(Reblog) Thanks To Better Sex Ed, California’s Teen Birth Rate Has Plummeted By 60 Percent

Secrets of Life. A controversial sex ed film from the 1950s.

Reblogged from Think Progress:

California’s teen birth rate has plummeted to the lowest level that it’s been in the past 20 years, according to new data from the state’s health department. The state’s rate now stands at 28 births for every 1,000 teenage girls — a 60 percent drop since 1991, when the rate peaked at 70.9 births for every 1,000 girls.

Click here for full article

Erotic Justice


An adequate sexual ethic does more than insist that no harm be done to others.  It strengthens people’s well-being and self-respect.  Good sex is good because it touches our senses powerfully but also because it enhances our self-worth and deepens our desire to connect more justly with others.  The key concerns of this ethic are how power is shared and the quality of caring.  Sex is not something one “does to” another person or “has happen” to oneself.  Rather sexual intimacy is a mutual process of feeling with, connecting to, and sharing as whole persons.  We enhance our sense of self-worth by attending with care to what is happening to the other person as well as to ourselves.  In the midst of sexual pleasuring with a partner, we do not “lose” ourselves as much as we relocate ourselves in the in-betweenness of self and other, as we receive and give affection and energy.

Dr. Marvin M. Ellison, Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality, p.89

Ruth and (Boaz?)

An old college friend sent me this photo over Facebook today, and, while I appreciate the humor and the overall sentiment, the biblical exegete in me can’t resist the urge to shed a little scandalous light on what’s REALLY going on in the book of Ruth.

First of all, the book of Ruth is not mainly a love story between Ruth and Boaz.  It’s a love story about Ruth and Naomi.  Some go so far as to claim that Ruth and Naomi were lesbian lovers.  However, the majority of biblical scholars dismiss this opinion as anachronistic speculation at best.

What is clear, however, is that the relationship between Ruth and Naomi takes center-stage in this book.  Furthermore, this is a relationship that is formed and conducted entirely outside the bounds of conventional definitions of relationships.

Their commitment to each other transcends the boundaries of race, culture, and religion.  Disastrous circumstances bring them together.  Their love for each other keeps them together.  This is a story about love as a lived reality that overcomes all barriers.

The life to which Ruth commits herself is one of hardship and illegitimacy.  Women were regarded as property in the Ancient Near East.  They had no legal rights without a man to speak for them.  Ruth and Naomi forge an existence together at the very edge of civilization, where they do whatever they have to do to survive.

Boaz himself is only a marginal character in this story.  He only shows up as a plot device.  Not a bad guy, to be sure, but not the hero either.

As women without means, surviving on their own, Ruth and Naomi hatch a plot to force Boaz into being their source of long-term legitimacy and security.  At the end of the harvest, when Boaz is passed out drunk from a long day of work and a long night of partying, Ruth crawls into bed with him and “uncovers his feet”.  This phrase is a Hebrew euphemism.  She uncovered his feet alright… and his knees… and his thighs… and everything else up there.  Basically, Ruth was shamelessly throwing herself at Boaz.  She was in no way acting like a lady in this moment.

Imagine this: Boaz stirs awake from a drunken stupor with his pants around his ankles and a woman straddling him.  Her actions are sending the message, “You and me: right now, right here.”  The innuendo in this passage is by no means subtle.  If we’re going to take the story of Ruth as a model for sexual morality, then I predict that the evangelical dating scene is about to get very… interesting.

Where I find the good news in this story is in the committed love between Ruth and Naomi that overcomes all circumstances and barriers.  They stay committed to each other, no matter what.  Their family relationship would have been unconventional, untraditional, and offensive to many in their society.  They were useless people, damaged goods, and human refuse.

They say that God works in mysterious ways.  In the book of Ruth, God can be found in the morally questionable behavior of those who eek out an existence of survival under dire circumstances at the very edge of civilization, but maintain their humanity by keeping faith in and with each other, despite anything that anyone else has to say about it.  Theirs is a scandalous love that takes risks and holds on no matter what, much like the love of God.  When it comes to finding a biblical model for relationships, I don’t pray that my kids will have a love like Ruth and Boaz.  May my children grow up find a love like Ruth’s and Naomi’s.  So may we all.

No offense to my old friend who sent me the picture.  It’s hilarious.  Thanks for indulging a preacher with a keen eye and a dirty mind.

The Erotic Spirit

The first week of spring has felt more like the first week of summer in New York.  We’ve had temperatures in the 80s most days.  This is unheard of in a land where I’ve preached Easter sermons under a blanket of snow.

I’ve come to love spring over the last ten years or so.  It started when I was living in Vancouver, where spring’s arrival is loudly announced by the explosion of cherry blossoms and the rhododendrons just outside my apartment window.  The combined effect is like floral fireworks.

Flowers aren’t the only things popping out either.  I’ve noticed that, as human beings emerge from hibernation, they have some kind of instinctual urge to get out of their clothes in public.  They do it while jogging, sunning, or going to class.

I like to say, “It’s mating season for the earthbound human!”  I stole and adapted that phrase from a movie in the 90s.  While sometimes annoying, this tendency never fails to be entertaining.

Earlier this week, the weather being what it is, I decided to take my work out of the office to the lake.  Grading papers, prepping for next week’s lectures, and quietly meditating.  Not normally sexually charged activities.  I was rather surprised to find, on a weekday afternoon, our wannabe naturists already out in force with all the coy subtlety of Britney Spears’ famous claims to virginity.

In years past, I probably would have stormed off in a self-righteous huff, annoyed at the distractions while I was trying to get work done or “be spiritual” (whatever the hell that means).  It reminds me of something Rich Mullins said (I think he stole it from Tony Campolo).  I paraphrase:

“If you’re a [straight] guy on a beach and a young woman walks by in a bikini and that doesn’t do something for you, that doesn’t mean you’re spiritual.  It means you’re dead.”

So, in the interest of (a.) reminding myself that I’m not dead and (b.) liberating myself from old habits of belief and behavior, I decided to stay where I was and see if it was possible to be spiritual and sexual at the same time.  To many out there, this will probably come across as rather basic, but it’s still a new concept for me, thanks to my previously disembodied (my seminary prof, Loren Wilkinson, would call it gnostic) orientation toward all things theological.

What I discovered in that moment was happily surprising.  I began to recall particular prayers of thanksgiving from the Presbyterian Book of Common Worship.  In one prayer, we express gratitude for “All beauty that delights us…” and in another, “The treasure stored in every human life…”

I began thinking about the Greek word Eros.  It’s one of several words that sometimes gets translated as Love.  It’s where we get the English word Erotic.  Eros is romantic love, desire, and attraction.  Matthew Fox and Diarmuid O’Murchu, who have written on this subject far more than me, like to emphasize Eros as creative love.  It simultaneously includes and transcends animal lust.  I’m currently coming to believe that lust is neither foreign nor antithetical to love unless the two are deliberately divorced in the name of either licentious selfishness or “purity” (which can become a form of religiously legitimated selfishness).

I found myself saying prayers of gratitude for that indefinable magnetism that draws human beings together.  It drives us to know one another fully.  No other single psychic factor is so motivating.  We yearn for intimacy, not only in our minds and spirits, but in our bodies as well.

The coming together of human beings (in the lab, studio, classroom, boardroom, or bedroom) is inherently life-giving and creative.  It’s also complex, tricky, messy, and requires lots of skill and commitment in order to be fulfilling in the long-term.  I pray that we would learn how to honor the meaning of our connections with each other so that we might sustain the beauty we have created.  In this sense, all of life is as erotic as it is spiritual.

As my time of meditation at the lake came to a close, I surveyed the trees, the water, and the hills of the earth around me.  I thought about the Jewish creation myth depicted in the first chapter of Genesis.  Delirious in the pulsating and passionate throes of creation’s rhythm, God cries out repeatedly in climactic pleasure, “It’s good!  It’s good!  It’s SO good!”