Cramming more than 50 high school students into a small room for weekly Bible study is challenging, but getting them to talk about sex is not. When the questioning hand of one 15-year-old boy shot up in the back of the room, I braced myself. “Is masturbation a sin?—I really gotta know.”
I was proud of him, but not for his honesty and openness. Talking explicitly about sex is easy for MTV-watching teens. Using a word like sin is much harder. As Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, authors of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, observe, few teens think seriously about theologically explicit words like resurrection, redemption, sanctification and sin.