2 Reasons You’re Hesitant to Talk to Your Kids About Sex (But Shouldn’t Be)

  1. Share
1 0

My guest on the blog is Amy Davison, co-author of  Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality.* (Check out our online book study!) She's going to clear up two obstacles that keep parents from teaching their kids a biblical worldview of sexuality.

 

Discipleship is not a word you hear that often outside of the occasional sermon series on the Apostles. In fact, I’m willing to bet an overpriced latte that you’ve never heard your church use it to refer to how we should shepherd our children’s understanding of biblical sexuality. But parents, there is no better way! There’s just a slight problem: the word discipleship is nowhere to be found in the Bible. No really, flip to the index and check, I’ll wait... See what I mean?

Parents often shy away from discipleship because of their aversion to the heavy-handed ways they may have learned about God and sex. It is critical to understand how sexually discipling your kids is different. To do that, we have to address two big elephants in the room when it comes to teaching a biblical sexual ethic.

Repeat after me: I am not indoctrinating my kids.

If you want to stir up the hornet’s nest of social media, tweet about how you’re raising your kids to understand the Christian worldview. It won’t take long before the progressive police shriek, “Indoctrination!” and accuse you of being a Christian Castro in yoga pants. They’re totally wrong of course. (Obviously Castro could never pull off lululemon; and I doubt he ever hid in a closet to eat the last brownie while toddlers clawed like zombies at the door.) They’re panicking because at one point, instead of being taught how to discern good ideas from bad, some parents opted for indoctrination instead. 

Indoctrination is when people are manipulated into accepting an idea without being allowed to think critically about whether or not it’s actually true. You just accept it as such. 

Think of this like an assembly line of Talking Tina dolls. Each doll rolls across the assembly line and has a voice box with a set recording of a few different phrases sewn into her body. Press her hand and, like magic, Tina says exactly what she was programmed to say, no thinking required. 

For some parents, this is the epitome of religious upbringing. Raising kids to ask questions about Christianity was akin to putting them on the short bus to hell, and nobody wants to ride that bus! In the dozens of books Hillary and I have read on Christians who renounced their faith or the traditional understanding of Scripture, nearly all were raised in an indoctrination-style household. There was no discipling; just an implicit understanding that if you lived in this house, you believe what we say, no questions asked. 

That isn’t the kind of household anyone wants to grow up in, and it certainly isn’t biblical. Scripture admonishes us to test everything because we are at war with false philosophies (1 Thessalonians 5:21, Colossians 2:8). This is why we are given spiritual armor to use in battle daily—not to be hung above the fireplace as a decoration (Ephesians 6:10-18). Kids are supposed to reason about what Scripture tells them because knowing God intimately with our minds (Hebrew yada) is an act of love and worship (Isaiah 1:18, 1 Peter 3:15, Matthew 22:37). If our home isn’t a safe place for autonomy, discussion, doubts, research and growth, then the Twitter haters have a right to be mad: we’re indoctrinating our kids. We have to take extra care as parents to nurture the faith of our children as an evangelist and not as a stand-in for the Holy Spirit. Trust me, we can’t fill that role.

 A Bad Case of “the Fundies”

The second challenge often raised against discipleship is one we’re probably all familiar with: fundamentalism. Fundamentalism grew as a sort of justice league of evangelicals to combat liberal challenges against the supernatural and the “…historicity and truth of Christian doctrine.” Dozens of church leaders from across denominational lines united around upholding and contending for the fundamentals of the faith like the virgin birth, Christ’s divinity and resurrection, creation, and the inerrancy of the original manuscripts. 

Things were going well when, around the mid 1920s, some within the fundamentalist camp wanted to kick things up a notch…or ten. If you’ve ever seen the movie "The Waterboy," starring Adam Sandler, you’ll no doubt remember how his mother thought everything was of the devil. This hilarious bit of comedy was a modern poke at the fundamentalist’s view that things like dancing, playing cards, fooz-ball (football), and spicy food was going to damn your soul to hell. To protect the Church meant that the movement had to get militant, and boy did they ever! They combined a strict literal understanding of Scripture with their own standard for how people should act (aka legalism) and would gleefully boil anyone in the proverbial pot of self-righteousness if they happened to deviate from it.

Fundies' kids didn’t have it any easier than their indoctrinated playmates. If you grew up under this influence, sex was what separated the good boys and girls from the bad. It was a trap waiting to snare sweet and innocent Christians. If you were a girl, you might have even been told your body was that trap. So you better put on another sweater or your future spouse will be passed off to someone more worthy. The problem with fundamentalism is that it uses the premarital bed (or the back of your boyfriend's Nissan) as the gateway to the cross. Sure kids may have made it down the aisle with their purity rings still shining, but the anxiety that followed them made faithfulness feel worse than if they had actually sinned. As a result, many went on their honeymoons and left the church behind them for good.

 Worth the Fight

Joe Lewis once said that everyone has a plan until they get hit, and the church is no different. They tried to have a plan, but between hyper-fundamentalism, the fall-out of purity culture, and the at times graceless response to LGBTQ issues, the church has taken more than its share of hits. As Dr. Juli Slattery points out, the problem isn't that the spiritual battle defending biblical sexuality isn’t worth having, it’s that the church doesn’t know how to fight.(1) And the fall-out isn’t pretty.

Pew Research Journal conducted a survey on views regarding sexuality and found that 57% of Christians believed premarital sex in a committed relationship was fine, while 50% said that hookups (sleeping with someone you aren’t committed to) was no biggie!(2) According to one study, upwards of 80% of unmarried evangelicals between 18-29 have had sex(3) while 54% of Christians think homosexuality should be accepted rather than discouraged by the church.

We parents aren’t doing much better. Many of us grew up in a “don’t ask-don’t tell”(4) household when it came to discussing sex, and we’ve happily carried on the tradition with our kids. For some of us, the silence is rooted in fear. We’re afraid that if we talk about sex then our kids will want sex. What teen wouldn’t want to after hearing about how good it can feel? And boobs are involved too?! Nope. It’s best to keep that little subject out of sight and out of mind.

Perhaps you are only now shaking off the weight of toxic sexual messages that were piled upon your teenage shoulders. The last thing you want is for your children to feel the same guilt and shame you did. For others, we just don’t know what to say. Heck, we don’t even understand how the biblical sexual worldview is a critical aspect in our own walk with Jesus, let alone how to explain it to our kids.(5) Instead, we rely on middle school health class, your kid’s friends, and snap-tok apps to do the leg-work for us.       

Church, can we come together for a moment and acknowledge a hard truth? This isn’t working. Not because there’s something wrong with God’s design; it's how we’re teaching it (or not teaching it) that’s the problem. When we speak God’s word without grace we don’t only sound like a clanging gong, we club a few people with it in the process. When we don’t address sin, we lose our saltiness and the Gospel loses its power. We need both grace and truth to effectively reach the wounded. We have to talk about sexuality because too many are being led astray by false teachers.(6)    

Mamas and Papas, we have to do our part too. Our kids want us to talk to them about sex. No really, they do. When the Power to Decide campaign surveyed thousands of students, do you know who teens aged 12-15 overwhelmingly said had the most influence on their sexual decisions? Parents. Do you know who also won the influence race with teens aged 16-19? Parents.(7) Don’t let their perpetual AirPods use or eye rolls fool you; our kids are listening. Let’s get some learning. Let’s start talking.

 

Want to learn more? Grab your copy of Mama Bear Apologetics Guide to Sexuality* or join the online book study starting this January! You can also learn more from Amy Davison and her co-author Hillary Morgan Ferrer at www.mamabearapologetics.com.

*This is an affiliate link. AI may earn referral fees from qualifying purchases.


1) Slattery, Juli Rethinking Sexuality (New York: Multnomah, 2018) Pg. 31

2) https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/31/half-of-u-s-christians-say-casual-sex-between-consenting-adults-is-sometimes-or-always-acceptable/

3) https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/10/01/study-finds-majority-of-young-evangelicals-have-premarital-sex/?sh=2af7de01739d

4) This is more commonly known within the branches of the military as a policy regarding homosexuality among troops, but it applies here too.

5) Dr. Slattery makes this point as well in Rethinking Sexuality pg. 24.

6) This was never more obvious than reading Nadia-Bolz Weber’s book Shameless.

7) 54% of teens ages 12-15 said their parents held the most sway. This shrunk to 32% during the 16-19 years with their friends gaining ground at 28%. It wasn’t until college that kids started choosing their friends over us for advice. Still, we’re ahead! Best take advantage of that lead folks! https://powertodecide.org/what-we-do/information/resource-library/parent-power-october-2016-survey-says

Community tags

This content has 0 tags that match your profile.

Topics I'm Interested In

Comments

To leave a comment, login or sign up.

Related Content

3
What's the Purpose of Your Sexuality, Really?
(Presione aquí para leer en español). If someone asks you, “What are your thoughts on cohabitation?” or “Do you believe God is ok with gay marriage?” how would you respond?  To answer those questions, you will (without even realizing it) tap into your underlying beliefs about the purpose of sexuality.  Every opinion you have about sexual issues is rooted in a larger narrative of what you believe about sex—and ultimately, God. Your sexual narrative is the background that helps you make sense of sexuality. It’s the backstory on why our sexual experiences and choices should matter.  Our culture’s changing views on issues like living together or gender fluidity come from an evolution in our sexual narrative. The larger culture now predominantly tells a humanistic narrative that honors human sexuality as a primary form of self-expression and identity.  In a recent study, the Barna group concluded, “Sex has become less a function of procreation or an expression of intimacy and more of a personal experience. To have sex is increasingly seen as a pleasurable and important element in the journey toward self-fulfillment.” If sex is an important part of self-fulfillment, experimentation and sexual “freedom” become very important avenues to maturity.  In contrast to this narrative, the traditional church narrative presents sexuality as a “pass or fail” test of moral character and religious commitment. In my last blog post, I wrote about the limitations of the traditional “purity narrative” of sexuality. If you read that post, you might have been left wondering. If “saving yourself for marriage” isn’t the complete Christian narrative about sex, then what is? To understand the fuller picture of Christianity and sex, we need to start with the premise that sexuality isn’t just about what happens here on earth. It was created by God as something sacred. Sexuality is fundamentally linked to intimacy. As much as our culture tries to push the concept of “casual sex,” there is nothing casual about it. Sexuality, as created by God, taps into our deepest longings and vulnerabilities.  Sexuality must first and foremost be understood as an earthly aspect of humanity that points to a heavenly truth. That truth is that we were made for intimacy. We were created with deep longings to be known, embraced, and loved eternally by a God who will never leave us nor forsake us.  We cannot understand marriage and sexuality until we understand what they were designed to point to. Our sexual longings symbolize the experience of being incomplete. A sexual encounter at best provides a momentary taste of what we were created to experience for eternity. Even within marriage, we continue to have these longings because marriage was never meant to fully satisfy them. C.S. Lewis eloquently states the angst of desire and disappointment: “The longing for a union which only flesh can mediate while the flesh, our mutually excluding bodies, renders it forever unattainable.” Marriage is the metaphor for the answer—not the answer itself!  God created the covenant of marriage to be an earthly experience that points to the eternal reality that Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom of His Church. He pursued her, sacrificed to make her holy, and was united with her through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are most fulfilled when we abide deeply with God. We get glimpses of that intimacy here on earth, but we are still left wanting! As Paul says, all creation groans for Christ to come and claim His people. While the cultural narrative worships sex as a source of our personal fulfillment, the biblical narrative presents sex as a sacred picture of longing, unity, and covenant. Its power is not in attaining sexual satisfaction but in recognizing the deeper longing it represents. This narrative gives a greater context to all things sexual. It explains the why behind the what.  It also helps us understand why sexual intimacy is celebrated within marriage but wrong when it happens apart from a covenant. It fleshes out why sexual betrayal is so difficult to recover from. Within this narrative, male and female are not interchangeable, because they represent Christ and the church. The Christian “rules” around our sexuality are there because they frame the picture of the true purpose of our sexuality. We were not created for sexual expression. We were not even created for marriage. We were created for intimacy. The greatest sex in marriage is a wonderful thing, but still a temporal pleasure meant to point to deeper longings. This is why the New Testament holds singleness in such high esteem. The ultimate good for a Christian is not a happy marriage but surrender to and unity with Christ Himself. Marriage and sexuality are holy metaphors to be honored but should never become idols that overshadow our longing to know God Himself.  Over the past several years, I’ve been studying and “unpacking” this biblical metaphor. The deeper I press into this mystery (and it is a mystery!), the more I’m understanding God’s heart for our sexuality. It helps me put into context my struggles as a wife, the disappointments I see and experience, and also why everything sexual is such a massive spiritual battlefield. My heart for you is that as you engage with Authentic Intimacy materials, you are not simply learning the Christian “rules” about sex, but are encountering God’s heart for you. Sex is not just about sex. It is a physical way that you experience what you were created for… eternal intimacy with a faithful God.    Read the first and second blog in this series. You may also find these follow-up resources helpful:  Java with Juli #218: Rethinking Sexuality in Your Life (member exclusive) Java with Juli #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual Java with Juli #166: We Are All Sexually Broken  Java with Juli #182: Your Generation and Your View of Sexuality
10
Masturbation: Is It Wrong?
Because my job is to talk to women about sex, there are few questions I haven't heard and haven't answered. However, there is one common question that I don't like to answer. Is it ok to masturbate? (Presione aquí para leer en español.)  This question is a bit complicated because the Bible never mentions masturbation. I’m fairly certain that even in biblical times, masturbation was something Christians wondered about and struggled with. God was very clear in spelling out the sexual immorality of other sexual actions, but said nothing specific in Scripture about masturbation. I could take the easy road and just say, "If in doubt, don't do it." The fact is that many Christian women masturbate and feel horribly guilty about it. I've met women who feel more shame about masturbation than they do about sleeping with their boyfriend. Masturbation is a complicated issue that doesn't lend to a clear black and white answer. I want to be realistic about the struggle without giving freedom that God perhaps hasn't given. At a purely biological level, masturbation isn't that much different than other things we do with our bodies—like picking our noses. Toddlers do both. They are wired to touch their bodies everywhere and repeat touching where they find pleasure. Little boys and girls quickly discover that their "private parts" feel really good to touch. As children grow, wise parents gently teach that touching some places of our bodies isn't appropriate to do in public. They teach their kids not to pick their noses in public either. But why does picking your nose have an embarrassing but non-moral stigma, while masturbation has become laden with tremendous guilt and shame? While there is nothing inherently wrong with touching yourself to experience pleasure, masturbation becomes a moral issue because it involves sexuality. Our sexuality has intrinsic moral and spiritual implications. In I Corinthians 6, Paul teaches that what we eat doesn’t really matter, but what we do with our bodies sexually is spiritually significant. Does that mean that masturbation is always sinful? Many Christian ministries consider masturbation the same as viewing porn or dwelling on sexual fantasies. I think the question needs a little more consideration. Here are a few things to consider as you evaluate the issue given your personal circumstances. 1) It’s the thought that counts. Masturbation is often more about dwelling on sexual things and promoting lustful thinking than it is about a physical release. If this is the case, the Bible is CLEAR that this is not God’s will for you. While masturbation may not be specifically called sinful, the sexual fantasies that usually go with it are. Many women only masturbate when they are thinking about or looking at something sexual. As Jesus stated, this is "adultery of the heart." "But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman [or man] with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Any time you are viewing, reading or thinking about something sexual for the purpose of arousal (apart from a married couple thinking sexually about one another), you are promoting lustful thoughts. For many women, this is a constant temptation. It’s difficult to get sexual thoughts and images out of your mind. My mentor (and AI co-founder) Linda Dillow gives great advice related to this: You can’t control what comes into your mind, but you can control what stays there. When you are tempted to look at porn or dwell on a sexual image or fantasy, kick that thought out instead of letting it fester in your mind. If this is something you regularly struggle with, come up with a strategy NOW. What can you do to put your attention toward something else? Call a friend, put on worship music or work on a project? 2) God cares about your heart. The Bible makes it clear that God is very concerned about our motives. When I talk with a woman who is asking about masturbation, I am more concerned about what is behind the struggle than I am about the act itself. Many women learned (or were even taught) to masturbate at very young ages. This is particularly true of those who have been sexually violated and "sexualized" in childhood. While I would never recommend masturbation, I recognize that sometimes the urge to masturbate is a symptom of deeper issues that need to be addressed. My encouragement would be to work toward healing and restoring a healthy view of holy sexuality, which are more central to wholeness than trying to eliminate the urge to masturbate. It is more effective to address masturbation as an issue of spiritual maturity than an issue of right and wrong. As you grow in your walk with God and as you develop a fuller understanding of His design for sexuality, masturbation will likely become less of an issue. God will give you wisdom that goes beyond the “white knuckle approach” of suppressing sexual desire. However, when all of your focus is on controlling your sexual longings and feeling shame because of the struggle, you may find yourself stuck in a self-destructive pattern. More important than the question, “Are you masturbating?,” I would want to ask, “Are you moving towards God’s design for your sexuality?” 3) Remember the purpose of sexuality. Our sexuality was created to draw us into covenant love. Without sexual desire, very few people would ever go through the sacrifice required to commit your life to another person. We would be content with work, hobbies and friendship. But our sexuality prompts us to think of romance, passion, intimacy and belonging to another person. One of the greatest dangers of masturbation (along with fantasy, hooking up, erotica and pornography) is the belief that we can satisfy our sexual needs without pursuing covenant love. I believe that many young men and women delay marriage because they have learned to “take care of” their own sexual desires instead of directing those desires towards the pursuit of lifelong love. The problem is that our bodies awaken sexually around eleven (or even earlier), while we are not financially and emotionally ready for marriage until at least a decade later. This is a new tension caused by modern “advancements” ranging from the hormones in our food to the growing demands of what it means to be an adult ready for marriage. In biblical times, the period between sexual awakening and marriage age was far shorter! It’s not realistic nor wise (or even legal) to encourage twelve year olds to pursue marriage as an answer to their sexual longings. However, we should be concerned with men and women in early adulthood who delay marriage and romantic pursuit by redirecting their sexuality toward self-pleasure. I know that many single women reading this blog want a covenant relationship. The fact is that there are more married-minded women than men. Single women are sexual. Even those who are committed to purity in mind and body have sexual hormones, dreams and thoughts that impact their bodies. Just like men have "wet dreams," many women masturbate and orgasm in their sleep. There are Christian leaders working with singles who believe that masturbation may be a way to stay sexually pure until marriage. While I would be very cautious to give that advice, I recognize that for some, masturbation is a way of channeling sexual urges away from the temptation to have sex. However, some research suggests that masturbation can increase sexual desire instead of helping relieve it. We also need to consider that masturbation promotes the belief and attitude that sexuality is about personal pleasure. Some men and women who regularly masturbate find that they have difficulty learning to share their sexuality appropriately once they are married. They only know how to sexually respond to their own touch. 4) Is it mastering you? (No pun intended.) The apostle Paul taught that "nothing should master" us. In other words, we shouldn't be controlled or addicted to anything. This applies to food, shopping, social media and also to masturbation. For many women, masturbation can become a way of escape from boredom, loneliness, depression, pain and stress. We learn at a young age to soothe ourselves with something that feels good. Some ways of coping with stress and boredom are clearly unhealthy, like drinking alcohol or cutting. Other forms of coping are destructive because they abuse an inherently good thing. For example, food is a wonderful gift. But a binge on ice cream and Doritos because you are lonely is abusing that gift. The same is true of sexuality. The neurochemicals released during sex and orgasm reduce stress, help you sleep and make you feel at peace. However, having sex outside of marriage or habitually masturbating is an abuse of the body's natural response to sex. If you are masturbating on a regular basis or use it to deal with negative emotions, I'd encourage you to find other means of coping. God gave us healthy ways to release the chemicals in your body that bring peace and contentment. Prayer, meditation, exercise, talking to a friend or creating something artistic might take more work, but they are alternatives to falling into an addictive cycle. 5) Am I honoring God with my body? "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). This verse can bring conviction regarding a lot of choices we make with our bodies, but it was written in the context of sexuality. If there is a "gold standard" question to ask, this is it. Some thoughts for married women: The most important question I would ask a married couple to consider related to the use of masturbation is, “Does this draw us into greater intimacy or interfere with intimacy?”. There is a huge difference between a selfish wife who masturbates because she is withholding sex from her husband and a wife who masturbates for the purpose of building intimacy with her husband. Consider, for example, a couple who is separated because of deployment or long-term illness. Is masturbation something that can support your marriage and your vows to be faithful to each other? This is a matter of both agreement and conscience. A husband and wife should talk and pray together about the best way to focus sexually on one another when sexual intimacy isn’t possible.  Masturbation becomes a problem when it is a secret kept from your spouse, if it is a replacement for sexual intimacy or if sexual thoughts go outside of thinking about just the two of you. Many married women can only orgasm if they stimulate themselves. While I’d encourage women in this situation to work towards teaching your husband how to pleasure you (I recommend the book The Married Guy's Guide to Great Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner), there is nothing wrong with touching yourself during sexual intimacy. You are sharing a sexual experience with your husband. Growing sexually requires you to explore your bodies together. Masturbation can even be beneficial for a married couple in cases of sexual dysfunction. A very common form of sex therapy called "sensate focus" helps a woman pay attention to how she responds to sexual touch, first by touching herself and then by guiding her husband's hand as he touches her. This can be an important step in healing, particularly for women who have experienced sexual trauma that triggers anxiety at sexual touch. Final Thoughts: I have great respect for women (married and single) who want to honor God with their sexuality. I believe masturbation is an issue that each woman has to ask the Lord about. While God didn’t specifically address masturbation in the Bible, God did tell us that He wants to give us his wisdom. "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking" (James 1:5). God is the High Priest who understands your questions and struggles. Even in this most intimate (and perhaps embarrassing) issue, don't be afraid to pour out your heart to him and ask for his specific direction and wisdom.   You may be interested in these follow-up resources: Is Masturbation a Sin? You May Be Asking the Wrong Question (Juli's blog) #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual #166: We're All Sexually Broken Why We Don't Experience Victory (Juli's blog) Three Things To Remember About Sexual Sin & Grace (Joy's blog)