Monday, January 26, 2009

How Much is Virginity Worth?

Woman to Auction Virginity for 3.6 Million Dollars
But What's the Long-term Price
by Brian Housman
Some people are responding to the state of the economy in unusual ways. Take Natalie Dylan, 22-year-old San Diego woman for instance. She recently placed her virginity up for auction. That's right, her virginity. And so far the bidding stands at 3.6 million dollars.

Here is a gift that God intended to be shared with her future spouse that instead ends up on the auction block. As if this is nothing more than a financial transaction.

A transaction yes, but one of priceless worth. To attempt to put a price on it (even one as high as 3.6M) only serves to demean it. This is a transaction that for a young Jewish couple in biblical days would be years in planning, met with much anticipation, and as evidenced by Song of Solomon, sometimes leave one another speechless. I can't remember ever buying something that left me speechless.

A Gift Only Your Teen Can Give

There has been much talk lately on the news about teens and virginity pledges. Do they work? Do they not? But there is better question to be asked: Does it really matter? As a teen does your virginity have any worth. That's a great question to ask your teen this week. Go to FoxNews and pull up the story. Then ask your teen, "What kind of price should someone pay in order for you to be willing to give them a priceless gift that only you can give?" Look them in the eyes and tell them in your own words about the gift that God has given them to give to their future spouse. And it's okay if you get a little speechless.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Slang is "Sooo Obama"

Each year there are new words that quickly find their way into conversations around the locker, in the classroom, or wherever trend setters hang out. Below is a list of new words published by Trend Central that have been heard to start 2009. If you feel brave (or a need to be a hip parent) work one of these into your next conversation with your teen. A word of warning: Use these words sparingly as they will probably by "out" just as quickly as they became "in".

n. Your ex boyfriend/girlfriend who dumped you via Post-it/text/drop-off-the-face-of-the-earth-disappearing-act and who is now flouncing around town with a new love interest.
"I bumped into my ex-hole this morning-she said she was so sorry that she cheated on me, blah blah blah. I wanted to puke."

Hot Room
n. A social setting that involves a mix of people whose relationships to each other are, well, complicated
"I was sitting next to my current flame and then my ex-hole walked in with his current girlfriend, who I had a falling out with in high school-total Hot Room!"

Epic Fail
n. A frequently used term in the video game community that quite simply means you really messed up and/or something/someone is an utter failure
"Dude, your attempt to get that girl's number was an epic fail."

Povo (po-vo)
adj. Spawned from the increasing popularity of new HBO series Summer Heights High, the Aussie slang for poor has infiltrated the vocabulary of recessionistas everywhere
"Caroline, I can't go out to dinner tonight: My pay cut has left me totally povo."

n. Two people who are equal in depth of arcane knowledge
"I knew I had met my geequal when Frank showed me his Star Wars light saber iPhone app."

adj. A term used to describe people's need for recognition and self-fulfillment via the Internet. This is accomplished with incessant Facebook status updates and TMI-Twitter feeds, and serves the purpose of making one feel important and/or noticed
"My friends consider my need to Twitter detailed accounts of my trips to Trader Joe's, the gas station, and my opinions on anything, really, to be annoyingly myselfish. I consider it shameless self-promotion!"

Drum roll please for what will surely be the most over used adjective of the year...

Obama/Not Obama
adj. London street reporters proclaim that our new President has become synonymous with "cool"
"Yeah, that is sooo Obama!"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Launch of New Parent Network

There is a new parent social networking site that was launched this month called Parent 2 Parent. Its purpose is to provide a place for parents to talk about issues of...well, parenting. Of interest is the ability to sign up for various groups specific to your needs as a parent. For instance, single parent, blended family, home schooling, etc.

It's brand new and still in beta form so you can expect to see some mishaps as they work out the quirks and add features. I have high hopes for the sight as the attempt to connect parents and their needs. You can join the network by clicking on the logo below.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Pledge to Make a Difference

Promise Rings2
I Pledge to Make a Difference
New Insights Into the Effectiveness of Abstinence Pledges
by Brian Housman

Over the past two weeks there has been a firestorm of stories in the media concerning a newly released study by Janet Rosenbaum on the effectiveness of abstinence pledges among teenagers. Among the students tracked over a ten year period, 289 took a virginity pledge
with the other 645 not taking a pledge but having similar beliefs about sex. The study showed that there was no difference between the two groups in the sexual activities or number of sexual partners and those who had pledged were less likely to use contraceptives once sexually active. All of the students were said to be of similar religious commitment.

Immediately, spokespersons on each side of the sex education debate responded in full force. Proponents of abstinence-only education labeled the study "inconclusive" and "deceptive." Those in the abstinence-plus camp tauted the study as the first irrefutable evidence that school abstinence-only programs don't work. And both sides are accusing the other of a political agenda. As a parent, it can be difficult to wade through the rhetoric, look at the facts, and then know how to respond. As followers of Christ, we are commanded to proclaim truth, but first we must understand what is true. With that said, take a few minutes to look at the some of the findings of the study and what the ramifications are for teenagers--more specifically for your teen.

Standing On Its Own Merits

The headline from many media outlets has been that this study proves that teens who make an abstinence pledge are just as sexually active as their counterparts. An obvious fact of the study which the mainstream media have either ignored or were unable to decipher is that the study is restricted to religious students only. Instead of a cross section of all students, the study takes a slice from the pie and isolates it. That doesn't make the study flawed or any less important but rather more specific than some have reported.

A second observation from the study is that among religious teens there is no difference in their sexual activity. Both groups had the same rate of vaginal, oral, and anal sex, as well as the same STD contraction rate. Also, 82% of all pledgers who later became sexually active denied or forgot they ever made a pledge to purity. In other words, committing to an abstinence pledge does not appear to be a significant factor in curbing or preventing sexual activity.

The most startling evidence in the study is that those pledgers who become sexually active are far less likely to use any form of contraceptive. These religious students put themselves at a greater risk for pregnancy and STDs than their non-religious sexually active peers. Bill Albert, chief program director for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy said, "What have we gained if we encourage young people only to delay sex until they are older, but when they do become sexually active, they don't protect themselves or their partner?" While the purpose of abstinence programs is not to "only delay sex," Albert's point is well taken.

The last factor of interest in the study is that those who pledged abstinence were about 17 years old when making the pledge and delayed sexual activity until they were on average 20 years old. Since there was no difference between the two groups, the deciding factor in the teens' approach to sexual activity isn't whether or not they made a pledge but rather their faith itself. In the end, it's not about the program but rather how active they are in nurturing their faith. Even the author of the study, Rosenbaum, observed of these religious teens, "They are less sexually experienced to begin with. Their friends are engaging in less risk behavior. Their parents also go to church and they are also choosing to go to church and to stay affiliated with evangelical Christianity."

Problems with the Process

Over the years I've seen a couple of flaws (there are actually more but for today I'm sticking with two) with the way most churches have attempted to teach sexual purity. One is that it is taught in an artificial environment. Many times students are taken away for a weekend retreat or camp or do a special series at youth group. It is like talking about God's design for sex in a vacuum void of real world experiences. Students hear truth but it is presented in an artificial and highly emotionally-charged environment. Many of the commitment ceremonies are done in the style of a public "altar call" where peer pressure and emotions abound. In that kind of environment it is hard to avoid any unintended manipulation. Lastly, students go home and rarely experience followup on the subject. It's as if the church did its job and now we can all move on.

The second problem I see with many of the abstinence programs is they are carried out with little or no involvement from Mom or Dad.Here is one of the most important decisions a teen will ever make--to live out their sexuality according to God's design--and mom and dad are not present. In fifteen years of ministry, I've only had two opportunities to talk to students about sexual purity in which parents were in the audience.

I know of these flaws firsthand because these are mistakes I made myself as a church leader. It's only through years of poorly teaching the subject that I can see that it is time for a new approach. I'm tired of watching our teens make the same mistakes over and over quite possibly because they were not fully equipped to make a choice they could keep.

As parents we must stop relying on any one program or curriculum to be the answer. As good as some programs may be, they were never meant to the sole means of sex education, nor were they meant to silence parents who want to be involved. I've known the creator of True Love Waits for several years. I know Jimmy Hester's heart well enough to say he never set out to create a program that would be a magic bullet. Rather he was trying to help churches begin the process of education, accountability, and commitment--one that supplements a parents job without supplanting it.

Setting A New Course

It's time that we as stop sitting idly by while other handle the uncomfortable work of talking about sex. And it's time the church empowers parents to be the spiritual authorities of their teens. What if we all talked about these issues out in the open--at school, at home, at church? What if the church presented the truth to students but with mom and dad as part of the process? What if we shared the whole story with students, with all the possibilities, and trusted that the same Holy Spirit that is active in us is also active in our teens? What if
parents took an active role in teaching their teens the role of dating and how to have healthy friendships with the opposite sex? There is a role for all of us to play.

None of these things in and of themselves will make a difference. Rather think of each of them as a spoke on a wheel. All of them are required for the tire to be balanced and to function according to its design. Your teen also has a design. One given to them by God. One we help them discover by doing all the right things not just the easy or convenient. I can't tell you what your discussion with your teen should include, how long it should be, or what stories you should tell. But I can tell you that as you share truth with them, from a heart that is overflowing with love and concern, that the right words will come.