It’s easy enough to be against something – but what are we for? Last week https://ap.org.au/2021/03/03/is-more-education-the-answer-to-australias-sex-abuse-crisis/ we saw that the only answer our society has on sexual relationships is to teach ‘consent’. It won’t work. But what will?
The problem is easy to state. The edition of the Sydney Morning Herald that I am currently looking at has ten of its 42 pages devoted to the subject of sexual abuse and consent. Earlier in the week I listened to an ABC radio report which was supposed to be a ‘discussion’ on the subject. There was no discussion – just an ‘expert’ on sexuality and gender suggesting that the only solution was to teach…unsurprisingly, sexuality and gender. This is the way that we equip children to ‘navigate their sexual lives later on’. In contrast have a look at this excellent discussion on the Pastor’s Heart. https://www.thepastorsheart.net/podcast/sexual-assault-at-school
When the abstinence movement was a thing in the US, oh how the media mocked. You can’t teach children to ‘just say no’. Now the pendulum has swung and suddenly it is progressive liberals who are urging consent laws. But perhaps they don’t mean ‘just say no’, perhaps they want teenagers to learn to say ‘yes’? Teaching children to say ‘yes’ was what we in the old days used to call ‘grooming’. But of course, that’s not what they mean. They live in a fantasy world where they think everyone can be taught to make rational, moral and intelligent decisions based on all the facts – if only experts could educate us. They forget that ignorance is not the only problem – lust, power, cruelty, substance abuse, broken relationships, are all in there too. As long as our society does not take a serious view of sin, it cannot seriously deal with sexual sin.
So what is the Christian solution to this and what should we be teaching – what is the Christian answer to the problem?
- Obey the Maker’s Instructions. I tend to find that when something goes wrong with something I possess, I must go to the manufacturers to see what I need to do to put it right. I obey the maker’s instructions. God created us male and female. The devil seeks to destroy us. When we have gone our own way and it hasn’t worked – when we have a broken society, filled with broken relationships – why don’t we return to the Maker’s instructions? Take for example the issue of ‘consent’. What do we understand by that? It’s not just saying ‘yes’. It is about respect. If we are going to respect someone then we will treat them as an equal human being made in the image of God. It’s because I respect people that I won’t sleep with them, or abuse them, or even if they desire it, join in something which is clearly against God’s good will for us.
- Reject Pornography and the objectification of women and men. Rachael Wong of the Women’s Forum Australia identifies this. She argued that whilst consent education is important “it is pointless to talk about consent without addressing the underlying issue of pornography and the devastating impact it has on normalising sexual violence and conditioning boys and men to view women as sexual objects.” Daniel Principe, of Collective Shout, does a wonderful work educating children about porn from a Christian perspective. His recent article in Eternity magazine hits the nail on the head. https://www.eternitynews.com.au/australia/ive-heard-it-firsthand-kambala-petition-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg/
He told my colleague Steve McAlpine ““Do you really think that a young man can get the same level of dopamine hit from a consent class at school as he can from porn on his phone? If consent classes are all we have, we’re in trouble.”
- Take responsibility for our children. A major issue is the early sexualisation of children. This is seen in terms of dress, entertainment and the notion that Madonna or K-Pop bands are suitable role models for children. Why not let children be children and do as much as we can to protect them from seeing, experiencing or sharing in images and sexual philosophies which can only do them harm? Mobiles for young children, or Internet in bedrooms are not wise. And when we do teach them let us use clear, biblical and respectful resources – such as these by Patricia Weerakoon. https://youthworksmedia.net/collections/patricia-weerakoon
- The Church should teach clear, consistent and contemporary biblical principles on sexuality and gender. This is not just on what is wrong –- but also what is right and seeking to also understand sex within the wider context of male and female relationships. My wife returned home from the Priscilla and Aquila Conference this year, really excited. It’s not often she returns from a conference in that state – so I took on board her recommendation and had a look at Gary and Fiona Millar’s talks on Why the Patriarchal Narratives aren’t Patriarchal. https://paa.moore.edu.au/resources/genesis-women-part1-gary-and-fiona-millar/
My good lady was correct. This is brilliant bible teaching which goes right to the heart of the matter. Human sinfulness will mean that men, who are generally stronger, will seek to dominate and that this in turn will often lead to abuse. The solution is not to equalise things by enabling women to abuse as well, but rather to teach and model a whole different way of being.
- Christian schools need to be active in promoting a positive Christian view of sex and sexuality. They are not there to teach a pale reflection of the culture’s standards. The culture has a confused, incoherent and inconsistent set of standards. I’ve observed far too many Christian schools just put a ‘spiritual’ veneer on that and not go back to basic principles. We end up sexualising children rather than equipping them to live in our perverted society. We imply or hint that we have given up on teaching the biblical idea of the sacredness of sex and the need to keep sex within marriage. We seem to think that as long as there is ‘protection’ and ‘consent’, that will be fine. No, it won’t. It just does not work out that way. Our society teaches us ‘what’ to think. We need to teach our children ‘how’ to think. To think biblically so that they can navigate their way through the ever-changing Babylonian pagan culture that we are returning to. An excellent example of this is a recent address given to Scots College boys by an ex-policeman, Brent Sanders – https://vimeo.com/516539969
- It is important for us to understand the times and know what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32). Far too often we deal with symptoms, not causes. We must know the Scriptures AND know our culture(s). It is only then that we will be able to apply the
Scriptures powerfully and persuasively to our own people – and indeed, to others. The early Christians’ view of sexuality, which was in profound contrast to the Graeco/Roman/Pagan view, was an enormously attractive aspect of Christianity, especially to women. Let’s promote biblical teaching in such a way that people see the real contrast and grasp the beauty of its reality.
Our society is wringing its hands and shutting the stable door as the horse has bolted. In the Church we need to preach, live and love a different standard. One that is true consent: respect for other human beings, stimulated and guided by the Word of God. This is our answer – God’s answer.
David Robertson is a Scottish Presbyterian minister who came to Australia in 2019 to work with City Bible Forum – as well as continuing to help with CBF he now directs the ASK project with ENC for Sydney Anglicans – helping churches with evangelism. You can contact him at email@example.com