Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Regretting what might have been

Over the holidays, I watched a documentary on purity culture called Daddy I Do. One thing I noticed is that nearly all the parents who are interviewed, not just in this film but in others like it, admit to not having waited until marriage themselves. Yet they all believe (some firmly, some hopefully) that waiting for marriage is the best choice for their daughters. It makes me wonder how they view their own lives. Do they truly regret not waiting because of some effect it has had on their marriage or sex life? Or are they simply convinced that waiting would have bestowed some magical, blessed element upon their marriage? My suspicion is the latter. It is easy and appealing to think how great your life could have been if only you had made choice A instead of B. And when you have children, you have the chance to live vicariously through them and have them make the choices you didn't. But ultimately, these parents don't know what kind of life they are raising their children for. They have never personally experienced the supposed benefits or negatives of saving all sexual activity for marriage.

Any of us who have been a part of this culture will have heard testimonies from young married Christians who say that waiting was the best thing they ever did, or that their wedding night was magical. They say everything was so much better because they waited. Well, they didn't get to experience the other side so how can they compare? Sure, sometimes one of them will be a "reclaimed" virgin who has had sexual partners in the past. Usually they bemoan their promiscuous past or tell of their abusive relationships. Rarely, if ever, have I heard one of those reclaimed virgins speak of having a past loving, committed relationship with a healthy sex life. My guess is they hadn't found it outside of purity culture and decided to look for it inside. Once you've made your choice, it's comforting to convince yourself that good healthy relationships don't exist outside of your culture.

Another problem I have with these kinds of testimonies is the problem I have with all Christian testimonies. You only hear of the positive stories. You only hear from those who have conquered a problem. The people who are struggling or dealing with failure are never asked to share their story. And a lot of testimonies are given by people who very recently accomplished something, be it marriage or conquering sin. They are high off something they are proud of and haven't yet had to face the long-term application of their choices. And let's be honest: when you've been taught for most of your life that the results of choice A will be blessings and happiness, won't you be likely to convince yourself and others that you are experiencing those results after you make that choice? And if you are unhappy, you'd first suspect yourself of being in the wrong, since everyone else looks so successful and you believe wholeheartedly in the doctrine.

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