Graham Nicholls believes we need to counter the lies about sex, gender and relationshops that are infecting a generation of young people.
A report has come out by the think tank Civitas, who conducted a survey in England of 1,100 sixth-form age young people, particularly around sex and relationship education. Some of the findings included these:
- 10% of those surveyed wanted to change their gender or have already done so
- Nearly a third said that they had been taught that a woman can have a penis while one in five said they had learnt that a man can get pregnant.
- Almost a quarter said that sex education lessons had included details on bondage, domination and sadomasochism.
- 40% said they had learnt that young men were a problem in society and a similar number were told Britain was a structurally racist country.
- A third said different viewpoints were encouraged by the school but they did not feel confident sharing their views.
- A sixth said their school taught a single viewpoint.
- More than half of pupils supported lowering the age of a gender recognition certificate from 18 to 16.
- They also asked questions of parents, who in general wanted to know more about the sex and relationship education their children are being taught.
There are undoubtedly things about these findings that should sadden and concern us as Christian.
On the wider issue of transgenderism, traditionally Christians believe that our gender is fixed by God as he ordered the circumstances of our conception and that it is neither good nor healthy to change our gender presentation, characteristics or genitals. We have great compassion for those who struggle with gender confusion but do not think the best way to support them is to affirm them in a lie but rather to help them live as their given gender without needing to conform to gender stereotypes.
But of particular concern in this report are issues to do with exposing children to ideas about gender, sexuality and sex that are inappropriate at a time when their brains and emotional maturity are still developing. The problem is not education about the facts of different sexual relationships or that people might choose to live in a way that contradicts their biology but it is the level of detail that they are learning about with no discussion of alternative views on these topics.
How should Christians respond?
As a first response, I believe we need to not panic or erupt in outrage, but be patient and prayerful. We have to accept that we are in a season where society’s values are a long way from our Christian values. Instead of panicking, we pray for God’s mercy and protection for our children and for a revival in our country of an interest in God’s ways.
I would also encourage Christian parents to work hard, even against the inertia at times, to develop open channels of communication with their children so they can understand what they are being taught, and what they are seeing and hearing from their friends and then for parents to speak into it. (For more on how to understand sexuality and gender issues go here)
Those conversations, although they can be awkward and a bit clumsy at times, are invaluable and your children really do want to know what you think. We need to equip our children and young people with the teaching of the Bible and the reasons it makes sense so they are not just being shaped by the voices of the world around them.
Be an advocate
It is also perfectly reasonable to seek to be an advocate for children by challenging your school or college on the level of detail that is being given and for them to not teach opinion as fact. For example, it has not been established in science or agreed in society that a child can be born in the wrong body. This is a contested issue across the board, not just by Christians. Some of the teaching they are receiving may itself be a form of unwanted sexual exposure which in other contexts we might consider abusive.
We should be encouraging schools to allow all points of view on ethical issues, not just one socially liberal view. We can of course offer to put forward a Christian viewpoint if they need that voice.
Schools are often operating out of fear that they might be breaking some aspect of equality law when most likely they are not. Powerful ungoverned lobby groups give them materials for sex and relationship education that are against Christian teaching but even more shockingly, in some cases there is no approval process to verify that school governance and parents are happy with the material.
Some parents may want to consider whether the onslaught of anti-Christian teaching at schools has reached a level where they should be homeschooling or setting up Christian schools.
Concerned but not despairing
We are concerned but not despairing. God is good and powerful and we know from the history of the church that whatever the world throws at us, God still builds his church. Let’s pray, engage with our children and speak to our schools in the confidence that God’s way is best and God’s will is perfect.