Thursday, July 1, 2010

Abstinence-only Sex Education, Part 3

Continuing on....trying to write up a fair history of the high points of the religious abstinence-only movement. As seems to be typical (just a general observation, no stats to back this up) the Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics have been the big players in this movement.
Much of this is taken from the website of Lifeway, the Southern Baptist publishing company (http://www.lifeway.com/tlw/history.asp)

In 1987, the Christian sex education project began, led by Jimmy Hester. He and Richard Ross successfully pitched the True Love Waits project to the Southern Baptists in 1992. From a 1994 article in First Things it seems that the motivation behind True Love Waits was to increase teens' perceptions of peer support for abstinence. True Love Waits launched in 1993 in Nashville, TN. By 1993, 100,000 virginity pledge cards had been signed as part of True Love Waits. Personally, I tend to remember True Love Waits more for huge symbolic demonstrations ("Let's stack virginity pledge cards all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge!" "Let's pile pledge cards to the top of the Georgia Dome," etc.) than anything else. True Love Waits seems to have focused on providing churches and youth conferences with pledge cards and jewelry and left the actual teaching up to individual youth leaders and congregations, from my impressions at least. I haven't heard much from True Love Waits lately (though, no longer a teenager and no longer a Southern Baptist, I'd be out of the loop anyway.). I have heard "Silver Ring Thing" lately, so maybe it's the new Christian trend? Seems to be pretty similar.

I'm going to date the start of Roman Catholic sex education teaching and advocacy with 1968 and Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae . Not being Roman Catholic, this decision is a little arbitrary, and I haven't read the encyclical in its entirety. From my understanding, it affirms the goodness and holiness of sex within marriage and goes on to condemn all sorts of artificial birth control. (Brief aside here- Not really seeing any nuances in the Roman Church's position. Apparently, it's bad to use condoms if you're a married couple trying to prevent the transmission of herpes or HIV, or for a woman suffering from endometriosis or PCOS to take birth control pills. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here- really hope I am.)

Roman Catholic bishops approved Human Sexuality, A Catholic Perspective on Education and Lifelong Learning in 1990. This pastoral document provided guidelines for sex education in Catholic schools, however, there was a strong negative response from parents. The Roman church presently seems to emphasize the importance of "positive chastity education" by parents, and doesn't seem to have any sort of recommendations about health issues to be included. Interestingly, the Roman Catholic Church aligned itself with the Southern Baptist Convention's True Love Waits campaign.

Apologies for this segment being a bit rushed/incomplete, but I have a number of pressing tasks. Margaret Whitehead has dealt with the Roman Catholic side of things far more thoroughly than I could ever hope to.

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