According to yesterday’s Metro, the UK is HIV king of Europe.
Tragically I’m not surprised.
Whenever we hear the latest statistics that tell of Britain ‘leading’ Europe in some new way the response is that we need more or better sex education. This follows the premise that information is what sexually active men and women are lacking.
I’m not buying it. I don’t believe the solution rests in some golden calf of sexual education that focuses on precautions. I think that there’s little more that can be done in school.
We are an incredibly condom-ised society but we also have such a ready proliferation of post coital birth control that cure (of pregnancy) appears preferable to prevention of sexually transmitted life (be it viral or human).
No, I think that the fact Britain leads the way in teenage pregnancies, abortions and sexual disease is because somewhere in our national psyche we don’t value relationship with one another as we ought with the result that sex isn’t seen as something of consequence. It’s casual, not special.
For chunks of my peers, promiscuity is grounds for respect. Sexual conquests are celebrated as an end in themselves. People are reduced to objects of gratification. Lily Allen’s most recent offering says that being bad in bed undermines anything positive in a relationship.
But in a throwaway world it’s hardly a surprise. Britain is a place where the temporary reigns. And more often than not it is a selfish idea of temporary which doesn’t think about the consequences. Dishearteningly that message is reinforced by the media, in politics and through fractured families.
The Pope was recently attacked for saying you don’t fix AIDS with condoms. The church is ridiculed for saying that abstinence and faithfulness should be higher priorities. This alternative is easily mocked, just another irrelevant sermon from a completely irrelevant group of people.
The “Death of Christian Britain”, as sociologists call the 1960s, has much to commend it. Not least it changed the dynamics of gender (or recaptured New Testament values of equality), beginning a process that sadly has not yet reached completion. But, in addition, by supplanting singular ideas with pluralistic ideals it gave space to people of all faiths, and none, to express their ideas without prior conditions. True pluralism is foundationally about loving your neighbour for who they are and what they think even if that person is someone you would hate to be. But it is critically undermined when it isn’t a two way dialogue.
People should not have ideas foisted onto them or be required to live according to my expectations. That’s neither gracious nor loving. However, if we don’t offer the alternative what’s left behind is a vacuum. And that too fails on both counts. When it comes to sex and relationships I think the squeezing of God to the margins has been a bad thing. So called ‘free love’ seems to have resulted in slavery rather than freedom and painful hollowness instead of loving delight.
I have no doubt that loving and respecting one another unconditionally and selflessly is the model for relationship and I believe that the public commitment of modelling that forever is what makes marriage the perfect context for sex. What I could do is use that to stand in a corner and judge. To jump around on top of the moral high ground claiming victory after a battle that knows only losers. True, I don’t think condoms are the answer but in the developing world so much time and effort goes into standing alongside people to tackle the issue. In Australia the Red Cross have little stalls outside night clubs doing that whilst handing out condoms.
The sexual revolution has had side effects. For some reason Britain has borne the brunt of them. But if we’re interested in people’s lives being transformed by grace and hope could we have done more to support it? Could we take a lead from those Aussies and stand outside nightclubs offering condoms ourselves (alongside our bottles of water and street pastoring)? Not to condone the things we disagree with but to engage with the reality of brokenness around us. To love them by serving them on their terms, not ours.
Too often the problems of the world become the church’s pornography; we get to analyse without being involved. We toy with the idea of being part of a culture that has sex on tap. We moralise about its perils. But we keep doing it from Christian holes in the ground that people might, if they’re lucky, fall into.
This is why Conversations is exciting.
It’s gloves off church because it’s passionate about authentically seeking God’s heart for transformation. On Wednesday the theme was ‘Loving The City’ and Dave Magill spoke on Nehemiah’s rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. He asked us what metaphorical walls need rebuilding in York. As someone who lives in the shadow of a broken family (of Christians no less) it’s strange this didn’t occur to me then. Getting back to the basics of relationship is fundamental. It is impossible to stress the importance of rebuilding relationships built around selfless appreciation, respect and compassion. Sex and everything that is glorious, or sinister, about it lives or dies on the basis of whether those things are present.
We love because we were loved first.
As I saw on Sunday there are people living within touching distance who might never have known what it is to be loved unconditionally, just for being alive.
Except that we know they are.
God loves you; because he loves you; because he loves you; because he loves you; because he loves you; because he loves you; because he loves you…
All we need to do is get that message through.