I regularly have a conversation that goes something like this: A pastor happily remembers me as the person who wrote about sex in Campus Life magazine when he was a teenager. Jumping from that subject, he bemoans the broken world: Janet Jackson, school sex-ed classes, Internet pornography, women's magazines at the grocery store checkout. Agreeing with him, I ask what his church is doing to help kids. The conversation, which has been cruising at 60, suddenly lurches into low gear. The pastor thinks that the youth group talked about dating in January. Or was that last year?

In 30 years of writing about sex, I have seen that practically everybody worries about young people's sexual morals, but hardly anybody wants to do anything about them. Pastors, youth leaders, parents, Christian schools—they all bemoan the crisis, but their own efforts are generally meager.

The authors and publishers of books offering Christian perspectives on sex at least do something. They get little glamour and less money for their work, but seem passionately committed to the lives of children and adolescents. For that, at the least, they deserve credit.

A survey of books aimed at children and their parents, published between 1993 and 2003, reveals a variety of trends:

• Greater frankness. Many of these authors are graphic in a way that would make an earlier generation cringe. Not so long ago a Christian book for young people would employ euphemisms and vagueness when describing sex. No longer.

• Purity. The word itself has made a remarkable comeback. Most of these books emphasize the appeal of purity just as much or more than they speak of the dangers of premarital sex. Purity speaks to deeper concerns of the soul, offering a stronger incentive for chastity. ...

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