What do you think of when the topic of sex and religion comes up? A lot of folks assume that all religions have a very limited view of sexuality (e.g.: sex is only okay between a married man and woman, and often just for the purposes of procreation).
Others are influenced by news stories like the recent ones covering the Pope’s comments on the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Or the raid on the polygamous FLDS sect, which allegedly forces marriage between teen girls and older men.
But the pairing of sexuality and religion is not always a negative or conservative thing. In fact, one of the best sources I’ve found for teaching sex ed was created by the Unitarian Universalists and the United Church of Christ.
Together, these two religious groups created a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum called Our Whole Lives, which covers topics about sexual health and behavior in six subject areas: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health and society and culture. From this perspective, sexuality is viewed as a positive thing and the curriculum addresses topics that many groups shy away from including GLBT issues, contraception, condoms and reproductive choices.
But why would a religious group put so much energy int to sex ed? In an address given to her congregation, the Unitarian Universalist reverend, Cynthia Breen, explained,
"Sexuality education in secular settings, like schools, doesn’t necessarily support our values. For example, a study of secondary school health educators found that only 46 percent teach about sexual orientation at all, and that 91 percent of those devote less than two class periods to the topic. Thirty-three percent even felt that gay and lesbian rights are a threat to the American family and its values. Those views should not be the primary ones our children hear…[Also,] sexuality is about values, respect, emotions, and justice. Sexuality is sacred, part of the miracle of creation. This is why we do sexuality education in church: because sexuality is sacred, and sexuality education is ministry.”
Despite the prevalent idea that religious groups are all right-wing supporters of abstinence-only education, as the OWL curriculum shows, this simply isn’t accurate.
Did you ever get sex ed at Sunday school? What did you learn?