There aren't many television situation comedies left, and one of the last standing is NBC's Parks and Recreation. This show has succeeded so far with its creative and fresh writing, along with a talented ensemble cast of likable characters. I happened to catch a new episode last week though, and clicked it off.
The show was culture-warrior preachy, almost like a throwback to a 1970s Norman Lear sitcom. The more I thought about it, the more I realized there's something we ought to pay attention to about public discourse.
The episode was about an outbreak of sexually transmitted diseases among the elderly in a Pawnee, Indiana, nursing home. The show's lead character, councilwoman Leslie Knope, takes on the mantle of educating the elders about preventing STDs with condoms, and is stymied by a Religious Right activist and her stereotypically and flamboyantly gay husband. It turns out there is a law forbidding anything but abstinence education in Pawnee.
This storyline enabled a series of coarse sexual jokes, sprinkled with ongoing messages that abstinence education doesn't work and hurts people, and that government officials need the courage to fight the ideologues and do what is best for public health.
I, of course, am a conservative evangelical Christian who believes, with the entire historic Christian church of every wing, that chastity until marriage is God's design and is necessary for human flourishing. I also think many efforts at sex education, built merely around disease and pregnancy prevention rather than human dignity, have hurt people and diminish civil society.
But that's not why I turned off the television. I don't mind hearing other viewpoints, and I'm not afraid ...1