Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is Religion the Problem with the Increase in STD's?

This past Wednesday the New York Times published the findings of the first national study of four common sexually transmitted diseases among girls and young women that found that 1 in 4 are infected with at least one of the diseases. The diseases are human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, genital herpes, and trichomoniasis.

Among African-American girls nearly half of those studied between the ages of 14-19 were infected with at least one of the diseases compared to twenty percent of white teenagers. Among the infected women, 15% had more than one disease. These diseases are very serious that can cause terrible problems.

To cover the reaction to these findings the Times went to Cecile Richards, the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation. Richards said that these findings “emphasize the need for real comprehensive sex education. The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure and teenage girls are paying the real price.”

Syndicated columnist Terry Mattingly opined, “The word ‘abstinence’, is of course, a reference to those who advocate a traditional, religious view of sexual morality. It is a buzz word that means ‘Religious Right’….the critical question is, ‘Why are these numbers as high as they are?’”

Is religion and its “antiquated Puritan morality” the problem? Is the answer more education about safe sex?

Mattingly reminded readers of a classic article written by Peggy Noonan. Following the horrific Columbine High School massacre Noonan wrote:
“Your child is an intelligent little fish. He swims in deep water. Waves of sound and sight, of thought and fact, come invisibly through that water, like radar; they go through him again and again, from this direction and that. The sound from the television is a wave, and the sound from the radio; the headlines on the newsstand, on the magazines, on the ad on the bus as it whizzes by--all are waves. The fish--your child--is bombarded and barely knows it. But the waves contain words like this, which I'll limit to only one source, the news:

. . . was found strangled and is believed to have been sexually molested . . . had her breast implants removed . . . took the stand to say the killer was smiling the day the show aired . . . said the procedure is, in fact, legal infanticide . . . is thought to be connected to earlier sexual activity among teens . . . court battle over who owns the frozen sperm . . . contains songs that call for dominating and even imprisoning women . . . died of lethal injection . . . had threatened to kill her children . . . said that he turned and said, "You better put some ice on that" . . . had asked Kevorkian for
help in killing himself . . . protested the game, which they said has gone beyond violence to sadism . . . showed no remorse . . . which is about a wager over whether he could sleep with another student . . . which is about her attempts to balance three lovers and a watchful fiancé . . .

This is the ocean in which our children swim. This is the sound of our culture.”

I agree that there is a never ending need for education. We need to understand and teach about the dangers and risks associated with irresponsible sexual encounters and activities. At the same time we live in a culture, in a “fish bowl” if you will, and that culture is bombarding us with sexual and violent messages that are shaping our thinking, our values and therefore our behavior.

It’s not either/or. It’s both/and. We must continue a counter-cultural message of sexuality that is higher than an instinctual, animalistic, hedonistic expression that sanctions “whenever two people are consenting and using a condom.”

“Religion” in the sense of seeking to live life with a connection to God and in harmony with His will is not the problem. It is the solution to the problem and, it is the path to deep, meaningful, beautiful and lasting sexuality.

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