Abstinence curriculum in black churches: a critical examination of the intersectionality of race, gender, and SES

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Love L. Crossling (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Kathleen Casey

Abstract: Current sex education curriculum focuses on pregnancy and disease, but very little of the curriculum addresses the social, emotional, or moral elements. Christian churches have made strides over the last two decades to design an abstinence curriculum that contains a moral strand, which addresses spiritual, mental, social and emotional challenges of premarital sex for youth and singles. However, many black churches appear to be challenged in four areas: existence, purpose, developmental process, and content of teaching tools at it relates to abstinence curriculum. Existence refers to whether or not a church body deems it necessary or has the available resources to implement an abstinence curriculum. Purpose refers to the overall goals and motivations used to persuade youth and singles. Developmental process describes communicative power dynamics that influence the recognized voices at the decision-making table when designing a curriculum. Finally, content of teaching tools refers to prevailing white middle class messages found in Christian inspirational abstinence texts whose cultural irrelevance creates a barrier in what should be a relevant message for any population. The first component of the research answers the question of why the focus should be black churches by exploring historical and contemporary distinctions of black sexuality among youth and single populations. The historical and contemporary distinctions are followed by an exploration of how the history of black church development influenced power dynamics, which in turn affects the freedom with which black Christian communities communicate about sexuality in the church setting. Thirdly, there is an assessment of the intersection of church pedagogy with prevailing SES of mega versus small-independent black churches, and how that intersection molds and shapes the purpose of abstinence education in particular church settings. I explore communicative power dynamics as presented in Mark Orbe's (1998) co-cultural theory to assess the impact that contextual identity plays in black church settings, which directly affects the variation of voices that influence curriculum development. Finally, the issues of race, class, and gender and their relationship to the availability and consumption of Christian inspirational texts on the topic of abstinence via political economy is presented. My analysis focuses on interviews from five ministers, who served as youth, singles, or college pastors North Carolina. A combination of narrative (Casey, 1993), cocultural, and qualitative content analysis methodologies were used in the research. Using narrative methodologies, assess for intertextuality, silence, selectivity, and slippage. Co cultural methodologies guide my assessment of communicative orientations and practices that influenced the participants' approach to abstinence curriculum development. Finally, I use qualitative content analysis methodologies to decode messages that depicted messages of race, class, or gender in the content of Christian inspirational abstinence texts. An overwhelming presence of nonassertive separation and assimilation discourse was reported in the ministers' narratives in reference to leadership and parental roles in developing curriculum. Other prevailing orientations were aggressive separation and assimilation in the early experiences of the participants pre-ministry, as well as for the youth and singles who they currently serve. The qualitative content analysis revealed that prevailing messages of race, class, and gender which marginalize readers. The implications of the research are that black churches have to work diligently to create a curriculum that recognizes the voice of the sexually active teens in their congregation, as well as to encourage parents to contribute to the process of teaching abstinence away from the church. Additionally, Christian authors, both black and white, must be careful not to overlook the opportunity to consider the multiple sexual experiences from a multi-ethnic/cultural perspective. A broadening of the currently narrow space of imagery and discourse in texts may reach and influence otherwise marginalized readers.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2009
Abstinence, Black churches, Co-cultural, Curriculum, Narrative
Sex instruction for youth $x African Americans $x Curricula $x Religious aspects.
Sexual abstinence $x Study and teaching.
Sex instruction for youth $z United States $x Methods $x Religious aspects.
African American churches.
Sex instruction $x Philosophy.

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