Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Recommended Reading

There's been a couple blog posts I've come across this past week that I want to share, because they speak on topics that I like to write about but give more clarity and a different perspective.
Sarah Moon's post, The Magical Marriage Switch, illustrates the logical inconsistencies in some of purity culture's prime arguments by showing how their teachings about sex in marriage contradict and invalidate their teachings about sex while single. I've touched on this concept of magical transformation regarding marriage before. But Sarah gives specific examples of how purity culture will flip an argument on its head when marriage is introduced into the equation. Basically, anything that sex will ruin before marriage becomes something that sex will improve after marriage.

Anna Lynn's post, Christian Sex: What the Purity Movement Didn't Tell Us, gives a historical context for the purity movement and points out the topics the purity movement failed to address. It made me think about how I never had any concept I was involved in a "movement" while it was happening. I didn't know that the things I was being taught were in reaction to something else, or that it was anything new to Christianity. This quote in particular got my attention:
The purity movement’s mantra in answer to the sexual revolution was, “Don’t have sex outside of marriage.”  Harris’ addition to the mantra was, “and don’t think about it either.”
The "don't think about it either" brand of purity was the only kind I knew. Josh Harris' challenge to live so purely that you couldn't even allow yourself to think about sex with your soon-to-be spouse sounded impossible to live up to, but it also sounded right. Because to a naive teenager who only wants to please God more and knows nothing about sex except that it's bad outside of marriage, who was I to question someone as convincing as Josh Harris?

Now, with the benefits of hindsight, life experience, and understanding of the changing currents within Christianity throughout history, I can see the purity movement with a critical eye. The purity movement made "no premarital sex or even thinking about it" a huge part of my Christian belief system. It was so intertwined with everything I believed that it felt revolutionary when I realized I didn't believe in it anymore. I've stated before that I feel bitter towards the purity movement. That is still true, even though it's gotten better as I've been writing about it this past year. But when I look back over Christian history and see the various movements that impassioned people but, in the end, were nothing more than a fad, I am saddened that the movement I happened to get caught up in was so damaging to people's marriages, sex lives, and views of themselves. I feel angry because I feel as though I was used as a pawn in somebody else's game: someone who didn't care about me--only my virginity.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

True Love Waits is updating their purity campaign

I recently noticed this article about the True Love Waits campaign, which is 20 years old now. They say they have rewritten the entire program "to introduce a modern focus on the same message that has been encouraged onto millions of youth for the last two decades."

I am curious to know exactly what will be different about this campaign. It appears they are reacting to the criticism that has come about in the last year towards the purity movement, because the creator of the new program, Clayton King of Crossroads Worldwide, mentions the idolization of virginity:

"King also says the current project is unique in comparison to other abstinent-focused campaigns including the original 'True Love Waits' because his intention is not to "elevate virginity as the ultimate goal."
He says it will have a greater focus on grace and mercy for those who carry shame from abuse or past mistakes, and that it is more important to focus on being found faithful on judgment day than to be a virgin on your wedding day. My hesitance to be happy at that news derives from my assumption that not only would I disagree with what qualifies as a past "mistake," but more importantly I fear that the program's definition of "being faithful" includes "being a virgin at your wedding."

Maybe this program will focus less on the supposed negative consequences of premarital sex than they did when I was young, not shaming females into feeling dirty and worthless if they have been touched by a male. Maybe they will stop doling out the empty promises of having better married sex. Either of those things would be vast improvements.

But some of the language King uses makes me think it won't be different enough, particularly that he says he wants to draw attention to the "unchangeable word of God" and argues "If Jesus is your Lord, then you will gladly do what He says, trusting that because He loves you and He knows what's best for you." Both of those sayings are reminiscent to me of the type of Christianity I used to be a part of, where there was only one way to interpret scripture, and it would be used as a weapon against you to enforce conformity. Purity programs like this have already determined what they believe God wants from us regarding sex and marriage. Interpretation is not up for debate. They are there to convince young people to conform to their standards.

I never liked the name "True Love Waits," because it heavily implies that those who do not wait do not have true love. Now it is being called the "True Love Project," which I hope is an attempt to focus on God's love, rather than qualifying the worth of a couple's love. Mostly, though, I wish campaigns like this didn't exist, because it skews the relative importance of sex in a Christian's religious life. Why aren't there campaigns focusing on teaching young Christians to be charitable or to demonstrate love to all of God's creation? Perhaps those things wouldn't make them "set apart" from the world enough, since those values are already shared by most non-Christians.