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Jesus Needs New PR

Christian Bears Teaching Abstinence

The “content” in the above video is real. The virgin bears are not. I found this video at Unreasonable Faith.


Sadly, I’ve heard at least sixty percent of this talk before.

For my next book, I write a story about the time I went on a Christian Singles Retreat and the speaker used a Blowpop to demonstrate our sex lives. This portion of the book isn’t edited, so please excuse the mistakes…

Here’s the set-up: My friend Connor invited me to go on the retreat (I hate retreats!) because he wanted me to hear his friend Ben talk about sex. This piece begins with me describing my first moments at the retreat:

Two weeks later, I followed Connor into the hills of West Virginia. The retreat center was beautiful, more so than what the brochure advertised. It was fall, so all of the leaves on the trees were brilliant shades of orange, yellow, red, and maroon, and the air was clean and scented like God intended. Since I didn’t belong to F.O.C.U.S., I felt a little out of place at first. But Connor put his arm around me and paraded me around the room and introduced me to all of his friends. For the most part, the attendees seemed to gravitate toward one of five groups: The Jocks, The Princesses, The Overweights, The Older/Divorcees, and The Awkwards. But unlike other single Christian retreats that I’d attended, the cliques at this one weren’t gender specific, which made them more interesting. I wobbled back and forth between the older group and the awkward group. Within a couple of hours, I felt almost at home.


The single thirty-something abstinence-thumper was friendly enough, and he wasn’t a bad speaker, but I thought he seemed much too happy about being a virgin than any thirty-something-year-old guy should be. Before Ben’s first talk, Connor introduced him. After sharing a couple of old college stories, one funny and two serious ones, Connor told us that Ben was his purity hero. “My boy hasn’t masturbated in TEN YEARS,” said Connor in amazement. Then he looked at Ben, “Was I supposed to share that?” Laughing, Ben nodded and said, “It’s in the bio, man. You’re fine.”

Then Ben walked up onto the small stage and spoke. The title of his three-sermon package was “Untouched,” which was also the name of a book that he self-published and sold at his merchandise table. I managed to keep my opinions to myself for the most part. I considered that to be almost miraculous considering that at the beginning of his third talk, Ben pulled out a lollipop.


I’d witnessed more than my share of sermon illustrations and I thought I’d seen it all. I’d seen a preacher use a cake mix, eggs, oil, and water to explain spiritual discipline, a well-known Christian author use a water gun to explain sanctification, and an evangelist use a blindfold, chair, and a volunteer to demonstrate faith. But what Ben did with his lollipop—a Blowpop to be exact—astounded me.

Holding the Blowpop’s end between two fingers and lifting it up so everybody could see it, Ben said, “Imagine that this Blowpop is your sex life.” Ben then asked for a couple of volunteers to join him at the front of the room. A confident member of The Overweights was the first and only attendee to raise her hand, and then Ben chose a guy from The Jocks to fill the other spot. Ben told us that the Blowpop was going to represent Overweight’s sex life, and as he put the lollipop in her hand, he noted to the rest of us, “It’s still wrapped, which means she’s still a virgin.” All of the members of The Overweights and a handful of The Awkwards knowingly giggled.


Overweight’s grape-flavored sex life remained unwrapped for about thirty seconds, long enough for her and Jock to meet at a party and then go home together. Ben told Overweight to hand Jock the Blowpop. He looked at Jock and said, “Okay, unwrap it and take a lick.” All of The Jocks, The Princesses, and several members of The Older/Divorcees giggled as Jock hesitated to take Overweight’s sex life out of it’s packaging.

“You really want me to do this,” said Jock to Ben.

“Yeah, go ahead,” said Ben. “Lick it!”

Jock slowly pulled the wrapper off Overweight’s Blowpop and then quickly scraped it against his tongue. Ben then told us that Jock was a jerk, because immediately after licking Overweight’s lollipop he gives it back to her and tells her that he only wanted it for one night. Ben told Jock to sit down. The room applauded.


“Now look what Overweight is left with,” said Ben, “nothing but an already-licked lollipop!” And then while pointing at Overweight who was holding her used and abused sex life with one hand, Ben shouted, “Okay, now who wants the next lick?”

Nobody raised their hand.

“Come on,” shouted Ben. “It’s only been licked once!”

Still, nobody was interested.

I started to feel sorry for Overweight.

Having made his point (and at the expense of Overweight’s now-licked lollipop), Ben told Overweight that she could sit down.

“Now do you see why God wants us to remain virgins until we’re married?”


After he asked his question, Overweight looked at him and said, “Do I get to keep this?”

“Sure,” said Ben.

Overweight smiled as she popped her “sex life” into her mouth and sat down.

I had so many questions running through my head: What about Jock’s Blowpop? Did it get licked, too? Or do only girls have Blowpops? Would it make a difference if Overweight had taken her Blowpop into the bathroom and rinsed it off? What about King Solomon? The Bible says he licked a lot of Blowpops…

You’ll have to wait for rest of the story…

Comments read comments(45)
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posted January 6, 2011 at 10:53 am

i couldn’t read past “take a lick”. oh em gee double yoo tee eff.

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Will adair

posted January 6, 2011 at 10:54 am

To periphrase Matt Chandler “Jesus wants the blow pop.” Those who are virgins when (and if) they marry have a awesome gift to give. Yet the gospel makes it clear that we are new in Christ regardless of what we have done. Perfect love covers a multitude of sins.

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I remember Matt Chandler talking about this a few years ago in a sermon series. Only when Chandler heard this type of presentation, the speaker had used a white rose that, after being passed around and looking dirty, was supposed to represent people who had pre-marital sex.

    I recount that to second what you said.

    Jesus wants the licked blow pops. “The old is gone, the new has come.” Praise God.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 11:02 am

I had always heard that if I had sex with my boyfriend before marriage, I wouldn’t have “anything to give him” on our wedding night.
Now this bear is telling my husband that he married a blob of ABC gum.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 11:27 am

…then Overweight and Jock needed a shower, in more way than one.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 11:27 am

Yes, we shouldn’t have sex before marriage because it’s unsanitary and creepy. That’s exactly what Scripture teaches. I have a couple more questions:
– What if Jock had just unwrapped the Blowpop and looked at it? Like Overweight was a stripper. Would someone else have licked it then?
– Can my sex life be strawberry flavored? Strawberry’s my favorite.

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Sarah McMenomy

posted January 6, 2011 at 11:27 am

What about a girl — or guy — who lost their virginity during a rape? If the lollipop is only a physical one, and not a spiritual lollipop, then that guy or girl is pretty much screwed, too.

Also, some people might make the point that experienced lovers are better lovers. So it’s sort of like a lollipop that may be diseased, but likely isn’t, and which actually tastes better after a couple of licks.

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    I think paragraph #2 id pretty damn awesome! An I supposed to think that?

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Kiera Faye

posted January 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

Um, wow. Though not that shocking – I’ve heard this stuff before. (But never with a Blow-Pop used for a shame-inducing public display!)

The problem with this type of message – a problem that profoundly screwed me up in my youth, leading to consequences that still hurt me – is the enshrinement of virginity. According to these speakers, once the Blow Pop has been licked, there’s no going back. To a teenager full of hormones, that means that once one mistake has been made, there’s not much reason to change, because you can never get that one precious thing back. I’d rather teach kids that sexuality – not virginity – is a beautiful and precious gift that affects the people involved very profoundly, and that is at its most beautiful and special when it is shared in a committed lifelong relationship, as God intended. BUT as Will said, “the gospel makes it clear that we are new in Christ regardless of what we have done.”

(Incidentally, I found the brief fad of “born again virginity” to be equally useless, as I saw some people use it as a perpetual “get out of jail free card,” making whatever they did meaningless)

I had a good friend in college who had to gather a lot of courage to tell her serious boyfriend that she was not a virgin because she had been raped as a teenager. Her boyfriend then went on a tirade about how he thought he was getting something new but it turns out she was “used merchandise” and thus she cheated him. She went on to marry this guy. I still hate him.

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    April L.

    posted January 6, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    This echoes my experience. At 16, I had sex with a total jerk, but felt like I had to stay with him and marry him, because I had given him my virginity, and I couldn’t bear the thought of having sex with anyone but my husband. Thankfully, I did not, in fact, marry him. But once we broke up, it really wasn’t that big of a deal anymore for me to have sex with other guys. I was already used goods, so I thought I had no chance of getting a “good Christian” guy. So I believed that the only way a guy would love me now was if I *did* have sex with him. Ironic, no? (Thankfully, I was able to move past all that, and found a wonderful man–a virgin even!–who loves me no matter what.)

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Wow how entirely horrible for that boyfriend to say to her! She didn’t have any choice that is why it is called rape.

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Absolutely love your statement “sexuality – not virginity – is a beautiful and precious gift….” (The whole line really, but I don’t need to quote it all here.

    I think that is a very important lesson for everyone.

    You’re not damaged or used goods if you’re not a virgin on your wedding night, God does make us all new in Christ. But I will caution my children that even though they may feel at 16 that they will be with a person FOREVER, to be wise, to pray about decisions, to use their sexuality carefully.

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Michael Denison

posted January 6, 2011 at 11:36 am

Wow. Just wow. For more of an interesting look at abstinence only education, check out the documentary, The Education of Shelby Knox.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

I wish I had something to say…but I’m still sitting here with this look on my face:


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    posted January 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    I’m with you Mandy. I mean, I’ve heard of the beat-up rose analogy but not this one. Whoa.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Great story. Gives me my chuckle for the day. I love how she’s all like, whatever, and eats the sucker anyway (I’m guessing that signifies she’s not foregoing the masturbation). I married so young I totally missed out on this singles retreat phenomenon. Even if I hadn’t married at 24, I was so busy with all the school and training I would’ve never had time to try it. I’m very interested to hear the rest of the story

I was never good at cliques either. I have boundary issues. Don’t see ’em like I should. Don’t respect ’em when I see ’em without good reason. I would’ve hung out near the food and coffee.

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I also had a thing for the cute smart-ass introverted atheist guys, so the Christian singles thing would’ve been the wrong place to look. So glad there’s someone to tell me what I mighta missed.

    blow pop story’s gonna make me smile all day and I won’t be able to tell anyone why :)

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posted January 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I almost sprayed coffee all over my computer when I came to, “What about Jock’s Blowpop? Did it get licked, too?”
That’s a funny story and a sad message. I’m all for abstinence but theres no way people become worth less if they’ve taken that step. The message needs to be more about the worth of people and why you should consider abstinence because you’re worth it and not because the alternative makes you damaged goods.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Hahhaha I’m sitting In the doctors waiting room laughing!!!

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Tamara Out Loud

posted January 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Matthew, that book excerpt was the most awkward thing I’ve ever enjoyed. I will never again lick a Blowpop without feeling a little wrong.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I honestly never heard this metaphor used before even in my sex ed classes (which did impress abstinence).

And while I understand the metaphor used to make a point – it is made crudely. I believe this kind of tactic, which making a point, it is flimsy at best – and it doesn’t really get to the heart of *why* God declares it the way for us to live (abstain from sex until marriage). The heart of God about this message is rooted deeply in the Song of Solomon – but of course, a good majority of Church’s today avoid that book like it is a black mark on the Bible. Yet, it is one of the most vital books of the Bible – and should never be overlooked, glossed over, or hidden from our children when they are of a maturity to learn about sex (and all children mature at different ages).

So I have to say the tactic used for so long should be put to rest, and revamped – but this is my point of view. Sex ed has it’s place, but it needs to have a proper focus – not a lollipop one.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm

It seems to me that what these have in common is shame. I think Jesus has something to say about that, and it is the opposite of what some of the abstinence movement is preaching.

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    This, precisely. The abstinence/purity movement functions wholly on shame, which is why it doesn’t work and 80% of teens who make a purity pledge end up breaking it.

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Sarah Mae

posted January 6, 2011 at 1:16 pm

My team and I did a version of the blowpop skit but used bubble gum instead. It was really funny and we got lot’s of laughs (mainly because the presenter was hilarious). We also did a skit using a hershey kiss – that one would have definitely made your book!

I think we made some good points, had fun, and it gave us an in to talk more with the students.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm

That’s great, in a very not great sort of way.

I just finished Churched on Monda, which is the 2nd book of yours I’ve read. By the conclusion, I had two thoughts: one, I love the way you write. You are definitely one of my favorite authors. Two, my life wasn’t so bad. I thought I had it bad, and for me, it was bad, but your Baptist experience makes my Baptist experience seem almost progressive Pentecostal.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Knowing that this is how abstinence is taught really brings me down. I went to my (fundamentalist, evangelical, charismatic, lutheran) church’s school and got a heavy dose of abstinence-only “sex ed” once I made it to senior high youth group – and that was right in the heyday of kissing dating goodbye and all that. I must say, though, that I think my teachers got something right. They taught abstinence as the only right approach to sex, using all the scriptures you’ll see, but I don’t remember it ever going into the cup of spit / licked blowpop territory. There was always the acknowledgement of redemption and ‘born again virginity’ and that kind of thing. Granted, if you were caught having sex before marriage you were expected to confess to the leaders and/or the youth group and/or congregation as a whole – it was a very heavy-handed NO SEX environment. But I came into (and out of) high school determined not to have sex because I thought that was what God wanted and instructed in the bible, not because I was afraid I would be worthless or unloveable if I weren’t a virgin.

Also…no french kissing, either. Or wrap skirts.

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Joel M

posted January 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm

when i was in abstinence-only sex ed, i learned about my virginity as a candy bar, and when you take a bite out of it, no one wants it anymore. my virginity was also like a marshmallow once, and the teacher said we could eat it right when she handed them out, or wait. when we waited she also gave us smarties and hershey’s kisses too. my favorite part was later when well-meaning adults would tell me about candy bars and use those to explain why i should keep my virginity, as though i had no idea.

someone should introduce the candy bar/blow-pop illustration at a retreat about celibacy. “i hope you like holding onto your candy bar BECAUSE NO ONE WILL EVER TASTE IT!”

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Your last line is HILARIOUS!

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posted January 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

…I’ll never eat another lollipop again.

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I feel the same way – I guess I’ll be skipping the Tootsie Pops next Halloween

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posted January 6, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Wait, I’m confused… if she took the blowpop back to her
seat, and decided to enjoy the rest of her lollipop…. would she
be then practicing “self love”??

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    posted January 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Yes. Yes she was. Smart gal

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posted January 6, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Totally laughing out loud in the airport! If you need any more stories for your book, I can tell you a great one about some kids who got attacked by a bear because they were having sex (or about to have sex) on a bear trail at a true love waits retreat at Glorieta Retreat center in the New Mexico mountains. The speaker used it the rest of the week to tell all of us college students that this is what happens to you when you have sex before you are married. God sends a bear to eat you. You can imagine how long I was frigid even after I got married.

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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted January 6, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Oh my soul. Wow. That’s pure awesomeness! Or maybe not pure, but still awesome.

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posted January 6, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Oh metaphors. The one I got at high school camp was paper and glue, and how a bit of one sticks to the other and once you tear them apart, the “stickiness” has decreased so it won’t stick as well to the next bit of paper, and so on.

Now that I think about it, using “stickiness” as a metaphor of virginity and sex is just…oh wow. No wonder my friends were laughing!

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posted January 6, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I’ll never look at that “how many licks does it take?” commercial the same again :p

I’m glad I’ve been under a rock all these years, I’ve never heard any of those stories. We didn’t even get the condom on a banana :(.

Everything I’ve had in College (went to a Christian College) and Church talked about saving yourself for marriage but never set to try to make anyone feel bad for what they may have done before. I can’t remember if we had anything at the AG church and my last Church in Cali was the standard keep yourself for your future spouse and that when you come to Christ everything is anew, so regardless of your past, like everything else that’s washed away. College was just the standard keep yourself pure for marriage.

But none ever tried to make anyone feel lesser than or that no one decent would want them.

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    posted January 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I went to one of those awful public high schools that gave out condoms in the nurse’s office. Looking back I am actually really impressed with our health curriculum considering what I’ve compared it to in terms of my friends’ experiences with the subject…

    But I still could have gone without the day where I saw pictures of what genital warts looked like. Though I will say I guess they were effective!

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posted January 7, 2011 at 3:50 am

I’m thinking, what had happened if someone actually had raised their hand and licked the blowpop a second time…?

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posted January 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Hi MPT! Long time listener, first time “caller” here…

In High School I worked as a peer educator in safer sex and toured local schools presenting funny skits and answering questions to try and help my peers make an informed choice. Learning so much about sex, and the consequences of unsafe sex made sex lose the mystique for me. My Mom faced criticism from her peers because I was 14 and touring local schools talking about sex, they thought it would lead me to becoming sexually active, when it in fact did the opposite. I knew the consequences and I knew how to make a smart and informed decision when and if I choose to engage in any type of sexual activity. I’d like to think that I helped at least one person who saw our show stop and make an educated, safer choice before sex. We taught that abstinence was the 100% safest choice, but knowing full well that teens are still going to choose to have sex we taught them how to make it safer to protect themselves and their partners.

The problem with these programs comparing sex to things that are dirty and gross is that they shape the way people feel about sex their whole life. Sure, you can say sex before marriage is like sharing a licked blow-pop, turning youself into a bag of chewed candy or a cup full of spit but what about sex after marriage…? Is sex still like spitting into a cup after you are married? Even it is all my own spit, that still grosses me out. What about people who are divorced or widowed? Are they sharing a previously licked blow pop if they find love with someone else?

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posted January 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Why is it only girls get “polluted?” Aren’t the boys just as much “used goods?” I want the girls in abstinence class to say “I don’t want that thing, I don’t know where it’s been!”

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posted January 9, 2011 at 2:56 pm

This would be so much funnier if it wasn’t so sad.

Okay, well, actually, it still is pretty funny. I can almost imagine the meeting for the presentation now:

“So what can we do to demonstrate how dirty and unloveable premarital sex makes you?”
“I once saw this pastor use a white rose . . .”
“No, no, that’s been overdone. Hey, what about a lollipop?”
“A lollipop?”
“Oh yeah. And they could, like, lick it. Really get all up in there, you know? Wrap the lips around the tip and swirl that tongue. Get it all nice and sticky and juicy. Yeah.”
“Um, Ben?”
“I haven’t masturbated in ten years.”
“What was that, Ben?”
“What? Oh, um, nothing. Blowpops it is!”

(But on a more serious note, oh, how I wish I could troll one of these things and carry them to their logical conclusions. Like, just jump up in the middle and shout “Oh, I get it! She’s worthless now!”. Ugh ugh ugh.)

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posted January 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

I don’t mean to be critical, but I am frankly appalled at the use of descriptors in this books excerpt. To reduce an individual to the name “Overweight” is shocking coming from a Christian intellectual whom I usually trust to point out stereotypes and bad judgment like this one. No one wants to be reduced to one single characteristic– physical or otherwise. What if someone designated you “Bald” or “Middle Aged.” That is not all you are. Furthermore, the tone and context in which the name “Overweight” is used make its usage sound condescending and derogatory.

I am only one voice (frankly I’m shocked that no other commenters have mentioned this), but I sincerely hope that this will be reevaluated. And soon.

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