A Unitarian Universalist recently told me that "we aren't in the soul saving business." He meant, of course, that we don't do the born again thing, but I may have given him my teacher look. And I stated, "Unitarian Universalism saves souls every day."
Let me say that again. Unitarian Universalism saves souls. Every Day.
Full unfolding of every soul
As you took your seats this morning, we handed each of you a rosebud. Please take it in your hand now, gently, for it represents a single human soul. Unitarian Universalism rejects a theology that says that humankind is depraved and damned. Our Unitarian ancestor William Ellery Channing explained that we are made in god's image, and that while none of us is perfect, we are all perfectible - and that we all need to make possible the full unfolding of every human soul-to help people reach their full potential, no holding back of who they are.
It is not every religion that says that. How many churches say "You can only come here if you believe this, if you do that, if you love who we tell you to love"? They hold the rosebud tightly, and don't allow certain petals to unfurl. At best, the blossom will be lopsided. At worst, it will brown, wither, and rot before it can share its full flourishing beauty.
One way churches (and cultures) force a person to conform is in matters of sexuality. Indeed, Channing struggled long and hard with his own sexuality, sleeping on hard, cold floors to try to rid himself of unwanted fantasies, to make himself more macho.
The Religious Institute, an interfaith group opens their report, Sexuality and Religion 2020: Goals for the Next Decade, with these words:
Virtually all of the world's religions understand sexuality as a divinely bestowed capacity for expressing love and generating life, for mutual companionship and pleasure. They teach that sexuality calls for responsibility, respect and self-discipline; they honor loving, ethical relationships. They understand that sexuality may be celebrated with joy, holiness and integrity, but that it is also vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
From these common understandings, however, religious teachings widely diverge. Some faith communities in the United States affirm sexuality as a blessing, and have a commitment to sexual health, education and justice. Others have a deep commitment to sexual health, particularly HIV and teen pregnancy prevention, but they remain conflicted over how to incorporate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into congregational life. Still others teach that sexuality is something to be tightly controlled and restricted to specific acts and relationships. However, the majority of faith communities remains mostly silent on sexuality issues.
Clearly, the relationship between sexuality and religion - historically and still today - is a conflicted one. 
Now, here at Northwest Community, we've got our Welcoming Congregation certification. Where many faiths struggle with the paradox of loving the sinner yet hating the "sin", or claim to "tolerate" diversity, we do our best to welcome every person who walks in our door, to know that each is a miracle, and to say "We are so glad that you are here. We look forward not only to finding how we are like-minded, but what makes you the unique wonder you are."
On a wider scale, we work with interfaith groups and PFLAG, march in the Pride parade, and lobby for the rights of all. Nationally, our denomination has been a leading voice in the work toward marriage equality, most recently with our Standing on the Side of Love campaign-a piece of the General Assembly banner hangs in our hall.
Five Circles 
Before we go any further, I should clarify -- sexuality is a far broader subject than sexual intercourse-impacting every part of our lives, for a lot more time than any of us spend in that one basic act.
This morning, I am going to take you through the five circles of sexuality, and I promise --no one needs to take off a single piece of clothing...or even breathe too hard.
First, please turn to someone near you and take turns answering this question: What was the first thing you can remember "wanting to be when you grow up?" This should not be a conversation - one person has a minute to talk while the other one listens deeply. Then switch.
Congratulations. You have just had a small but pleasant experience with intimacy - the "Ability and need to experience emotional closeness to another human and have it returned." It can include "caring, Sharing, Loving/liking, Risk-taking, Vulnerability, Self-disclosure, Trust."
The gender stereotype is that women have sexual intercourse to get to intimacy. I would say that nearly all of us long for greater intimacy in our lives - with or without the intercourse.
Next up is sexual identity - until fairly recently, this was assumed to be pretty clear cut. The question was answered in the hospital nursery - you got a blue blanket or a pink blanket. From there, you were expected to follow a narrow path-ladies, your choices are "vacuum in pearls and heels, or barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen." Gents-pick one soulless occupation from column A, and one professional sport to watch from column B.
But to truly embrace the wide range of normal human experience, we need to break it down quite a bit - the overall definition is "A sense of who one is sexually including a sense of maleness or femaleness" - This takes into consideration not only your biological sex at birth, but what gender you most identify as, what gender roles you play, and what sexual orientation you may have. And yet we all live in a culture that expects conformity... the other day I was wearing my clunky loafers and a friend told me my shoes were "too butch"...of course, most people don't even notice what I'm wearing on my feet - but can you imagine if I'd been a man red high heels? There's a lot of expectations and baggage here.
Ok, enough rough stuff - let's do a fun one. Please hold up the index finger of whichever hand you write with. Use it to write your initials on the back of your other hand. Now do it very lightly- a feather touch. Now try it more firmly. Which feels best? Try it on the palm of your hand. That, my friends, is an experiment in sensuality - the "Awareness, acceptance of, and comfort with one's own body; and the body of others." This includes such far ranging things as "Body Image, Skin Hunger, Fantasy, and the Human Response Cycle"
There was a commercial in the 1990s - women in an office gathering at a window at precisely 11:30 - for Diet Coke break... they didn't drink a single carbonated beverage, but instead watched a shirtless construction worker drink ...while Etta James croons "I just wanna make love to you." This, my friends, is a pretty blatant example of Sexualization, "The use of sexuality to manipulate or control others." The first rule of advertising is "Sex sells" - and you see firm, fit bodies shilling everything from alcohol to trucks to power tools. And it's not just advertising - Sexualization includes a whole range of behaviors, from wearing an outfit that accentuates your best features, giving a little wink or flirting, to seduction, to the giving and withholding of sexual attentions, to sexual harassment, rape and incest.
Ok, now I want you to turn to the person next to you again, and tell them ONE funny or positive "fact" you remember from learning about the birds and the bees. Maybe it was true, or maybe it was completely ridiculous - go for it.
The fifth circle is Sexual Health and Reproduction - "Attitudes and behaviors related to producing children, care and maintenance of sex and reproductive organs, and health consequences of sexual behavior." This includes not only "Facts & Information, Anatomy and Physiology, Reproductive systems, Intercourse, but also Feelings & Attitudes.
So, what is the state of Sex Ed in Texas?
Here in Texas, the state of sexuality education is pretty abysmal. Last year, the Texas Freedom Network  published "Just Say Don't Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools." A survey of nearly one thousand schools found some 94 percent of them used false information - from hugely exaggerating condom failure rates to just WRONG information on various STDs.
One South Texas district requires that "Instruction shall not represent homosexuality as a normal or acceptable lifestyle... Students should be informed that homosexual acts are illegal and highly correlated with the transmission of AIDS." In many districts, shame and religious reasoning are brought into play.
And how are those current programs working? Well, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, every 10 minutes, a teen in Texas gets pregnant. If you're feeling fiscally conservative, keep in mind that pregnant teens often have to rely on Medicaid for those deliveries- to a cost of $41 million. 30% of teen mothers will never complete their diploma or get a GED. Children born to teen mothers tend to have more problems (and thus, need more government services), from learning disabilities to higher incarceration levels and rates of adolescent childbearing themselves.
In case that isn't depressing enough, Houston has the highest repeat teen birth rate and more teens under the age of 15 give birth than in any other major city. 
And yes, our statistics are heavily slanted toward girls and pregnancy- it's not just an unfortunate double-standard - it's the fact that they are easier to track, as they are receiving services. The one other statistic that's relatively easy to find -- our STD rates keep going up ...
So, what do we do?
We need a better system. And I'm here to posit that we've got it - in our churches.
What is religious education? What does it have to do with sexuality?
Every church has its own program philosophy, every religious educator develops their personal philiosophy over time. Mine, at this very moment, looks something like this:
Help others to develop the perspective and courage to face, know, and articulate their personal truths.
This work pretty well for educating the whole self of every person-yes, even sexuality education.
Our Whole Lives was developed by experts in both sexuality and education, as a joint effort of the Unitarian Universalist Association and The United Church of Christ, another denomination with liberal religious values and a welcoming atmosphere to people of all sexual identities.
Why a church is uniquely suited to the work (program values and assumptions)
The program starts with the following assumptions: 
- All persons are sexual.
- Sexuality is a good part of the human experience.
- Sexuality includes much more than sexual behavior.
- Human beings are sexual from the time they are born until they die.
- It is natural to express sexual feelings in a variety of ways.
- People engage in healthy sexual behavior for a variety of reasons including to express caring and love, to experience intimacy and connection with another, to share pleasure, to bring new life into the world, and to experience fun and relaxation.
- Sexuality in our society is damaged by violence, exploitation, alienation, dishonesty, abuse of power, and the treatment of persons as objects.
- It is healthier for young adolescents to postpone sexual intercourse.
These assumptions are expanded upon in the program values - remember, folks - we are not the church where you can believe whatever you want and can never make a values judgment about anything. We are allowed to have values. Heck, we need to have them, to teach them, and to get them into every-day discourse.
There's a whole page of values, so I am just going to hold up a few for you right now. There are some handouts in the lobby if you want to see all of it.
- Every person is entitled to dignity and self-worth, and to his or her own attitudes and beliefs about sexuality.
- Knowledge about human sexuality is helpful, not harmful. Every individual has the right to accurate information about sexuality and to have her or his questions answered.
Healthy sexual relationships are:
- mutually pleasurable
- developmentally appropriate
- based on mutual expectations and caring
- We are called to enrich our lives by expressing sexuality in ways that enhance human wholeness and fulfillment and express love, commitment, delight and pleasure.
- Women and men of all ages, people of different races, backgrounds, income levels, physical and mental abilities, and sexual orientations must have equal value and rights.
Wow. Who here wants to live in OWL world, where these values are always held up? Well, we can work toward creating that world- every time we graduate another child, youth, or adult from the program, with the skills to live those values, and the words to articulate them.
We just finished a junior-high program at Emerson - it's the cornerstone of the curriculum with twenty-seven ninety minute sessions. Yep, that's right - in today's "we're too busy" world, thirty-one youth from all over Houston found the FORTY hours to be truly educated about what it means to be a sexual being in our society. They learned, they role-played, they talked about their values and reason and fears.
Currently, about a dozen older teens are doing the high school program - not as much time, but an expanding set of issues - what do you do if your boss hits on you? How can you minimize dating risks as you go off to college or get a place of your own? When do you know if you're ready to commit to one person? Or to have a child?
And because Unitarian Universalism is all about lifespan learning, there are also programs for four-to-six year olds, fourth to sixth graders, young adults (18 to 35) and um... adult adults. If you would like to see such programs here, please let me know - the district will be training leaders at our Spring Faith Development Conference in June.
Unitarian Universalists save souls. Our congregations are places where people can bring their whole selves. We honor great diversity and provide a sacred space for the sharing of personal truths. And we do our best to prepare people for swimming before they get in the pool, and do what we can in the greater world to make that pool a safer and more welcoming place for all.
As I read for this sermon, I came across yet another quick explanation of what Unitarian Universalists stand for, from Debra Hafner, Unitarian Universalist Minister and Executive Director of The Religious Institute - One God. No Hell. Build Your Own Theology. Stand on the side of love. 
- All OWL materials come from the OWL program - for more info, I'm pointing you to this easy to navigate stuff online. There's a whole lot more out there. http://www.cuc.ca/lifespan/Circles_of_Sexuality.pdf