Friday, December 17, 2004

The Rebuilding of Montserrat, 3:
Seventy vs. Eighty Percent
GEM 04:12:17

The headline for The Montserrat Reporter, December 3, 2004, reads: “Survey Reports 70% of MSS Girls Sexually Active.” Thus, the public has learned about a recent Ministry of Education survey in our Island’s lone secondary school, which indicates that seventy percent of students in the school are sexually active.

This number is a stark contrast to the 2001 Census, in which easily over eighty percent of respondents identify themselves with one Christian denomination or another. Since it is quite manifest that the Bible teaches us to “flee fornication . . . he that commits fornication sinneth against his own body” [1 Cor 6:18] and indeed counsels young men to treat “elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity” [1 Tim 5:2], there is a huge gap between our profession as a community and our reported behaviour. And, in a world of AIDS and dozens of other sexually transmitted diseases, widespread promiscuity is obviously personally and socially destructive. So, we at once must ask ourselves whether we are serious about rebuilding Montserrat as a “healthy . . . God-fearing society.”

Why, then, is there such a huge gap between our profession and our practice?

The answer is not too hard to find: we all like to think of God as a benevolent Uncle in the sky, but when it comes to Jesus’ counsel that “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” [Lk 9:23], we are not so eager to follow in the way of self-denial and discipleship.

This gap then bubbles up in our self-indulgent, manipulative and self-destructive sexual habits, leading to chaotic family patterns, and also general self-seeking behaviour in business, community and government, so that suspicion, exploitation and apathy replace trust, trustworthiness and cooperation in rebuilding our community. In short, absent a serious, godly reformation, our sinful lifestyles will continue to undermine and block our hopes for achieving a successfully and sustainably rebuilt nation.

Let us look again at Nehemiah’s community rebuilding strategy. In the face of similar frustration, oppression and chaos, he pulled together a critical mass to work on an obviously strategic project that was in the common interest: rebuilding the protective walls of Jerusalem. So, different groups got to work on different parts of the broken down wall, and in fifty-two days success was achieved. Then, a celebration of thanksgiving to God led by Ezra broke out in revival, repentance and reformation.

Since AIDS and related diseases are a manifestly dangerous common threat to our lives and community (and indeed the world), and since this is obviously tied to the need for a disciplined, focused life and solid family structures, family life renewal and a shift to wholesome sexuality are one of the sections of Montserrat’s “broken-down wall” that we need to rebuild. Thus, the Ministry of Education and the Red Cross Peer Educators are plainly on target in seeking to address AIDS and related concerns, and the churches should also be in the forefront of the fight to rebuild this strategic section of our nation’s protective walls. ( Here, it is worth a note to point out that the Brades Pentecostal church hall was used for the Red Cross AIDS day rally that provided the platform for Ms Sylecia Allen’s bombshell announcement.)

But, how can we – as a self-confessedly God-fearing nation -- soundly rebuild this section of our broken down walls? For that, Mrs Rebecca Hagelin of the Heritage Foundation, USA has some sobering words:

“10 scientific evaluations (four of them peer-reviewed) have found abstinence[-based sex education] programs effective both at reducing teen pregnancy and at reducing sexually transmitted diseases . . . They "also can provide the foundation for personal responsibility and enduring marital commitment" . . . Therefore, they are vitally important to efforts aimed at reducing out-of-wedlock childbearing among young adult women, improving child well-being, and increasing adult happiness over the long term . . . the [US Government] funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health shows . . . . "Adolescents who take a virginity pledge have substantially lower levels of sexual activity and better life outcomes when compared with similar adolescents who do not make such a pledge," the report says. "In addition . . . teen pledgers who do become sexually active are not less likely to use contraception." Plus . . . [Hagelin notes] if condoms were effective at reducing STDs [under real-world conditions], then, as condom use goes up, STDs should go down. But they've grown right along with condom use . . . . rates of depression and suicide are higher among teens who are sexually active. We know sexually active kids are more likely to drink, smoke and use drugs. And we know – as parents, educators and members of the community – that kids strive to meet the expectations we set for them.” [“Selling a Dangerous Lie,” WND Dec 17, 2004, ]

These are sobering words, indeed; but they also highlight the positive health and community implications of the approach to sexuality and family life that the Bible has long taught us: chastity, fidelity and careful nurture of our children in the fear of God, in light of his Word. So, now, let’s talk, let’s pray . . . and, through God’s leading, let’s act! AMEN

No comments: