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Asking the clergy about sex education

Talking with one's children about sex is never an easy conversation. Can scripture help guide parents through this important but difficult talk?

Father Anthony Osuagwu, chaplain, South Nassau Community Hospital, Oceanside:

There are no particular scriptures that discuss sex education. I would encourage parents to raise their children in fear of the Lord. Remind your child that his or her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20). Therefore, they can't just use their body in any way they want.

The spirit of God dwells in all of us from the moment of baptism. We do not simply belong to ourselves. Remind them that we each should be careful how we live our lives. The more important thing is that the sex conversation should not be the first big conversation you're having with your child. You should raise them from the time they're young understanding that they must treat their body as a temple. Help them understand that if they don't want God to see them doing a certain thing, they shouldn't do it. If you'd be ashamed for God to see you stealing, then don't steal.

Remember, if you teach them they can come to you with any question when they are young, they will come to you to discuss sex when they are older. I'd refer parents to the book of Ephesians, particularly 6:4, which commands parents to be gentle with their children, to not drive them to resentment. This is important in all your dealings, not just when dealing with sexual issues.

Rabbi Dr. Steven A. Moss, B'nai Israel Reform Temple, Oakdale:

I have thought of four verses that lay the foundation for all relationships, not just sexual relationships. We want to teach our children to be respectful and appreciate the worth of others, especially in a sexual relationship.

Genesis 1:30: And God saw all that God made and found it very good.

This is in regard to the human being who, according to our tradition, was created with basic goodness.

Genesis 2:18: It is not good for a person to be alone.

It is God's desire for us, out of our goodness, for life to be in relationships with other people.

Genesis 1:28: Be fruitful and multiply.

In Judaism, sex for the fulfillment of pleasure is seen to be something very precious and holy. However, sex for the purpose of having a future generation is certainly also most important.

Leviticus 19:18: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

This is the most important of all, because it is through the sexual act, or the having of sex, that we in a sense not only express our love but also our respect. As we are able to respect ourselves, we can appropriately respect others. This mutual respect and the finding and discovery of goodness in one another is vital to our spiritual needs.

The verses represent the foundation of all relationships. The sexual relationship should have a strong spiritual foundation to it. If you don't have that, you don't have anything at all. You want to lay the groundwork of all relationships with your child before the sexual one.

The Rev. Wendy Steed, St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Inwood:

I would refer parents to Ephesians 6:10-18, which speaks about using your faith as a kind of armor in preparing to meet challenging situations. I think talking about sex qualifies.

More often than not, by the time this conversation occurs, most of our children already know its content well. Even so, it is still important that we as parents have that conversation with them.

As Ephesians suggests, it is important to be prepared. Think through what you want to say, even if the conversation goes differently. It is obvious that "just say no" doesn't work about sex, drugs or many other things. To assume children won't have sex is to deny teen pregnancy and other statistics.

With that understanding, it could be that the greatest tool we possess is our own stories of love fully expressed in a relationship with a long-term partner.

Perhaps the most bold of us may even come to a point where we can share our own experiences. It may be that it is only when we embrace our own failings that we can truly begin to touch the battle that our own children face each day as they make important life choices.

Having this conversation is not as simple as giving them a list of what not to do. You have to temper your conversation to the world they're living in. It would be grand if we could reel off scripture about birth control, sex before marriage, etc. The truth is, it is a much more complex world we live in than the one we grew up in. Pat answers are what turn people off to faith. We have to be part of the world and understand challenges our children face. Doing this is not giving them a green light to have sex. Instead, we're letting them know we understand what they're going through, and we're going to be there with them through it.

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