To be honest, I came across this book by accident; partially because it is fairly new, and partially because it was not published by Concordia Publishing House, my preferred theological book company. To my surprise, very few people that I have spoken to in the course of reading this book have heard of it either.
Ultimately, I picked The Failure of Sex Education in the Church by Linda Bartlett up because I knew of Bartlett and knew that some of her work was interesting, if not also controversial, in how men and women relate in the family.
To be honest, this was at times a hard book to read, and I can only imagine that based on the depth of research and the subject matter, it was a hard book to write. Bartlett even admits that it took her a long time to even be convinced that the book needed to be written, partially I assume due to the subject matter, but also in no small part due to the disgusting actions and research one must comb through in order to properly source the book.
I am very happy that Bartlett was able to write this book, and that I had the foresight to pick it up and actually read it. The book will challenge your assumptions, you will question the conclusions, but one thing you cannot do, is deny the extent of the problem society is facing right now in terms of children and how they are developing, both emotionally and mentally, compared to how children developed 100 years ago.
To look at the title, one would assume that this book is about curriculum, and it is, but not entirely so. One would assume it is about the Church, and it is, but not entirely so. One would assume that this book is for pastors and teachers, and it is, but not entirely so. One would assume that this book is not about abortion, or homosexuality, or birth control, or pedophilia, or divorce; but it is.
The book tackles an assumption that is based in a lie, but an assumption that has been repeated so often that it is assumed to be true, even though all of the evidence says that it is false. The assumption made popular by Alferd Kinsey that humans are sexual from birth; Bartlett details how this conclusion was achieved through immoral science, and skewed statistics, but that no one cared or did their homework, and accepted it as fact, and began the teaching of sex education in schools.
Bartlett offers details on how this entered the Church, even The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and was published by Concordia Publishing House, and is even continued to a lesser degree today. (This answered my question as to why CPH did not publish this particular book).
The second assumption that Bartlett challenges is that parents are morons who cannot teach their own children about sex, so the schools have to do so, and how this contributes to a whole range of problems, such as premarital sex, abortion, birth control and homosexuality. Are schools, both public and private advocating such things? No; but they are removing much of what is sacred and personal about sex and putting it out into the open at a time and place where children cannot handle the information; and so the need for abortion and birth control; and the confusion about homosexuality and even at what age feelings of love are manageable for young people.
There is a great deal in the book about the problem, and there are a few solutions offered, although one must admit we are behind the proverbial 8 ball.
First, get sex education out of the schools and rely on parents to teach their children at an appropriate age, that the family determines, not the state. Second, the Church needs to emphasize our identity not as sexual beings, but as baptized children of God, who are called to be pure. Interestingly, she advocates not telling children what they cannot do, but what they can do.
The book does challenge me in many respects; for quite some time there has been an emphasis that the Church needs to openly discuss issues such as sex, so that youth have answers, Bartlett presents a couple of reasons as to why this is not a good idea. How should the Church teach the Sixth Commandment? More importantly, in the public square are we sacrificing a voice on the hope that parents will cover it at home?
Another challenge is the mere depth of the situation. I listen to Radio Disney, a station generally listened to by youth, mostly for noise in the car and for the pop music it plays. Nearly every song on the station advocates young love (never marriage) and implies sex in so many songs that it is disgusting. Now flip through the channels on your TV, how many are sexually suggestive, how many cover topics that would have never come up on TV 30 years ago? Then there is clothes shopping, heaven help you if you are looking for girls clothes that are not in some way provocative. The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step, but this journey might be 10,000 miles.
And finally there is the challenge of formal education. I have advocated for Lutheran schools my whole life; I am in favor of Catholic schools; and where I live now, I am a supporter of the local public school. After reading this book, for the first time in my life, the idea of home schooling crossed my mind. Between the discussion of topics in the classroom and in the cafeteria that are better discussed in the home, are parents better off teaching their children at home as opposed to exposing them to things they really do not need to hear?
Finally, Bartlett describes the sexual desires of youth as sleeping giants, that if left alone will awaken and develop at their own rate of speed. But when placed into classrooms where the topic of sex is discussed openly and freely by the teacher and by students, that sleeping giant is awakened early, and it does not go back to sleep.
Who would want to awaken this sleeping giant? Those who favor abortion, birth control, homosexuality, and the tearing down of marriage and the family as a whole.
Why would they want that? They desire to tear down the Church.
Thank-you Linda Bartlett for writing this book. Thank-you for opening my eyes to the lies that I have been told and believed. May others do the same.
Pastors, you need to read this book.