Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is abstinence realistic?

The liberal reactions to Bristol Palin's statement that abstinence is not realistic were expected. The religious ones haven't gotten much attention.

One evangelical site says abstinence is an obligation so not up for discussion; instead society must be made so that abstinence becomes realistic. There are certainly groups of teenagers with lower (but non-zero!) rates of sexual activity than evangelical teenagers. I'm just not sure that those models work in the evangelical context. The whole principle of evangelical Christianity going back to Paul is to have a relatively low admission price in terms of obligations, so not everyone will be as committed and so may not be as likely to change their dating habits as in religious groups where adherents also have to change their diet or dress style. One admission price is attending an evangelical school as this person notes, so norms can be more successfully perpetuated in this environment in which everyone has already made a substantial commitment to even be there. It will be interesting to see whether more evangelical groups change their culture to become more conservative and separate the sexes more.

Bristol Palin's statement comes with very good timing. Hints at the future of abstinence-only education for FY 2010 will come at the end of the month when Obama submits his budget. Separately, according to the Economist Louise Slaughter's bill for medically-accurate sex education is likely to pass.


Hal said...

"The whole principle of evangelical Christianity going back to Paul is to have a relatively low admission price in terms of obligations"

Perhaps you could elaborate here.

Janet said...

My understanding from my uncle (who is a Christian pastor) is that early Christians had to get circumcised and also avoid e.g. food consecrated to idols, but those requirements were eliminated. For instance:

And then Protestantism had the justification by faith, not by works.

In theory it's possible for someone to become a saved evangelical Christian by signing the back of a Bible tract.

Hal said...

Your understanding from your uncle is correct. There was a big brouhaha in the early church about Greeks and Romans having to become Jews before they could become Christians.

Your theory, unfortunately, is incorrect. All signing the back of a tract does is put your name on paper. That doesn't save anyone.

Perhaps you could explain why justifcation by faith is equivalent to a "low admission price."