No Apologies: the Truth about Life, Love + Sex. 
By Focus on the Family. Asian ed. 
Singapore: Armour Publishing. 2003. 227pp.
Review by Dr Ng Peh Cheng

The focus is on laying a foundation for marriage to build strong Christian families. The message of the book makes no apologies that a man and a woman must guard themselves against intimate physical relationship before marriage.  When should that foundation be laid from the perspective of human growth and development?  Should it begin only at premarital counselling of couples preparing for marriage?  The message of the book strongly suggests that the foundation be laid when a boy or a girl reaches the age of puberty.

 The discipline to practice self-control to preserve sexual purity before marriage can be a major struggle for teens in their adolescence journey of development toward adulthood. The Focus on the Family is concerned about the number of teens who have violated the foundational principle due to lack of strong will power and the loss of self-control inevitably leaves them to live a life of regrets and apologies. Sarah, Andrienne and Leslie are real case examples described in chapter four. Not resisting the moment of temptation, they found themselves included in the statistics of teen pregnancy outside marriage, parenting babies out of wedlock and aborting unwanted babies:

      Adrienne lives with more regrets than she could have imagined on that night of her sixteenth birthday. Regrets about her abortion (p. 210).

 

      Like Adrienne, Sarah has days when she feels as if she's walking in a fog. . . . Juggling work, school, mothering, and childcare. . . . She's still dealing with the hurt, the disappointment and the trauma of everything she's endured (p. 213).

 

      A new mother at 17, trapped in an abusive and loveless marriage, Leslie looked around and found herself in a world she had never imagined on the night she lied to her mother and slipped off with her boyfriend to a dark, secluded spot (p. 150).

 

A number of cases cited involved teenage girls.  Each case gives evidence of the social, emotional, moral and other psychological costs a girl has to pay and continue to bear in her adult life. Are teenage girls more at risk compared to boys? This and other questions can be raised from the case studies to help teens discuss the implications for their relationship with one another and before God. The case studies described in the book emphasize the need to educate our teens to keep their relationship with members of the opposite sex pure before marriage to prevent them from falling into the trap of regrets and apologies.

 The book is a valuable source to draw content to develop materials for sexuality education for teens in the home and church.  The strong invitation to commit sexual sins from peer pressure, movies, music, television and printed media is presented in chapter two. Other media that should be included are contemporary drama, art and pornography that can get away in the guise of advertisements!   The strong temptation to "leap before they look" in a boy-girl relationship can also be attributed to "hormone gap,' the "morality gap" and the "love and marriage gap" confronting teens (pp. 59-68) and chapter five spells out the risks of yielding to temptation.

 The issue of myths, facts and effectiveness of sexuality education for adolescents is addressed and critically examined in chapter six.  It raises doubt that education alone can be the solution to the problem, "There's a myth at large in the world today. It's the idea that Education (with a capital "E") can and will solve all our problems. Education is power - power to change the world. Teach people the right things, and they'll automatically do the right things" (p. 121).

 True education that is Christian demands more than knowing what is right. Sarah, for example, "believed in the Bible and had strong feelings about the immorality of abortion, and thought it was wrong to have sex before marriage" (p. 75) but did not flee from it. Education of youth should equip them with the tools guided by biblical values to lay a foundation built on "God's design for a man and a woman within the bonds of marriage (p. 170). That is, the Scripture is the external, authoritative and inspired source to evaluate the tools. Practical suggestions and ways to say "No!" to temptations are prescribed in chapters eight and nine.

 Is there a best tool to lay that essential foundation? The book makes no apologies in admitting that the practice of abstinence is the way to educate and save teens for marriage. The book ends with an invitation to teens to take the pledge publicly:

Believing in Saving Myself for Marriage, I make a commitment to myself, my family my friends,  my future spouse, and my children to be sexually abstinent from this day forward until the day I enter a lifelong, committed, monogamous marriage (p. 218).

 Taking the pledge does work. A study of more than 12,000 teens done by the University of Minnesota reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, September 1997) "showed that kids who take a vow of abstinence are significantly less likely to engage in premarital sexual activity than those who don't (p. 201). Perhaps, the study can be replicated outside the American context for comparison purposes.

 The book is written for teens but is also designed to benefit parents, youth workers and those who work with youths. The moral issue confronting youths in the church or brought up in a Christian home is serious and should be a concern that must be addressed with concrete plans of action. Sexuality education of youths must not be left solely in the hands of public education, media and peers.

CHAPEL NOTES

Dr Quek chaired the chapel service on 9 June and gave a Father's Day message.

The message is a reminder that we have at least two fathers, the Heavenly Father and the earthly father. It also highlights the responsibilities of being a father and encourages those who have "lost" their fathers to look up to the Father who is the source of our being.

Chapel Speaker on 23 June will be Dr Philip Satterthwaite.

NEWS BITS

Counsellorís Skills: Developing Micro-skills in Counselling by Mr Yam Keng Mun & Mr Song Cheng Hock will be commencing on 30 June over eight Wednesday sessions (7.30-10.30pm) at Park Mall. Visit our website for the course syllabus.

Building Fund update

A Blessed Birthday to ...

Mr Choo Kok Weng  22/6
Mr Lawrence Ng  22/6
Ms Mak Moo Theng  22/6
Dr John Lim  23/6
Ms Sandy Mok  23/6
Mdm Tricia Yeo  23/6
Mr Charlie Yeo  23/6
Mr David Yap  24/6
Mr Patrick Ang  26/6
Ms Lynette Low  27/6

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