Saturday, October 15, 2011

The 3 - October 15, 2011

This week's edition of "The 3" highlights a new study from a government agency that provides some encouragement for Christians as we reinforce the message of abstinence. Also, the U.S. House voted - again - to prevent tax dollars from funding the abortion industry. And, the top story involves communication between the President, his Administration, and some evangelical leaders.

3 - New CDC study on teenage sex reveals encouraging stats, Christian magazine examines young adult sexuality

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a study regarding teenagers and their sexual habits and attitudes. The percentage of teens ages 15-19 that report having had sex has declined since 2002, when the last study was released, and the CDC reports that the percentage of females who have engaged in sexual activity has declined from 51 to 43 percent since 1988. Overall, 57 percent of girls and 58 percent of boys ages 15-19 said that they had never had sex. Of course, this means that greater than 4 in 10 teenagers have been involved in sexual activity. Of those who said they had never had sex, 41 percent of girls and 31 percent of boys chose "against religion or morals" as their main reason for not having had sex. Teenagers were least likely to choose "don't want to get a sexually transmitted disease" as the reason for not having had sex, the CDC said.

Baptist Press published this analysis.

Richard Ross, co-founder of the True Love Waits abstinence movement told Baptist Press that, "Adults have to decide whether teenagers are like barnyard animals, incapable of moral decision-making and at the mercy of primal urges," and went on to say that, "Adults who tend to believe that assume all we can do is try to prevent some of the consequences of their amoral behavior."

Early True Love Waits leaders stood in opposition to that sentiment and instead told teenagers, "We have great respect for you. In the power of the Spirit, we believe you are perfectly capable of choosing values, making promises and keeping those promises," Ross said. He cited the Obama Administration and Department of Health and Human Services, who question the effectiveness of the abstinence message, yet, "...the government's own Centers for Disease Control reports annually that rates of teenage sexual activity have dropped every year since True Love Waits and the broader abstinence movement came on the scene. Perhaps the Administration is making decisions based more on an ideology than on research."

Valerie Huber, executive director of the National Abstinence Education Association, said the study shows the sexual risk avoidance message is "not only resonating but also making a difference in the lives of youth." Huber expressed concern that the rate of condom use is increasing, but so is the rate of sexually-transmitted diseases: "...we must examine the connection between increased condom use and rising STD rates among teens. In an administration that professes to embrace science, these findings beg serious questions that need to be addressed with objectivity and for the health of our youth."

But, once young people exit the teen years, there is a great temptation for them to be involved in sexual activity, as the cultural and relational pressures are having an impact on young adults, especially young adults. Relevant magazine is examining the tendency of evangelical young adults to be caught up in premarital sex, even renouncing earlier pledges to stay pure. Here is an overview from the CNN Belief blog. According to the blog post,
Relevant theorizes about why it’s so hard for so many young Christians to wait, including the saturation of sex in popular culture, the prevalence of pornography and a popular “do what feels good philosophy.”
Yet the article also asks a question that rarely comes up in discussions about abstinence movement. Relevant notes that in biblical times, people married earlier. The average age for marriage has been increasing in the U.S for the last 40 years.
So, we can be encouraged that the teen sexuality statistics are showing that the idea of abstinence, consistent with a Biblical perspective, is working for teens. But, we can be concerned that young adults are seemingly showing a lessened amount of resistance - in fact, Relevant cited a December 2009 study, conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which included information on sexual activity. I think that the results may be a bit skewed, for whatever reason, but while the study's primary report did not explore religion, some additional analysis focusing on sexual activity and religious identification yielded this result, according to Relevant: according to the study, 80 percent of unmarried evangelical young adults (18 to 29) said that they have had sex - slightly less than 88 percent of unmarried adults. So, it becomes a challenge for churches in their college, career, and young adult ministries to continue to reinforce the message that God's design for sex is that it is for marriage, and is (still) worth waiting for.

2 - Obama meets with evangelical leaders, Administration officials preview new movie on global poverty

The same week that the President was continuing to make the case for not amending the health care law to include safeguards against tax dollars funding abortion, he was meeting with a group of evangelical leaders at the White House. While the issue of abortion was not part of the conversation, and participants touched on same-sex marriage and the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the meeting with representatives of the National Association of Evangelicals covered a wide range of issues, including religious freedom. The group did commend the President on his support for Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is facing a death sentence, and reportedly discussed matters of the right of religious organizations to adhere to a set of hiring standards, even while receiving Federal funds, as well as immigration reform.

According to writer Sarah Pulliam Bailey, who wrote for the Religion News Service, and whose story was published in the "On Faith" section of the Washington Post:

One participant in the meeting said Obama and NAE leaders acknowledged a “respectful disagreement” over same-sex marriage, and NAE officials advocated for the right of military chaplains to voice their opposition to homosexuality following the repeal of the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell policy.
The NAE represents 40 denominations across some 45,000 local churches, and extends a request to meet with the president each year, according to NAE President Dr. Leith Anderson. This is the first time Obama has accepted. One could say that the acceptance of the invitation to the meeting was timed to coincide with the President's re-election campaign, as Obama hopes to peel off some evangelical voters, as he did in 2008, when around 1 in 4 born-again, or evangelical voters, went with him, according to exit poll data reported by Christianity Today.

According to the same report, the Wednesday meeting came on the heels of a Tuesday night screening of the new movie on global poverty called, "58". Leaders from several Christian agencies, such as Compassion International, World Relief, Food for the Hungry and International Justice Mission met with members of the Administration to watch the film and discuss ways to help the poor.“Poverty is no longer an abstract issue,” Todd said. “I think the risk in the current climate is that it becomes politicized. It’s not. It’s always been bipartisan.”

Stephan Bauman, president and CEO of World Relief, the NAE’s affiliated humanitarian arm, said that Christian agencies hope to see continued funding through President Obama’s Feed the Future program. Scott Todd of Compassion International, told Bailey that an upcoming study from the Barna Group suggests that 20 percent of Protestants and 16 percent of Catholics have traveled abroad on some form of ministry or mission trip. Christians under 35 are 50 percent more likely to give to causes to eradicate extreme poverty, the study suggests.

Tony Neeves, Producer of the "58" film, will be a guest on my radio show, The Meeting House on Monday, October 17th.

1 - House passes Protect Life Act, removes taxpayer-funded abortion from health care law

Even though it faces a certain Presidential veto and an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate, the so-called Protect Life Act was passed by the U.S. House this week. This represents a long-term solution in the new health care law to the issue of abortion. The Hyde Amendment prevents tax dollars from funding abortion, and this Act is designed to settle the issue in the health care legislation on a permanent basis. CitizenLink, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, had this report.

The Administration promised that the President would veto the bill, stating that it would infringe on the reproductive rights of women. But, then the White House referred to the Executive Order regarding taxpayer funding of abortion, signed by the President on the day the health care bill passed in order to attract votes from Democratic House members who had been regarded as pro-life - they essentially deemed the Protect Life Act as unnecessary. So, why not have Congressional certification of the content of the Executive Order, if the Order actually does what its proponents say it does? The day after the vote, legal experts said that the Order had no authority, and pro-family advocates have identified the language in the health care law as providing for taxpayer-funded abortion, which is an element that has clearly been supported by the Obama Administration.

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