I grew up in the True Love Waits era. Where books like, I kissed dating goodbye by Joshua Harris, were all the rage and fancy purity rings were what good Christian girls hung their hopes on. And, before you think I was against any of this, let me set the record straight: I was all for it.
I was so all in, that I committed myself to a year of dating Jesus (it was at a Christian youth conference – all the spiritually elite were doing it, and although I had a tinge of hesitation, I signed my name on the dotted line and promised to only date Jesus for a year).
Now, not every girl stuck to that commitment, but this girl did.
Even when the cutest guy in my class wanted to date me and everything in me screamed YEEESS, I held fast, buckled down and honored my commitment.
BECAUSE I WAS ALL IN.
I was going to remain pure until I was married.
I was going to show all of the guys what a hardcore Jesus chick I was.
I was going to make sure everyone knew JUST HOW MUCH OF A FLIPPIN PRIZE TO BE WON I WAS.
I truly believed that by “saving” (eh, repressing) any and all of my sexuality was not only what it would take to impress God, but was what would ultimately deem me worthy of finding an honorable, faithful, guy.
Although that message may not have been explicitly said, it was certainly implied. And it became the driving force behind all of my sexual (or lack thereof) decisions after that.
Skip forward to today: I followed the rules, did as I was told and yet, here I sit, two painful divorces later.
Now, this isn’t a blog post screaming to damn all the rules and do whatever you want. It could be. But, it’s not. 😉
I believe that people are in charge of themselves.
Some people will choose to do the very thing that will hurt you the most – no matter if you “waited” for them, saved yourself for them or if they claim to love Jesus. In life, hard things will happen outside of your control; and whether or not you are sexually pure really doesn’t have anything to do with it.
My experience with the purity movement left me with a load of complaints. But instead of focusing on the damage it created for me, I want to focus on the much larger issue with the purity culture.
Mainstream Christian culture has become obsessed with sex.
If you think I’m crazy, just look at where most Christians hold picket signs, push their religious “rights” and guilt (eh, “conviction”) on their congregations. It has become so normal that we don’t even flinch when we see these behaviors on display.
Now, I do not take issue with personal convictions, nor do I have a problem with people choosing to save themselves for marriage. But, sadly, this has moved way beyond personal conviction – this has become an obsession.
People often obsess over what they fear. In the culture I was raised in, there was a strong fear of sexual promiscuity.
Thus, virginity rings were promoted, true love waits campaigns were created and a whole movement of anti-sexuality was born. These movements not only scared those of us influenced by them, but it provided those leading us with a sense of control; which I imagine offered temporary relief from their fears.
And for a while, it worked.
The issue that it created though, was a culture afraid of sexuality.
And when you create fear around something, you ultimately create shame.
Shame and fear quietly became the headliners in every purity message, modesty speech, religious rights campaign and sexually “convicting” sermon. Fear and shame became what people felt in just about every sexual encounter they experienced: fear of God being disappointed in them and shame over their body’s natural responses and tendencies.
When you have a culture who fears sex and is ashamed of sexuality, you have a recipe for disaster. Because, people obsessed with sex and covered in shame, will do awful things.
I have sat with numerous victims of sexual assault, voyeurism and molestation; all who were victimized by the hands of Christian men (even pastors and counselors) who were in authority over them.
And, yet, many of these victims, if they are brave enough to come forward, often are not believed, they are told to be quiet or they are told it was their fault.
GOOD GOD. WHY?!
Women are often shamed for not being pure, shamed for inviting sexual advances and shamed for being too promiscuous. Men, however, are often given a pat on the back and told to try to work on controlling themselves – but not to worry, because their behaviors and mistakes are completely “normal”.
This system is not okay. And it has bred a disaster of hurt and pain in the lives of countless people.
I don’t have to tell you about stories of priests, pastors, counselors and leaders who have sexually abused children or women serving underneath them. None of us are strangers to those stories.
However, that is only the behavior we know about. It isn’t even addressing hidden behavior that often presents itself online.
In an article on expastors.com, they revealed that 50% of Christian men admit to being addicted to pornography. And if you think pastors are any better, the article revealed that, “Nearly 20% of the calls received on Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior”
The article also stated that 1,351 of the pastors surveyed on Pastors.com, 54% said they had viewed internet pornography within the last year and 30% of those had visited within the last 30 days.
Our Christian purity culture has created a monster of an issue.
I’ve heard many of the mainstream Christian leaders plead for purity in their congregations saying, “we are losing the (sexual) battle to a depraved generation!” This is echoed in posts on social media, links to sermons, etc, all saying the same thing.
And, yet, out of the other side of their mouth they are protecting “Christian” men accused of sexual assault, rape or abuse.
In their efforts to continually try to fight the monster, they are actually feeding it.
At some point, we must take responsibility for the numerous issues that our culture of fear and shame has created and admit that change is needed. Because, it is evident that our approach to sex and sexuality simply isn’t working.
I certainly don’t have all the answers.
However, I can’t help but think it might be time for the Jesus follower to consider the Jesus approach to the sexuality conversation:
Jesus didn’t preach about sex
Jesus didn’t shame people about sexual behaviors or partners
Jesus didn’t make “correcting” people’s sexual choices his focus
Jesus wasn’t obsessed with sex
Jesus wasn’t concerned with who was having sex, who wasn’t having sex, who was sleeping with who or what secular music (that may talk about sex) people were listening to – which can’t be said of the religious leaders in his day nor for the current religious leaders in our day.
Overall, Jesus didn’t have much to say about sex or sexuality.
He seemed more focused on teaching his followers to: care for the abused, speak out for justice, love your neighbor as your equal, be humble, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, not think you are above others, include the outsiders and the foreigners.
The good news, is that no matter how obsessed your pastors, leaders or even family was/is with your sexuality being “pure” or “right”, you can take comfort in knowing that Jesus was never interested in shaming anyone on this topic.
And if you were victimized, you can also take comfort in knowing that Jesus spoke up for the forgotten and abused over and over again. He had no issue speaking out against those in power.
Most importantly, when it comes to our own bodies, it appeared that Jesus preferred to leave our sexuality as a sacred place between us and God.
Grace and peace,