Commentary, From the Editor

Fewer teens read this editorial

While downing a bowl of corn flakes recently, a StarTribune headline attracted my attention: “Fewer teens are sexually active” it read.

Now, there could be numerous reasons this story caught my attention. Having a senior in high school is an obvious one. Having recently had access to a television for a few days, and seeing the level of “frankness” there was in discussions about sexuality, especially for young people, is probably another.

But, I actually think it might have more to do with a never-ending internal dialogue I have about the connection between personal behavior and the way we live in and engage the world.

Bob Hulteen

I suspect that the content of the story points to a positive trend in society. Given the way consumer culture commodifies sexuality, it is surprising that teenagers are making such a choice. But, I believe that these decisions are healthy.

And, I assume that most people, maybe especially most church people, would believe this is a good thing. Probably, most readers would believe that making such personal choices reflects religious interest and commitment.

Is it just personal behavior?

But, being who I am, I immediately began to wonder how these same people would react, in terms of their faith commitment, if the headline had read “Fewer teens are going to bed hungry.” Would that also be interpreted as a sign of faith active in the world? And, what if the story would have said that the reason people were being fed was a combination of personal charitable behavior by “the haves” and significant government intervention to serve “the have-nots.” Would that also have been good news?

There will always be a conversation within the church, I suppose, about the linkage between personal piety and political activism. Among the most visible representatives of the church universal, most fall quite squarely in one camp or the other.

But, I also suspect that most people actually see personal behavior and public engagement as linked. Often one’s political ideals become victims of personal inconsistencies. And, those “fewer teens” mentioned above are able to sniff “inconsistencies,” which they call hypocrisy. Fewer teens like that.

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