What Happened To Purity Culture?

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Really, the question should be what happened to the image of purity? What happened to the image of chastity? What happened to the image of virginity? Who took it upon themselves to change the meaning of these words in the first place? The short answer is that a culture of family idolatry derailed purity. Take a look at the intentions of the two men who created the whole idea of abstinence pledges and created the largest purity movement in this country, True Love Waits. The two family men who started it had one agenda – the future marriages of their teenage daughters. In all honesty, the name of the campaign should have been “True Love Waits For Marriage,” because marriage was assumed to be the ultimate goal. So what happens when teenagers wait and wait . . . and are still waiting past youth groups and pizza parties? Disillusionment. Do they wait? Why do you think the age of first marriage is increasing? In the absence of a Christian ethic, why would any man sacrifice his entire life for something he can get in 10 minutes on any street corner? Actually, what happened with all the “pretend” waiting is that the whole marriage/family worship culture came down like a house of cards, falling flat on its face in a cesspool of gay marriage, pornography, and Ashley Madisons. A single man waiting on marriage to have sex? Why, that’s funnier than a 40 year old virgin. But that’s where the family idolatry church culture has led us. While they kissed their babies and bowed down to the golden image of children, their single adult men were out on the streets putting more notches under their belts. After all, it’s not a marriage unless they make it official in a courthouse. Right? I always laugh when I hear church leaders say, “Oh, but marriage is not respected like it used to be.” “Look at all these good Christian women with no decent men to marry.” Churches – You killed marriage by placing it on a pedestal of idol worship. You killed marriage when you failed to show respect to people who chose celibate life. It’s a medical fact that a person can kill themselves by consuming too much of anything, even water. It’s also a fact that the church overdosed on sex and still doesn’t even know why it’s close to death. Even while congregations sit in “family worship centers,” they have no clue they are sitting in their own coffins.

So what’s left of purity culture today? What are people saying about it? Unfortunately, if a person is not Catholic and female, they don’t have a voice on the subject. So we are left with the same old age and gender stereotypes we have dealt with for the past 250 years. Have you heard of a Protestant conference on celibacy lately? As far as I know, there are no other 50+ year-old men “coming out” as virgins. Who wants that kind of disrespect? Honestly, it would have been easier for me if I had came out as a homosexual Mormon married to three men with a child by a previous marriage. Just think – If I were a 20-something Catholic girl, I could be lining up my next book signing tour, scheduling my next speaking engagement, mailing out T-shirts, writing my next advice column, etc.; all the while looking over my shoulder for Romeo. Oh, but I’m content with who I am. I know I make a lot of people uncomfortable. For those of us who have chosen the celibate life, I think challenging the status quo is part of our responsibility. Whose going to take the babies off the pedestals and put equal attention on people who are homeless, in prison, disabled, hungry?

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Family Idolatry And The Dictionary

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Every language has a dictionary. And most people think of definitions as set in stone and definitive as the Bible. No where is this more untrue than in our religious vocabulary. Take love for example. In biblical times, love was defined by agape love – God’s love for man and man’s love for God. Today, love generally means one thing – sex. Making love is as easily understood as making pancakes for breakfast, a feat of mechanics. Beauty is as deep as a tanning bed. But platonic love that transcends the beauty of any individual has been replaced by romantic love, by an undefined system of marriages and hookups not found in the Bible, intermittently legitimized by a church wedding and nuclear family.

Unfortunately, a society with an out of balance platonic/erotic system of interpersonal relationships cannot accurately define many biblical concepts. A society that is so focused on the family cannot comprehend the eternal. A classic example is True Love Waits. First, it communicated to teenagers that true love was represented by a marriage to the right person instead of a relationship with Christ. Second, it communicated to them that love was erotic and all about sex. Third, it told them that they were not loved until they found their true love. Fourth, it told them that waiting was only for teenagers. Fifth, it told them that everybody was destined to be married. Fifth, it put the horse before the carriage by assuming a godly marriage could be done without accepting Christ first. And sixth, it separated the sexual from the spiritual by not including God in the equation. True Love Waits was indeed started by two family men concerned about their daughters not fitting in at school; by family men who did not have the proper insight and balance between the married and unmarried, between the erotic and platonic, between God’s concerns and concerns of this world. Unfortunately, it gave the sexually immoral society we live in more ammunition. It gave them enough straw men to last a lifetime. The headlines were not about waiting for marriage to have sex – but chewing gum, dirty glasses of water, and half eaten chocolate bars. Purity balls became incestuous father and daughter relationships. Even worse, they took boys out of the equation, the ultimate affirmation of sexism. This is what happens when the family is idolized, when parents get a hold of biblical langugage they do not have the insight to define, when they think their priorities and their children’s trump everything in this world.

The families that do have their priorities in order and that can see beyond the erotic concerns of this world need to speak up on these issues – or the word “platonic” will soon be removed from the dictionaries and the word “purity” will become a four letter word. I’m afraid this is a natural result of the ageism, sexism, and marital statusism that is prevalent in churches today. There is nothing biblical about youth groups, family worship centers, Vacation Bible Schools, women’s conferences, pastor and wife teams, or children fitting in at school. All of this and a lot more has presented a warped idea of Christianity to the world and a wrong picture of God’s love. Does something have to be in the Bible to be a good idea? Not necessarily. But good ideas are based on wisdom, not on family comfort. What is your true love? I hope you can see it’s more than wedding planners or engagement rings, more than the ideas of a few misguided men and the worship of their children.

Imagine that your TV preacher of choice announced to the world that he had invented a little battery operated box called “Honest Abe” that glows a green light when someone tells the truth and red when they lie. The good old fashioned Christian virtue of honesty in the palm of your hand. But when the 5 million people that bought it the first day get it home, they discover that Honest Abe only works between people who are first degree kin. I would imagine that a lot of buyers would be happy with that. After all, PaPa Smith just wanted to know if Uncle Earl was telling the truth about that land purchase. Would it be surprising if the very concept of honesty became associated with a box called Honest Abe? Then we would live in a purity culture and honesty culture.

Virginity – Pure And Simple

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A culture in crisis brings a language in crisis.  And this is so true today, especially in the world of sexual ethics.  Purity, chastity, virginity, abstinence – Definitions all up for grabs.  The reason is simple – The rock that the church was built on has turned into shades of gray.  Basic Christian principles have crumbled like an avalanche down the side of a mountain.  White?  It’s relative.  Black?  It’s relative.  Purity?  Let’s don’t hurt anybody’s feelings.  Truth?  You believe what you want to believe.  The basic truth that we’ve compromised on is found in one verse in the Bible, Matthew 6:24:  “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  This is the definition of a mandatory dichotomy, one that has no shades of gray.  The Christian tradition is filled with polar opposites.  For instance, the mere act of accepting Christ involves stepping from a black world into the bright light of Christ in the blink of an eye.  Our rebirth is instantaneous.  There is no gradual progression from dark to light.  In the blink of an eye, man is transformed from a life of sin and shame to one of grace and redemption.  The marriage and celibacy dichotomy is another example.  As Apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 7, every Christian makes a choice between a life of marriage and concern for the affairs of this world or a life of celibacy and concern for Christ’s affairs.  There is no gray area between the two.  You can’t commit to a life of celibacy and allow the exception of one affair per year.  Another one is male and female.  But perhaps the best example of a mandatory dichotomy is the virgin and nonvirgin, the unknown versus the known. In the time it takes for consummation, two people become one flesh (Mark 10:8).  This dichotomy highlights a word that is ever morphing in the world of virtue today – Purity.  It has traditionally been a well understood reference to virginity, someone who has never had sex, male or female.  It is even used as such in the bible – I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.”  But there are circles today where it means no more than a comfortable “doing good.” Even in abstinence programs, the word has been hijacked and used as a straw man by those who operate in shades of gray.  The setup is fairly simple – Underhandedly set virginity up as perfection, throw in the straw man of purity, and scream “purity culture!” in a crowded theater – or should I say, abstinence rally.   It seems to be a fairly effective technique today.  You can read numerous stories of how dirty chewing gum and toothbrushes have “shamed” so many people.  The purity of a virgin has become so offensive.  What people forget is – you can’t shame a shamed/repentant person.  So if that abstinence talk at church is attended only by Christian students, it is not possible for one person to shame another.  However, a convicted conscious might cause someone to feel uncomfortable and try to defend themselves with an accusation of shame.  Black and white.  Night and day.  Pure and impure.   Basic Christian dichotomies.  It’s simple.  Can we give the virgins back their purity?

True Love Waits No More

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Clayton King

In an unprecedented move, the Southern Baptists have dropped their True Love Waits program in favor of a grace and forgiveness project for gays and lesbians and others dealing with sexual sin, emphasizing that “perfect behavior” is no longer part of God’s design in marriage. Starting around December 15th, it will be known as the “True Love Project” with sexual health and healing also being on the ticket. According to Clayton King of Crossroads Ministries who wrote all of the new material, the new “product” will “communicate God’s design for relationships to a new generation of students and young adults who may be struggling or confused about love, dating and sex.” But the number one reason True Love Waits is being dropped is because it “elevated virginity as the ultimate goal” according to King. “Repeatedly, I say that the goal is not to be a virgin on your wedding day.” “I want people to know they are pure because Jesus purified them from sin, not because they have perfect behavior and have never had intercourse or looked at porn.” I’m not sure when the Baptists redefined virginity as perfection, but it does take the straw man to a whole new level. And more puzzling, the original True Love Waits did not include “ancient and unchangeable truths of God’s word.” It was never a Billy Graham evangelical crusade. This shift marks the first time the SBC has taken the position that there is no spiritual component within human sexuality. It is rather unfortunate to see the pledges of purity until marriage that millions of teenagers and young adults made belittled as “temporary physical pleasures.” TLW was one of the largest abstinence campaigns in the country, started some 20 years ago by Richard Ross and Jimmy Hester. These changes are in keeping though with Russell Moore’s (SBC Ethics Commission president) call for all Baptists to “love our gay and lesbian neighbors as Jesus did.” In a time when Christians are losing the culture war and teenagers need consistent standards of values, the Baptists continue their tradition of mixed messages. Answering the backlash that the new program has already received, the Project’s Ben Trueblood acknowledged “sexual purity is an important issue for students,” but “that alone cannot drive the conversation.” As it did with marriage and the DOMA debacle, the SBC is willing to affirm the Bible’s message on purity, but not willing to defend it. I wonder who is really driving the conversation? The SBC or the majority of teens who could not wait until marriage and feel uncomfortable with the idea of purity? The profit margins they contribute to Lifeway? I’m thankful I was not a teenager in the “new generation” and that I learned early from my parents that sexual purity is not a “temporary pleasure.” We can only pray that the “projects” don’t force American taxpayers to pay for more contraception and abortions.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2943018.Clayton_King/blog
http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/6955173061.html
http://www.christianpost.com/news/lifeways-true-love-waits-movement-to-launch-new-updated-sexual-purity-campaign-110046/
http://www.claytonking.com/blog/TLP/‎
http://www.tnbaptist.org/BRARticle.asp?ID=4639
http://www.sbclife.net/Articles/2013/12/sla12.asp‎
http://http://baptistcourier.com/2013/11/king-true-love/