Sex and the Christian Family

What are you telling them- (8)

Gentle Reader,

Reality TV star Josh Duggar’s admitting to molesting five underage girls (he was also underage at the time), four of whom were his own sisters, has set the internet on fire. According to the police report, Duggar and his parents were questioned about the incidents, though charges were never filed. The family claims that he and his victims all received counseling, though what form this took is questionable at best as no professional therapists or pastors with counseling training appear to have been involved in the process.

I’m not about to launch into a tirade against the Duggar family. Clearly they have enough problems without every blogger in the land picking up a pitchfork and a torch. I think it’s good that TLC has pulled 19 Kids and Counting from the schedule. This family needs to get out of the spotlight. Maybe they really have addressed and dealt with Josh’s issues and his sister’s suffering. Maybe they haven’t. Either way, continued exposure not only looks bad (like they’re trying to either ignore or use the controversy) but I believe it would actually be bad for them. Let the kids be kids, away from the cameras and the microphones. Let the adults and teenagers get whatever help they might need. I hope and pray they do.

The whole thing has me shaking my head at the continued mishandling of sex in the Christian community. Certainly Duggar may have molested those five girls even if his parents had been raging liberals. Abuse happens in all kinds of families. However, the Duggars have made their views on dating, marriage and sex very clear, and those views are held to a certain degree by both fundamentalists and so-called “mainstream” conservative Christians.

The way we express those views? It’s not working.

The Bible is clear. Marriage between one man and one woman is the only legitimate context for sex. I don’t deny that at all. I just don’t think the conversation can stop there. The Bible also speaks of men and women falling in love. An entire book celebrates the physical expression of love in sex (Song of Solomon). Prostitutes are redeemed, Jesus saves an adulteress from stoning, Paul enjoys the single life. There’s more to sex in the Bible than “just don’t.”

We’re falling down on the job in a major way. We tell people “don’t, don’t, don’t” and they “do, do, do,” sometimes with awful and twisted consequences. Parents are on the front lines here. They are the ones teaching the next generation. They need to move beyond “don’t.” Now, someone out there is going to say, “You’re not a parent, so what do you know?” I know enough. I know plenty of people who have been abused. I know people who maintained every shred of their purity before marriage and I know people, myself included, who didn’t. I know that kids have questions and we need to get better at answering them, in age-appropriate ways.

In no particular order:

Move beyond “don’t” and into “why.” It’s not enough to tell anyone not to do something without explaining why. God Himself doesn’t even do that. He either spells it out clearly or reveals the reasons through events. So it must be in our conversations about sex. Kids need to know why saving sex for marriage is the right thing to do, especially as they get into those years of raging hormones. They need to know about more than STDs and abortion. They need to know about emotional attachments, spiritual dulling and baggage. They need to know about long-term consequences.

Kids need to be told that they are normal. It’s normal to be curious about the body, both your own and others. It’s normal, as we age, to develop crushes and have desires. There is no shame in that. God designed us this way.

Boundaries. In telling kids that they are normal, the importance of boundaries must be emphasized. They need to know that their curiosity doesn’t give them license to do whatever they want. They also need to know that their “no” means something and it’s not right for their “no” to be ignored.

– An explanation of boundaries must begin at an early age. Kids need to be told that it is NEVER okay for anyone to touch them anywhere in any way that they don’t like, and certainly never okay for anyone to touch their intimate places. They need to know that they should and can IMMEDIATELY tell their parents or other trusted adults if something inappropriate has happened.

– If your kid comes to you and tells you that she has been violated, you need to take action. Not tomorrow. Not later. NOW. If you don’t, you communicate to him devastating things: You don’t believe what he says. You don’t value her. You think that it’s fine for him to be abused.

– If the perpetrator is your own kid, he or she needs to receive immediate help. (He/she should also be removed from the house if he/she is abusing the other child/ren). You cannot deal with this on your own. You need the services of a professional therapist or a pastor with extensive counseling training.

– Boundaries within dating should be discussed. I don’t believe that God frowns when a kiss or a hug is exchanged, but those kisses and hugs can escalate quickly. What safeguards will dating children have in place? The point is not to be legalistic, but to develop a realistic standard based on God’s word and the maturity of the child.

Teach them the correct words. Vagina. Penis. Breasts. Testicles. Uterus. Ovaries. Orgasm. And my computer isn’t bursting into flames!

Responsibility. This is one area in which I think we fail most consistently, in several ways:

– Kids need to be told, in no uncertain terms, that it is NOT their fault if someone chooses to abuse them. All the blame must be placed squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrator.

– Young ladies need to be told that they are not responsible for the actions of men. I do believe that women should dress with both modesty and attractiveness, understanding that they are beautiful, intricately designed daughters of the King. We should dress in a way that honors the Lord by honoring our bodies, not putting them on display for any and all to see. But even the loosest turtleneck made of the heaviest fabric will not keep a man from lusting if he has a mind to do so, and this is not the fault of any woman.

– Young men need to be told that Jesus never advocated lust management or blame-shifting. Marriage was not meant to be simply an outlet for a man’s sexual desire. It is not fine for a man to indulge his lust with his wife. Sex is meant to be an expression of love and an avenue for deepest connection. If a man struggles with lust, he must recognize that as his struggle. His struggle is not made easier by the availability and increasing mainstream acceptance of pornography, nor is it made easier by a woman’s lack of understanding her own dignity in the way she dresses. Nevertheless, his struggle is not to be blamed on any woman. His choices and thoughts are his own.

The conversation must be on-going. Too many parents stop at an explanation of how babies are made. That’s not enough. Kids need to know that they can come to their parents with any questions, any confusion. They need to know that their parents are safe and won’t drag them over the coals.

Your story. Kids need to know how and why you struggled. They need to know why you feel so strongly about this. They need to know when you failed and when you succeeded. They need to know your regrets and what you’re thankful for.

Jesus. From the earliest age, like within the womb, kids need to hear about Jesus. They need to be told about God. They need to hear how wonderful and awesome and holy and perfect and loving He is. They need to know that they can talk to Him about anything. That they can pour their hearts out. They need to be told, in clear and simple terms, about sin and the cross and the Resurrection. They need to know how important it is that they ask Him for forgiveness and ask Him to be the Lord of their lives.

Grace. It must be explained, emphasized and given. Because even the best Bible study, the most comprehensive conversation, the best explanations as to “why,” the most authentic sharing of story cannot keep people from making stupid choices. Kids are sinners, just like their parents. They need to know that stones will not be hurled at their heads. They need to know that the wonderful Jesus you’ve told them about can and will forgive them of anything they’ve done. They need to know that you’ll forgive them. They need to know that they can forgive themselves.

This is far too important an issue. We cannot keep bungling it. Kids cannot keep suffering because we’re too uncomfortable to say the word “penis” or too ashamed to tell them that we had sex before we got married. We, the adults, need to grow up and step up. We’ve got to stop wringing our hands and screaming “no!” We’ve got to stop shaming the next generation because they have the same questions, struggles, longings and desires we do.

We need to do better.

We must.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Meet

Messy Mondays

Gentle Reader,

It’s that time of the week. Time for the chat and the James Spader fandom and the internet friendship. Kate. The peeps. We: meet.

Go.

Chris and I started leading a home group almost exactly one month ago.

It freaks me out.

Letting people into my home on a consistent basis…talking when they’re all looking at me…trying to gather my thoughts so I can speak at all because apparently texting everything to home group members during the meeting isn’t acceptable…exercising the gift of teaching that God gave me but I often wonder why He gave to me and not to someone less nervy…

Yeah.

That’s genuinely hard for me. My heart starts to pound about an hour before everyone arrives. Is the house clean enough? Did I remember to fill the water pitcher? We don’t have enough seating. Is it too hot? How can I keep the conversation flowing? Why, God, why did You lead me do this?!

And then they come. We talk about our homework (we’re studying the life of David at present). We share prayer requests and praise reports. The dogs climb up on everyone’s laps. Questions are asked. Answers pondered. Laughter ripples. Even this early into the game I can see connections being made. I can see people’s understanding of Scripture and their love of God deepening.

Nobody seems to mind that the living room is small and the furniture doesn’t match.

This is a growing, a stretching thing. I’m thankful that it’s happening now and not earlier in my life. I wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

Maybe someday I’ll stop freaking out about it altogether.

Until then, I’m glad for the grace of God and for the grace of the Messy Mondays crew.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Five Minute Friday: Visit

{ image source }

Gentle Reader,

Chit-chatting with Kate and the crew about the sacred, the mundane and the in-between. Tonight we: visit.

Go.

I’m fascinated by the Myers-Briggs personality profiles. As an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging) person (and a female one at that, which is apparently rare), learning about the different types and how everyone navigates the world is right up my alley. I love seeing how things interconnect. I’m fascinated by both patterns and differences.

Yet as much as people intrigue me, they drain me. If you imagine a turtle pulling himself deep inside his shell, that would be me. I like alone time. I cherish alone time. I jealously guard alone time.

And then all of a sudden I pop out and go, “Where’s the party?”

I got to do that this past Saturday. The hubs and I invited a few friends over for a visit, something I haven’t been able to do since before I had surgery. I don’t dive into friendship quickly or easily, so I’ve had the same core group for about 10 years. Three of my dearest relationships stretch back to high school. When we get together, in whatever combination, the banter flies fast and heavy – and then turns abruptly to matters like politics and theology.

There’s such joy in that.

Such sweet comfort in the bouncing from the silly to the serious, knowing that the jests are made with a gentle heart and the thoughts shared have been weighed and considered.

I may not speak to any one of my friends on a daily or even weekly basis, but there is a love that connects us. If one of them needed a kidney and I was a match, there’d be no questions about it.

My heart swelled with warmth as I sat on my little corner of the couch and looked into those dear faces squished into every nook of the tiny living room. I was tired and sore. I’m always tired and sore these days. But I was so very glad to have arranged that visit.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)