Christian Sexual Purity Movement Remains Undaunted by Modern Critics

In July 1994, more than 210,000 teenagers displayed their True Love Waits commitment cards on the National Mall in Washington. BP file photo.

Amid new claims sexual abstinence pledges harm teen girls, an early leader in the evangelical purity movement says he does not “second-guess the rightness of the original message.”

“Inviting teenagers into a lifetime of sexual holiness and purity, if consistent with Scripture, is a beautiful thing,” Richard Ross, cofounder of the True Love Waits (TLW) sexual purity movement, wrote in a December blog post. ” … I do not feel guilty, nor do I second-guess the rightness of the original message.”

TLW launched in 1993, and since then has spread to at least 100 denominations and student organizations in 100 countries worldwide, with an estimated 3 million students making TLW pledges. Each February, the Southern Baptist Convention observes a “True Love Waits Emphasis” on its denominational calendar.

LifeWay Christian Resources continues to offer TLW resources for each new generation.

Yet the latest critics in a 25-year stream of TLW naysayers claim abstinence emphases by evangelical churches wrongly shame girls and cause them to view their bodies as threats.

Linda Kay Klein, author of “Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement That Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free,” said she and other women who took purity pledges as evangelical teens experienced “fear and shame and anxiety” regarding their sexuality. “Sexual thoughts,” “feelings” and “choices,” Klein told NPR, have driven women in the evangelical subculture to nightmares, panic attacks and other physical symptoms that “mimicked classic PTSD [Posttraumatic stress disorder].”

The purity movement, Klein said, “was all about how [a woman] needed to be a good Christian by protecting [men] from the threat that is you — the threat that is your body” by wearing modest clothing and keeping mind and body free of sex until marriage.

Another critic, progressive pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, has asked women to send her their purity rings — which symbolize a commitment to sexual abstinence until marriage — so she can melt them down, The Huffington Post reported. In exchange for her purity ring, each woman will receive a silicone “impurity” ring and a “certificate of impurity.”

Bolz-Weber’s forthcoming book “Shameless” claims evangelical teaching on sexual purity has shamed women, and women must reclaim their bodies.

Ross wrote on Southwestern Seminary’s Theological Matters blog that he is obligated to consider such criticism and ask whether “this movement harmed rather than blessed a young generation.”

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Source: Baptist Press