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Teens need to be taught abstinence

As a counselor in a pregnancy center counseling sexually active teens, I believe Rev. Wilkins Garrett's comments regarding abstinence ("The Teen Sex Debate," Jan. 25) are right on target. He stated, "We stopped giving the message of abstinence back in the late '60s and early '70s."

Many teens today have never heard the word "abstinence" discussed as a lifestyle and as the highest code of moral ethics. Immorality, as it pertains to sex, has become such a popular moral standard that the definition of ethical values is totally unclear. Everything they see and hear from visuals, peers and parents clearly mocks and contradicts the gospel message.

There is marked interest and receptivity to abstinence, particularly when a fearful teen is relieved by the good news of a negative pregnancy test _ another chance.

However, I feel the shepherds are not feeding their flocks much fodder. Across most faith lines, the lack of spiritual pronouncement from the pulpit is much evident. There is minimal preaching on social morals, consequences of sin and the justice as well as the mercy of God regarding one's behavior as it relates to what Christ is calling each teen to be. It is a faint, quiet voice.

These teens are hungry for a strong, definitive leadership voice from their pastors and scriptural direction in pursuing their walk with Jesus Christ. We need to hear more from the pulpit rather than the press.

Mary P. Murphy, Belleair

Jews vs. Judaism

Your feature on American Judaism confuses the Jews as an ethnic group with Judaism as a religion, discussing demographic trends along with religious developments. But not all Jewish Americans are Judaists _ that is, practice the religion, Judaism (in any of its forms) _ any more than all Italian or Irish or Polish Americans are Catholics or all African Americans are Baptists or Methodists.

The article, therefore, presents a puzzling picture of a religion that goes from strength to strength but of an ethnic group that is changing in various ways, not all of them favorable.

Jacob Neusner, distinguished research professor of religious studies, University of South Florida, Tampa