Wineskins Archive

February 12, 2014

Harbour Lights: Teaching Sex in Church (May-Jun 2002)

Filed under: — @ 1:53 pm and

By Michael Harbour
July-August 2002

God has wired us with powerful drives. We will all eat. Today, we will think about food. Sometimes we eat purposefully. We eat because the food we hunger for will renew our strength and brighten our minds. Sometimes we eat because we like to eat! When I managed a pizza restaurant, we put a lot of pepperoni on our pizza. Some folks had the audacity to call it greasy! It was good grease, great holy fattening grease! In those days, you could go down to Taco Bueno (unfortunately there are none in Houston!) and get freshly cooked chips and taco shells cooked in coconut oil. Coconut oil is so sweet and made those tacos so very tasty and, of course, so very pasty for your arteries! Anyone who has had health problems will tell you that their doctor has adjusted their diet. Usually, our first reaction to that adjustment is grief. We love our food. Sometimes we love our food more than we love God. Jesus said, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). We cannot live without food. The drive is so strong that it is fundamental. God intends for us to eat. We are tempted to abuse food. It is interesting to me that the original sin described in the Garden of Eden concerns food. Eve saw the fruit on the forbidden tree and wanted it. She encouraged Adam, and he chose to eat, too.

Sex is like food in some ways. We are sexual beings by design. We hunger for the comfort, for the connection, for the intimacy, for the hope that underlies the biology. The hope is that we will be wanted, that we will not be alone, that we can survive. We can survive individually without sex, but not as human beings collectively. Sexuality is fundamental. I am convinced that there were days when we did not speak of such private things. However, we live in a culture that is sex crazed. We cannot stay out of the conversation.

Who is going to teach my children about sex? Is it possible to allow them to enter into young adulthood without any information? How will they handle the sex drive, the feelings that they will experience? Who will they talk with about these things? What will they learn at school from their friends, enemies, and teachers? What will they learn from MTV and Howard Stern?

When I was a young teen, I remember a sex education class that was taught in the little United Methodist Church in Dewey (OK). I appreciate the bold foresight that those leaders had, and their love for the children. They knew that parents needed help. Parents do not want to think of their children as sexual beings. Certainly, children do not want to think of their parents as sexual beings. Would the church be willing to teach our children about sex? These days, however, I would want to ask what the teachers in church believe about sexuality, before letting them teach my children. Some United Methodist conferences have no problem with the practice of homosexuality, even among their clergy (Seattle Times report of 7/26/2002, ‘Gay pastor won’t face Methodist church trial’).

When did you learn the true facts about sex and sexuality? I learned some of the fundamentals in 8th grade biology. However, we never talked about the psychological parts. We never talked about the need for emotional intimacy, how to practice the art of love for another. We never talked about the meaning of commitment, the bond, the promise that two people make that says I will never leave you, ever. I suppose we did not really talk about passion, either. Biology never satisfies the hunger of our hearts.

What is the solution? Teaching sex education in schools will never really hit the mark. They can talk about the hazards of sexually transmitted diseases. They can talk about the mechanics of sex. I am not convinced that they can effectively talk about the ethics of sex. Perhaps we should go to our teachers in our churches and say, “What would you think about teaching our children about their sexuality?” Our children probably need more than a lesson that says, “Don’t be sexual.” Our children don’t need another lesson that says, “Wait until you are older to have those feelings.” I am not convinced that they will learn the lessons that they need through trial and error, either, at least not without substantial emotional expense. What we need is a class for junior high boys and girls that will affirm them in their emotional and physical creation. We need to teach them the truth about the biology and the psychology of sex. Then we need to teach them about the nature of love, that our personal needs are not the most important thing in our lives. We can say no to our natural inclinations, even if we are tempted to eat greasy pepperoni, or coconut oil, or hungrily grab for something or someone that pretends to satisfy our hunger.

God has given us the gift of our sexuality. God establishes boundaries for the use of the gift. We who believe in the value of human beings need to step up. We need to take care of our children. Hungry people always eat. Maybe we could help them have a healthier diet.

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