MANATEE — Joshua Keith has a dream that one day Silver Ring Thing will be so big locally it will have to be held at the Manatee Convention and Civic Center in Palmetto.
That would mean that the message of sexual abstinence delivered by the free rock/hip-hop concert would be getting out to a lot more than even the 365 who attended the event last year in Bradenton.
But, for now, Wednesday’s show, which features college-age to middle-age touring performers who talk about chastity, using comedy and music, is being held once again at Bradenton First Church of the Nazarine, where Keith is the youth and family pastor.
“If we can double our numbers this year it will be too big for us,” Keith said.
During the two-hour show, messages that youth don’t usually hear are delivered, Keith said.
This year’s Silver Ring Thing event is called “iTour” and uses the iPhone concept of different “apps.”
“As they go through the show, each of these ‘apps for life’ will become a part of what they do,” Keith said. “The show is interactive. They will bring kids on stage.”
Doors open at 6:15 p.m. and a concert by the local band Fellowbliss is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.
The show offers the message that it’s fine to make the choice not to have sex or to accept a second chance at a different life from the one you have, Keith said.
“Most of what young people learn about sexuality comes from music, videos and TV, which don’t paint a realistic picture,” Keith said. “Popular culture is saying you can have a casual lifestyle when it comes to sex and there is no consequence.
“But now we find Manatee County is having a difficult time with teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases,” Keith said. “It’s growing and something needs to be done.”
Officials with the Manatee County school district recently said that there are 31 middle school girls who are either pregnant or already mothers.
From 2006 to 2008, there were 29 girls aged 10 to 14 who had children in Manatee County, according to statistics from the state Department of Health.
In 2008, Manatee tied with Pinellas County in having the 10th highest percentage of births by teens aged 10 to 14 among Florida’s 67 counties, records show.
“I hope it gets away from being a church event and turns into a community event.” Keith said. Silver Ring Thing was created in 1996 and, according to its Wikipedia site, has won pledges of chastity from more than 25,000 young people since its inception.
The silver ring itself, which costs $20 at Wednesday’s show, is a key component because shortly before the end of the event, those who wish can receive a silver ring, which is usually worn on the ring finger of the left hand, to honor the decision to abstain.
The rings contain a Bible verse from First Thessalonians 4: 3-4 which says: “God wants you to be holy, so you should keep clear of all sexual sin. Then each of you will control your body and live in holiness and honor.”
Silver Ring Thing’s creator, Denny Pattyn, a youth minister formerly of Arizona, has been quoted as saying that Silver Ring Thing plans to have chastity rings on the fingers of two million youths this year.
Two of those two million are Ryan Tempro, 19, of Bradenton and his sister, Lindsay, 16. Lindsay attends Bayshore High School and her brother graduated from there and now attends Flagler College in St. Augustine where he studies graphic design.
Lindsay, who hopes for a career in the medical field, said she wears the ring because she has made a decision to be chaste until she marries. She says not having sex is part of a set of moral values she got at home and wishes to honor.
“When I get married it will be special because I will have nothing to compare it to,” Lindsay said. She gets many questions about the ring and just gives a straightforward reply.
“I tell people I have decided to wait and I wear the ring to honor that and most say, ‘That’s cool,’ “ Lindsay said. “Some people don’t understand why, but it doesn’t put pressure on me.”
The ring can also be a conversation starter.
“I was at church camp and a girl saw my hand and said, ‘Hey, I have that,’ “ Lindsay said.
So, why abstain?
Lindsay said a big reason is that sex makes emotional ties that some young teens are seeking, which, she feels, is not the best way to get an emotional tie.
In fact, Lindsay attributes the large number of middle school pregnancies to the desire of young girls to find love, not sex.
“A lot of people think they love the person so much that they have to give them everything,” Lindsay said. “They want to give and they don’t think about the consequences.”
Ryan is also chaste and gets some heat at college where his friends casually talk about “hooking up with girls.”
“It’s hard sometimes because I’m away from school and you have more free will, but, for me, its all about having morals,” Ryan said. “Silver Ring Thing is not just sex. It’s also abstaining from alcohol and drugs as well.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.