Purity culture

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PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Bit of a rant but I hope this is understandable. I’d like to hear a critique that actually gives a Biblical correction and doesn’t just attack without giving an alternative. In my experience many critiques are not just of “purity culture” but of purity itself, and distill down to minimizing fornication and saying “if you’ve got it flaunt it.” (An exaggeration perhaps, maybe I’m reading through the lines but have little else to go on.)

Can we not be “legalistic” but also believe it is important to save yourself for marriage? Do I have to reject the courtship my wife and I did which I’m honestly quite grateful for and regret the standards we kept? Am I a legalistic because I want the same for my own kids? (Note I know many Christians have dated and turned out fine. Not judging them but I just wouldn’t have done things any other way meself.)
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
Can you explain more precisely what you mean by purity culture? When I hear that phrase, I have in mind "True Love Waits," purity rings, and students standing up in high school gymnasiums to take pledges of abstinence. But it sounds like you may be talking about the courtship movement (ala Josh Harris), which shares some similarities but is not really the same thing.

I do have some thoughts about both (especially the former), which includes some critique, but I hesitate to chime in until I better know what you're asking.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Purity Culture included things such as:

-Abstinence pledges
-Efforts to get abstinence-only sex education into schools
-Purity rings (which acted as promises that the teen would remain a virgin until marriage)
-A stress upon the damages caused by premarital sex
-Sometimes daddy-daughter dances and efforts to show little girls how they should be treated with respect (called Purity Balls)
-A focus on modesty and modest dress.
-The courtship movement and a reaction against secular dating. That is where Josh Harris comes in.
-There were not "dates" that were not chaperoned but group activities or outings with the parents.

Some of the reactions against Purity Culture have come with reactions against Josh Harris. As he has fallen, the term Purity Culture has now almost entirely become negative online. It is hard to find any defenders of it. Even though almost everything it taught seems pretty good to me.

Some of the teachers of Purity Culture have taught the following things which now are very unpopular:

-Virginity has a high value and premarital sex significantly damages the marriage before it begins. Which is true. But this truth is unpopular because almost nobody is a virgin at marriage nowadays. (Even "Red Pill" guys talk about finding a girl with a low "body count" and stats show divorce rates differ according to number of sexual partners a girl has had before you, and weird Lori gets it right when she claims that men prefer non-tattood, debt-free virgins to marry...and the internet erupts because millions of heavily in-debt, tattooed and promiscous girls then get triggered).

-Some teachers have overly stressed that if you just wait and keep your virginity then God will have someone wonderful waiting for you. This sometimes doesn't happen and weird homeschoolers get paired together and have terrible marriages and blame it on Purity Culture.

-I dated a girl in high school who had a family into Purity Culture (I was largely unchurched). And we were never allowed to be alone. That was a wise move. The outings as a family seemed a healthy way to allow some contact without the temptations. The girls all grew up well-adjusted now.

-Many from Purity Culture backgrounds expected sex to be amazing since they waited. And then they found out they had hang-ups or misplaced feelings of guilt, or it was less amazing then they had been told, etc. So they blamed Purity Culture.

-Some blamed Purity Culture for putting most of the stress upon the girl for keeping pure and saying no because it was harder for guys to do so, and so the girl had to be the gate-keeper and be responsible for saying no (because less guys would be willing to say so). But this has always been largely true in all human societies, it is not Purity Culture's fault.

-Some blamed Purity Culture for lack of knowledge about birth control. And, yes, some church kids - not knowing about birth control - ended up getting pregnant out of wedlock when they ended up having sex instead of the more savvy worldly kids who knew more about condoms and the pill.


---The majority of the outcry against Purity Culture is from women. They see it as one of the many ways in which evangelicalism has been impacted by "Patriarchal" ways of thinking.

-It is common to hear that Purity Culture was legalistic. But that is a common insult people make towards anything they don't like. Simply put, kids need rules, especially horny teenagers. In the 1950s it was very common for many dates to be chaperoned or in a group, after all. But to try to bring that cultural practice back in the 1980s or 1990's suddenly becomes "legalistic" - I don't buy it.

--I view it as a well-intentioned effort against the rising tide of sexual deviance in Western culture...a tide which has now washed over us. The worst thing about Purity Culture was that it largely just didn't work and much of it was silly and cringy. It was not evil. It was a reaction against evil. But it simply did not work very well.
 
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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Promote virginity before marriage but don't make an idol of it. Mama Lori and the Pearls might be right on the surface level that guys prefer virgins without debt. But what you will *NEVER* hear in Mama Lori/Pearls' circles is anything about grace and forgiveness. That makes sense, since the Pearls promote the doctrine of sinlessness.
https://www.wayoflife.org/database/beware_of_michael_pearl.html

Fail that standard and you are pretty much damaged goods. That's partly why people are (understandably) reacting against purity culture.

And many of the Red Pill guys have body counts in the hundreds.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Promote virginity before marriage but don't make an idol of it. Mama Lori and the Pearls might be right on the surface level that guys prefer virgins without debt. But what you will *NEVER* hear in Mama Lori/Pearls' circles is anything about grace and forgiveness. That makes sense, since the Pearls promote the doctrine of sinlessness.
https://www.wayoflife.org/database/beware_of_michael_pearl.html

Fail that standard and you are pretty much damaged goods. That's partly why people are (understandably) reacting against purity culture.

And many of the Red Pill guys have body counts in the hundreds.
But they ARE damaged goods.

Anytime virginity is not maintained until marriage (except in cases of rape or molestation or widowhood) the person marrying cannot offer themselves to their spouse as a virgin. Fornication is damaging.

1 Corinthians 6:18, KJV: "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body."

My reply, however, is incredibly unpopular, and would trigger 1,000 angry replies on most Reformed Facebook groups (90% of them from women). This isn't because my views are novel, but because almost everybody who marries in the USA in 2020 does so somewhat damaged. https://thinkprogress.org/study-maj...laws-with-right-wing-attacks-on-3d270802ed04/

Sure, we can find God's grace. But there are still long-term effects of the modern US way of dating. 25% of Americans have an STD. Abortions are in the millions. Divorce is very common and is tied to "body counts". Mama Lori and the Pearls may be crazy, but no crazier than our modern culture.

"Over at the Institute for Family Studies, Nicholas Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah, has found that Americans who have only ever slept with their spouses are most likely to report being in a “very happy” marriage. Meanwhile, the lowest odds of marital happiness—about 13 percentage points lower than the one-partner women—belong to women who have had six to 10 sexual partners in their lives. For men, there’s still a dip in marital satisfaction after one partner, but it’s never as low as it gets for women..."

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/10/sexual-partners-and-marital-happiness/573493/

So I'll never condemn "Purity Culture" as wrong, but can only critique it as flawed and a bit cringy and weird. What else can we do when the moorings of Western Civilization are being destroyed? Weird Purity Dances are like trying to bail water on the Titanic after the boat has already split in half.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If we are going to say "damaged goods," we need to immediately offer the promises of newness in Jesus. Forgiveness applies to Christians, too. God can restore the years the locusts have taken.

My point is that you don't hear any of that from Mama Lori and the Pearls.
 

PointyHaired Calvinist

Puritan Board Sophomore
Promote virginity before marriage but don't make an idol of it.
What is making a idol out of it though? I don’t have much use for Michael Pearl but often it seems like the extremes like Pearl are used as the exemplar, then the critics attack the Biblical, moderate “purity advocates.”

I don’t know of anyone personally who viewed those who made past mistakes as dirty beyond redemption. No doubt there are those out there. I also don’t know anyone who blames the woman when there is an indiscretion.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
If we are going to say "damaged goods," we need to immediately offer the promises of newness in Jesus. Forgiveness applies to Christians, too. God can restore the years the locusts have taken.

My point is that you don't hear any of that from Mama Lori and the Pearls.
Yes. True. Agreed.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
What is making a idol out of it though? I don’t have much use for Michael Pearl but often it seems like the extremes like Pearl are used as the exemplar, then the critics attack the Biblical, moderate “purity advocates.”
I don't know who is making an idol out of it (besides much of the early church). I am just offering it up as a hypothetical and how to counter it.

Christians shouldn't have any use for the Pearls, as they have a wicked and heretical theology. While they are extreme, many Christians praised Mama Lori last year, and Lori is an open disciple of the Pearls.
 

Susan777

Puritan Board Sophomore
If we are going to say "damaged goods," we need to immediately offer the promises of newness in Jesus. Forgiveness applies to Christians, too. God can restore the years the locusts have taken.

My point is that you don't hear any of that from Mama Lori and the Pearls.
Don’t forget that men should be “damaged goods” too. That’s a lot of the pushback from women I think. The men were never considered as such, even Christian men, so they escaped the shame of failure. Hypocrisy yes, but then life isn’t fair.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Don’t forget that men should be “damaged goods” too. That’s a lot of the pushback from women I think. The men were never considered as such, even Christian men, so they escaped the shame of failure. Hypocrisy yes, but then life isn’t fair.
Yes, agreed.

I once heard a bible scholar state that the concept of virginity or its importance only pertained to women in the ancient world. And culturally (in most cultures at most times throughout world history) female virginity has been much more prized than male virginity. That is undeniable.

But reading over Revelation 14:4, we see that the Scripture is in opposition to the world and its cultures on many vital points and so easily corrects so much modern scholarship, and corrects the mistakes that our culture tells us: "These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins."
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
I read all the books. We didn't kiss until we got engaged, we waited. I'm glad we were each other's one and only on our wedding night.

But I don't think we were ever prepared for marriage and life because of the mentality permeating our whole experience back then. Be holy and live holy and we were on fire for God and going to serve him 100% and we did all the right stuff and it was going to be the kingdom on earth. It was the charismatic Jesus movement, I won't blame the purity movement exactly, but it was all the same thing. Do the right stuff and everything will work out great.

LOL, it doesn't take long to find out you are not as holy and pure as you thought. God smashes that delusion pretty quick. The idea of us being pure apart from being in Christ is legalism. Yes we have to obey, and obedience reaps a good harvest, but its still legalism. If you think otherwise, the Lord is real good at bringing along the right situations and people to show you how fallen and fleshly you really are.

I think the worst thing though is women who were raped and molested and get exposed to this sort of teaching. I've had to speak up and say to more than one that I was a virgin, but I am just as dirty and unclean and in need of Jesus to wash me as anybody else. The only purity is being in Christ. To tell a women who was raped as a girl that she is somehow damaged and second class is horrible. A Christian is a new creation. I like the idea some people have of saying you start fresh and are a spiritual virgin now no matter what happened in your past. I've known many girls who were raped- they need to hear about Jesus alone making us clean and pure.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I read all the books. We didn't kiss until we got engaged, we waited. I'm glad we were each other's one and only on our wedding night.

But I don't think we were ever prepared for marriage and life because of the mentality permeating our whole experience back then. Be holy and live holy and we were on fire for God and going to serve him 100% and we did all the right stuff and it was going to be the kingdom on earth. It was the charismatic Jesus movement, I won't blame the purity movement exactly, but it was all the same thing. Do the right stuff and everything will work out great.

LOL, it doesn't take long to find out you are not as holy and pure as you thought. God smashes that delusion pretty quick. The idea of us being pure apart from being in Christ is legalism. Yes we have to obey, and obedience reaps a good harvest, but its still legalism. If you think otherwise, the Lord is real good at bringing along the right situations and people to show you how fallen and fleshly you really are.

I think the worst thing though is women who were raped and molested and get exposed to this sort of teaching. I've had to speak up and say to more than one that I was a virgin, but I am just as dirty and unclean and in need of Jesus to wash me as anybody else. The only purity is being in Christ. To tell a women who was raped as a girl that she is somehow damaged and second class is horrible. A Christian is a new creation. I like the idea some people have of saying you start fresh and are a spiritual virgin now no matter what happened in your past. I've known many girls who were raped- they need to hear about Jesus alone making us clean and pure.
Being raped or molested is categorically different than growing up fast and loose. I would label these unfortunate victims as "pure." I would never put these two types of women in the same category or under the same label, ever.

If a girl lives from age 16-30 sleeping with 30 guys and living with several men without marriage, this is a different animal. For that reason, I would reject the "spiritual virgin" after salvation lingo. A former prostitute may enter heaven, but I wouldn't want my son dating one.

A girl who has been raped, however, is pure and innocent.

Personalities are pretty fixed things once you are 18-21 and a woman who has lived a fast and loose lifestyle for a decade is a poor choice for a wife, even after she's had a religious experience. I would warn my sons to stay far away.

But the girl who has been abused bears no guilt and is clean and pure and should be treated as such. There should be no guilt for her.

p.s. Bathsheba in the Old Testament is even described as an innocent ewe-lamb in Nathan the Prophet's parable. I suppose she could have died rather than go into King David's chamber, but that is a pretty steep demand to guard herself from sexual advances. I know Bathsheba is a controversial subject.
 
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lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Perg-

I love the tenderness and compassion of your reply....but they don't feel pure. They feel defiled and dirty. All mixed up with anger and outrage and shame and maybe not trusting men.

The saddest one I knew was regularly raped by Daddy from age 8 to 12. Turned out that when we found out much later, her Dad had worked for my husband's Dad (24 employees) and got fired for being such a bad worker. She was 19 when she decided she wanted to still be a Christian but could never trust a man and had to be a lesbian. Don't know what happened to her, my sister kept in touch for a while.

I'm no Diane Langberg, but I know enough to know that this can be badly handled in youth groups and it so important to stress that only the blood of Jesus makes us pure and clean. That's the truth.

Re your other opinion....all the non Christian girls I knew in college were promiscuous. Some that got dramatically saved were transformed people and are still happily married. I am sure they had plenty of baggage to deal with, but God shows no partiality and can bring great trials into marriage with a virgin, because we all have to learn to fight the fight of faith. I've found it sad to read many stories by "SGM Survivors" who jumped through all the right Josh Harris hoops and ended up divorced. If your son falls in love with a girl who got dramatically saved out of rebellion, I hope you will support the transformed girl that she is wholeheartedly and not try to break it up.

edit to add..."Come Back Barbara" was married twice in her rebellion before she met #3 her current husband, and she ran around in between. (This is all in the book she contributed to, public knowledge.) She is married to a PCA pastor and Ed Welch is in their nice church. I visited it a while back. The women in her church love her dearly. Never ever underestimate the work of redemption. Jesus redeems. The end product can be glorious.
 
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Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Perg-

I love the tenderness and compassion of your reply....but they don't feel pure. They feel defiled and dirty. All mixed up with anger and outrage and shame and maybe not trusting men.

The saddest one I knew was regularly raped by Daddy from age 8 to 12. Turned out that when we found out much later, her Dad had worked for my husband's Dad (24 employees) and got fired for being such a bad worker. She was 19 when she decided she wanted to still be a Christian but could never trust a man and had to be a lesbian. Don't know what happened to her, my sister kept in touch for a while.

I'm no Diane Langberg, but I know enough to know that this can be badly handled in youth groups and it so important to stress that only the blood of Jesus makes us pure and clean. That's the truth.

Re your other opinion....all the non Christian girls I knew in college were promiscuous. Some that got dramatically saved were transformed people and are still happily married. I am sure they had plenty of baggage to deal with, but God shows no partiality and can bring great trials into marriage with a virgin, because we all have to learn to fight the fight of faith. I've found it sad to read many stories by "SGM Survivors" who jumped through all the right Josh Harris hoops and ended up divorced. If your son falls in love with a girl who got dramatically saved out of rebellion, I hope you will support the transformed girl that she is wholeheartedly and not try to break it up.

edit to add..."Come Back Barbara" was married twice in her rebellion before she met #3 her current husband, and she ran around in between. (This is all in the book she contributed to, public knowledge.) She is married to a PCA pastor and Ed Welch is in their nice church. I visited it a while back. The women in her church love her dearly. Never ever underestimate the work of redemption. Jesus redeems. The end product can be glorious.
Yes. God can redeem the greatest of sinners.

And yes, the Church often deals terribly with abuse (even blaming the victim very often).

I've even heard condemnations of Dinah for being raped in the Old Testament of all people (she went outside of her father's umbrella of protection, or some baloney like that...sounded very Gothardish). And of course, many of us have heard preachers claim Bathsheba was a temptress somehow. These idiocies need to be addressed.

I am not sure how we can do better to make the abused feel less dirty. They are pure and innocent and bear no sin for the wrongs done against them. We must keep repeating this: they bear no fault and are pure. Many victims do not believe it and have feelings of false guilt over what they possibly could have done to escape the abuse. They agonize and believe that they could have died or fought harder. That is terrible to think about, that they are not only victimized but also blame themselves at least somewhat. Many freeze in terror and cannot even speak, especially because many abusers are supposed to be trusted people and are not strangers at all but people in positions of authority and trust (which makes it all the more heinous and terrible).

I don't really know the answer of how to deal with abuse victims (especially since I am a huge intimidating-looking man) and it is a very sad situation.

And yes, a thrice-divorced lady who ran around in between those marriages can also find a man and live a happy life afterwards. But again, this is not who I would marry nor advise my sons to marry. Call me judgmental if you will. But some men and women are more marriageable than others, and I suppose such a woman needs somebody less critical than I am because it's a hard pass from me. Personality faults and sins are often ingrained.

My wife was abused as a little girl. She bore no guilt, though there was some baggage. Just to be honest, it is something one must consider before joining your life to the life of another. It is a consideration in marriage plans, just as if you were to marry somebody with a chronic disease, etc. We must know our strengths and weaknesses. I had no hesitation in marrying my wife. It has made her a stronger person.

But I would not marry a "Come back Barbara" no matter how her life has been reformed. I know my reply will probably spark anger in some, and that is okay. I am sure there is a perfect "Come back Bob" somewhere out there to fit her needs.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
My critique of purity culture has to do with its methods. It's aims were godly and noble. Absolutely, we should encourage young people to refrain from sex until marriage. Yes, we should teach them to date (or to court, or whatever custom is your preference) in ways that give sexual sin a wide berth.

But how should we go about this? The purity culture assumed that sexual sin was due to young people following the crowd and/or following the entertainment media's version of what made you a cool grown-up. So, the purity culture tried to combat this by creating a counter-crowd, a purity crowd. The theory was that if you could get enough young people taking a pledge together, or all wearing purity rings, cheered on by their parents and coaches and youth leaders and some of their peers, then staying sexually pure could become cool again and be seen as a brave and grown-up thing to do.

But several studies showed that it failed to work. Well, of course it failed, because that technique doesn't change hearts. Purity culture largely used the world's methods to try to get kids to reject the world.

Where were the Spirit's methods? Was prayer a part of the formula? Was Scripture given a prominent role? Was daily family worship part of the mix? Were those young people given deep, gospel-rich teaching that explained why sex is sacred and is a reflection of Christ's sacrificial love for his treasured people? In too many cases, no.

Purity culture failed because most of those young people were neither supported much in prayer nor taught to really pray. They were neither instructed in Scripture nor given a theological foundation with any depth. They were not shown the beauty of Christ and what he has to do with any of it, other than that he apparently doesn't like sex. Those kids were standing on little more than trendiness and their own determination, and these are not means of grace.

Purity culture was such a notable and spectacular failure (as shown by statistical research) that I used it as a prime example of the wrong way to do things in Show Them Jesus, where I argued that consistent gospel teaching beats gimmicky programs. I took some heat from people who admired what the purity-culture folks were trying to do, but I still think I was mostly right. Perhaps I over-generalized a bit, and I do admire the purity culture goals. But any Reformed person ought to know that our chief method for resisting sin must be means-of-grace.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
Jack has nailed it. I'll add a few things. I can't help myself.

Some of the criticisms of the purity culture don't come from a good place. Obviously some are in favor of an impurity culture. They have got their wish now more than ever. Many of them are miserable though. We used to call it 'acting out' in the old days as well as sin. Those that have completely given over to sexual sin are among the most miserable, angry and cynical people there are. Waiting for sex until marriage is supposed to be bad and unsatisfying in their eyes and won't accept that the opposite is more often the case.

The deflection of responsibility by those who feel failed by the purity culture isn't helpful for their own lives and it is completely childish after a point. Blaming Josh Harris, who didn't write perfectly, for your marital problems 10 and 20 years on is absurd. There isn't a single marriage out there longer than a week without surprises and setbacks. In non-abuse, non-adultery situations, this mindset just gives a couple a reason to go along with the culture and give up. That is precisely what the best intentions of the purity culture fought against.

There are some common sense things that were understood in past times that the purity culture tried/tries to recover. The Pence Rule (or a version of it) may not be for everyone but folks at least understood back in the day why someone may want to live by it. The wholesale negative reactions to it were sheer emotivism. I wondered how many of these folks had sinned sexually with another or had been sinned against sexually yet dismissed his convictions out of hand in a display of non-virtue signaling. I'm not a teetotaler but I understand why some are and respect the stance without a barrage of questioning. Conversely I don't try to "weaker brother" blast people who build hedges at different distances. To each his own hedges.

I like Jack's emphasis. Sexual morality has to be put in the context of an integrated Christian life. I just bought his book a few weeks ago and will review it after I finish. Preaching, teaching, family worship and ongoing age-appropriate conversations are the means God provides for this education. This is the most biblical way. The ideas of both Victorian silence and public school sex ed. are not that of a Christian family. The purity culture (including parents) tried to outsource teen and youth Christian life to conferences, youth groups, glossy materials with video series and so on. Would we think of having a conference about not boosting cars and not killing our neighbor? The idea was instead of dumping the birds and bees on the schools, dump the subject on the hapless youth minister to undue what was learned in school. I saw a ton of that during my RC youth advisor days.

In the purity culture's better moments proper distinctions were made between chastity and virginity. Whereas the latter didn't necessarily imply the former. Sadly this was seldom the case although Harris' books did speak a lot about grace, forgiveness and living in light of Christ's work. He would do well to reread those parts.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
I agree entirely with Jack's critique of purity culture. Still, in our day that bigger problem is promiscuity culture, not purity culture and so most of our attention should be focused on the former rather than the latter.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Jack has nailed it. I'll add a few things. I can't help myself.

Some of the criticisms of the purity culture don't come from a good place. Obviously some are in favor of an impurity culture. They have got their wish now more than ever. Many of them are miserable though. We used to call it 'acting out' in the old days as well as sin. Those that have completely given over to sexual sin are among the most miserable, angry and cynical people there are. Waiting for sex until marriage is supposed to be bad and unsatisfying in their eyes and won't accept that the opposite is more often the case.

The deflection of responsibility by those who feel failed by the purity culture isn't helpful for their own lives and it is completely childish after a point. Blaming Josh Harris, who didn't write perfectly, for your marital problems 10 and 20 years on is absurd. There isn't a single marriage out there longer than a week without surprises and setbacks. In non-abuse, non-adultery situations, this mindset just gives a couple a reason to go along with the culture and give up. That is precisely what the best intentions of the purity culture fought against.

There are some common sense things that were understood in past times that the purity culture tried/tries to recover. The Pence Rule (or a version of it) may not be for everyone but folks at least understood back in the day why someone may want to live by it. The wholesale negative reactions to it were sheer emotivism. I wondered how many of these folks had sinned sexually with another or had been sinned against sexually yet dismissed his convictions out of hand in a display of non-virtue signaling. I'm not a teetotaler but I understand why some are and respect the stance without a barrage of questioning. Conversely I don't try to "weaker brother" blast people who build hedges at different distances. To each his own hedges.

I like Jack's emphasis. Sexual morality has to be put in the context of an integrated Christian life. I just bought his book a few weeks ago and will review it after I finish. Preaching, teaching, family worship and ongoing age-appropriate conversations are the means God provides for this education. This is the most biblical way. The ideas of both Victorian silence and public school sex ed. are not that of a Christian family. The purity culture (including parents) tried to outsource teen and youth Christian life to conferences, youth groups, glossy materials with video series and so on. Would we think of having a conference about not boosting cars and not killing our neighbor? The idea was instead of dumping the birds and bees on the schools, dump the subject on the hapless youth minister to undue what was learned in school. I saw a ton of that during my RC youth advisor days.

In the purity culture's better moments proper distinctions were made between chastity and virginity. Whereas the latter didn't necessarily imply the former. Sadly this was seldom the case although Harris' books did speak a lot about grace, forgiveness and living in light of Christ's work. He would do well to reread those parts.
Jacks' book is great!
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I agree entirely with Jack's critique of purity culture. Still, in our day that bigger problem is promiscuity culture, not purity culture and so most of our attention should be focused on the former rather than the latter.
Precisely.

Therefore, if we run across people who predominantly criticize the latter we are naturally suspicious of them.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
I've not studied purity culture and their methods, but from observing it in some of our Christian friends' families, there seems to be an unbalanced focus on girls/women and not boys/men. It seems that male lust is often blamed on the female mannerism/dress. Men need to be trained in purity and that means in part that they shouldn't see it as the female role to act/dress one way so they can control their lust. The product of such emphasis often seems to lead to girls being uncomfortable around boys and having an inappropriate self image as sex objects, not people. This haunts many women even going into marriage-- that now they can appropriately be a sex object for their husbands. Sex is an important, but small part of marriage and married life. Co-heirs in the kingdom of God should be treated accordingly-- as being partakers of Christ's threefold annointing together with men. Purity standards are the same for men and women. We need to train all of our children to respect those of the opposite sex, control our own vessels appropriately in and outside of marriage and truly understand that our bodies are the temple of God.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I've not studied purity culture and their methods, but from observing it in some of our Christian friends' families, there seems to be an unbalanced focus on girls/women and not boys/men. It seems that male lust is often blamed on the female mannerism/dress. Men need to be trained in purity and that means in part that they shouldn't see it as the female role to act/dress one way so they can control their lust. The product of such emphasis often seems to lead to girls being uncomfortable around boys and having an inappropriate self image as sex objects, not people. This haunts many women even going into marriage-- that now they can appropriately be a sex object for their husbands. Sex is an important, but small part of marriage and married life. Co-heirs in the kingdom of God should be treated accordingly-- as being partakers of Christ's threefold annointing together with men. Purity standards are the same for men and women. We need to train all of our children to respect those of the opposite sex, control our own vessels appropriately in and outside of marriage and truly understand that our bodies are the temple of God.
I am counseling a young man now who has super-strict views on even talking to girls and, instead of honoring women, this young man's strict principles do the opposite and make things super-weird and evident that he views them primarily through the lens of potential objects of lust or dangerous objects to be avoided. He even felt too "weak" to have coffee with a co-worker at lunch-time. He finally admitted this month that some of his actions actually dishonor women.

I believe you've hit the nail on the head.

While I agree that some variation of the Billy Graham/Mike Pence rule may be wise in certain contexts, it can also (ironically) serve to "objectify" women and not treat them as sisters and joint-heirs with Christ.

It is no surprise then that some of the hyper-patriarchal types in Christian circles who want to put women under an umbrella of male protection (read: control, in some cases) are also the ones sometimes found guilty of treating these women as sex objects and not as sisters (eg. the case of Vision Forum's founder). Even worse, if you couple this view of women with certain views on submission and authority, you can nurture a religious climate where weird grooming behaviors by older men or authority figures is not detected nor seen as strange.

And pretty much ALL discussions on modesty nowadays break down and seem to go off the rails within 3 or 4 replies. Both sides of the error exist in abundance, both the male fundamentalists who partially blame rape victims because she was wearing a short skirt and also many "modern women" who dress highly sexualized but expect not to be treated in a sexualized manner whatsoever by anyone (and of course Christian men ought not to mistreat anyone no matter how they dress). These discussions on modesty are pretty much impossible on most Facebook groups due to the lack of nuance or the owning up of their side of the error.

The very cultural context of America and the West in 2020 turns all of these discussions toxic, whereas we've never once really discussed modesty in the church in our tribal environment even when visiting tribal women without shirts/manufactured tops have entered our services (i.e. topless women in church). Why? Because dress there was associated with poverty and need and (thank God) the good evangelists did not want to shame or rebuke somebody due to their poverty or lack of goods. That is a surprisingly refreshing context compared with the context of the West that I want to get back to.
 
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BottleOfTears

Puritan Board Freshman
Virginity has a high value and premarital sex significantly damages the marriage before it begins. Which is true. But this truth is unpopular because almost nobody is a virgin at marriage nowadays. (Even "Red Pill" guys talk about finding a girl with a low "body count" and stats show divorce rates differ according to number of sexual partners a girl has had before you, and weird Lori gets it right when she claims that men prefer non-tattood, debt-free virgins to marry...and the internet erupts because millions of heavily in-debt, tattooed and promiscous girls then get triggered).
Why are only women mentioned here? I'm not really sure the "Red Pill" guys are the people to go to for support. It's hardly "even they talk about that", of course they talk about that. They hate women. All they care about is manipulating them into having sex.

Who wants to marry a in-debt, tattoed, promiscous man?

Some blamed Purity Culture for putting most of the stress upon the girl for keeping pure and saying no because it was harder for guys to do so, and so the girl had to be the gate-keeper and be responsible for saying no (because less guys would be willing to say so). But this has always been largely true in all human societies, it is not Purity Culture's fault.
Frankly, this is as much of an insult to men as it is to women. Are we just too stupid to keep control of ourselves? All this means is that when two people both agree to pre-marital sex, the women will get most of the blame because after all, "the guys just can't help it".

Many from Purity Culture backgrounds expected sex to be amazing since they waited. And then they found out they had hang-ups or misplaced feelings of guilt, or it was less amazing then they had been told, etc. So they blamed Purity Culture.
The other factor here is that many girls were told that if they saved themselves for marriage they would "earn" a better husband. It became almost an equation for some people. Chastity and purity in themselves for love of Christ were ignored for chastity for the sake of a delayed earthly pleasure. And any mistake in finding love etc was their fault.

It got nowhere near that level for men as far as I can see.

The majority of the outcry against Purity Culture is from women.
Funny that.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
I agree entirely with Jack's critique of purity culture. Still, in our day that bigger problem is promiscuity culture, not purity culture and so most of our attention should be focused on the former rather than the latter.
I don't know if I'm getting you correctly. The promiscuity culture is a gimme. To think otherwise is like going to Scripture to support homosexuality because Jesus "didn't say anything" and after all "there are only six verses." I don't think much time is needed establishing the wickedness and damage wrought by promiscuity.

Purity culture on the other hand is deficient. It suffers from a number incorrect emphases and legalism. I think it can be rehabilitated to an extent though.
 

My Pilgrim Way

Puritan Board Freshman
Yes. God can redeem the greatest of sinners.

And yes, the Church often deals terribly with abuse (even blaming the victim very often).

I've even heard condemnations of Dinah for being raped in the Old Testament of all people (she went outside of her father's umbrella of protection, or some baloney like that...sounded very Gothardish). And of course, many of us have heard preachers claim Bathsheba was a temptress somehow. These idiocies need to be addressed.

I am not sure how we can do better to make the abused feel less dirty. They are pure and innocent and bear no sin for the wrongs done against them. We must keep repeating this: they bear no fault and are pure. Many victims do not believe it and have feelings of false guilt over what they possibly could have done to escape the abuse. They agonize and believe that they could have died or fought harder. That is terrible to think about, that they are not only victimized but also blame themselves at least somewhat. Many freeze in terror and cannot even speak, especially because many abusers are supposed to be trusted people and are not strangers at all but people in positions of authority and trust (which makes it all the more heinous and terrible).

I don't really know the answer of how to deal with abuse victims (especially since I am a huge intimidating-looking man) and it is a very sad situation.

And yes, a thrice-divorced lady who ran around in between those marriages can also find a man and live a happy life afterwards. But again, this is not who I would marry nor advise my sons to marry. Call me judgmental if you will. But some men and women are more marriageable than others, and I suppose such a woman needs somebody less critical than I am because it's a hard pass from me. Personality faults and sins are often ingrained.

My wife was abused as a little girl. She bore no guilt, though there was some baggage. Just to be honest, it is something one must consider before joining your life to the life of another. It is a consideration in marriage plans, just as if you were to marry somebody with a chronic disease, etc. We must know our strengths and weaknesses. I had no hesitation in marrying my wife. It has made her a stronger person.

But I would not marry a "Come back Barbara" no matter how her life has been reformed. I know my reply will probably spark anger in some, and that is okay. I am sure there is a perfect "Come back Bob" somewhere out there to fit her needs.
Your remarks have been on my mind since I first read them. I have resisted responding, but I would like to say a few things.

I completely understand your desire for your children to marry someone who is sexually pure, however, there are many other ways the heart and the body can be impure (equally applied to men and women). Those things can be just as damaging in a marriage or lead to unrealistic expectations. Not everyone is brought up in a Christian home with godly parents to instruct them.

I find it sad that you likely would not be accepting of any woman who was not sexually pure before marriage even if she was made a new creation in Christ. To say that a promiscuous woman would be a poor choice as a wife is limiting the grace of God. Christ told the pharisees that the woman who anointed Him with costly perfume loved much because she had been forgiven much (for she was a great sinner).

It is equally disheartening that you believe some are more marriageable than others. The truth is that every person comes to marriage with personality faults and sin that will have an impact. The Lord did not choose Israel for any reason other than He loved her. We're all "damaged goods" without the righteousness of Christ.

Israel played the harlot over and over, and yet, the Lord took and washed her. And, the Lord takes the most unlovely and vile (1 Cor 6:9-11) to Himself to be His bride. In fact, He told Hosea to take Gomer (a woman of ill repute) as his wife.

More than anything, a godly woman who truly loves the Lord and understands the grace of God in her life should not be cast aside as undesirable. After all, the Lord set His love upon you (and all of His people) when there was not one desirable thing about us.
 

RickG

Puritan Board Freshman
Interesting discussion. The purity culture influence seems highly geographic, as it had little impact here in New Zealand as I understand it. I recall seeing it quite prominently for a while either online or in print/news and it has definitely faded in general exposure, but I don't recall a great deal of attention being paid to it here, although there may well have been an attempt to emulate it with good intentions.

Should any of my children have been exposed to it, I guess I would not have been entirely averse to it (in the sense that it is aiming for a positive goal), but I certainly would have had a conversation about its effectiveness, and its general premise. To me, as said above, the idea of creating an awareness of these important topics, via a certain 'sub-culture' of camaraderie and team adherence, to me does some violence to biblical patterns, and wrenches the topics of sexual purity and ethics away from what is true foundations.

Verses such as 1 Peter 2:11 "Abstain from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul” immediately provide great insight into the Christians position on this issue. To me, the early church understood the position of the Christian, in a day of moral degradation, much like ours, and addressed it in terms of our alien nature here, seeing we have been now translated into a new kingdom of light and of God, as opposed to Satan's dominion and domain. From here the believers understood there was a war waged, a fleshly battle to overcome, and new light and understanding were given them via the Spirit's work.

Ethics were not put into a separate compartment nor systematised via external rites or group-think in order to deal with them. Rather, the Christian understood the broader context of their salvation, and the purity of their Lord and Saviour, over against the many perversions of the world around them, which was collapsing into moral failure.

To me, the purity movement is not a-bilbical perhaps, but falls into a "non-biblical" camp. However, I believe our world is no longer battling with immorality, but far worse, amorality, where anything goes. To me, the far bigger question for our youth (and leaders) is why has the church failed to be effective in this area, and thus remedial measures are being taken to correct this, but also found to be failing in the main?

I think the answer lies in the rediscovery of NT patterns of thinking, which provide the antidote to the patch-work attempts being made in so many sectors of life in trying to deal with a multiplicity of systemic failures. The 'new-creatureliness' of the true believer is something that is transformative, along with full-orbed reality of the holiness of God, and the hand-to-hand combat the believer is involved in daily until he or she takes their place in glory.

To isolate and single out one aspect of practical holiness, without placing it rightly within the much broader context of Christian living, is to do violence I believe to scripture, but also to the believer themselves, and is in fact potentially damaging. We have a full-orbed gospel, which the church must articulate. If she is doing so properly, these issues are addressed at the root cause, and so much of what we see today would be corrected.
 
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