Pam Stenzel is coming to town tonight to give one her patented "you will pay" talks designed to scare kids out of having sex. Stenzel and her message are described thus in Michelle Goldberg's book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism:
Reclaiming America for Christ is a place where the Christian nationalist movement drops its democratic pretenses and indulges its theocratic dreams. So at the 2003 conference, when the abstinence educator Pam Stenzel spoke, she knew she didn't have to justify her objection to sex education with prosaic arguments about health and public policy. She could be frank about the real reason society must not condone premarital sex--because it is, as she shouted during one particularly impassioned moment, "stinking, filthy, dirty, rotten sin!"
A pretty, zaftig brunette from Minnesota with a degree in psychology from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, Stenzel makes a living telling kids not to have sex. Rather, she makes a living trying to scare kids out of having sex--as she says in her video No Screwin' Around, if you have sex outside of marriage "to a partner who has only been with you . . . then you will pay." A big part of her mission is puncturing students' beliefs that condoms can protect them. She says she addresses half a million kids each year, and millions more have received her message via video.
Yikes. Sex is dirty, stinking, rotten and dirty. You will pay if you have sex outside of marriage, even if you're in a committed, long-term, monogamous relationship. These are not the values I want my kids internalizing.
I could at least muster some grudging admiration for her if her approach actually worked, but it doesn't--and Stenzel apparently doesn't care as long as the checks roll in:
At Reclaiming America for Christ, Stenzel told her audience about a conversation she'd had with a skeptical businessman on an airplane. The man had asked about abstinence education's success rate--a question she regarded as risible. "What he's asking," she said, "is does it work. You know what? Doesn't matter. Cause guess what. My job is not to keep teenagers from having sex. The public schools' job should not be to keep teens from having sex."
Then her voice rose and turned angry as she shouted, "Our job should be to tell kids the truth!"
"People of God," she cried, "can I beg you, to commit yourself to truth, not what works! To truth! I don't care if it works, because at the end of the day I'm not answering to you. I'm answering to God!"
I wonder if all the communities that pony up the thousands of dollars Stenzel's presentations command are as blase about their effectiveness at reducing teen pregnancy and STDs as she is.
Later in the same talk, she explained further why what "works" isn't what's important--and gave some insight into what she means by "truth." "Let me tell you something, people of God, that is radical, and I can only say it here," she said. "AIDS is not the enemy. HPV and a hysterectomy at twenty is not the enemy. An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can shake their fist in the face of a holy God and sin without consequence, and my child spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy. I will not teach my child that they can sin safely."
The crowd applauded.
Of course, Stenzel isn't just teaching her child.
I think I'd prefer if wasn't teaching my child either. And I sure hope she doesn't take my school district's money to present a program that doesn't actually help to reduce teen pregnancy or STDs. But maybe that's what she means by "you will pay."