The other night as I rode the subway home from a meeting, I took my seat in the middle of a condom rally. Yes, that’s right, a condom rally. When I sat down, I was across from two teenagers, a boy and a girl, who were sitting across from two of their friends who were standing in front of the subway-car doors. This set of parallel teenagers each had condoms in their hands and were exchanging them with each other by airborne express. The pair I was sitting across from were remarking on how cool they thought it was that their friends’ school handed out condoms in bulk.
But these were not just any kind of condoms. They weren’t the standard NYC condoms that they dispense at clinics and public schools; these were flavored condoms–vanilla and mint, ribbed condoms, warming condoms, big condoms and little condoms. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. The New York school system is not only encouraging teenagers to have sex, I thought to myself, it’s also encouraging them to be quite adventurous about it.
Not only that, these kids were talking about how they would use the condoms. The boy in front of me begged his friend for more because he said it’s not about one round; it’s all about two rounds per girl. Next to him, the girl, who could have only been about 15 and was quite awkward, begged for some additional packs and rejected the NYC condoms because she thought they were cheap.
This discourse on condoms–who would take which flavor, which colors they wanted, and where they would use them–went on for quite awhile. I thought I had heard it all until the babe–as in baby–said, “I gotta have fun while it lasts; I’m a junior, so there ain’t much time left.”
I didn’t know what to do after that. At that moment I wished I had the courage to tell him I had just come from a meeting where I learned that 80 percent of teenage women in South Africa have had sex–some of these probably from rape–and 37percent of them have been pregnant, and a large percentage of them will be infected with the HIV/AIDS virus because they probably had the same notion as he did, “There ain’t much time left.” And truthfully, they probably didn’t have much time, because they are living an entirely different life with not nearly as many opportunities as American children are afforded. Yet this young man feels he’s got to get it in now, lest he run out of time–and he was only 16 or 17.
So that was my disturbing evening commute on the 4 train. Along with hitting myself for not having the holy boldness to go upside those kids’ heads in the name of Jesus, I wondered if I was being too fundamentalist in wanting them to abstain from sex completely until marriage rather than be happy that they were using protection. Do I pray for them? Do I pray that, since they are already having sex, the cheap NYC condoms won’t break and create a child amongst children? Or do I pray that they will realize they shouldn’t be having sex outside the bounds of marriage, and that they should keep their legs and mouths closed until they enter that sacred covenant?
Or should I just be happy they are using protection?
It’s strange how the messed-up condition of our society makes this kind of internal debate even necessary. But unless we continue to engage in the debate, standing firm on our biblical principles while acknowledging the sobering realities before us, we won’t stand a chance of getting our message across to the culture.