Rick Perry and educated sex

So how, I want to know, did sex become a political issue? Talk about advocating intrusive government! If your mind … Continued

So how, I want to know, did sex become a political issue? Talk about advocating intrusive government!

If your mind could use a good boggle, take three minutes to watch Rick Perry try to answer a question about why Texas public schools should continue to offer abstinence-only sex education when Texas teens are enjoying the nation’s fourth highest rate of teen pregnancy?

This question was put to Governor Perry back in in October 2010, during a televised forum organized by the The Texas Tribune. Perry, when asked about the seeming ineffectiveness of Texas sex education classes, confidently replies that “abstinence-only sex education works,” and appears quite taken aback when the audience laughs. He wanders around the issue for another three minutes without ever finding his way out of the weeds. In fact, he seems instead to hunker down in the weeds.

It’s no surprise that this video is making the rounds again, as it is quite effective at fueling some people’s suspicions that Governor Perry is not quite prepared to lead this diverse nation.

Hmmmmm. Wait a minute, though. Why would a wily politician, who rails against government spending, continues to spend government money on sex education that obviously doesn’t work in the way he thinks it should?

Might it be that Rick Perry sees the road to the White House as paved with our country’s legendary discomfort/enthrallment with sex? Might he have discovered that railing against all sex except that between a married man and woman is actually a pretty effective way to bring sex into the political conversation? We all know that sex sells beer and cars. Why shouldn’t it sell presidents?

Paul Waldman, writing for the group blog at The American Prospect, makes a (to me) really scary point when he appears to argue that one person’s fool is another person’s (electable) moral champion. Could Rick Perry’s insistence that “abstinence works” stem from his (and legions of religious conservative voters’) belief that the mission of sex education is to deliver a moral message straight from God and not to prevent teen pregnancy?

“The truth,” Mr. Waldman writes, “is that stopping teen pregnancy is at best a minor consideration for conservatives. If there’s going to be any discussion of sex in school at all, they believe it ought to express the categorical moral position that sex is vile and dirty and sinful, until you do it with your spouse, at which point it becomes beautiful and godly (you’ll forgive a bit of caricature). …”

We do forgive a bit of caricature, Mr. Waldman. You betcha! While crossing our fingers that it is caricature.

Back to that video of Governor Perry. As I watched him struggle to acknowledge that some people actually link the effectiveness of sex education to pregnancy prevention, I found myself wondering if the governor really thinks God is uncomfortable with human sexuality. Or might this just be Rick Perry’s shrewd marketing of Rick Perry?

As Kathleen Parker recently wrote recently, it does look as though the Republican presidential hopefuls are trying to out-holy each other. Is faith about to become the next competitive sport? To the victor belongs the White House!

As for Governor Perry, he appears to be hitching his political wagon to a cartoonish Almighty who resembles a vengeful anti-Dr. Ruth. Thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not have anything but married, heterosexual sex; though shalt not have sex education that educates!

In the meantime, poor maligned God and poor, ill-served Texas teens.

Martha’s note: This essay is a feature of Faith Unboxed, an ongoing, civil, respectful conversation about faith I invite you to participate by sharing your own ideas and experiences (either here or on the Web site), rather than by denigrating the ideas and experiences of others.

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