Either your sexual behavior as a teenager matters or it doesn’t.

After myriad messages from the sexual purity movement telling teens not to practice pre-marital sex, we now hear that Franklin Graham thinks your behavior as a teenager isn’t relevant to your character in adulthood.

Commenting on the recent allegations of sexual assault made against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when he was a teenager, Mr Graham said,

“There’s a lot of things that I’ve done when I was a teenager that I certainly am ashamed of and not proud of. People are up in arms over this like ‘oh, this is such a disaster.’ You’re talking about two teenagers 40 years ago. That has nothing to do with what we’re talking about today about this man being a judge on the Supreme court.”

Remember, Franklin Graham also defended Judge Roy Moore, a man accused of sexual misconduct against nine women when they were teenagers, by saying he was “a courageous man… willing to stand for God’s moral laws.”

And this is the same Franklin Graham whose own denomination founded True Love Waits, a ministry for promoting sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students. TLW is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources.

TLW tells teens that if they signed an abstinence pledge and followed the biblical model of remaining a virgin until marriage, their sex lives would be better and their marriages would be stronger. And God would be pleased.

Unfortunately, like many purity programs, TLW exaggerates the consequences of losing your virginity. They preach that when you have sex you’re “giving away part of yourself” and to do so is injurious to your body and soul.

In the worst cases, they can give an all-is-lost message about pre-marital sex.

So how come we can preach to teens and pre-teens that your sexual behavior in adolescence can screw up your future marriage and maybe even damage your soul, but sexually assaulting a girl when you’re 17 isn’t a stain on your character in later life?

 

For Franklin Graham to suggest the accusation against Brett Kavanaugh is simply “not relevant” is deeply concerning.

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr Graham said, “It’s just a shame that a person like Judge Kavanaugh who has a stellar record — that somebody can bring something up that he did when he was a teenager close to 40 years ago.”

I don’t agree.

And in saying that I’m not suggesting that your actions as a teenager can never be expunged. I think you can be renewed daily by the power of the Holy Spirit. I believe there is forgiveness for any teenager who sins sexually.

But the Brett Kavanaugh case is more complicated than a teenager having consensual intercourse with their partner. The accusations against him are of a serious sexual assault in which the accuser, Dr Christine Blasey Ford, now a professor at Palo Alto University in California, feared for her life. She said that a drunken Kavanaugh pinned her down and groped her and that she was only able to escape when another person interrupted Kavanaugh.

Yes, Mr Kavanaugh can be forgiven for this crime. He can be cleansed of it and can move forward as an adult of excellent character. But that takes contrition, repentance, and the asking for forgiveness. These are all the things Baptist ministers like Franklin Graham usually expect of people who have committed pre-marital sex.

David Fitch of Northern Seminary, Chicago, is absolutely right when he says,

“I believe a man is still determined by an immoral act against a women – even 30 years ago – until he has confessed that sin, sought reconciliation, and been forgiven (by the woman and God).

 

“When, therefore, a woman accuses the man of a grievous sin, for his own healing and transformation, and for the woman’s healing, he must hear his accuser, confess his sin and ask forgiveness. Until this happens, the man is determined, consciously or unconsciously, by this mark on his past. Afterwards however, in Christ, he (and she) can be transformed and healed and on a path of working for justice and healing in the world. This is how character works. This is what is at stake in the accusations against justice Kavanaugh.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

 

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