Author and international speaker Doug Herman spent time on our Crosswalk forums a few weeks ago discussing purity with Christian teens. They had an opportunity to ask him some of their most pressing questions about abstinence education and the ultimate meaning of sex. Here's a glimpse into some of the most common concerns - and Doug's answers -- that range from "what's the big deal about sex outside marriage?" to criticisms on the way the abstinence message is currently taught.

First, what's the big deal about sex outside marriage?

Q: If someone is in a long-term relationship and planning on marriage with their partner, then there's nothing that can convince me that it's dangerous or emotionally unhealthy.

Doug: the only SAFE SEX is a safe partner. Period. ONE person, who's ONLY been with you, and will stay with you (read: faithful) until one of you dies. So, by your definitions, they fit. But...is there more than physical safety? Let's see....

Q: Of course sex can make one more attached to their partner. A husband becomes more attached to his wife; a woman becomes more attached to the man she plans on marrying--in both ways, the relationships go stronger and more loving. And if the relationship does fail, it's not the end of the world - God can still redeem it. Right?

Doug: Emotional attachment is very real - again, created by God and backed up with scientific study and psychological research.

My question then is WHY? Why continue in a sexual relationship when you're not married? GET MARRIED! Unless of course, "commitment" is not important. Which implies, love is not there. Which implies, why have SEX?

Certainly God redeems relationships that are failed. Whose isn't? I lost a wife to AIDS and remarried. I'm renewed too. But it's better to choose to abstain from sex until commitment is enacted in a real, tangible way. (i.e. "kill your single life for them")

Q: Okay so abstinence isn't a bad message but -- we're sick of the STD/pregnancy scare tactics used to get us to abstain. Why not just tell us the truth?

Doug: God is truth - hard truth, not relevant truth. And as scientific study slowly advances, we are finding His truth in our research. When Paul wrote, "everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial," it alludes to the damage that sex outside marriage can cause.

Scare Tactics:

Puh-Lease! While I'm completely aware that there are those who focus on the negative and try to scare you into holy living, I disagree with those measures. But every assembly I conduct simply lists the facts; every choice has a consequence, every action has a reaction (Newton's 3rd Law of Motion). Scripturally, you reap what you sow.

Sadly though, I look into mascara-streaked faces of teens who've been raped, molested, date-raped who wonder if there's a chance they're infected with an STD. Then there are faces of those who've signed abstinence pledge cards who do "everything else but" and think they're still safe and can't understand why the "safer sex" message and "church messages" didn't tell the truth about HPV or herpes (HSV2) contracted in the mouth/throat.

They deserved to be told the truth, correct?

But when they heard the truth, it rattled them (dare I say "Scared?"). It wasn't for the purpose of changing behavior through fear, but of sharing the truth.

Q: What if you've already had sex? Why do those who take abstinence pledges have to show off their rings and rub into our faces that they're virgins?

Doug: That's probably what makes me so effective and in so much demand. I don't rub choices in anyone's face.

Losing a wife and daughter to AIDS was tough. Forgiving a blood donor who lied on his donor form of his sexual past (before blood was tested in America) that infected and killed 1/2 my family was also tough. But, I think I'm only able to speak as passionately as I do today because of God prompting and leading me to forgive.