Fewer teens are having sex. Newsweek finds a few who aren't doing it
Teen sex sells—but will teen abstinence? Newsweek will find out as it puts "The New Virginity: Why More Teens Are Choosing Not to Have Sex" on its cover. "Rejecting the get-down-make-love ethos of their parents' generation, this wave of young adults represents a new counterculture, one clearly at odds with the mainstream media and their routine use of sex to boost ratings and peddle product," write Lorraine Ali and Julie Scelfo.

The Centers for Disease Control says about 60 percent of high school seniors have had sex, but the number of high school students who said they've had sex has dropped precipitously, from 54 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001.

"It's clear that religion plays a critical role in this extraordinarily private decision," says Newsweek, "But there are other factors as well: caring parents, a sense of their own unreadiness, the desire to gain some semblance of control over their own destinies." The magazine profiles six teens who have decided to wait, and gives each of them respect.

"Most of them didn't feel like outcasts, and I was a little surprised at that," Ali says on Newsweek On Air. "Most of them were not [outcasts] because they were willing to speak about it. They weren't shy about it, they weren't embarrassed by it. And I really don't think they see themselves as trendsetters either. It's such a personal choice for them. It's not a political move."

Indeed, one thread that appears in the cover piece is that abstinence is not necessarily tied to modesty (something at odds with the recent thesis by author Wendy Shalit). One of the women profiled is a Miss Hawaiian Tropic beauty queen who poses in bikinis and models at Harley-Davidson fashion shows. "What does a virgin look like?" asks Daniela Aranda, an evangelical influenced by Josh Harris's books. "Someone who wears white and likes to look at flowers?"

Another thread that emerges is that most of the profilees were encouraged in their abstinence by formal peer support programs. A second article examines these programs and how they tie into the political side of abstinence. "To the White House, abstinence seems like an easy win: it resonates with conservative voters, but doesn't upset pro-choice moderates," writes Debra Rosenberg (who drops the ball when she takes the Sexuality Information and Education Council's stated agenda at face value). But she says there's a problem: "Although Bush has said he wants to fund only "scientifically proven" education programs, there's so far little evidence to show abstinence works."

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Clearly, however, something is working for the teens profiled in this cover package. Let's find out what it is.

John DiIulio apologizes for "Mayberry Machiavellis" comment. Twice.
Weblog yesterday noted the comments of John DiIulio, former head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, in the January issue of Esquire. "There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded nonpartisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism," he said. "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis."

The comments set off a firestorm in Washington, and DiIulio issued a statement saying the article was "unjustly hard on [White House senior adviser Karl] Rove and over-the-top complimentary to me, thereby creating a too-pat contrast that is, I feel, most unfair to Mr. Rove."

That apparently wasn't apologetic enough for DiIulio's former employer. By the end of the day he'd issued a second apology: "My criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. I sincerely apologize and I am deeply remorseful. I will not be offering any further comment, or speaking or writing further on any aspect of my limited and unrepresentative White House experience or any matters or persons related thereto. I regret any and all misimpressions. In this season of fellowship and forgiveness, I pray the same."

Meanwhile, Esquire has posted a four-page memo from DiIulio to writer Ron Suskind on its website, along with a press release about the article—but not the article itself.

And as this story has very much exited the realm of religion, Weblog will leave the rest of the fallout to the political bloggers.

More articles

Christmas and Advent:

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  • Not everyone celebrates the holidays with a tree | More campaigns for holiday shopping have themes other than Christmas. Some, however, could backfire. (The New York Times)

  • Forget Christmas tree, B.C.'s tree is just The Tree | Controversy has broken out in various cities across Canada this year as to whether renaming "Christmas trees" is showing sensitivity to non-Christian religions or whether it's simply political correctness run amok (The Province, Vancouver, B.C.)

  • Save Santa | As many as 50 childcare centers and kindergartens have put a stop to nativity scenes and Christmas festivities, blaming the decision on the need to respect the cultural sensitivities of non-Christian religions. (Fiona Connelly, The Daily Telegraph, Australia)

  • 'No Christmas this year,' says Arafat | Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat on Wednesday ordered Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem canceled, to protest the IDF presence in the city (The Jerusalem Post)

Pop culture:

Politics and law:

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  • The problem at the root of US-European discord | In the United States Dualism's religious expression has weakened, but its influence on the American mind, as it addresses foreign affairs, is stronger than ever (William Pfaff, The Boston Globe)

  • Misplaced faith | People for whom religion is the source of wisdom and truth, whose religious and civic lives are seamlessly connected, and who hold governmental authority must be greatly tempted to do what they can to place truth on the throne. But isn't that just the effort that was made by the Taliban? (William Raspberry, The Washington Post)



Missions and ministry:

  • Salvation Army keeps fighting the good fight | The Salvation Army has never tried to hide who and what it is, an evangelical Christian organization whose mission is "to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination." (Joe Fitzgerald, Boston Herald)

  • Pastor offers Windows to his soul | Man builds, gives away computers (The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.)

  • Bearing witness, saying goodbye | For 22 years, Rev. Joseph Ledwell has helped bury the unclaimed dead of Cook County in a special corner of a Homewood cemetery (Chicago Tribune)

  • Unlikely alliance to fight AIDS | Today, the United States needs forceful leaders to address a more lethal social ill: the AIDS pandemic. It also needs another unlikely alliance - African-Americans and Republicans. (Eugene Rivers and Richard Stearns, The Boston Globe)

  • Groups will collaborate to speed Bible translations | The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board and Wycliffe International have announced a partnership agreement (Religion News Service)

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  • Saving souls—12 by 12 | A business executive living the American dream, complete with BMW and six-figure salary, decides to minister to Atlanta's poorest and others instead—a dozen at a time (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

  • Also: Reaching out and paying a price (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

What Would Jesus Drive campaign:

  • Christian activists: Jesus wouldn't drive a gas-guzzler | The big question is how Texans—big on church and road-hogging, gas-sucking trucks—will react (Houston Chronicle)

  • The road to hell | What Jesus had to say was much more important than what he would drive (Brock Yates, The Wall Street Journal)

  • Driving the message home | American clerics trying to change their country's gas-guzzling ways with the What Would Jesus Drive? campaign should check out the wheels chosen by His servants (David Burgess-Wise, The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Bumper stickers by Jesus | What Would Jesus Drive campaign borders on religious blackmail (Kathleen Parker, The Orlando Sentinel)

Mother Teresa:

Jerry Falwell:

  • Owner of parody Web sites heads to court | Judge Norman K. Moon will hear arguments for the dismissal of Falwell's suit, which claims the parody sites www.jerryfalwell.com and www.jerryfallwell.com are an illegal use of Falwell's trademark, libelous, unfair competition and cybersquatting (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

  • Judge hears arguments in Web site dispute | Judge Norman K. Moon took the case on advisement, but did not give any indication when he might rule (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

  • Falwell goes to court over parody website | Baptist minister cannot disprove the site's claim that he is a false prophet, lawyers argued Tuesday (Associated Press)

  • Falwell, Ericsson sale impact worries city | Several city officials and area economic development professionals, who say Lynchburg can't afford to lose the millions in tax dollars a manufacturer would pay (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)

  • Falwell to city: Don't box with God | Even if there are problems with rezoning the Ericsson building to fit the plans of Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg Christian Academy and Liberty University, it won't scuttle the purchase (The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va.)
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Sex abuse scandal:

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