Faith vs. Actions

“I know I’m meant to be a ………. but ……….”

Like anyone else, young people of faith will often fall short of the values they believe in – and sometimes will live in active rebellion against those values.

A Christian young person tells their story: ‘My father was a church leader and I had decided I was going to wait for sex until I was married. But then my friends (not Christians) kept asking “Have you done it yet?” In the end I caved in and slept with my partner– even though I knew this was not going to be a long-term relationship. We broke up shortly after.’

faith-vs-action

A Muslim young woman writes a year after her abortion: ‘I still regret it.  I’ve broken up with the boyfriend who encouraged me to have an abortion. Being a Muslim, my parents think I am still a virgin and are looking for a boy for me to get married to. I am not yet recovered from this abortion. I wonder how I will be able to appear like a virgin on my wedding night.’

How should faith leaders and faith communities respond? Is faith part of the problem or part of the answer?

When a young person of faith has sex or an abortion, that young person can easily experience deep feelings of shame and guilt that their peers who do not have a faith background may not experience. These feelings may result from hearing over and over from their faith community, parents, and others that sex must be saved for marriage. This guilt may prevent them from going to their faith community for support, and it can cause long-term emotional pain and isolation from the faith community.

If young people feel they are in an unsupported minority they are more likely to go along with the crowd. One responsibility of faith communities, then, is to create supportive groups where young people can feel accepted, where the decision to wait to have sex is a norm or value within the group. In a group like this, the pressure to have sex may be turned on its head, and young people themselves may even encourage each other to wait.

Young people of faith are often torn between the values of their peers and the media which say ‘Everyone is sexually active' and the values of faith which often communicate a simple ‘Don’t do it.’

What particular pressures do they feel that make them compromise on values that they hold in their head?

Media pressure: a large number of TV programmes has been sexualized, which encourages the idea that being sexually active is normal for all young people.

Professional pressure: the language used to present SRE may unwittingly contribute to the message that sexual activity is for now.

Peer pressure: the attitudes of the loudest in a class or friendship group are taken on by everyone, and the fear of pity or laughter in response to expression of faith values around issues of sex, leads to silence.