February 26 2010

Cox News Service article
May 16, 1992

Sex: Saints or Sinners?

by Carey Kinsolving

If the soft touch of a red-lipstick kiss on the church flyer didn’t grab the attention of the congregation in Gaithersburg, Md., the title of the sermons did: “Surviving in a Sex-crazed Culture.”

One of those whose attention it captured, newly married Jeb Baker, 31, said the series of sermons proved to be “almost shocking” because it laid out God’s standard clearly and made him realize how far Americans have strayed from it.

What God has designed to be delightful has become deadly, said the Rev. Paul Abbott, pastor of the Cedar Brook Community Church in Gaithersburg. His solution: Christians must create a counterculture where abstinence and virginity are socially acceptable.

Baker had been a typical college student. But after he became a Christian he was not afraid to use the “A” word – abstinence.

“My wife is so secure in our relationship now because she knows that for nine years before she met me, I was morally pure. If I waited for her when I was single, why would I be unfaithful now that we’re married?”

“The smartest thing we ever did was wait.”

In a telephone survey, nine Washington-area pastors or church spokespersons were asked if they had spoken about sex in their sermons. All said they had addressed the subject within the past year.

“As a father of four teenagers, I know how tough it is out there,” Abbott said. “The Bible has practical help.”

Referring to basketball star Magic Johnson, who admitted publicly he carries the HIV virus, Abbott entitled his first sermon, “Is the Magic Gone?” He answered in the affirmative: “The Magic is gone.”

Abbott told his congregation that the optimism surrounding Johnson’s role as a messenger to America’s youth shows how far down the wrong road our society has traveled. “The man ‘Johnson’ has virtually no credibility as a role model for abstinence,” Abbott said in quoting Debra Haffner, director of the U.S. Sex Information Council.

“Our children are dying because no one will tell them the truth,” Abbott said. “The truth is that the incidence of AIDS among teenagers is doubling every 14 months (Time magazine), and 57 percent of high school students are sexually active (U.S. News & World Report). There are over 50 sexually transmitted diseases (New York Times).”

Abbott said a woman was quoted in “Glamour” magazine as saying, “Our society treats virginity like a disease.”

The mystery, romance, fulfillment and intimacy that God intended has been lost in an atmosphere of profanity, vulgarity and promiscuity, Abbott said.

In Baltimore, Campaign for Our Children is attempting to reverse the virginity stigma by putting up billboards saying, “VIRGIN: Teach your kid it’s not a dirty word.”

However, such attempts may be like throwing pebbles at an oncoming train. By age 20, the average American has heard and seen 90,000 sexual comments or suggested acts of sex on television. Eighty percent of those depict sex outside of marriage, Abbott said.

Abbott urged Christian parents to be more open with their kids about their relationship with God and to take responsibility for their children’s sex education. Abbott suggested that parents encourage their children to make friends with peers who will wield a good influence.

“We need to be undefensively different, to set a different standard and create a Christian counterculture,” Abbott said.

In Abbott’s second sermon, he said purity is not emptiness or the absence of sin. Rather, it is a positive relationship with God that is dynamic, exciting and satisfying.

“Marriage, the most passionate human relationship, is used routinely to depict the relationship that God desires with every man and woman. That gives us an idea of how deeply intimate God wants to be with us.”

Abbott compared immorality to greed, with its selfishness and ugliness. Sex can be good and healthy, he said, but immorality is taking what belongs to others.

Susie Grubb, 29, had never heard sex discussed from the pulpit, but said, “I’m glad it’s being done. I think it’s something that needs to be talked about more openly. Everyone is having a lot of problems in this area.”