Safe Sex?

I came across a quote about safe sex, today, from Wendell Berry, and was reminded of this article I wrote for the National Post about 14 years ago. I might change the tone and style slightly today, but the basic argument is one that I think is worth repeating. 

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Sex-education and school children can be a volatile mix when parents believe the curriculum offers more detail than their children need to know. This perennial debate arose lately in New Brunswick, where parents have vowed to fight for changes to a new sex-education program they consider too explicit. In Marysville and Woodstock, concerned parents have gathered in recent weeks to ask whether their middle-school children need to know the details of erection, vaginal secretion, ejaculation and masturbation.

The new program, based in part on a University of New Brunswick study of parental attitudes toward sex education, introduces abstinence alongside such issues as sexually transmitted disease, masturbation, birth-control methods, teen pregnancy and the nature of a healthy relationship. That isn’t good enough, however, for those parents who want their children’s understanding of their sexuality to be governed by the conviction that abstinence is the best choice, the right choice—dare we say, the only choice—for their sexual health.

Beyond the explicit nature of the New Brunswick’s Human Growth and Development curriculum, there is also a concern that it gives abstinence short-shrift. While abstinence certainly isn’t ignored, a number of parents in New Brunswick want to see advocacy for it given a place of prominence in the curriculum. Continue reading

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Canada. A country of reconciliation?

My latest column for the Christian Courier.

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What would be an honest answer to the question posed by the title of this column? Some might offer a half-hearted “We are trying?” in reply to that question. Others would say that even such a half-hearted answer gives us too much credit – that the correct answer is closer to a flat-out “No.” For my part, I would venture that we have taken some baby steps in the direction of reconciliation, but that we still have a very long way to go.

Now this is not a resoundingly positive note on which to begin a column marking Canada’s 150th birthday. Couldn’t another question have been asked? Perhaps one that would invite more celebratory reflection on our national identity? Perhaps, yes. But I must confess my uneasiness with the Canadian predilection for national self-congratulation, and so my reflections here will not trend in that direction.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has now come and gone, and much meaningful work was done within the seven years of its mandate. Most important, survivors of the residential schools came with grace and courage to share their stories – reminding the nation and its churches of the violence that was done to them and their communities in the name of Christian faith and of civilization. Stories of abuse. Stories of loneliness. Stories of language lost. Stories of families torn apart. Continue reading

honest engagement and the reality of risk #beingmissional

It goes without saying that we like to be in control – we as individuals want to be in control – and we as the church want to be in control. But being faithful to Christ will often mean relinquishing control. After all, the Spirit blows where it will, and the Lord we serve bears the marks of the nails in his palms today. The cross doesn’t correlate well with control.

If we are engaged meaningfully with the wider community, and are to enter into meaningful partnerships with the wider community, we do so because we trust that the Spirit is at work there, and that the reign of Christ may come to expression there.

But such partnership will mean not being able to control the other’s perceptions of the partnership, their actions in the partnership, or  the language they use to describe the partnership. That is always the case in meaningful relationships where we remain in some sense vulnerable – we engage honestly and faithfully with others where we perceive mutuality and respect, without presuming to tell the other who they are or how they must act/perceive/speak. In fact, there may be times we don’t like what is said or done by partners. (Discernment, of course, also means learning when a partnership can’t be a partnership anymore.)

There are those within the church who approach such engagement with the wider community under essentially unitarian assumptions – “God” is at work (whoever “God” is) in the culture and in the church, and we have nothing decisive to hold on to or offer in this context. We are all just stumbling in the dark trying to make the world a more beautiful place. And “God” is there helping, working. Continue reading

Dare we sing the Magnificat?

My sermon from this past Sunday – the fourth Sunday in Advent.

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Exuberant.     It’s a wonderful word, isn’t it?    Exuberant.

It’s one of those words that carry their meaning so well. Even to say the word ‘exuberant’ is almost to be lifted into exuberance. The Mirriam Webster dictionary offers the following definition of the word: joyfully unrestrained and enthusiastic. Exuberant: joyfully unrestrained and enthusiastic.

The thesaurus in my word processor gives these possible synonyms for the word exuberant: enthusiastic, excited, high-spirited, lively.

We read in Luke’s gospel, the words of Mary:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Continue reading