The Prom—Promenade or Promiscuity?
The Prom—Promenade or Promiscuity?
By Wilson Adams
Here we go again—another preacher ranting and raving about “The Prom.” Blah… Blah… Blah… May I ask one favor? Don’t pre-judge me. Just give me a fair hearing. That’s all. “In everything, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…” Fair enough?
The high school prom has been described as a “once in a lifetime” event. It has become a cultural rite of passage when teens trade in jeans and T-shirts for formals, rented tuxedos, and limos. Untold money is spent on what is considered the crowning night of one’s high school experience. Simple question: As a Christian young person, should I go?
Let’s cut through the clutter. While the temptation is to let the world call our shots and determine our conduct, the Christian has a higher calling. And teens don’t get a pass. Here are five specifics you need to think about…
On what are kids spending so much money? -Formal dresses, heels, tux rental, limousines, dinner at exclusive restaurants, tickets, hair and manicures, etc. Okay, teens dressing up and spending money isn’t the problem. The problem is: it’s getting out of control. Who would argue that? According to a study last year by Visa, the average American high school prom bill was $1,139. FYI: southern families (that’s us!) spent even more—$1,203. Perhaps the most troubling statistic of all: the parents who fell into the lower income brackets spent more than the national average. Why?
Let’s call it what it is: prom pressure.
Proms have changed over the years.
- The proms of the 60s and 70s were usually low-budget affairs often associated with dancing (wink!), drinking (wink! wink!), and after prom-sex (more winks!). Okay, maybe your school was different than mine and the prom where you went was exemplary of purity and modesty, but I’m guessing that’s a stretch. At Bullitt Central High in Louisville, Kentucky—circa 1975 J—the afore-mentioned winks pretty well summarized its reputation.
- The proms of the 80s and 90s added limos, expensive formals, and more after prom all-night parties. And unless you were deaf, you heard the talk…
- The proms of today have taken things to a whole new level. The 21st century trouble can often be laid at the feet of parents who aren’t willing to tell their kids no. According to psychologist Kit Yarrow, “You don’t want your kid to be the only kid who doesn’t have what all the other kids have.” That’s it! That’s what I mean by prom pressure.
And what does it cost to have what the other kids have? A lot. The financial pressure on families when it comes to the prom is incredible. And sometimes upon those who can least afford it.
What message do you think this sends to our kids?
Prom has long been the night when curfews are lifted, inhibitions are abandoned, and romance is
in the air (along with hormones). Surrounded by young people of the world, it creates the “perfect-storm” for a Christian to compromise in the area of purity. And it starts with “The Dress…”
My wife and I looked at on-line pictures of local proms from last year. The dress (or lack thereof) was embarrassing. After seeing a dozen or so shots of local teen girls (I saw way more than I needed to see), I had seen enough. The typical formal wear for prom is about one thing: cleavage and more cleavage. Apparently in our time, breasts are in—more literally out—according to the pictures. Blunt, but true.
Is there such a thing as modest formal wear? Sure. And there were a few. The majority, however, were very revealing. Do you really want your son to be exposed to girls who delight in exposing themselves? By the way, government schools are powerless to stop it. They claim to have dress restrictions, but there weren’t any restrictions from the pictures I saw. By the way, if you argue that I shouldn’t be looking at prom pictures, then guess what my question would be to you?
Modesty and purity go hand in hand. As one young lady explained it, “The girls today want to go to prom and look classy; instead, they look trashy!” After seeing the pictures, I agree.
It hurts when I see young ladies (claiming Christ) who do not value themselves enough to dress modestly. I equally struggle with moms who can’t see past the “Cinderella moment.” My greatest question mark, however, is with the dads who let it happen. What are fathers thinking when they let their daughters walk out of the house dressed provocatively? Apparently they aren’t. Men, have we forgotten what is uppermost in the minds of teen boys? Sure, maybe your daughter dresses modestly, but are you willing to place her date into the company of the majority of girls who don’t? Aren’t we our brother’s keeper?
Men and women are wired differently. You know that. Men are sexually stimulated by sight. You know that, too. Do we not as Christian men have a responsibility to help our daughters grow to understand human maleness and their responsibility in the male/female relationship? Sexual attraction isn’t bad—it’s good. God made it good. But He also regulated it and gave it boundaries. It is imperative, then, that we exercise caution not to place our children in situations where those boundaries are compromised.
#3: Dirty Dancing
I knew he would get around to that… Okay. Let’s clear the air. Q: Is it wrong for a Christian to dance? A: No. Air cleared.
Does that surprise you? Dancing is not intrinsically evil. There is no sin in tapping one’s toe or moving one’s feet to the rhythm of music. In fact, there are biblical examples of God’s people dancing in celebration and expressions of joy (1 Chron.15:25-29; Luke 15:25). That’s an entirely different deal than dancing with sexual overtones. And that’s what’s wrong with much of modern dancing (there is a reason it’s called dirty dancing). Do I have to spell it out? Sexual dancing with anyone other than your spouse should not be something Christians should do. Seriously, young friend, what would you think if you saw me dancing that way with your mother? Would that be okay?
It’s easy to relax our standards. Question: is it because dancing has cleaned up its act, or is it because we have caved to peer pressure? I’m going out on a limb here—but I’m guessing that teen dancing continues to push the sexual limits. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Do most young people going to the prom engage in sex? Of course not. The prom, however, has long been associated with it. The locker room talk when I was in high school centered around one thing—who slept with whom the night of the prom. Just sayin’…
One study noted:
- 20% of seventeen-year-olds planned to have sex for the first time on prom night.
- It’s no secret that girls often feel pressured to have sex because of the financial costs for this “once-in-a-lifetime” date.
- 70% of high school juniors and seniors expect to drink alcohol on prom night (that stat got my attention and ought to get yours). The pressure to drink results in lowered inhibitions when it comes to sexual purity.
These “stats” aren’t about shocking you (I doubt they do—unless you’re seriously naïve). They do serve, however, as a reminder that God has a standard of purity that isn’t to be compromised by a “once-in-a-lifetime” date. Ephesians 5:3 says it best: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or any kind of impurity…because these are improper for God’s holy people.” Not even a hint… Think about that.
Todd Clippard of Hamilton, Alabama and a grad of Freed Hardeman University, wrote a piece about young Christians and the prom. One paragraph excerpt…
While the word Prom is a shortened version of the word “Promenade,” it might was well be a shortened version of Promiscuity. A Google search of the words “Prom” and “sex” resulted in over 1.4 million hits. Admittedly, not all of these were concerned with sexual activity as it relates to the Prom, but most were—including the first one. This link sent me to teenadvice.com and its “Prom Central.” Here I found a long list of links to articles about the Prom including—“How To Have Sex On Prom Night.” Among other links were
numerous articles that promoted Prom as the night to lose one’s virginity. This thing is “not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Any Christian parent who does not know these things only does so by turning a blind eye to the whole situation.
Wow! Guess I’m not the only one after all.
One pro-prom website sums up today’s prom with the following endorsement—In practically every way, prom has moved beyond the days of strictly chaperoned, etiquette banquets to glamorous extravaganzas where nearly anything goes. That speaks volumes.
#5: Homosexual Coming-Out Party
In more recent times, the prom has taken on a new dimension—providing homosexuals the chance to openly flaunt their “alternative lifestyle.” And this is an environment to which parents are often oblivious. The prom gives opportunity for the homosexual youth to display their disdain for biblical morality. And while all of us may know and or work with those who share the same disdain, we don’t have to join them in their revelry.
You do have a choice. In a context defined but not limited to homosexuality, Romans 1 concludes by mentioning those who give “hearty approval” to those who practice them. Obviously, we must not join in with those who practice that which is described as “impurity” (v.24), “degrading” (v.26), “unnatural” (v.26), “indecent” (v.27), “depraved” (v.28)—but also must exercise caution lest we lend approval in any way to their behavior.
Another pro-prom website alluded to this as a good thing—an opportunity for young people to express their sexual preference publicly.
Sadly, this is life in the average American high school in the 21st century. And government schools must look the other way. They have to.
Sometimes I don’t think modern parents understand the pressure of the environment into which their kids walk daily. Some kids can handle it by focusing on academics and/or extra curricular activities; other kids, however, struggle with peer pressure. Truthfully, it’s easier to give in and go along than take a stand—especially if you have to stand alone.
Parents, help your kids find the courage to stand. Talk to them about the pressures of living in today’s world. Help them understand that it will not get easier. Above all, remind them that as “alone” as they may feel, if they walk with God, they are never alone. And…that you stand with them and stand proud of them.
The problem in conversing with teens on subjects like this is their tendency to argue from the lesser to justify the greater. In fact, they are experts at doing so. For example, in wanting to justify drinking, teens argue: “Are you saying it’s wrong for one drop of alcohol to touch your lips?” Or gambling: “Are you saying it’s wrong to spend one quarter on a slot machine or buy one lottery ticket?” However, arguing from the lesser in order to justify the greater misses the point. The point is: God’s people should do everything they can to “avoid the appearance of evil.” Avoid…as in distance yourself. Appearance…as in give thought as to its reputation and to yours.
“But the Bible doesn’t say…” Does God have to spell out everything? Not according to Galatians 5:19-21:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…”
Hmm. Wonder what he meant by “things like these”-? Apparently his list of specifics wasn’t exhaustive. And apparently there are “things like these” that you need to look at carefully and avoid. God doesn’t spell out everything because He thinks you are smart enough to use the mind-power given you in order to reach the right conclusion.
In other words, God’s child seeks to distance himself rather than see how close he can come to the line. Guess what? I’ve seen a lot of people get close to the line—and watched (sadly!) as many fell across it.
Yes, it is hard for Christian young people to live by high standards when surrounded daily by peers who do not share their values. In fact, the teen who seeks to “remember God in his/her youth” often feels like Elijah—I’m the only one… -especially when they see others caving to the pressures. My prayer is that God will give you courage to stand—even if you have to stand alone.
As with every question of life, the Christian must ask: What would the Lord want me to do? Answering that question will simplify everything.
Let no one look down on your youth, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith, purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
1 Timothy 4:12
P.S. I didn’t write this to make you mad; I wrote it to make you think. I hope you will.
An abbreviated form of this article appears in Pressing On Magazine and Biblical Insights