So teen pregnancy is the hot topic in the news this week, and even more, the amazing antics that even the good kids from good families pull. You never know what your teenager is doing behind your back – hence the epidemic of teen pregnancy and STD’s. Think about it:

-Sneaky teenagers publishing all those sex-obsessed womens’ magazines, which have now become so ‘normal’ they’ve been sold at grocery store check-out counters for decades, and no one bats an eye.

-Sneaky teenagers taking over the garment industry, to such an extent that even parents who want to buy their daughters modest clothing are hard pressed to do so.

-Sneaky teenagers producing film after film that treats sex outside of marriage as par for the course, even glamourous.

-Sneaky teenagers – so sneaky they have to use pen names – writing romance novels by the ton, where again the real issue isn’t whether your beloved is willing to wait for marriage – let alone wait for you – so long as the heroine gets her guy by the last chapter.

And let us not forget those sneaky teenagers who must be the ones who are responsible for America’s tremendous divorce rate, and those who are choosing to live with their would-be mate without the benefit of marriage. No wonder there’s so much sex outside of marriage, what with all those sneaky teens raising their children in homes where marriage really is treated as little more than a piece of paper. [And hence the anger at the Catholic Church, which she insists that no, a sacramental marriage really is indissoluable – make a promise of lifelong fidelity, and you are expected to keep it.]

Why, exactly, are we surprised when minors – people who are young and inexperienced, but who nonetheless have adult bodies and adult desires – have sex? Aren’t they just doing what we, the adults, have been teaching them their entire lives? The gall of us, to be angry at a child for learning his lessons.

**

The point is this: We adults as a society do not actually think pre-marital sex is wrong. We adults are the childish ones, trying to tell you the sex is okay, just not the baby that is the natural result. It’s okay to steal, just not okay to get caught at it. Hence our national solution to teens who want to have sex: teach them how to do it “better”.

Imagine your teenager comes to you and admits that she’s recently taken to shoplifting. What is the logical response here? How about this one: “Well, honey, that’s not really what I want you to do. It’s not the way we’ve brought you up. But I’m glad you feel safe talking to me about this. You should know that if you get caught shoplifting, you could end up in jail. So, I want you to read this book with me about effective shoplifting techniques, to make sure that if you are going to shoplift, you don’t get caught.”

You might even cite some studies to justify your response: Teens who come from homes where they are taught only the “Abstain from Shoplifting” message end up in jail at twice the rate of teens who are given instruction in arrest-avoidance techniques.

–> The reality is, that extra-marital sex is a kind of theft. With shoplifting, the horror is not in the wanting the goods the store has to offer, nor in the posessing of the goods; it is in taking them in a way that does not make them rightfully yours. Same with sex: completely normal to desire sexual intimacy, and nothing wrong with engaging in intercourse – assuming you only ‘take home’ what is rightfully yours to receive. Paying at the cash register is how we earn the privilege of bringing home the merchandise; marriage is the one and only ‘transaction’ that confers the privilege of sexual relations.

Until we as a society return to understanding this, don’t expect a drop in the teen pregnancy rate. So long as sex outside of marriage remains a national pasttime, we should not be the least surprised that teens take up the hobby, too. And what with sex being the cause the babies, well, there are going to be a few.

**

So why we do as a society no longer recognize extra-marital sex as the sin that it is? I think it is because we are a secular society. Lacking the concept of forgiveness for our sins – which only Jesus Christ can give us – we are left with two choices: be perfect, or pretend to be perfect. The third choice is condemnation, and who can live with that? No one wants to go around condemned for his sins.

Being truly perfect is not a viable choice either, what with having inherited original sin and thus the mark it leaves on us, concupiscience*. Even those who deny the theology cannot deny the underlying reality — especially when dealing with a temptation as powerful as the sins against the sixth and ninth commandments**. Sometimes the desire is overwhelming, and we fail.

And so that leaves us with playing pretend. Pretend it isn’t a sin, and then you can pretend that when you commit the sin, you are innocent. And if it isn’t a sin, then it is allowed. And since you like it and want it, and you are persuaded it is permitted, why not do it? Why not exult in it? Why not set the example for others? Hence our tremendously sexualized culture.

**

This is why Governor and Mr. Palin are such a mystery to my non-christian friends. Because the Palins are not behaving as if these three choices are the only choices. They on the record for opposing extra-marital sex, and yet they are neither condemning their daughter, nor engaging in some kind of subterfuge to conceal her apparent sin. (Despite rumours floating around the internet in early weeks that they had in fact attempted this last option in the past.)

Instead, what do we have: Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Restoring the relationship and moving forward, making amends as well as can be made. Even being thankful that God has allowed something very very good (an eternal human soul) to come out of a situation that was, at its start, very bad.

And this is exactly what Christianity is about. God took a situation that was as bad as it could possibly be, and turned it into something good beyond all imaginiation.

* “Concupiscience” is the tendency towards sin that remains in us, even after baptism has restored our relationship with God.

**I think protestants call them the 7th and 10th. But you know, the ones about not commiting adultery or coveting your neighbor’s wife.

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