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Football and Impure Thoughts

June 29, 2013

How is that for a title for a Christian blog post?  Well, it comes from an item I saw this week on the news.  I was watching one of those discussion shows on a news channel where a panel with different political views talked about an incident where a young teenage girl was kicked off the football team at a Christian school in Georgia.  The reason given?  Some of her male teammates were beginning to “have impure thoughts” about her and the school needed to step in and stop it.  I am sure you are as shocked as I am to think that a teenage boy could ever have impure thoughts.

After some more research I found that nearly 1500 teen girls in our country are playing football on the previously all-male teams of various schools and that the number is rising steadily.  So, if the school is right in their thinking, it would appear we may be in for a rising tide of teenage impure thoughts.  What should we do about it?  It seems to me that there are two issues here.

Christian parents, and presumably non-Christian parents, are right to take a keen interest in the attitudes and actions of their teenage children on sexuality.  For the evangelical church the reaction has become known as the “purity culture.”  At home, in churches, in youth groups, etc. we tell our children to wait.  Slogans like “true love waits” and symbols like purity rings abound.  Movies like “Courageous” encourage dads to man-up and teach their daughters (sons too, although the emphasis always seems to end up on the girls) to remain pure and virginal until marriage, which is actually a pretty good idea.

The problem is that, when it comes to telling them why they should do that, we don’t do so well.  We need to tell them why, in the face of rampant impure thoughts, and the actions that may follow, that are brought on by raging hormones rather than girls in shoulder pads and helmets, that they need to wait.  For the most part the answer devolves down to “because the Bible says so.”  We probably owe our kids some of the reasons we, and the Bible, encourage waiting.  Here are a few:

–        You might accidentally make a baby.

–        You might get a really yucky disease.

–        You could end up hurting yourself or your partner emotionally.

But the real issue is much more important.  There are few things in life that are more important to learn than self-control.  It is so important that God ranks it as one of the fruits of the Spirit.  Learning self-control on sex as a teen, when your every hormone is screaming at you to go ahead, pays life-long dividends in a variety of matters.  Learning that you don’t have to give into your feelings, your desires, your emotions, is a lesson we all need.

This is where the Georgina church went wrong and often churches can go wrong too.  They chose to pretend that they could shield the boys on the team from impure thoughts by kicking the girl out.  It makes the girl responsible for the impure thoughts the guys might have.  It made her the problem simply because she was a girl.  This is the second lesson from incident in Georgia.  She suffered the consequence of being a girl; she was told she was the reason the boys had impure thoughts.  They call this victim-blaming and even rape victims sometimes hear it.

The lesson the boys on that team really needed, and all teen boys (and girls) need, is that you can control your response to impure thoughts; having them doesn’t give you permission to act upon them.  They need to learn that purity is way deeper and wider than a random hormone-driven thought that passes through your head.  What better place to learn that then a supervised public activity in a Christian setting?

The sad truth is that all our teens will experience blatant sexual messages that make the teenage football player look absurdly tame.  They must learn how to deal with the reactions this causes.  Teens that learn how to deal with that are way better off than others we build walls around to make sure they never, ever are tempted.  Because Scripture makes it clear that there is no such thing as never being tempted.

Hiding does no good.  Muslims parent wrap their daughters in head-to-toe burkas and still sexual abuse is rampant in the culture.  Blaming another person for the temptation someone feels does no good and leads to a “she deserved it” culture.  Only the lesson of self-control pays life-long dividends.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.” 

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