In confirmation class, I teach half of Luther’s Small Catechism each year. This means its been two years since I taught the Ten Commandments, and specifically tonight, the sixth comandment, “You shall not commit adultery.”
I was made very aware of how much has changed in this world in just those last two years when I asked the class, “Do you believe that marriage is held in high regard today?” Across the board they answered, “No.” One answered, “It’s so easy to get a divorce that people don’t expect their marriage to last very long.” Another twelve-year old explained, “Marriage is a social construct from a time when women couldn’t work and support themselves. That is no longer true, and marriage is no longer a necessary part of life.” I know. Wow.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to remind them that things like gender, sexuality, marriage and family are divine constructs, not a social invention. Though everyone of them have been present and active in church their whole lives, the sacred story of life takes a back seat to the scientific explanation of their world.
This year’s class consists largely of STEM nerds who love musical theater, will sing Evening Prayer and Vespers with me, and planned a whole Christmas party for our class. They see the world through memes, love Jesus, and can eat for days. They are one of the best groups I’ve had for a long, long time.
I knew it would be quiet. It usually is. Sixth commandment night at confirmation class: “You shall not commit adultery.”
The catechism’s explanation isn’t too risqué: “sexually pure and decent life in what you say and do” and “husband and wife love and honor each other.” But when you get down to the nitty-gritty, there’s plenty of giggles, shock and silence.
Where do we start? Right at the beginning. Male and female, be fruitful and multiply, hold fast, one flesh. God’s gift of sex is a good thing in the context of marriage.
However teacher and students live in a world where countless variations on that theme exist outside the marriage relationship. From pre-marital sex to same sex relationships to rape and incest, the discussion gets very real very quickly. As soon as we jumped in the deep end, one student remarked, “Pastor, you don’t have to talk this. My mom already tried. I told her we had teachers to explain it to us.”
I thought that was pretty interesting. From his point of view, this was a topic to be covered at school, not at home and certainly not at church! Though only a few wanted to admit it, I am sure they had all been exposed to the sexual variations I mentioned. Maybe more. They just didn’t want to talk about it.
Which is probably why we’ve got a lot of the problems we do. Teen pregnancies, chronic STDs, more charges of harassment every day. Maybe a few discussions with our middle schoolers can make a dent. Maybe a few discussions at home, too.