Lovewise – A Christian initiative in sex education
A British Family Division judge recently hit the headlines for pointing out that our society is facing catastrophic breakdown because of the collapse of the family. As a hospital paediatrician, I often come face to face with what he described as the ‘ceaseless river of human misery’ flowing from family breakdown.
Some victims are young children, exposed to abuse by non-biologically related adults living in their homes. Others are among the rising ranks of wayward, distraught or aimless teenagers reacting to the sadness of broken parental relationships.
The wreckage of family life, so visibly strewn around us, cuts little ice with contemporary politicians. A government spokesman replied to the judge’s remarks with the comment that ‘most children in England today are safe, healthy and achieve well’.
One of the biggest threats to the future wellbeing of marriage and the family is the high and rising rate of sexual activity outside marriage. Young people are becoming sexually active at a younger and younger age, cohabitation rates are at an all time high, and in many parts of the UK fewer than 50% of children are born to married mothers.
All this is a direct result of our nation’s determined decision to turn its back on a thousand years of Christian heritage and on the laws that once helped limit sexual activity to marriage. Our society is painfully experiencing God’s curse on the ‘fruit of our body’ (Deuteronomy 28:18) upon those who disobey his beneficial commands.
The ‘safe sex’ solution fails
The Government’s response to the teenage pregnancy crisis – which is really a teenage promiscuity crisis – is the 20-year-old ‘safe sex’ campaign. The condom is promoted as the antidote to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There can hardly have been a less successful prevention campaign in the history of medicine, with steadily rising levels of both these teenage indices.
There are technical reasons why condoms will never provide the secure barrier that they pretend to be. For example, many infecting organisms are found outside the area covered by the condom. Then there are obvious reasons why young people use them inconsistently – early sexual intimacy is often unexpected or pressurised.
But most importantly, this message suggests to young people that extra-marital sex has no adverse consequences, and so encourages young people to experiment with early out-of-marriage sexual intimacy.
As a result, there is now more sexual activity with more partners – leading to more single parents, more unwanted pregnancies, more abortions, more STIs, more emotional hurt and more difficulty settling down with one partner for life.
Yet the Government shows no signs of changing its mind. In fact, its sexual health policies continue to undermine parents by promoting prescriptions for contraception, the morning-after pill and abortion for under 16s without the knowledge of their parents.
The only alternative would be to honour God’s commands by promoting marriage and sex only within marriage. Such an approach, usually termed ‘abstinence’, is common in the USA which has accordingly benefited from generally improving teenage indices.
A Christian initiative
Spurred by the great need and huge potential, a paediatric colleague and I joined forces with a local secondary school head to form a new charity called ‘Lovewise’. Our aim is to provide teaching on marriage, sex and relationships from a Christian perspective.
We developed talks using powerpoint and video clips which allow standard presentations to be given by relatively inexperienced speakers. We formed a team of local volunteer presenters in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Over the last five years the number of schools visited – both secular and religious – has steadily grown and several other teams have formed in other parts of the country, including Sheffield, Kent, Surrey, Loughborough, Portsmouth, Kendal and Hull. We are looking for people willing to set up teams in other areas.
We now have a range of presentations for school years 5 to 13. These can be given in assemblies, RE or PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) lessons. The presentations can either be given by one of our teams or purchased and given by teachers and youth group leaders sympathetic to our ethos.
Many secular schools invite us because they, perhaps more than other schools, have sensed the moral vacuum in which their pupils are living. Our presentations cover the nature of marriage, the purpose of sexual intimacy, reasons for keeping sexual intimacy for marriage, and the consequences if this is not done. We also provide practical advice on how to avoid sexual temptation.
It may surprise readers to discover that much of our material is in line with current government guidance on sex and relationship education. This recommends that pupils ‘learn about the nature of marriage, its importance for family life and the bringing up of children’, and aims to ‘develop positive values and a moral framework that will guide their decisions, judgement and behaviour’.
Generally, we have had a warm and appreciative response from pupils and staff. Perhaps to our surprise we have found that well over 80% of pupils want to get married at some stage and many are relieved to hear advice so different from the media-promoted view of sex as a recreational commodity.
However, the subject of marriage with such a clear moral dimension is also capable of causing offence. On one occasion we were interrupted by the class teacher who then gave his personal testimony about the joys of pre-marital sex. At other schools the door closed after our visits because we had offended a teacher or the parents of a pupil.
A new resource for Christian parents
The work is done by faith not by sight! Though we never really know the effect of our presentations on our hearers, we continue in the reassuring knowledge that the Lord wishes his commands and design in the area of relationships to be known among the young of this country. His ways are the only hope for their emotional, physical and spiritual health.
The pressure on the children of Christian families to conform to the world’s agenda in this area can be great. Mindful of this, we have recently produced a presentation called ‘Growing up – growing wise at home’. This is for use on a home computer and helps Christian parents teach their children at home about the sensitive subjects of puberty, marriage and sexual intimacy.
Please consider whether you could join one of our presenting teams that are forming around the country. Please also encourage your school or youth group to host one of our presentations – made either by a sympathetic teacher or by one of our presenting teams. Finally, please join our mailing list to keep informed of our work and provide prayer or financial support.
Dr Chris Richards
The author is the Director of Lovewise. Further information can be obtained from Lovewise, 14 Portland Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne,