Archive for March, 2015

christian children in palestine

When I look at the photos of children in the Middle East, I wonder:
What if we knew we had one year left of Christian freedom in this country?
What would we most want our children and grandchildren to know…

iraqi christian children

…and what would we be willing to do about it?



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Mussmann Anna croppedAnna Mussmann and I have never met.  So it was with great surprise that I received the following review of my book from her blog Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife.

Linda Bartlett has worked in the pro-life movement for years. Among other positions, she has served as the national president of Lutherans For Life and as chairman of the LCMS Sanctity of Life Task Force. As a pro-life leader; a mentor of young women; an instrumental participant in the launch of Word of Hope, a post-abortion ministry; and a parent, she has come to believe that the foundational philosophical approach behind modern sex education is in utter conflict with Scripture. This month, I read her book, The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity: Questions and Answers for Christian Dialogue.

Initially, I found myself somewhat resistant to her message. Two issues distracted me. One was my own background. After growing up in a homeschooling community that included a large number of fundamentalist families who tried to “ensure” their children’s purity by rejecting the world entirely, I have seen overly-controlling parents and overly-sheltered (adult) children. There was no outward immodesty, no dating, and no “sex education” in these households. I remember one woman whose son wanted to become a doctor. She would not agree to his going to medical school because there is “so much nudity” there, and she hoped that he could find a nude-free, apprenticeship route to medical training with a Christian physician. These families sought protection from sin through ignorance, and their legalistic attempts did not usually work out as they hoped. Because of all this, I was hesitant when Mrs. Bartlett argued that children ought not to receive “sex education.” I even shied away from her use of the word “purity.” After all, we and our children are all sinners. How can we be “pure?” However, as I completed the book, I came to realize that what Mrs. Bartlett advocates is different from the errors I saw growing up. Mrs. Bartlett’s arguments are insightful, thoughtful, counter-cultural, and deeply important to parents and to the church as a whole. Her writing is well-worth your consideration.

She argues that the modern understanding of sexuality (itself a loaded modern term) is the result of “sexual social engineering” based upon the discredited and deeply flawed research (some of it involving shocking child abuse) of sexologist Alfred Charles Kinsey. Due to Kinsey and his followers, the world has accepted the idea that human beings are “sexual from birth” and that sexuality (as opposed to sex, in the sense of being male or female) is key to each person’s identity. Believing that these arguments (and all that they imply) were proven science, the church changed its approach to sex, sexuality, and human identity and sought to provide a Christian version of the same flawed sex education that became universal in the public sector. This, Mrs. Bartlett says, was a well-meant but tragic mistake.

She points out that, while God created humans as male and female, Jesus also said that there is no marriage or giving in marriage in heaven. We know that we will not lose our humanity or our identity in heaven. Therefore, our “sexuality” is not essential to our humanity and identity. When we focus only on our sexual identity instead of our identity as a man or a woman, we lose out on the broader picture of who we are. She says, “We are fully human—male or female—whether we are a child or an adult, whether we are married or single,” and that, “To accept that children are human beings and therefore sexual beings is to accept wrong teaching that leads to wrong practice. It bestows a mistaken identity that compromises faith and purity.”

When Christian parents and Christian teachers believe that their children are sexual beings, they teach the wrong things at the wrong time. Instead of focusing on teaching children what it means to live out the vocation of man or a woman in the broad sense (and providing appropriate sexual information in one-on-one conversations at appropriate times), sex is overemphasized. Children are placed in mixed-gender classrooms away from their parents and told how to have sex, how to prevent physical side-effects of sex, that sex is wonderful, and that they will no doubt think about it a great deal and want to have it, but that they must wait for marriage. Twelve years of sex education, added to an oversexed culture, is unhealthy. She argues that this approach is more likely to stir up lust and inappropriate desire than to help young people relate to each other in a Christian manner. It is like surrounding them with wonderful-looking candy and saying that they must not eat it!

She also argues that children and young people’s natural delicacy and modesty about such topics is a good, healthy, and protective thing. “Christians should know that due to sin’s corruption, having sexual information is not sufficient to make good sexual decisions.” A system designed to desensitize them (even if well-meaning and based on the assumption that they are already hardened to sensuality and sexuality because of the culture they live in) does no one any favors at all, and is in fact harmful—it can “actually weaken the child’s resistance to sexual temptation.”

Furthermore, if Christians accept the idea that their primary identity is that of a sexual being, it become far more “excusable” for them to engage in sex outside of marriage and even to have abortions. How can they be expected to live chaste lives if that is contrary to their nature? How could anyone believe that they can really wait years and years to engage in an essential aspect of their humanity? After all, “If we are ‘sexual from birth,’ then one may believe that his current lusts and desires were created that way by God, rather than being horribly corrupted by sin. If people believe their current desires are God-given, it would follow that no one has the right to tell them how to define or express their ‘sexuality’.” Because of this, she objects to the term “God’s gift of sexuality” because it leads to misguided emphasis. If instead we talk and teach about “God’s design for sexuality,” the emphasis is far more Biblical.

Opponents of Mrs. Bartlett’s view would probably claim that her approach will lead children to think that sexuality is shameful. However, she quotes C.S. Lewis’s comment that, “There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.” She wants to teach a positive, active approach to life, and says,

“Abstinence says, ‘I must wait for sex until marriage.’ Purity says, “I don’t have to wait to be the woman (or man) God created me to be.’ Abstinence says, ‘Because we are sexual beings, I must be cautious with the opposite sex.’ Purity says, ‘Because we are persons more than sexual beings, I can respect, talk to, learn from, work beside, and be patient with the opposite sex.’ …. Purity always journeys toward hope with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. In fact, because of Jesus Christ, we can be restored to a life of purity even after we’ve failed to abstain.”

Mrs. Bartlett provides a great deal to think about. It took me a while to realize that her approach was not the legalistic one that I have witnessed among some critics of the modern world, in part because her text is composed of (often overlapping) questions and answers, so it felt more like reading material from an online forum than a traditional book, and it took me some time to grasp the overall context of her ideas. She fully recognizes the sinful nature of humanity and the need to provide children with appropriate information at appropriate times. Yet she challenges the church to completely rethink the way we approach sex education and human identity. I find it fascinating that even though most Christians would agree that our culture is over-sexualized, many people respond with alarm to the idea that children should be taught less about sex. We are much more attuned to the danger of insufficient than of over-abundant information on this topic. Mrs. Bartlett’s book offers an explanation for why that is, and suggests an alternative model that could be used to train our children.

 Anna Mussmann is the editor of the
blog Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife;
a teacher and enthusiast of classical education;
a wife and mother of an infant son.
Her blog What’s Wrong with the Phrase,
“God’s Gift of Sexuality?”
is reprinted with permission.

Please visit Our Identity Matters.

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love your neighborWho is our neighbor? In God’s world, our neighbor is more than the person who lives in the house next door. Our neighbor is the stranger in need, the student in our class, our associate at work, our parent or grandparent, and our child. Our neighbor may not think and act the way we do. We may feel awkward with them because our beliefs are polar opposite. But, in God’s world, they are our neighbor.

What are we to do with our neighbor? Jesus says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This love is second only to the love we are to have for God.

I am thinking right now of four Christian friends. Each one is the parent of a son or a daughter who has admitted they are in a gay or lesbian relationship. These parents love their children but, with the desire to live under the character and authority of God and His Word in Christ, these parents cannot accept the behavior and lifestyle of their children.

My friends, and others like them, agonize, asking: What can we do? How do we embrace our child but not their behavior? How do we nurture a godly relationship with our child? In fact, how do we even engage in conversation with our child on some kind of common ground?

Glenn T. Stanton, author of the new book Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor, offers six truths that he defines as “mere Christianity.” These points, writes Stanton, “are the great equalizers of humanity, putting us all in the same boat for good and for bad, proclaiming that no one person is better or worse, loved more or less, nor more or less deserving of love than another.” These truths are:

  • Everybody is a human person. No exceptions.
  • Every human person is of inestimable worth and value, none more than another. No exceptions.
  • Everyone is deeply and passionately loved by God. No exceptions.
  • Unfortunately, everyone is burdened with a terminal illness: sin. No exceptions.
  • All, as children of Adam, are tragically separated from God, but this does not diminish God’s boundless love for us. But it does devastatingly hinder our relationship with Him. All of us, no exceptions.
  • Therefore, everyone is in desperate need of repentance, healing and a new life that comes only in surrender and submission to Christ. No exceptions.

Because we live in such a sexualized culture, there is need, I think, to explain what it means to be a “human person.” In this culture, sexuality is “central to being human.” But the Christian parent is called to see their neighbor; indeed, their child, differently. Parents of a son or daughter who struggles with any kind of sexual desire (for the opposite or same sex) will best love that child in light of how God sees them.

To be human means to be male or female created in God’s image. Although fallen from that perfect image (and burdened with the terminal illness called sin), God still wants His people to reflect His holiness. Nowhere in Scripture does God say: be sexual for I the Lord your God am sexual. What He says is this: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1Peter 1:14-16). Sexuality is not the central part of being human. Sexual describes feelings, desires, thoughts, and physical intimacy. Because of sexual procreation, life goes on. We have birthdays and anniversaries. But sexuality is not the sum total of who we are as male or female persons.

Here is the evidence. Who we are in this temporal life is who we will be for eternity. If we were fundamentally “sexual,” then this would hold true not just before the resurrection but also after the resurrection. (Otherwise after the resurrection, we would be less than human.) But what does Jesus say? When asked whose wife the widow of seven deceased husbands would be in heaven, Jesus answered, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:29-30). Therefore, being sexual, that is, capable of sexual activity, is not part of what it means to be human after the resurrection. And if it is not part of our divinely-created human identity in the resurrection where everything will be made perfect, then it is not the central part of our divinely-created identity now. In heaven, there will be no act of marriage, no “one flesh” union. So, do we lose our identity in heaven? No! Our true identity will remain intact. We will be as He created us—fully human, but perfect in every way, sons and daughters at the Father’s table. We will still be His treasures in Christ but, at last, able to truly reflect His magnificence.

Our human yet holy identity is the common ground for even the most awkward discussions between one neighbor and another, between parent and child. Failing to see our neighbor or child as God does will ultimately affect the way we fear, love and trust God. It may cause us to love conditionally rather than unconditionally or close doors rather than open them.

It’s true that I am not facing the same challenge as my four friends. If they said to me, “You speak so easily of all this, what can you possible know,” I would have to confess that I know only what Jesus tells us all: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How we see our neighbor—indeed, our child—matters. It changes the way we approach them, welcome them, speak to them, serve them, and endure with them.

(“Six truths” from “The Odd Couple” by
Glenn T. Stanton in CITIZEN, March 2015.)

Suggested resources:
The Failure of Sex Education in the Church:
Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity by Linda Bartlett (Amazon.com)
and Out of a Far Country by Christopher Yuan and Angela Yuan

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