Pay and Pray

June 2005


Proponents of abstinence recommend a faith-based approach to public health. There are only a few teeny flaws in this kind of a program, like the fact that it does not work.

Unless you're a sincere Christian Scientist, it's hard to understand why anybody would back a faith-based public health initiative, like the "Silver Ring Thing." The Bush Administration likes to give these folks our tax money, despite the fact that this program has a dismal success rate at achieving abstinence in teens (something like 12%).

Regardless of your political or religious affiliations, we've all been teenagers, right? Doesn't anyone else remember what it was like?

Through the ages, older people have tried every possible kind of control, argument, constraint, or punishment on young people to try and prevent them from having sex. None of them have ever worked. The only way to prevent young men and women from having sex with one another is to physically separate them, practically from birth. It is debatable that this prevents sex -- it just makes heterosexual sex between people unrelated to one another much less possible.

And that is the biggest problem I have with trying to MAKE teenagers do ANYTHING. If you really force them into obedience (or passive acquiescence anyway), the measures to make this happen are almost always more injurious to the people concerned than the problem under correction.

For example, do most people want to return to the good old days of Victoria, when young women felt themselves unclean for having genuine sexual feelings? Do we want men to use women as ejaculate repositories, and to think any woman who actually enjoys sex is perverted? That kind of denial and repression of natural emotions and instincts results in really sick, twisted, warped people.

The object of public health expenditures ought to be, well, better public health. The Silver Ring Thing crowd doesn’t like condoms because they make it possible to have sex without being punished for it. The biggest problem with their programs is that they teach people not to use condoms -- they preach that if you fail to abstain, you deserve to be punished and therefore you should not use condoms. That may be an acceptable moral position for some people, but it makes zero sense for us to spend public health dollars teaching people that they deserve to get sick if they have sex.

Granted that some teenagers are going to have sex, it would be better for public health if they used condoms, i.e. less disease transmission would result. Other considerations, such as the biblical take on premarital sex, just do not result in less disease transmission. Our public health dollars should be spent based upon what works, not on what we wished would work.

And when a woman gets pregnant, she should not have to work through a whole bunch of guilt about how bad a person she has been and how much she has sinned. Motherhood is, biblically speaking, a blessed event -- creation is creation and this new person deserves to have its mother consider him or her to be a blessing and not a curse.

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