Fr. Dan Pattee, posed in class last semester about the well-known slogan, “safe sex.” Since when did the act intended to preserve the human race and to unite married couples into deeper union become unsafe? The answer is simple: when it was taken out of its original context and manipulated by man’s sensual appetites.
Now, the world faces an AIDS and STD epidemic along with a culture rampant with premarital sex, pornography, adultery, divorce, abortion, teenage pregnancy, single-parenthood, and more. Many believe the solution to sexually active adolescents comes with the launching of “safe sex” programs, while others think abstinence programs to be effective. This difference of opinion can be seen by the recent controversy behind the release of the “National Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents: Attitudes and Opinions about Sex and Abstinence.” Back in August of 2010 the study performed by an entity of HHS was only partially released until enough people complained and some even filed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Debate came after the survey, which reviewed 1,000 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 and their parents, found that 60% of teens believed only married people should have sex and 70% of adults believed their children should wait until marriage to have sex. Furthermore, 68.3% of teens responded that they would like a family member to educate them on sex, and 92.3% of parents agreed, wishing that they or someone in their family would teach their teens about sex. As Catherine Snow of Citizen Link explains, the study “does not support the administration’s objective – or that of vocal “safe sex” activists – of eliminating all abstinence-education funding.” So, what kind of sexual programs should be advocated, “safe sex” or abstinence?
In a perfect world, neither. But that really isn’t an option today. There is a disconnect between parent and child on issues of sex. For various reasons kids are not receiving sex education at home like once before, and as a result it has to be taught at school. MARRI research shows over and over the importance of an intact married family. A home where a mother and father are living out human sexual love is where healthy sex education is fostered. The breakdown can be seen in the following MARRI study: for women under the age of 18, first sexual intercourse occurs at 52% in an intact married family, while with single-parenthood it is above 70%.
The battle continues to decide which education approach will prevail, “safe sex” or abstinence, but the recent survey must not be overlooked. Sex is sacred and it should be explained in a sacred environment. That environment is within an intact married family. As demonstrated above, both parents and teens desire that sex education be nurtured in the family. Sex is not dangerous; it is blessed and beautiful within the marriage of a man and a woman.

The Sex Secret You Won’t Find in Cosmo

abstinence, MARRI, marriage, religion, sexuality, women's health No comments

Betsy Huff, Intern
 
Pick up the latest issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (or any issue for that matter) and you are sure to find a cover story on the “hottest new sex secrets.”  In fact, the aim of the publication seems to be to aid women in finding the most possible fulfillment in their sexual experiences and encounters.  There is a shocking, but not so new (in fact some may say ancient) piece of information that may change the way you view religion and sex.  
In February of 1999, U.S.A Today ran a cover story entitled “Revenge of the Church Ladies,” by William R. Mattox Jr., which revealed that some of the most sexually satisfied women in the country are religious women. It is no divine revelation that premature sexual activity has devastating effects on young girls, but a study that reveals in objective terms that religious women experience more frequent sexual responsiveness might come as a surprise.  Gone is the notion of the prudish, Victorian-minded and sexually repressed church woman the Sexual Revolution worked so hard to release! 
The study cites four factors that may contribute to sexual fulfillment in religious women. Sexual inexperience and lack of baggage from past sexual involvements contributes to a satisfactory sex life within marriage. Similarly, this lack of a sexually licentious past is related to less sexual anxiety due to guilt or fear of consequences from sexual promiscuity. Logically, sexual anxiety is a factor that inhibits sexual satisfaction.  Also, marriage in itself creates an environment for human sexuality to flourish.  The commitment and fidelity created by this relational union allows a woman to “let go” and thus experience more sexual responsiveness.  Finally, for religious women sex is more than just a physical act to meet a sensory appetite. The physical act is also spiritual and emotional; it is symbolic of a transcendent truth that the two are really “one flesh.”  
This is just one of many examplesof social science research supporting the way God intended and commanded humans to live. Other examples include evidence from MARRI research that supports the idea of an intact family as the best environment in which to raise happy, healthy, and successful children.  Other social science researchsupports these same ideas. As Dr. Pat Fagan of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute says, “The social sciences, done well, illustrate the way God made man.”

Truth, in love.

abstinence, Christianity, MARRI, youth 2 comments
Obed Bazikian, Intern
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) recent video stated that “[e]ighty percent of young evangelicals have engaged in premarital sex” and “almost a third of evangelicals’ unplanned pregnancies end in abortion.” This is a staggering statistic, and one which raises some serious questions. Adelle Banks from the Huffington Post sought to address with her recent article. Most central of all, what should the evangelical response be to this erosion of chastity and rise in abortion? 
Evangelical Leaders have stated that “abstinence campaigns and anti-abortion crusades” are not having the same effect anymore. Furthermore, Banks claims the Christian youth are frustrated by the way the church has handled the issue of sex. One can hear that premarital sex is wrong, but that is not satisfying in a culture that is constantly conveying it is good to have sex before marriage. One Christian young mother stated, “The Bible says not to do it, but I think, for most people, they need more than that.…We want to know why. And most of the time folks aren’t prepared to answer the question why.”
 
One answer can be found in the social and medical sciences. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s 162 Reasons to Marry contains numerous studies that show those who wait to have sex within marriage are the most fulfilled sexually, emotionally, physically, and even materially than other marital statuses. However, while this truth must be presented, it must also be done in love. In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, a woman who was caught in adultery is about to be stoned by her accusers, a punishment fully merited under the current Law. When confronted as to whether this punishment should be carried out, Jesus stated, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (NASB). While He had every right to, Jesus did not condemn this woman. Similarly, we might be “right” in our statements to others, but be wrong in our message. However, the truth, when presented in love, will make the difference we truly seek.