I entered the doors of the Giant Center in Hershey Pennsylvania with anxious anticipation of impacting youth with the truth of God's love and the amazing craftsmanship of our sexuality.
Table display set.
Long minutes passed as we awaited the thousands of youth gathering for this annual youth event. I'm not sure what I expected but what I got was somewhat of a shock to the system. As excited and insanely loud teens poured through the doors, I felt like I was at a high school football game or even the county fair; anywhere but a Christian youth conference.
I went from a confident woman ready to share God's plan of restoration to an overwhelmed bundle of confusion in about 28 seconds flat. Suddenly I realized I had no idea what today's youth are really like. This culture was foreign to me. What I witness was both eye opening and sad.
I quickly realized this was a generation of blurred lines.
Blurred Lines of Sexuality
Headlining my whirlwind experience was the presence of more than one youthful teenage boy wearing make-up. There was one boy, I will never forget, as I looked at him I could not tell if I was looking at a male or a female. The ambiguous goth-style complete with tights, Doc Marten's and unused bib straps did not give me a clue. It wasn't until he began to speak and told me his name, that I had solid evidence.
Later, in a lull of activity while the masses were in a conference session, I met a youth pastor who many would have sworn was a gay man. The “walk”, feminine mannerisms, and the way he spoke made it hard for me to fight off the assumption that he was indeed homosexual.
I have no idea of this gentleman's sexuality and I will not render a verdict on the matter. I will say, I find it unnerving that such a matter is even questionable, especially in the church, especially with a youth pastor.
Men are men.
Women are women.
Why is there a question here?
The definition of man does not include unkempt, ungroomed, neanderthal. A man can brush his teeth (and his hair), put on a nice shoes and a polo and still be a man without question. A woman can run a tractor, change the oil in the car and work on the furnace – but there should be no doubt that she's a woman.
Why are gender lines blurred among Christians? I wish I had a good answer.
Another startling thing I witnessed was the lack of boundaries and personal space between boys and girls. I felt like I was at a high school dance. What happened to boundaries between young men and young woman? Without boundaries of personal space, there's temptation, to keep going.
Were youth leaders and chaperones too scared to say, “I know you “love” her, but you may not put your hand in her back pocket and walk around.” And why did these youth feel so comfortable and free to act this way?
Because it's become the norm, even in church.
Blurred Lines of Modesty
Modesty is not a one size fits all. Not every family feels skirts are the only way to be a Christian lady. But does that mean our youth should blend in with the crowd showing as much flesh as everyone else? Why can't we be relevant and still respectful of our bodies? Have we gone so far from the movement of modesty that we've decided looking like the world is the only way to “draw in” this generation?
I was shocked at the attire of a large majority of the children at this convention. It still felt like Friday night at the football game. It wasn't just a few girls or a couple of boys dressed provocatively. I tried to reason that some of these teens may not be committed to Christ and thus this was their normal way. Maybe they were here with their friends who were looking to lead the to the Lord. The problem was, I couldn't figure out who was the “the friend” and who was “the witness.”
Modesty is not about covering up. It's about displaying the value of your identity. Kings and queens, in days gone by, did not dress as paupers. They displayed their identity in their wardrobe. I'm not suggesting we must wear eloquent and expensive threads but I am suggesting that we take our identity into account when we get dressed.
Blurred Lines of Right and Wrong
Several days after the conference I was still marinating on what I saw. I couldn't help but wonder why. Why was there seemingly no distinction from the world in this group of 5,000 “Christian” teens? Why were parents allowing this? Why was the church allowing this?
Could it be because we're too scared to deal with it?
- We don't want to “loose” anyone by having rules.
- We don't want to offend anyone with the truth
- We think they'll figure it out on their own
- We want to be so “relevant” that we forgot to be set apart
- We don't want put ourselves in uncomfortable situations by addressing the very issues our children are crying out to have answered.
Talking about sex, drawing a hard line between sexual right and wrong with our youth is just as important as teaching them to drive and it needs to start at an earlier age than you think. We can't just tell our kids to wait, give them cute promise rings and certificates to hang on their walls and think that's the end of the convo.
In a world where information (good and bad) is so readily available, we need to be their go-to source for answers to the tough questions.
(I was given a copy of More Than the Talk to review. All opinions expressed are my own.)
If I was confused I can't imagine how the youth in the church today must feel. As they search for answers, try to navigate the world around them and “find themselves” it must be difficult to separate truth from lies when everything looks so blurry.
I watched a video just the other day where a man, speaking to a college-age crowd, proclaimed there are not two genders. That gender is not the parts that make up our bodies but what's in our heads. And while I would say our gender is more than sex organs it is not just what is in our heads. The man rattled off a list of 15, yes 15 different genders. Can you name 15 genders? I could barely name 5 and had to Google the rest.
Ask your teens how many genders they've heard of. The answer may shock you.
I hope it does. I hope it drives home the point that our children need us. They need to navigate this world and the ideas that are set forth all while maintaining their Christian identity, being a light and loving like Jesus did.
If you don't feel you are ready for these conversations there are many Christian resources that can help you become prepared. More Than Just The Talk by Jonathan McKee may take you by surprise but it answers questions today's kids are asking. I was reminded of my youth conference experience when I read Start Here, the introduction to McKee's book. Jonathan has seen more than his share “things that make you go hummm” among today's youth in the church.
I heard it said once there are two kinds of people in this world, straight-forward people, and beat around the bush people. When it comes to sex no matter what you natural bent, you must be a straightforward person. The truth is, either you answer your child's questions or someone else will. Google? Erotica? Pornography? Sex Ed Class?
More Than Just The Talk is a tool in your tool belt that will help you build an open door through which you can communicate with your child about sex and sexuality for many years. Here's a snapshot of the tough questions Johnathan tackles:
- If a guy has anal sex with a girl, are they still virgins?
- Is it okay to masturbate to keep from looking at porn?
- Is a wet dream sin?
- Is mutual masturbation okay?
- Is it wrong if I'm attracted to someone of the same sex?
Our children think these questions. They think these questions because they are young and they want answers. No different that the trillion questions asked my son about snakes, chickens, and Alaska State Troopers. We may know the answers to these questions but our children don't know unless they ask. (How many times have you said that to your child? It applies here too.)
There are a few areas in the book I don't agree with, you may find some as well, but overall this book is a great tool to use as needed. In those cases, chew up the meat and spit out the bones. Because at the end of the day, you want to have the answers to the question they are asking.
How do you handle tough sex-related questions with your children?