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A Onimhawo PhD and 0.0 Ottuh
In African societies today. young people growing up in
our already over sexualized culture are being exposed to
sexually explicit materials on a daily basis through television
networks, motion films. music and the internet. Critically
viewed, much more of sex education is taking place in the
media, than in the home. school or church.
It is no more news. that most teens have had sexual
intercourse several times even before their youth. Such
alarming news keeps the issue of sex education before the
church on the top burner. Today, widespread of condom
distribution and procurement of abortions without parental
consent provide evidence of a generation of youth teetering
on the brink of unconscionable doom.
As the saying goes, "the church is the last hope of a
nation". If the church does possess the solutions to life's
crisis, it perhaps, must move towards the frontline of sex
education promotion. In addition. a significant part of the
problems faced by teens come from the mixed messages
The Church and Sex Education
sex educationists give. The church cannot afford such
confusion, being the oracle or vessel of God on earth.
'The task we wish to accomplish in this paper is to
examine the role of Church in promoting sex education in its
society. especially among youths. The work shall be rooted in
the Christian scriptures.
The objective is to validate our working hypothesis that
drawing from our Christian experience, the Church as our
"last hope" is capable of savaging teenagers and youths from
pending sexual disaster by championing Church-based sex
The Church being the chosen vessel of God on earth.
through which He communicates His love and forgiveness,
and morality, can also save generations of youths from teen
pregnancies and eliminate the risk of acquiring sexually
transmitted diseases such as' HIV/AIDS, through the
promotion of sex education that is rooted in the Bible.
The approaches to be adopted in this paper will be
expository and evaluative. These will be strengthened by
passages, from the Bible and other Christian scholarly
To accomplish the task of this paper. the 'work has
been divided into' sections which include clarification of
terms, concept of Church, the meaning of sex education,
church sexual ethics, Church paradigms on sex education.
Church role in sex education, criticism of sex education,
Conceptual Clarification
The Christian Church is viewed throughout the New
Testament as the people of God and therefore in many ways.
as the continuation and consummation of His covenanted
African Journal of Biblical Studies 61
community" As a "community gathered by God through
Christ" (Acts 20:28; ] Cor. I:2~ 10:32~ 11:16, 22; 15:9~ 11
Cor. 1:1~ Gal. 1:13; I Thess. 2:14; Il Thess. 1:4~ I Tim.
3:5,15): as '"The eschatological people of God" (Eph.
2;10: 3:8-12; Col. 1:21 - 27; Heb.I2:22-24; Rev. 1:20).
Hence the Church understands itself in terms of the living
scriptures, and interprets these scriptures, in turn, in the light
of its own experience of community of Christ (Gal. 6: 16: Mtt.
2:6; Luke 1:54,68; 2:32; Heb. 8:8-10; Acts 28:20).
The ministry' of the Church goes beyond correction in
matters of errors and evil. It includes all that is implied in the
"care of souls'v-comforting, counseling, guidance,
encouragement. teaching. preaching. visiting, sharing,
hospitality and so on.
The Church as a "care taker" of souls is a stakeholder in
the task of savaging God's children from the present and
future sexual doom in which societies have found themselves.
The Church can accomplish this progressive task through the
promotion of sex education in various levels of society. What
'then is sex education?
Firstly, the word "sex" in this discussion implies sexual
intercourse between opposite sexes (a male and a female),
and also the activities leading to, surrounding and centerin~
on coitus; sexual instinct, appeal and sexual attractiveness.
On the other hand. the term "education" which has a
qualifying word "sex" is defined as a systematic training and
instruction (especially of the young, in schools, colleges, etc).
It is also constituted in knowledge and abilities. development
of character and mental powers resulting from such training."
IF. J. A. Hort, Christian Ecclesia (London: SCM, 1897), 7.
2F.Stagg, New Testament Theology (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1962), 20
Horby, Oxford Advanced Learners-Dictionary of Current
English, (London: OUP, 1974),982.
"Horby, 276.
The Church and Sex Education
Sex education --therefore, is the systematic training and
instruction on the morality of sex and. on the ethics of
sexuality. This kind of education can be informal; and at the
same time, can be formal.
Sex education is very important, and imperative, because
it improves the quality, the health of our lives and the lives of
our peers. The fears that. making condoms available will
increase sexual activities appear to be unfounded, according
to the American Journal of Health regarding-a recent study in
New York City and Chicago public high schools'sThe study
further reveals that sex education and free condom
distribution had a significant increase on students' condom
usage without a corresponding increase in sexual activity"
The Problem Lack of Sex Education
The advent of modem sophisticated telecommunication
technologies and other related visual aids, and also sexual aid
- materials have extremely -corrupted teenagers and youths
sexually. Evidently, photographs. videos. magazines. internet
and virtual games that are pornographic, and that depict rape
and the dehumanization uf female sexual scenes have
constituted powerful but deforming tools of sex education
even with. or without the prior knowledge of parents.' As
more and more teenagers are being exposed to sexually
related activities in the media and sexual materials, they are
learning an extremely dangerous message of their lives
ignorantly. This is because, they are not aware of the possible
dangers to their health. One of the gloomy dangers is the
acquiring of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) including
5The Yale Political Quarterly, Vo!. 19, No. I, October, 1997,9.
6The Yale Political Quarterly, 9
Cline, Pornography's Effects on Adults and Children (New York:
Morality in Medina, 1990) 87.
African Journal of Biblical Studies 63
HIV/AIDS. hers are premarital pregnancies and abortions.i
According to T. Minnery, "Infectious syphilis rates have
more than doubled among teenagers since the mid 1980s.
Experts in the field of childhood sexual abuse report that
any premature sexual activity in children always suggests two
possible stimulants: experience and exposure. This means that
the sexual deviant child may have been molested or simply
exposed to sex through pornography or sexually related
According to an American' researcher, J. Bryant, out of
600 American teenagers (both males and females) 82 percent
of the females admitted to have viewed and learnt sexuality
from adults and pornography. Over 66 percent of the males
and 40 percent of the females reported wanting to transfer
some of the sexual behaviours they had witnessed. More also,
31 percent of the males and 18 percent of the females also
admitted actually doing some of the things they had seen in
pornography within few days after exposure.
Most responsible parents may want to instill in their
children their own personal values, especially based on their
religions, about relationships, sex, intimacy. love and
marriage. On
the other
hand, the powerful irresponsible
messages of pornography, peers media. have mis-educated
their children on this vital issue.
It is on this ground that the Church must champion and
promote sex education among teens and their parents.
T. Minnery, Pornography: A Human Tragedy (Wheaten: Tyndale House,
1997). 120.
Minnery, 120.
1. Kavanagh, Protecting Children in Cyberspace, (Springfield VA:
Behavoural Psychothe, 1997),58 - 29.
"Cline, 87.
The Church and Sex Education
date '- rape to physicalabuse
gr;oup se~ ~d·fin~lIy. to , ',' .
fantasizinghomosexualityas 1 read playboy magazine. I.
was extremely suicidal andsought psychiatrlc
eight years
lived in a sexually:promisctrous fashion,"
There was no help for meuntillchangedmy lifestyle to
be a follower of Jesus Christ and obeved
truths including "no premaritai sex.
I;· . .
Drawn from this confession, the agony of this yo~~ggirl,
and others like her could have been avoided through an
. understanding (education) of and obedience to; 'God's
purposes of sex. . . '~
From the Biblical perspective, Sex Education can be
validated and' promoted by the Church. The first Biblical
;paradigniofSex Education is based on God's purpose of sex
and sexuality (1 Cor. 7:2-3). People must be' taught to know
and appreciate "sex" as
gift of God and also, as something
that, is sacred (Gen. 29 2-3~ 9:21 -:-23~ Il Sam.
4~ Deut.
27: .20;; H'eb. 13:4). Church based sex educationjs rooted
within the scope of the ministries of the Church which
includes teaching. training and reaching. Sex education is
specifically within the scope of the teaching ministry of the
Church .which Christ had commanded saying," "Go ye
therefore and teach all nations ... teaching them to observe all
things whatever I have commanded you ... " (Mtt.28:19-20),
Teaching the Laws
including morality and values to our
children and adults are enjoined in the Bible, ..... teach them
to thy sons and thy sons' sons" (Dent. 4 :9). Besides this. the
scriptures being God's words are 'meant toinculcate morality
The Forerunner. Vol. X, No. VI, 1990.20.
The "Laws" herel~pli~~ ~he Instru~tj9nsandl~il,lnctions~fGOdtOntained in
the Holy Bible:' . .: .,',. ..'
African Journal of Biblical Studies
and effect correctionsinc1uding the evil of sexual abuses (2
Paul in his words, enjoined us (the Church, the Christians)
to be
instructor of the foolish. a teacher of babes.which
has the. form of knowledge and of the truth in the law"
(Romans 2:20). The teaching ministry of Apostle Paul. is
another good example for the Church to emulate in spreading
the scope of her teaching ministry which includes Sex
Education (1 Cor. 4: 17). Proverbs 22:6 which emphasizes
"the training-up of a child" is another biblical ground for
teaching sex and sexuality to children and even adults. Based.
on the foregoing, the Church promoting or engaging in Sex
Education is not out of Biblical context.
The Role of the Church in Sex Education
The Church can promote sex education by adopting the
following means:
(1) By
l\Ar-.t .••.
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parents, and' thus lack the ability to become role models to
help their own children in overcoming sexuality problems;
hence they oftenperceive themselves to be uninformed about
sexuality and. may be confused and uncomposedaboutthe
sexual values they wish to communicate to their children."
The Scriptures (Deut. 4:9) affirm the parents as the primary
disciples of their children while public education seemingly
has determined that the parent is inadequate for the task.
Therefore, the Church must teach and train the parents and
give those materials and encouragement so,that they (parents)
17As discussed in previous chapter of thir work
68 The Church and Sex Education
can approach the issue of sexuality confidently and
Churches that build good parents will end up building
good kids.
This otherwise can be termed, "positive
parenting." Parents should be taught to become "listening"
parents. Learning skills must be applied by parents so that
teens may not go astray. They (teens) must ask questions, and
parents must give answers. In the. time of crisis, an
established relationship with both parents. and. teens by the
Church is a sin qua non to peaceful resolution of such sexual
(2) Building Teenagers to Appreciate Self-Worth.
The need to belong, feel accepted is a powerful force in
a teen's life. Often even the strongly held principles of life are
overcome when the need for belonging is unmet. Hence, teens
will sacrifice their identity and dignity, and choose the
lifestyle and behavior of others in order to feel loved. The
Church therefore should help parents to build an atmosphere
of love and acceptance in the home. The Church can also in
this wise. establish nersonal closer relationxhirvs with the
~""~"~ ----1 "~"--~"-" ""--
J"------~-.- ------"
--------------r- ".--- .---
teens through their parents. The Church needs to teach the
teenagers to have respect for themselves, and others by saving
sex until marriage (Heb. 13:4).19 ..
Khine An Grogon, Family Life and Sexual Learning of Children
(Cambridge: Massachusetts, 1981), 172.
19Learning lnsights For Teachers (L. I. F. T.) Youth Series. (School Ministries,
African Journal of Biblical Studies
(3) Teaching
of Moral
The Church should teach the "truth" and the teens must
be taught by the Church to hold faithfully to it. Teenagers are
highly intolerant of dishonesty and will gravitate towards
stability over freedom. They should be taught to appreciate
self dignity, and sexuality as a gift from God that must be
held sacred even before marriage and after marriage (Heb.
(4) Modeling of Relationships.
It is the duty of the Church to serve as a place where
youths can see beautiful. God - sanctioned marriages that arc
worth waiting for. It is a truism that what the teens see, they
apprehend, appreciate. and become. Invariably, a
(the Church) is needed in putting the pieces back together or
in demonstrating forgiveness, love, and mutual respect. To
control the present current epidemic of sexual activity world-
wide among teenagers (youths), the Church must respond
quickly by investing in sex education.
Sex Education in Afro-Christian Perspective
Despite the fact that Africans try to Africanize
Christianity, the basic fact still remains that the cardinal or
basic moral virtues commanded by Christianity for the well--
being of the members of society including maintaining their
relationship with God are still valid and maintained. The
African Christian still believes that "A good Christian ... is
one who concretizes in his or her life - situation, these basic
religio--moral values of Christianity.Y" These moral values
20A. Flannery (ed.), Vatican 11, (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1987), 728.
70 The Church and Sex Education
include those- listed by Apostle Paul in Galatians 5: l Off.
Some of these Christian virtues are also listed by Jesus
5: 1-10,
.The Africans as a people are not ignorant of moralvalues
as these are incorporated into their norms. cultures 'and
traditions. Sexual purity as upheld by Christianity or the Bible
is highly regarded and emphasized in African culture-This is
seen in the premarital preparations or education
female and male children before marriage in the African
Looking at Sex Education with the eyes
the Africans.
we seethat African Christianity has many sexually related
moral values within the family and within the community.
The Africans. especially in some societies view sexual sins
like premarital and extramarital sex as taboos which carry
severe sanctions.
Accordingly. the Africans view the home environment as
the' first school of morals and faith. In African .Jiomes,
children and youths arc taught the traditional moral values
including sexual values and disvalues. . -:
1; 2')
Cl' ••
. .mong t..e Ltsako - peop.e o.
·aigcna. I.cmale
vugullly IS
highly valued. prized and rewarded. Hence, the teaching of
the female children and youths at a veryearly age about the
breaking the taboos of sexual promiscuity and other forms of
sexual abuse. The training orteaching of the .female children
is usually done by the mothers. Agirl(awouid~bp
is discovered to .have kept her virginity. till marriage
considered to have won' honour 'and a specified prized to
herself. and on the other hand. to her mother.
A. Onimhawo, "Religious Values and Salvation in Catholic Theology",
Epha, Ekporna Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 5, Nos. 182. June, 2003, 95.
Mbiti, African Traditional Religion & Philosophy, {New York: Harper &
Row, 1971),50 - 56.
African Journal of Biblical Studies
Also, among the Idjrehe (Jesse)23people of Nigeria, sex
education in form
taboos observance is usually
championed by the mothers. From time immemorial the Jesse
people have not been careless about sexual health because of
the great importance attached to sex and sexuality. Through
various rites end ceremonies such as circumcision and
girl who has kept her virginity is highly honoured
and rewarded with gifts. As part of sex 'education. it is against
Jesse Jaws and customs for a man to step across another
man's wife's feet or legs. or to hold her by the wrist or touch
her breast. This is equivalent to committing adultery or
fornication. (In case of a boy or a youth, children are also
taught not to mention by name any sexual organs or even sex
All these are taught to both the female and male children
on one hand. so as not to incur the wraths of the gods, and on
the other hand. as to maintain sexual and marital purity.24
Among the Akans of Ghana, outside the puberty rites.
male children are usually given training in form of warnings
about sexual matters by their
A girl found to have a
premarital pregnancy is said to have incurred the wrath of the
gods and must face severe punishments which includes
shaving of her hair with razor. 26
23Etsako is an Edo Ethnic group in North - East of Edo State of Nigeria. As a
people, "Etsako" means "Those who file their teeth". For details, see R. S.
Bradbury and P. C. Iloyd, The Benin Kingdoms and the Edo - Speking Peoples
of South West Nigeria (London: International African Institute, 1970), 100.
24The Idjerhe (Jesse) Urhobo people are said to have come originally from a
Town called Agbarha-Oto within the then Division of Eastern Urhobo, in the
then Warri Province. Jesse as a clan lies on the North bank of Ethiope River and
at the North-East by the thick forest of Ben in. Presently, Jesse is located in Delta
State of Nigeria. See M. O. Efevberha, The Jesse Urhobo Native Laws and
Customs (Provincial Education Authority, 1948),6-9.
25Efevberha. 30 - 31
26 Mbiti, 51.
72 The Church and Sex Education
Among the Mende of Sierra-Leone, Sex Education of a
female child begins ar the
this age. the mother
starts. teaching the female. child . about some feminist
phenomena such as monthly female menstruation period, and
the" avoidance of premature and prernari
sex.S uch
teachings also include the rewards .of keeping one's virginity
anci'self-- worth which is also biblical. .
From the forgoing. like the Bible, the Africans highly
value sexual purity and this is well enshrined in some African
cultures. Present sexual perversities may have gotten their
roots from the African's encounter with western cultures.
After examining some teaching aids and teaching skills in
primary schools and secondary schools on sex education,
some observers and public analysts have openly criticized sex
education and have tagged it as "pornography.>" Mr.
Deighan said in his criticism of sex education that books
produced by a group called "Health Wise", which form part
of sex education materials are unsuitable, or bv their
unsuitable tone they constitute an apparent attack on morality
and "embarrassment" about sex.28 He further said that lessons
sex education taught to teens in primaryand secondary
schools with such words such as "clitoris." "virgina", "penis,'
and others are totally inappropriate. Some' observers also
criticized the obsessive biological details of many of the
lessons on sex education. They also criticized the: use of
detailed. biological drawings of sexual organs to' teach. sex
education to teenagers. According to these sex, education
critics. such "pornographic" lessons termed as sex education
28Edwards & Adrian. .. . Hupt//news.scotman. cam/index; ,2004
AfricanJournal of Biblical Studies 73
will do nothing except-confuse them about-sex and about
what normal standards of sexual practice are/
Critics of sex education also question the suitability and
credentials of sex education teachers, and the audacity they
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behaviour. To these critics, these sex educationists have no
moral framework and content in their teachings.
Mike Judge. a Christian and a social worker also
criticized sex education with the following words:
This kind of teachings is completely inappropriate
primary school children. It is very damaging to teach sex
education without a suitable moral focus. We have seen
that this kind of education has had little impact on the
number of children having sex, the number of teenager
pregnancies or the number of abortions amongst youths
over the past few years.'
It is for these criticisms that the Scottish Catholic Church
called for an immediate review of all sex education materials
and curricula in schools" The Church has therefore called for
a comprehensive review of what children are being taught in
the classrooms and homes about sexuality.
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access to contraceptives without their parents' knowledge.
claiming that under - age children were being "almost enticed
to sexual activity" and saying that plans to give sex education
to teenage children amounted to "an organized sexual abuse
of children,,32 However, the Catholic Church through the
Catholic .Education Commission has drawn up its own
guidelines on what subjects sex education shouJdcovcr.
30Edwards &Adrian.
3lEdwards &Adrian.
32Edwards &Adrian.
74 The Church and Sex Education
Hence. appropriate materials and CUI ricula have been
developed and approved by the Church for sex education.r'
Useful Suggestions
This paper will not be complete without making some
useful recommendations to promote Church-based sex
education. These suggestions include the followings:
(1) That the Church should teach youths. especially teenagers
from an early age to understand human sexuality and to
respect themselves and others. They should be given the right
information, since this will help them to understand
differences and help to remove prejudice.
(2) People should be made to know that human sexuality is a
gift from God, and finds its perfect _expression within loving
life -- marriage. That any other physical sexual expression
falls short, to some degree. of that ideal. It therefore follows.
that human sexuality is not fulfilled in self-gratification or in
promiscuous or casual relationships.
The Church should encourage and showcase traditional
Christian marriages which will in tum promote the
fundamental building block of society and of family life. and
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l C~.~._.:~~ t...:1...l_.-.._
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(4) Just as the inculcation of faith in a child is systematically
approached, issue of sex education or sexual orientation in
schools, homes and in churches should not be forceful, but
should be taught with tact and caution.
Governments in partnership with the Church should
develop and provide workable sex education curricula and
materials in schools. Teachers of sex education should be
given proper and appropriate training.
33Edwards & Adrian,
African Journal of Biblical Studies 75
Having discussed the subject critically. it can be remarked
that the role of the Church in sex education cannot be over -
emphasized. The quick response by the church to promote
healthy sex education among youths will certainly rescue
generations of teenagers from inevitable sexual doom. The
Church's teaching on total "abstinence" from sexual act
before marriage will save the youths from acquiring sexual
related diseases, premarital pregnancies and even abortions.
In the words of Jesus, the Church must teach all peoples "all
things" that He had taught them. (Matt. 28: 18-19). Sex
education can be regarded as one of the "all things" that He
had taught the Church.
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