As part of Bristol Palin’s role as a born-again champion of abstinence, she recently wrapped up filming an episode of ABC’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, in which she plays the friend of another young single mother. Look for the episode to air this summer, but look for the Palin family’s hubris to air nonstop before, during, and after then.
While Bristol seems much sweeter than the rest of that clan, that arrogantly church-going family reminds me of three fundamental problems that arise from traditional Biblical instruction on sex.
Forget the tired notion that Christians are “against” sex. They’re as wildly for it as anyone; that’s what got Bristol into trouble. Christians simply have an idealized notion of sex and relationships, one that’s increasingly divorced from the reality and the direction of the larger society.
I speak, of course, of mainstream and conservative Christians, who struggle more nervously than others with three fundamental problems that arise from Biblical sexual instruction.
2. It promises more than it can deliver.
It criticizes all premarital liaisons as dangerous or at least misguided, and it pooh-poohs any possibility of even some redeeming or meaningful engagement with another human being. And it sets the marital bed up as a far greater good. This leads to the common complaint of various married Christian friends, which is that married sex isn’t what it was cracked up to be. Distress over the mundaneness of it all, anger at the lack of interest on the part of a spouse, and curiosity about what else may have been out there prior to marriage may not be terribly different from what anyone else feels. But Christians’ sense of disappointment is more real and palpable.
If there is a God, I imagine he or she cares more about emotional health than about rigid rules (“the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”). And the various rationalizations and loopholes of true believers can in many cases move them farther from, not closer to, emotional health and an integrated view of reality.
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Speaking from personal experience and also working with Christian young people, I can tell you this is good stuff.