Condoms, Abstinence: The Kids Are Alright?

by Michael Potemra

Earlier today I joined in an Evangelical non-denominational worship service a few blocks south of Harlem. The small congregation of about 100 — Community Christian Church of New York City  — can’t afford their own church building, so they rent the gym of a public high school.  (The service was very moving, and impressive in its Gospel focus. I recommend it to anyone on the upper-Upper West Side who’s interested in contemporary-style Evangelical worship.) To get to the gym, churchgoers have to walk down a flight of stairs where the high-school students have posted personal cards answering the question, What will you do personally to help prevent AIDS? Most of them were variations on ”I pledge to use condoms” and “I will help educate people about safe sex.” (Nearby was a sign indicating a room in which free condoms are distributed.) But what surprised me was a few cards from students saying they personally would abstain from sex. Their cards were scattered indiscriminately among the others: a snapshot of how different cultural choices can coexist. Now, because it was Sunday I didn’t see any of the actual students, so I don’t know how much razzing these pro-abstinence kids get on weekdays; but the only mockery I saw in the display was from a prankster who went through a few of the “I will use condoms” cards and scrawled in a “not.” (I picture an avuncular European chuckling: “Kids! They’re the same everywhere.” Name the movie…) In any case, if this public-school display is any indication, the next generation are playing nicer with each other than are some of the adults who like to get angry about this issue, on whichever side.  

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