Chastity is always an import topic for youth groups. We want teens to respect their bodies and each other. Yet our record is abysmal.
As I look at the myriad of ways I’ve seen it taught, been taught as a teen, heard of others teaching it or even taught it myself, I keep coming across 4 ways of teaching it that fail to do the good a proper lesson could. Maybe if we cleared these up, our record would improve.
1. Chastity is a line
When I was in High School, I remember we had a one day course at a convent downtown on chastity. The key lesson was to have your line and respect others.
That might be good. Going beyond your partner’s line obviously lacks respect for him or her. However, is that the only way you can disrespect them? Even the very fact that you are pushing towards a line is disrespectful; it says they are something to be enjoyed up to a certain point rather than a person to be respected.
As I was searching for a picture to accompany this post, I came across an anti-Christian post that shows how ridiculous this idea is. (I will not share anti-Christian stuff.) It had a guy and a girl then had green lines between almost all the body parts meaning perfectly fine then 2 red lines meaning “You’re going to hell!” between certain body parts.
Chastity is a direction not a line. Chastity is about respect for others: those present and those not such as parents or future spouses.
2. Chastity is easy
Anywhere chastity is not easy. Our current society makes it harder it two ways. Obviously the first is the over-sexualisation or pornification of popular culture. The second is a little less obvious: young people are much older before they can get married and support a family. This creates a longer period after the hormones are going while we still aren’t ready for marriage.
Whenever we teach chastity, we need to teach practical ideas to help teens through the difficulties. I’ve had quite a few teen boys come up to me one-on-one worried about attractive women on the magazine covers in the checkout line. Nobody every taught them how to deal with this.
3. We can teach chastity without parents’ help
In that day-course I took in high school that I mentioned above, one lesson stands out even today. Several placards were placed around the room: holding hands, kissing… all the way to sex. We were asked to stand where we thought our parents thought most teens were; then we were told to move to where we thought (or wanted to admit we thought) most teens were. I moved from sex (the stats prove that most lose their virginity before finishing high school) to something a little lower. Only about 3 of 100 students moved in the direction I did. We 3 who lived chastity felt put out of place. However, the most dangerous part of this lesson was divide teens from their parents.
We can take it away from the parents like that; so often parents drop it on us. They say “I don’t have the foggiest idea how to teach Sally chastity but I trust you can do it all” but in a more round-about, polite manner. Or even worse: dad brags to his sons about his teenage “exploits” while mom and us suggest they don’t have “exploits.”
If you don’t get the parents involved it’s almost impossible. In fact, the Conquest and Challenge programs I’ve worked with don’t touch it directly but leave chastity education in the parents’ hands (they do offer a parental guidebook).
4. Chastity is negative
Most of us have heard one of those talks: look at all those these STDs you don’t want to get; protection is not 100% effective; you aren’t ready to be a parent; sex could ruin your future. If this is the only reason to be chaste, what a pity.
John Paul II said in Theology of the body: Chastity “reveals itself as a singular ability to perceive, love, and realize those meanings of the ‘language of the body’ that remain completely unknown to concupiscence itself and progressively enrich the spousal dialogue by purifying, deepening, and at the same time simplifying it.” That is a positive view. He speaks of our bodies as a gift to the other but he states, “Only when a person is liberated from lust and is in possession of his own sexual subjectivity can he be a gift for others.”
Sexual intimacy – from kissing to sex – is speaking with the body. The sexual act is the culmination of a loving relationship, not a pure mechanical act. In effect, the marital act says “I love you so much that I need more to love since you alone are cannot contain all the love I have for you.” It is one of the deepest interpersonal relationships available on earth. This is one reason why marriage is sometimes called the primordial sacrament. Other acts of intimacy are also forms of deep interpersonal relationships. Even by romantic kissing and hugging, the two enter a kind of intimacy and communion of love.
The witness of those of us who have consecrated our lives to God in chastity is important for all teens to show them positive chastity.
You can teach chastity to teens. But teach them with parents’ help that it’s a direction, it’s hard, and it’s a positive choice. Teach them that it’s about respecting other. In fact it’s such a positive choice that Jesus himself made it.
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