Teens urged to delay having sex

May 01, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Most highly publicized messages about unmarried sex that are intended for teen-agers and young adults these days seem to have a contraceptive attached -- if you're going to have sex, make it safe sex.

But the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and the City of Baltimore yesterday tried to separate a more saintly message from secular desire.

"True Love Waits," they told hundreds of teen-agers who gathered at Baltimore's Southwestern High School to promote sexual abstinence before marriage.

They sang the message. They testified about it. And they even asked for signed commitments to it, having the teen-agers pledge to God, themselves, their families, their dates, their future mates and their future children that they would abstain from sex until they marry.

"It's assumed that you're going to be promiscuous," said Katie Grogan, director of church administration and family ministry for the 400-member Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

"You don't have to have sex to be popular," said Ms. Grogan, who was wearing a "True Love Waits" T-shirt.

Baltimore's Health Department conducted a similar rally in JTC January. When members of the health department heard about the True Love Waits program, which has become a national campaign co-sponsored by more than 20 church groups, they decided to support the effort as well.

The problem is that many teen-agers believe that there is a lack of alternatives to drugs, alcohol and sex, said Ray Selwyn, policy adviser for the city health commissioner.

"Right now, there's a general feeling of hopelessness," Mr. Selwyn said. "We have to show there is hope and there is a way out of the confusion."

The solution Ms. Grogan and others recommended is to offer alternatives such as the rally yesterday that started in the school's nearly packed auditorium and moved to the stands and football field outside the school.

New recording artist Jeffrey Dean, former Miss Maryland National Teen-ager Tonya McBride and former Denver Broncos free safety Stephen Fitzhugh were among the guests who performed for the rally, singing and speaking to the group.

"If you do God's will, he will bless you, and bless you, and bless you and bless you," Mr. Fitzhugh told the crowd.

To songs such as "Wait," the title cut from Mr. Dean's new album, and others, the teen-agers clapped and cheered.

"It was really good," said Almar Lowery, 14, of Wheaton. "I already signed [the pledge]."

"I think waiting is an excellent idea," said 14-year-old Essex resident Amanda Griffin. "The True Love Waits program is a good experience for anyone. If it doesn't work for all of them, it's going to help."

When the cards are all signed, they'll be sent to the Southern Baptist Convention. Signed cards from across the country will be displayed on the Mall in Washington on July 29.

This effort has encouraged people like Rev. Aaron Claxton, senior pastor of the New Creation Christian Church in Baltimore.

These programs, he said, help him with his own children, as well as teen-agers in his congregation.

"I stayed sexually abstinent until I got married at the age of 23," Rev. Claxton said. "I believe that if I could do it, then anyone can do it, especially young men.

"I don't make it a boasting point. I don't make it a condemnation point," he said. "I just say, 'Here's an example.' "

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