Is THIS what abstinence-only education looks like?

One of the excellent comments on the Register for today’s post (which is not political; I just thought this was a good comment):

This is why Catholics need to be wary about taking sides in the United States’ “Culture War”. The US is predominantly a Protestant nation. This means that the battle lines aren’t between secularism and Christianity, but secularism and heretical Christianity. (Not that I don’t like Protestants, but their moral theology is seriously deficient. I certainly don’t stay Catholic for the music.) As a result, Catholics may find themselves unwittingly supporting positions and ideas contrary to Church teaching due to a poorly thought out political alliance.

My husband added, “Protestants don’t understand the body, because they don’t have The Body.”  Then he said, “They made a pretty good dinosaur, but it has too much frog DNA in it.”   Heh.

(I realize that these are pretty broad strokes.  Perhaps protestantism in other countries looks different from American protestantism; and perhaps a certain crummy but VERY LOUD segment of American protestantism gets a disproportionate voice in the American media?)



  1. “…perhaps a certain crummy but VERY LOUD segment of American protestantism gets a disproportionate voice in the American media?”

    I think you hit the nail on the head right there! Messed-up, obnoxious people make for better headlines than decent, faithful people. That’s also why you get so many non-Catholics thinking that all Catholic priests are child molesters. :/

  2. Oh wow. I read the article and it has some really, really good points! If that is what abstinence education looks like, surely I don’t agree with it! I went to a public school, and had an abstinence only education, and it was actually really good. It was not put on by the school itself, but by a program that the school elected to come in to teach us. When they talked about waiting for sex, they certainly didn’t talk about it in that way!!! One analogy included a pyramid of building blocks, with the top block in the relationship being sex. When built correctly, it works well and is great, but when you build the relationship on sex (demonstrater flips pyramid over, it falls apart) it doesn’t work because there is no good strong foundation. They also talked about the awkwardness involved in seeing someone at school the next day who you had sex with but barely knew. They talked about how only a married relationship – not even engaged – was appropriate for sex, and taught us techniques to avoid peer pressure. They also taught us about avoiding drugs and underage drinking, and how to say no to those things (techniques which I found useful even in college!). I am glad to say that I had a wonderful experience, and one that did not put down sex at all! But I certainly – and unfortunately – realize that not all programs are like that. Some, like the comment above explains, are derived from a lack of understanding about sex, the body, and the GOODNESS it is intended to have in it! In this case, the results can be disastrous, and nobody benefits from that kind of program :/

  3. Teach then! (If Protestant theology is deficient – & as a Protestant I think it probably is…). The whole dividing, “us vs. them” that I see in both catholic and protestant circles is disheartening. It’s exciting to read stuff that they don’t discuss in our denominations on catholic websites, & I’ve learned so much from my catholic friends. But when you paint us with (as you acknowledged) such broad strokes it does nothing but divide.

  4. You are sooooooooooo right, Simcha! While Protestants lump themselves with Catholics one day (mostly for political reasons), they will knock you down the next. It’s not a matter of “dividing” — they removed themselves from understanding the Catholic faith a long time ago.
    I say this as a practicing cradle Protestant converted to Catholicism. Protestants cannot begin to understand the Catholic faith, as you husband has so clearly pointed out. One doesn’t LEARN the Catholic faith, one ingests it and adores it.

  5. I see this all of the time when I get into discussions with my non-religious friends. They lump all of Christianity together under a fundamentalist Protestant umbrella. Therefore, they try to argue their position in a very sola scriptura way. They can’t believe that a Christian denomination could have more nuanced, or logical, reasons for opposing same sex marriage beyond “the Bible says so” and “God hates fags”.

    It really blows their minds when I explain that the Catholic Church has strict chastity rules for married people just like for unmarried people (be they straight or gay). In their Protestant-trained minds (either from their previous religious affiliation or what they’ve absorbed from secular culture) a large part of the discrimination against gay people is that they have no sanctioned way by religion to avoid committing sin (via marriage)…they can’t believe that by marrying you might not get a carte blanche for sexual activity and actually open whole new opportunities for sin.

    The Protestant ethos really does dominate our country, and it has from the very beginning. Where did democracy really originate? I would say the Protestant Reformation when churches started being organized by election as a replacement for hierarchy. The culture and the schools completely hammer the notion that the only “good” form of government is democracy. Therefore, it can be a shock to many young Catholics when they realize that the Church is NOT a democracy. And to many non-Catholics that is just seen as out-dated at best and obscene at worst.

  6. Paige, I can kind of understand why you are offended. I know that Catholics can come off as very smug and condescending. It’s kind of hard not to be smug and condescending when you have 2000 years of history, theology, and logic on your side. 😉

    Catholics and most Protestants share a lot of basic doctrine, as my Southern Baptist mother-in-law learned when she started attending Mass with us. However, the best way I know to explain it is that the Catholic faith is like an artistic masterpiece. Our Protestant Brethren might look at Vermeer’s The Milkmaid and just see the basic picture of a woman pouring milk from a jug to a tureen. But the Catholic faith looks deeper at the details of the picture–the artistic technique (the interplay of the brush, canvas, paint, and talent), the symbols within the painting, the historical details of human experience that put it in perspective, the multiple layers and textures beyond what one initially sees. And that doesn’t even include the emotional responses that might be invoked.

    This is something that can not just be “taught”. For one thing, with the Church’s vast history there are so many nuances of the faith to be studied and applied to our personal relationship with God that one person can not study it all in one lifetime (and sadly many Catholic today don’t even try). And just as a person who has a “born again” moment experiences a radical paradigm shift, those that go from Protestant to Catholic do as well. However, it is usually not just one “big” moment. It’s something that seeps into your being; it is absorbed.

    So sometimes when we look at our Protestant Brethren all we can say is, “Man, isn’t it too bad that all they see is a picture of a woman pouring milk.” Or even worse, sometimes they can’t even see that it is milk but imagine that it is something else entirely.

    • Wow. Your comment really makes me want to become Catholic. I’m a protestant, though, so I don’t know the first thing about theology or the history of the church, obviously – I’m just too ignorant and uneducated to even know where to start. Maybe once I take a few courses in Logic, Art Appreciation, Inane Assumptions, and Oblivious Arrogance 101, I will begin to understand.

  7. Very broad strokes. I was raised in the Catholic church, by parents who didn’t know Christ from Scooby Doo.

    They attended a Catholic church where, in retrospect, many folks were pretenders – self-righteous hypocrits who were big on looking good while not following Jesus at all. I went to the parochial school at the church and the nuns were just down right mean. Did anyone know Him there??? To my ten year old eyes, I didn’t think so…but certainly, there must have been someone.

    As an adult, I fell in love with Jesus. I am humbled that He didn’t let me get lost in the darkness of my childhood experiences. He pursued…and I am grateful. I was Christened Catholic, but I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church. And there, I found the same hypocrisy and pretending.

    Sin is like that. So my experience is that your husband is right and he is wrong. There are Catholics without the Body of Christ too. Being without the Body of Christ is not exclusively a Protestant problem. It is a human problem. We ALL need Him. Yet, not all of us submit to Him, love Him wih all of our hearts, minds and souls.

  8. Well, Yvonne, we have to distinguish between what the Church teaches and how us flawed human beings are willing and able to apply it in our daily lives. There’s a difference sometimes between being a “hypocrite” and someone who is “struggling” and sometimes even failing to live up to the expectations.

    My husband, who is a Catholic convert, often comments how much harder it is to be Catholic than Protestant because as Catholics we have way more rules to follow. There were so many things that he just didn’t even have to think about when he was Protestant.

    But I often say that I would rather someone be an on-fire Protestant sincerely trying to know, love, and serve God to the best of their ability than a luke-warm or non-practicing self-identified Catholic who relegates their faith to the back-burner.

  9. When I hear most ‘Christians’ or Protestants’ in the media I cringe. . . If I, in turn, were to look at our very popular Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, and think that his morals mirrored all Catholics I’d be dead wrong.

  10. Very true, Barbara. What I think I see is folks who are in varying places in their spiritual journey. I see folks who are curious about Jesus, but not ready to follow…happily doing the back- burner style of faith. I also see those who are struggling, who want to love God, but are still trying walk in their own power…and failing often. And from there, I see many levels of faith all the way to Mother Theresa or Amy Carmichael, or Corrie ten Boom.

    But God warns us that there are many false teachers…and many pretenders. He tells us what to look for in ourselves and others…spiritual fruit. (Galatians)

    I have really appreciated the spiritual fellowship of both Catholic and Protestant Christians. I just wish we didn’t have to identify ourselves as one or the other. In Christ, is enough.

  11. Do Catholics really consider Protestants heretics, like that comment Simcha cites? I’ve been at a Catholic university for 6 years (I’m Lutheran myself) and the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to say the official stance is now that we are “separated brethren,” but not heretics (anymore).

    I grieve that we can’t talk to each other better. I know that there are a good many viciously fought over points of theology keeping Protestants of all kinds apart from Catholics and Orthodox. I know these points are vitally important. I know I sound like a clueless hippie when I say, “Why can’t we all just get along?” But we do all believe that Christ died and rose for our sins. I doubt we could agree on much past that, but it’s no small thing.

    We all believe that the tradition we follow is the right one (the *rite* one. Heh heh. Sorry.). Does anyone have any thoughts on how we might fruitfully communicate in spite of that?

  12. “…perhaps a certain crummy but VERY LOUD segment of American protestantism gets a disproportionate voice in the American media?”

    That would be the most accurate way of putting it. Protestantism is a huge spectrum and there are many on the spectrum who don’t believe any theological education is needed to be a preacher/pastor so there are a number who have no knowledge of Catholicism/Church History.

    (Speaking as a Lutheran…)

  13. I have been thinking a lot about this, since I joined the Church out of deepest calvinism, and what I conclude is that the Reformation robbed Protestant women of the image of the sinless Second Eve, while leaving them with the damaged image of the first one.

    It’s hard to hold your head up as a woman when you are constantly having your nose rubbed in the sin of your first parent, but you lack the dignity suffused by the example and help of a woman who, through God’s grace, put the damage right by her “yes.”

    I remember more than one sermon on submission from former days, always preached with covert pride in the counter-cultural counselling of women to obey their husbands, but none on Mary’s obedience to God.

    I can’t tell you how toxic a doctrine submission can become, when it is applied in the absence of a right understanding women and the Church. I’m so grateful to be Catholic.

  14. I am entering this under my wifes login. Did Jesus suffer humiliation, torture and death so that we could all just get along? Jesus said “if you love me get along” or did He say “If you love me keep my Commands”? The fundamental question is did Jesus suffer and die so that we would all agree or did Jesus suffer and die for the TRUTH? Just because we AGREE on something doesn’t make it so. Consensus doesn’t determine objective truth God determines objective truth. Many people “agreed” that slavery was biblical based on passages in scripture that instructed slaves to be obedient to their masters. Many people during WWII “agreed” that the Jews were less than human. Asking sinners to agree on what is right and wrong is like asking a convicted murderer what his sentence should be. We are not capable of determining objective truth without Gods grace. God did not promise every single person who reads scripture that the gates of hell would not prevail against them. God promised that the church He established is the pillar and bulwark of truth and that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. Scripture teaches us that if a brother will not accept the truth to take him to the church and if he still rejects the truth to treat him as a pagan and a tax collector. Yes all who claim to love Jesus are brothers in Christ but not all who claim to love Jesus have the fullness of the truth. If someone who claims to love Jesus is teaching others that they can deliberately sin and still declare to almighty God that they are “saved” and have eternal life this is not biblical and we have to admonish them with cherity and humility. The verses below have helped to shape my conscience and my faith, I hope they will be a blessing to you as well. God Bless.

    Numbers 15:30
    Job 34:11
    Psalm 34:9
    Psalm 66:18
    Proverbs 10:3
    Proverbs 10:29
    Proverbs 15:8
    Proverbs 15:29
    Proverbs 28:9
    Ecclesiastes 12:14
    Isaiah 57:2
    Jer 11:6
    Ezekiel 33:13
    Mal 1:11
    Matt 7:21
    Matt 12:36-37
    Matt 12:50
    Matt 16:27
    Matt 25:40-46
    Mark 3:35
    Mark 4:24
    Mark 7:15
    Mark 8:34-35
    Mark 9:42-50
    Mark 10:11-12
    Mark 10:29
    Mark 11:25
    Mark 13:13
    Mark 13:36
    Luke 9:23
    Luke 14:27
    Luke 18:9-14
    Luke 18:29-30
    John 6:66
    John 8:51
    John 9:31
    John 12:48
    John 12:50
    John 13:17
    John 14:15
    John 14:21
    John 14:23
    John 15:10
    Acts 10:34-35
    Rom 2:6
    Rom 2:9
    Rom 2:13
    Rom 2:7-8
    Rom 14:12
    1 Cor 6:9
    1 Cor 10:13
    1 Cor 11:27
    2 Cor 5:10
    Gal 5:19-21
    Gal 5:24-25
    Gal 6:7-8
    Eph 1:18
    Eph 2:1-3
    Eph 4:17-24
    Eph 5:3-12
    Col 3:5-8
    Col 3:23-25
    2 Thes1:8
    2 Thes 2:11
    2 Thes 2:13-15
    2 Thes 3:6
    1 Tim 3:15
    Heb 5:9
    Heb 6:4-6
    Heb 10:26
    James 1:12-15
    James 1:21-22
    James 1:26-27
    James 2:14-27
    James 4:3
    James 4:6-9
    James 4:17
    James 5:16
    1 Peter 3

  15. 1 Peter 3:12
    1 Peter 3:21
    1 Peter 4:17
    2 Peter 2:20
    2 Peter 3:7
    2 Peter 3:16-17
    1 John 5:3
    1 John 5:16
    1 John 1:5-7
    1John 2:3
    1 John 2:4
    1 John 4:18-21
    2 John 1:6
    3 John 1:4
    3 John 1:11
    Rev 2:7
    Rev 14:13
    Rev 20:13

  16. I’m not offended 😉
    I see these same type of impassioned comments on Protestant websites that condemn aspects of catholic faith too… I probably just lack understanding. Count me as one under Christ’s banner rather than catholic/protestant too ;). & I *do* so love my brothers and sisters on either side of the dividing line.

  17. American Protestantism is, indeed, a bit different from Protestantism elsewhere, I think because Protestantism lacks popes and patriarchs and (the moral authority of) the early church fathers to keep it tethered to the Christian tradition and thus has more freedom to innovate into new and bizarre forms under the influence of American culture, like televangelists and Prosperity Gospel. (Prosperity Gospel always struck me as basically the most American thing ever.)

    Having said that, the idea that losing your chastity makes you a spittle-covered half-eaten chocolate that’s been licked by rabid dogs is a potential pitfall anywhere that sexual morality is taken seriously – especially if you take your eyes off the Kingdom of God and wind up pursuing morality rather than God. It may have a little more force in America, but I gather a lot of yanqui Protestants have their heads screwed on reasonably well (hard to tell from a different continent though). The people who taught me sexual morality as a teenager avoided this problem less because of culture or country and more because they were Pentecostals who put emphasis on the power of God to heal and forgive. “Repent! You’ll still be an unappetising licked chocolate of a fornicator, but at least you won’t go to Hell” wasn’t their style.

    (British ex-Prod, now Catholic, btw.)

  18. Hmm… I think that the difference is that the U.S. was founded on solid Protestant values that at the time seriously devalued sexuality. Also, women seem to have lacked power in a bigger way than their European counterparts. This creeps into American Catholicism also – the Sunday before last the priest explicitly told us during what was supposed to be a homily that males are sexual and while females love in a spiritual way. Oh my! At least we could have an interesting ToB discussion on the way home.

  19. That comment is so true. After 30 years (of active Protestant Christianity) I swam the Tiber and those Protestant beliefs are a part of the fabric of America-it is very hard to root them out, even when you can see them.

  20. Wow. I’m Mormon and have sadly gotten used to people informing me I’m not REALLY Christian and that my theology is lacking. Often it’s Protestants telling me this.

    Hearing Catholics turn around and say the same thing to Protestants…well, I don’t feel vindicated, as I suspected I might. Just a little resigned.

    Incidentally, LDS doctrine, according to our church, dates back to before Adam…far more than the RC’s 2000 years. If we’re only considering antediluvian religion, however, the Jews have us beat. “Because I’m older” may not always work as an indicator of doctrinal correctness.

    Eh, whatever. I figure, someone tells me they believe in Christ, who am I to say differently?

  21. I have to say something in defense of the Protestants who raised me. I was raised Protestant, and I never encountered the negative opinions about sex that the other posters encountered here. Never. Not once.

    On the other hand, I find lots of Catholics online who argue over what age a married couple should give up sex, how big a sin it is to have sex after menopause, how marriage interferes with a person’s spiritual growth, and how a married couple should despise their sexual relationship if they want to get into heaven.

    It had to be said.

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