by Jon Townsend
In Gloucester, MA at the local high school there was a sharp increase in the number of pregnancies amongst the students – four times higher than normal. This sparked a debate about handing out contraception in the school – even without parental permission. TIME Magazine asked the principal Dr. Joseph Sullivan about the issue and he responded: "a lack of birth control played no part" …. “That bump was because of seven or eight sophomore girls," Sullivan told TIME. "They made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together."
The media glommed onto the story. It was in all the papers. It was debated on the radio and every talking head in cable news had every pundit possible show up to talk about sexual education – pro and con – or contraception in schools – pro and con – or the psychological reasons for it – was it the movie Juno or was it Jamie Lynn Spears or was it social isolation?
The Christian answer to the question “Why?” is our sinful nature. Regardless of how educated one is, regardless of the means one has to avoid natural consequences, regardless of what one watches or whom one idolizes or one’s familial and social circumstances - our sinful nature is looking for something or someone to fulfill it, to soothe it, to make it well again. It will never find peace and comfort where it should be found, because Christ wants our sinful nature put to death. The old Adam is forever doing his own thing and trying to escape God's punishment. He is broken beyond repair. The New Man, in Christ, the baptized Christian, however, is saved and free from the curse of the Law and the sting of death --- and therein lies hope for us and for those looking for fulfillment apart from Christ.
Old Adam vs. New Creation – A battle that cannot be won by Law.
The young ladies in the story aren’t talking much, but it was generally reported that they were in the “at risk” category – they didn’t have stable families, they hung out with the wrong crowd – there are a lot of things lacking in their lives that would provide them with the ideal environment in which to spend their teenage years. In one of the TIME Magazine reports on the subject it was quoted that some of the girls involved wanted “unconditional love” and were hoping that a baby would provide that.
Think about that for a minute from a Lutheran perspective: We all were born in sin and in iniquity did our mothers conceive us. Although helpless and cute, babies are not without sin. That is why Christ baptizes them! Unconditional love is not something that can be found in other sinful humans, but our families are to be models of Christian love. Christian love is not human dependent, but is living a life of forgiveness and mercy that comes from Christ alone. Parents are to care for and support their children in their earthly needs the best they can, but they are to especially take care of their children’s foremost need; that the Word of God and Means of Grace are available to them. Christian love is giving away what you haven’t earned, but rather what Christ has.
If the young ladies in this story are from homes without a proper concept of Christian love and their families have not enforced a more practical lifestyle upon them, they are looking to correct the problem by starting over with a new family. They are hoping that a new relationship, in which they as the parent (“I won’t make the same mistakes my parents made” LOL) and the still “innocent” new life will wipe the slate clean.
The problem is that this is an old Adam solution – no human relationship is going to repair the damage of sin. There is only one “birth” that makes our slates clean and that was the virgin birth of our Lord who gives us a second birth in Baptism.
We could approach this overall problem for the perspective of the Law: We could curb teenage pregnancy by punishing the people involved. We could show them the error of their ways and shame them. We could show them role models of other kids that have become great successes by being chaste. Or we could take a more worldly law approach and find ways to take away the outcomes of uncontrolled natural impulses.
Is any of this going to bring about true repentance, forgiveness and change? The answer is no.
The relationship with the Child of the only unwed-but-virgin mother is the answer. Repentance and mercy must be preached into the broken homes. Forgiveness must be offered to fallen sinners and to those tempted to sin. Especially when there is no family available where all gather around the dinner table nightly, to give thanks and to “break bread,” the Lord’s Table must be shown as the meal together with our heavenly family. Here the love between Father and Son is perfect and proceeds to call, enlightens and sanctifies us in the Holy Spirit.
Policies and programs, teachers and school boards can do their best to use their God-given reason to help curb the manifestations of sin in our schools and world, but the true answer to the problem is in the hands of our Lord and His Church. The answer for our own personal chastity lies in Word and Sacrament and daily repentance and contrition. God will answer our prayers and send us comfort and escape from temptation when the old Adam is screaming at us to use his solutions.
We also have the ultimate honor to invite those who are hurting and looking for sinful solutions to come with us, to come home to Church, where they too can receive the forgiveness that is lacking in our families and be fed on food that gives us life and salvation.
Jon Townsend, originally hailing from Detroit, now calls Plymouth, MI his hometown -where he lives with his wife and two young boys. He works in logistics for an engine manufacturer in Detroit and is given Word and Sacrament weekly at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Plymouth.
Created: June 26th, 2008