Monday, February 06, 2006

Signs of Cultural Demise # ... Oh, who's counting anymore?
Be forewarned: This post treats a topic which I wouldn't want younger children reading. Teenagers and adults may proceed with caution. If you have smaller kids who can read, please exercise good judgment.
I want to relay something that happened recently. I want to make clear that the other two people to whom I refer in this story are NOT former or current parishioners. In fact, the other two persons in this story do NOT live in any town I have served in or currently serve in as a priest. Though the event took place in Kingfisher, it involves people who were visiting from out of town.

I made a trip to Wal-Mart to pick up some allergy medicine, dental floss, and shampoo. As I was walking in from the parking lot, I could hear quite a commotion as two teenage boys were running across the parking lot into the Wal-Mart, just steps ahead of me. They were in town or passing through town for a basketball game and their team bus had stopped at a fast food restaurant near the Wal-Mart. Since the boys were discussing that they had to hurry, I got the impression they had snuck away from the group to come to Wal-Mart and had to get back before the bus departed.

I went directly to the pharmacy aisle to get my allergy medicine and some Advil. Soon the boys were approaching the pharmacy section too, unaware of my presence, and making comments about probably needing extra, extra large of the product they were seeking out. As they rounded a corner and saw me, the lead boy immediately made an embarrassed laugh and quickly turned around pushing his friend back. They walked away but I could hear one of them saying, "I want to talk to a guy about this. I wonder if he works here." [I think they were referring to a different man, and not to me.] Not being totally clueless, I figured the boys were probably there to buy condoms and so, what did this Pastor do? I intentionally hung around the pharmacy section longer than I needed to, pretending to look at various vitamins. I figured if they had to hurry to get back to their bus and if they were embarrassed by my presence, then I would hang around to prevent the purchase. As I was one aisle over from the condoms, looking at Advil, the boys returned, this time not turning away even though I was still nearby. This is the conversation I heard:
Boy #1: Oh, my gosh, $7 something dollars! Dang! These ones are only $4 something.
Boy #2: Hey, look, "ribbed for her pleasure."
Boy #1: I don't care about HER.

This is where I rounded the corner. By the way, my jacket was zipped up, so I am not sure they even saw my priest collar. As I was moving past the boys, I said: Guys, you don't need those ... especially if you "don't care about her."

Boy #1: Well, I'm just trying to be responsible.
Me: (Turning back to face the boys) "Responsible" would be waiting until you are married.
Boy #1: Well, yeah, you're right.

Now, the boy still purchased the condoms. And oddly enough, though he could have chosen another check-out lane, he stepped in line directly behind me. I would have thought he would prefer any line except the one I was standing in. So, though he still made the purchase, I hope and I pray that his last response to me is an indication that his conscience may eventually win out and he may even opt not to use what he has purchased (meaning, that he will opt not to have sexual intercourse as an unmarried young man). That may be unlikely, but one never knows. I hope my prayers to this effect may even aid in bringing about what might seem improbable.

But the story doesn't end there. I am going to call the principal of the school these boys attend (one advantage of basketball jerseys and letter jackets, which the boys were wearing, is that I can identify the school) to inform him of the incident. I am going to tell him that sexual education which makes use of condoms as a central lesson is clearly not working. Whether he agrees with me or not, I hope that he will at least agree that society is better off with stable sexual partners and not risky behavior for disease or unwed pregnancy. I also hope he will be alarmed at the one boy's comment that he doesn't care about the girl. Now, I am not going to call the principal in order to identify the boys involved, but to encourage the principal to have a frank discussion with all of his students. In fact, and get this, I am going to offer to come and speak to the school, the athletic teams, or the FCA. We'll see if he bites. I guess I will have to update you on what transpires here.

Now, for my own reflections on this incident. The boys' own behavior clearly demonstrates lack of maturity and unreadiness for sexual intercourse and what it truly means. That our society tells them it is okay and natural to engage in sexual intercourse at their age is disturbing. That they have learned the false lesson that contraceptive use is being "responsible" indicates they have been betrayed by adults who have the duty to look out for the best interests of children and youth. They have been misled and misinformed by adults. Now, I really don't want to believe that the boy truly doesn't care for the girl he is probably dating or seeing, or thinks he might be able to bed. The worst case scenario is that the boy was being absolutely honest and that he really doesn't care for the girl. What I hope is more likely, though still disturbing, is that his comment reveals that he has received and accepted the unfortunate message, the societal lie, that sexual intercourse is all and only about pleasure. In that sense, I hope his comment only means that he is only concerned about his pleasure and not hers. Again, let me state clearly, that is still highly problematic and very disturbing. It is not good. What I am trying to state is that I really hope that the boy has at least some care for the girl with whom he is hoping to sleep, even as I recognize how misguided his intentions are.

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