“It’s more than just putting on a ring and saying ‘Oh I’m waiting until marriage to have sex.’”
A young man in a white T-shirt and jeans stood in the middle of the gym. He is older than the middle and high school students in the bleachers. A hint of stubble shadowed his jaw and a tattoo winded across his bicep. As with the 11 other speakers of the night, a silver ring was visible on his hand as he gestured.
“What this ring represents — it’s a lot more than that,” Jimmy Edwards, the young man who addressed the crowd of high school students, said.
With the bright lights, dual projector screens, and blaring music, the Jonesville High School gym looked more like a miniature rock concert than a discussion on abstinence.
It was Silver Ring Thing, a program dedicated to informing young adults about abstinence.
The show last Wednesday at Jonesville High School was sponsored by Alpha Omega Care Center, a pro-life pregnancy crisis center in Hillsdale.
“I think for teenagers and young adults it’s important to understand that sexuality is not just a physical thing. It has physical ramifications, it has emotional ramifications, it has spiritual ramifications,” Shawn Noblit, director of Alpha Omega said. “We want to make sure they’re choosing wisely and that they have the information they need to be able to make that important choice. The idea behind Silver Ring Thing is to give them a different view from what they may be hearing from their peers or from people out in the world.”
The show attracted around 150 students and parents, according to tour manager Mackenzie Te’o.
With skits, songs, and a Snapchat video taken at the beginning of the show, Silver Ring Thing’s performances are meant to appeal to teenagers.
Silver Ring Thing was founded in 1995 by Denny and Amy Pattyn. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the program sends a group of 12 young adults aged 18 to 25 on a tour to promote abstinence. Since 2000, it has hosted more than 1,200 shows in nine countries.
One of the opening acts featured a piece of wood with half of a heart painted on it. Drawing a volunteer from the audience, Edwards walked through detriments of partaking in pornography. At certain points, another performer, dressed in increasingly nonsensical costumes, came out from backstage and destroyed the heart, either with spray paint or by cutting it.
The climax of the skit was when the speaker put his now painted-over and cut apart half together with an untouched half. The point, he said, is this example illustrates what happens when someone who has indulged in pornography or other sexual immorality enters a relationship with someone who hasn’t.
“Every time you have sex, you give a piece of your heart away,” said the speaker, noting the jagged cut across the heart.
Silver Ring Thing also features a program for parents. The smattering of parents in attendance watched a video in another room, and heard from speakers of their own.
“The parent program was a good resource, just about parenting kids through teenage years and some of the threats they’re facing and some of the opportunities we can give them,” said Tammy Nohr, 46, who brought her 14-year-old son to the event. “I had heard some of the things before, but I think it’s a valuable opportunity for everybody to come together and hear from young adults who have lived out the stuff and who can be a voice into their lives that is different from their parents.”
Other parents, however, had a different reaction.
“I think what they’re teaching here is really good for the parents who are clueless,” Tina Burr, 41, said. “I guess I can’t say it was not valuable.”
Burr said she brought her 16-year-old daughter, who took a vow of purity at her quinceañera, to the event as a reminder that there are others who have made similar promises.
“Because she goes to a public school, there’s not a lot of good support systems and even if a lot of the parents are teaching purity, it’s not a big ordeal,” Burr said. “I didn’t want to make her feel like she was alone in this process. That there are other people, young people her age that are doing this, wearing a ring and staying pure and waiting for the right man to come into their life.”
Student reactions to the program were more passionate. Although some students seemed not to take the program seriously, others were pleased.
Claire, 13, said she was particularly fond of the storytelling aspect of some of the speakers.
“I know stories from the Bible are true, but it’s harder to visualize. It’s easier when you can hear it from someone who’s speaking straight to you about their own story,” Wortz said. “My favorite part was probably just learning and exploring what the real world challenges are and what they’re going to be in highschool and college, when I’m on my own.”
The program expanded beyond abstinence, though.
“Our platform is abstinence, and it’s kind of a bait-and-switch, if I’m being honest,” said speaker Louis Phillips, 25. “This is the topic at hand, but really our goal is to tell you that there’s a God that loves you and that He wants a relationship with you.”
The bait-and-switch works, though. At the Wednesday show, 21 students dedicated their life to Christ, said Te’o.
As students and parents — who joined the students for the end of the show — wandered out of the gym and into the lobby to buy rings, the speakers took a photo with the kids who came to know Christ.
In the lobby, students and parents crowded around tables to buy rings at $20 apiece. Each ring has the citation for for a verse in 1 Thessalonians.
“We’re all on this team because we firmly believe in this message, because we firmly believe that this is what God has called us too,” Phillips said. “This is just one way, one avenue in our life that we’re obedient to Him. It’s not something to be ashamed of. I think sex is planned in a beautiful way, that there are some positive benefits to waiting the way God has asked us to.”