Welcome, Wonketterians, to our weekly foray into the world of textbooks aimed at Christianist homeschoolers! This week, as promised, we’ll start a short series on a pair of sex-ed books for the middle-school years. The first, Facing the Facts: The Truth About Sex And You, by Stan and Brenna Jones (Navpress, 1995), is pretty much a straightforward sex-ed text with an overlay of God stuff. The other one, Sex, Love, & Romance: Sex Education from the Bible (1989) is from A Beka Books (publishers of our just-ended trial-by-ordeal World History and Culture in Christian Perspective), and it’s pretty much the grim march through Leviticus that the phrase “fundamentalist Christian sex education” brings to mind. Oh, and it was written by someone named Hugh F. Pyle. You there, in the back, stop snickering.
Facing the Facts is definitely the saner of the two; while its perspective is decidedly conservative and fundamentalist, it’s a fairly mainstream, modern sort of fundamentalism. FtF constantly reassures young readers that God has a special plan for each of them, and that He has given humans the “great gift of sexuality” so that they can eventually be in good healthy (heterosexual, of course) marriages where they can raise good Christian children. While later chapters deal with the morality stuff, the first five chapters are mostly-factual explanations of the male and female reproductive systems, puberty, and pregnancy, with matter-of-fact, clearly labeled line drawings of genitals and lots of reminders that the human body is a miracle of God’s creation. Not that it always works; consider this illustration (NSFW? Maybe, but prolly not), which takes up a third of a page and labels exactly one body part:
We get that the idea here is to present nudity in a purely safe, wholesome family setting. It would work a lot better if the drawing had been executed by someone who knew what human faces actually looked like, rather than just going from a verbal description. Other diagrams are pretty much what you’d find in standard sex-ed texts, which gives us an excuse to throw in this otherwise completely gratuitous excerpt from Mimi Pond’s 1983 National Lampoon meditation on the subject:
If FtF is a suburban mega-church kind of Christian sex ed, then Sex, Love & Romance comes from a little backwoods congregation where they handle snakes. Hugh Pyle lays out the book’s premise in the Foreword:
It has been my conviction that if a child is brought up on the Bible, and, if he consistently reads the Word of God as a young person, he will have all the sex education he needs. Why not let God teach our children about sex? Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the warnings of Scripture about impurity and loose living will do much to prevent the sincere young person from playing with forbidden fruit.
While there are occasional nods to the alleged love of God for His creation, this is mostly a book that is bent on lecturing the wickedness out of younguns. The first chapter proudly announces that there will be no “how-to” or “human anatomy” lessons such as might be found in other books. Rather,
This book is for teens who are beginning to form their moral values and who need to know what is right and what is wrong in the area of sexual relationships and what the consequences of their actions will be.
While both books remind their young readers that the love of a committed Christian marriage is similar to “the way Christ loves His Church,” only Pyle goes out of the way to remind them that this is only true of good Christian couples, because “What the world so often refers to as love is nothing but animal lust, the fulfilling of a biological urge.” So remember, no matter how much fun your animal lust may seem to be, you are not actually enjoying it, you deviants.
Needless to say, we will spend most of our time in the next couple of weeks with Mr. Pyle’s book. He’s the sort of writer who literally can’t go more than a paragraph or two without tossing in a Bible verse; this, in addition to the fact that most chapters are only two to four pages long, makes SL & R a very disjointed read. Some of Pyle’s statements seem to have almost no connection to the verses that supposedly support them. For instance,
God always uses correct words: He is never vulgar in His phraseology. So “Adam knew his wife,” and nine months later Cain, their first son was born.
We’re pretty sure that the A Beka folks are part of that odd subset of fundies that considers only the King James Version to be the real Bible, so presumably “knew” is just obviously better and possibly holier than “had intercourse with,” because that’s exactly how God wrote it in its true form in 1611. By contrast, on the subject of slang terms for the genitals, FtF dismisses some as “not wrong, just silly,” and presents a loose rationale for rejecting others:
But some slang is dirty or rude and should not be used. It takes what God made to be good and treats it as if it were evil. Some of the slang men use to talk about women’s bodies is insulting, either because the words are ugly or because they imply that women’s bodies are “to be used” by men. This is wrong.
But slang is also often used because we are uncomfortable talking about our sexuality and feel nervous about using the correct words. In this book we will mostly use the words doctors use, unless those words are too complicated. Because our bodies were made by God, and sex is God’s idea, we don’t have to use slang.
Part of the fun of reading Pyle is that this stuff ends up sounding like dangerous free-thinking by comparison.
As to any actual information about what sex is, neither book goes into any more detail than they consider absolutely necessary. The libertine authors of Facing the Facts boldly acknowledge that “the man’s penis goes inside the woman’s vagina and soon the man ejaculates.” ( Bo-i-i-i-ng!!!) On the other hand, Sex, Love, & Romance will simply have no truck with such sordid and ultimately trifling details:
Sex is holy and beautiful because God invented it. God wrote everything that we need to know about it, and, regarding the details of married love, you can wait until later to find out about that. The Word of God has much to say about sex and gives the finest sex education in the world.
“Male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). In the arrangement of God it takes two people — male and female — for a new life to be produced. They come together in the intimacy of marriage, just as the Creator planned it, and the result is a precious little new boy or girl in the home. This is what it means when “Adam knew his wife.”
So you see, sex is a holy, beautiful, and wonderful thing that God made for married male and female people, not Adam and Steve, and you’ll find out everything you need to on your wedding night, probably.
Next week: Sex and the “scarlet sin” — and why God isn’t all that happy about you being naked, either.