Shane Pruitt on Is the Criticism of Purity Culture Diminishing the Danger of Sin?

A purity ring is worn as a sing of chastity. | Wikimedia Commons

For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave… At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. – Proverbs 5:3-22

“You will get pregnant and die” is now a joke in our popular culture. The targets are pearl-clutching, Bible-belt-dwelling parents and teachers who once tried to scare their teenagers straight by exaggerating the perils of premarital sex. But not everyone is laughing.

Quite a few Christians of my generation are still convinced that the purveyors of “purity culture” in the 1990s sentenced those who took their advice to prolonged singleness, disappointing sex, and guilt over their moral failures. “Purity culture” supposedly taught that kids who kept their virginity would live happily ever after, and that kids who messed up were “damaged goods” nobody would want to marry.

The backlash against this is understandable in some ways, but I worry that it comes perilously close to condemning the way the Bible talks about sexual sin.

“Purity culture,” say critics, promised a crop of teenagers that if we followed a certain set of rules for dating and physical affection, God would reward us with true love and ultra-hot honeymoon sex. Conversely, those who failed to keep the rules would suffer a fate worse than the death foretold by the coach in “Mean Girls”: they would lose their “purity” — that coveted pearl meant as a wedding gift for their future spouse.

These critics have plenty of examples to point to. In one infamous passage from I Kissed Dating Goodbye, the erstwhile manifesto of purity culture, Joshua Harris, spun a nightmarish parable about a young man whose former lovers followed him to the altar. Each of them, explains Harris, owned a piece of this groom’s heart, leaving him with only a dingy fragment to present to his blushing bride.

In another dreaded illustration familiar to graduates of church youth groups in the 1990s, a leader would stick a piece of tape to the arms of multiple students until it grew cloudy with oil and skin cells and lost all stickiness. “This,” the leader would announce, “is your ability to pair-bond with your spouse after you’ve had sex with multiple other people.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Shane Pruitt