Many parents are now deeply alarmed at the sex education that is being taught to schoolchildren. The Times headline, ‘Free contraception boosts teen promiscuity and STDs’, reflects this concern.
The story of a 14-year-old schoolgirl given an abortion without her mother’s knowledge or consent — on the advice of a young sexual-health advisor — has produced a sense of disbelief that such an event could take place in our society. Yet such advice is part of the Government’s sex-education strategy.
While acknowledging the shortcomings of secular sex-education, many Christians believe that the basic aims of such education are, in fact, good. They suggest that we need a ‘Christian’ version of sex-education that avoids the excesses of secular programmes. But this approach is seriously flawed because it ignores the amorality (the lack of moral content) that is the outstanding characteristic of ‘sex-education’.
Lessons in depravity?
The high-profile Christian organisation CARE has taken a lead in sex-education and has developed a catalogue of resources materials. While researching my book Lessons in Depravity (which documents the often unrecognised link between the messages of sex-education and the ideology of the sexual revolution), I became disturbed by the sex-education messages that CARE is propagating.
Three examples illustrate my concern.
The first is CARE’s sex-education video Make love last with the message that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to sex. When I first viewed the video I was astounded by the language. There are many smutty sexual innuendoes that would not be appropriate to quote in a Christian newspaper.
A dictionary defines several phrases in the video as ‘coarse slang’ for sexual intercourse. In a skit on the TV programme Blind date, the video has a game-show called Find a mate.
An eager young man explains to the first female contestant that strip poker is his favourite game and asks her, ‘Will you go all the way when I let you play with me?’ He asks a second young woman, ‘Will you let me touch you up, or should I use a stripper?’
His question to the third woman is even more direct: ‘Will you have sex with me?’ The prize is a dirty weekend in Paris, staying at Bonking Motel. The language of the video takes no account of the biblical warning, ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths’ (Ephesians 4:29).
As if the language were not bad enough, Make love last uses an agony aunt from Just 17, a teenage magazine widely known for its permissive sexual stance, as a source of advice to teenagers.
The message is that everybody has the right to say, ‘I don’t want to have sex with you now’. In other words, young people are advised that their informed decision to abstain from sex depends not on any objective standard of right and wrong, but on what they want at that moment in time.
The association with Just 17 magazine takes no account of the biblical injunction, ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14).
The second example is Parents first (1995), a resource that is supposed to help parents tackle sex-education confidently and appropriately with their children. CARE believes that the message of Parents first is of such importance that all church leaders are encouraged to incorporate it into their teaching programme.
Is there a moral continuum?
claims that discussions around sexual language are very important. One activity sheet requires a group of parents to categorise a list of sex words into polite, neutral, clinical and rude/offensive. To help parents understand the activity, they are provided with examples for the word ‘sex’ which include a rude/offensive term.
Another activity uses the technique of the values continuum to help ‘parents clarify what they actually believe and value about sex and sexuality’. The purpose is to help ‘parents realise that within the Christian Church there may be a range of beliefs and values held about particular issues’.
A specimen pair of value statements is placed at the opposite ends of the room with a clear space between them. For example, ‘homosexuality is part of God’s created order’ is placed at one end of the room and ‘homosexuality is against God’s created order’ at the other end.
Parents are then invited to read the statements and decide where they stand on the continuum between these two alternatives. The objective, they say, is ‘not necessarily to get to a definitive right answer, but to help parents realise they do hold certain beliefs that they will transmit to their youngsters and that all issues are not easily resolved’.
This technique, known as ‘values clarification’, is widely used in sex-education to challenge traditional moral beliefs. The underlying aim is to demonstrate that there are no right answers to moral questions, and no absolute moral truths.
Parents, therefore, must clarify their position on a moral continuum — this is usually referred to as relative morality, and is diametrically opposed to the absolute standards of the Word of God.
The third example is CARE’s booklet Your school and sex-education (1996). It has been written ‘to help teachers, parents and governors who are involved in discussions about sex-education or are concerned with the task of producing, revising or reviewing a school sex-education policy’.
CARE believes that sex-education lessons should provide ‘the opportunities for pupils to consider abstinence from sexual activities in a positive way, as well as “safer sex” options’.
4 But offering young people ‘safer sex’ as an option inevitably legitimises sexual immorality.
CARE’s new sex-education programme, Evaluate — informing choice, also includes education about condoms.
The Evaluate programme aims to empower young people to make healthy informed choices and to support young people in delaying sex experience until they are in a committed relationship, ideally marriage.
As the programme provides education about choices available to people in the light of sexually transmitted diseases, ‘this will include education about condom use’. CARE states that it provides advice in accordance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) position, which is ‘abstinence and fidelity between uninfected partners and safer sex can prevent the transmission of HIV. Safer sex includes non-penetrative sex and sex using condoms’.
So CARE’s advice on sexual conduct is based on WHO policy, not on the Bible.
My objection to CARE is that its message on sexual conduct is amoral. Sexual behaviour is emptied of moral content and there is no warning that any type of behaviour is wrong or immoral.
The biblical virtues of modesty, chivalry, chastity and fidelity are ignored. Rather, children are offered an ‘informed choice’ between abstinence and ‘safer sex’ with condoms. This is essentially the same message as that delivered by the Family Planning Association and Brook (formerly the Brook Clinic).
This issue is of the utmost importance, for CARE is a major voice on moral issues for the Evangelical wing of the Church. Many sincere Christians are supporting CARE’s ministry in the belief that it takes a biblical stand for righteousness.
It is important for those who support CARE to be aware of its teaching. This is not an issue that can be avoided — it is not good enough to walk by on the other side. The apostle Paul writes: ‘Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them’ (Ephesians 5:11).
1. Parents First – Sex-Education within the Home, CARE, 1995, p.46
2. Ibid. p.48
3. Your school and sex-education, CARE, 1996, p.3
4. Ibid. p.28
5. Evaluate policy, aims and code of conduct