The message rang loud and clear from the Pauls Valley church: Teens, abstain from sex.
Bethlehem Baptist Church's Rev. Michael Eaton's words during the recent "youth Sunday" sermon echo a stand Oklahoma and the nation's Christian community has taken for years. But the emphasis among youth workers, nonsecular and otherwise, these days seems to be less "don't do this" and more "do this," instead.
"There are so many variables we bring into the discussion besides 'don't have sex,'" said Gwendolyn Poteet, head of Central Oklahoma KEEP (Kids Eagerly Endorsing Purity), part of the largest abstinence-until-marriage program in the state. "Goals " what they are wanting to achieve; would delaying sex give you the opportunity to have goals? We're bringing a lot into the conversation. What could be the consequences? Abstinence gives young people the opportunity to achieve."
The question is, will that argument work?
In state high schools, according to statistics compiled through a 2007 state survey released by the Oklahoma Department of Health, 52.5 percent of male students and 49.3 percent of girls reported they'd had sex " of all those, 5.8 percent before they were 13 and 16.6 percent with four or more people.
According to the Oklahoma survey, only 59.6 percent of students who had sex in the three months before they participated in the questionnaire used a condom.
A national study released last year showed abstinence-only efforts had no more impact on teens' having sex or not than other programs. However, Poteet said that for one student to change his or her mind-set after participating in KEEP's open-ended forums is positive. "Emily Jerman