Purity Culture is Destroying Christianity
Before diving into this topic, I want to address that this is my opinion and you are free to think whatever you desire. I am not a theologian, simply a girl searching for God and encouraging others to search for themselves. I haven’t read the Bible all the way through, and I struggle daily with my faith. But I constantly seek for Him and wish for others to find faith as well as I believe it is a beautiful addition to life.
However, this specific “rule” in Christianity regarding sexual purity has forced many to reject the faith all together. I want to offer a different perspective that claims the unthinkable.
You don’t have to abstain to build a relationship with Him.
Based on scripture, research, and personal experience, I believe that purity culture has damaged the minds of girls and boys.
But first, what is purity culture?
From a young age, Christian women are told that they cannot “tempt” men. I, along with other women, was taught to hide myself, to protect myself. That we are delicate flowers and every time we engaged in sexual contact we would lose a petal or that we were chewed up gum, a broken glass vase, or some other useless item instead of a human being who sinned like the masses. These fear mongering tactics were utilized to keep girls “pure” at a young age.
Men, however, were taught to find women that “respected themselves” or were modest in their attire and actions. There was little emphasis on the damaging impacts of lust or how they too should control their desires. Sexual immorality was addressed more so like this. “Hey, try not to fall to sin but we are men and it’s in our nature and girls are hot Jezebel spirits so it’s fine if you mess up. Girls are stumbling blocks anyway.”
I see this played out in college when I hear supposed Christian guys catcalling a woman in shorts while also remarking that they would “never date her.” That they want a girl who “respects herself.” They seem to forget that they themselves have sinned when they lusted after the woman.
I don’t believe purity culture is keeping anyone closer to God. This twisted gender specific view of sexual purity condemns women for being beautiful “temptresses” that entice men to sin and paints men as sexual beings incapable of emotional attachments.
Church has emphasized these hurtful stereotypes to the extreme. Although their intention was initially decent, the result has left women to feel shamed for their sexual desire and has portrayed men to be animalistic in nature… out for only one thing.
This is damaging to both genders and needs to stop.
We are looking to our church and widespread teachings for answers when we should start searching the Bible instead. So let’s see what the Bible has to say about this.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;
that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable,
not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.
So there you have it. Abstinence always. Purity culture rules. The end.
So sex before marriage is condemned in the Bible as it is considered sexually immoral.
What if I told you everyone reading this right now was sexually immoral? What if I told you not one of you is sexually “pure” no matter your history?
“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Purity culture advocates to separate believers into sexually impure and sexually pure. Well, I challenge that notion as I believe everyone is sexually impure as soon as lust enters their heart.
After all, that is what Jesus said.
So if everyone whose lusted is sexually impure in the eyes of God, it doesn’t make sense to divide those on what we presume to be the ultimate decider of sexual purity.
We are ALL guilty of sexual immorality. This should not stop you from pursuing faith.
I am not advocating for people who want to wait until marriage to break their promises. It is a beautiful commitment, a wonderful path, if you choose to pursue that route. I am simply encouraging those who don’t abide by sexual purity to seek for God as well because He loves you no matter what.
Jesus did not want to shame those with sexual desires. He literally hung out with prostitutes.
Did He advocate for self control to avoid pursuing all sexual desires? Absolutely. But I highly doubt He wanted women to feel like their bodies are the cause of sin, and that they have to cover up. I highly doubt He wanted us to ask sexual assault victims what they were wearing instead of asking them how they were feeling.
And I highly doubt He wanted people to step back from faith because they felt God and a sexual relationship with their partner had to be mutually exclusive.
I like Church, and I recognize its importance but I also believe that if you like everything your preacher is saying, you are not thinking for yourself. Pastors are humans just like us who are not immune to regurgitating what is considered “correct” Christian teaching. And we are supposed to question these teachings. If we are simply following rules to get Heaven, we missed the whole point of being a Christian.
“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught
God wanted us to love Him, to follow Him. But He also wanted us to ask Him questions, to talk to Him, to gain understanding based on our unique relationship with Him and not from mainstream Christian doctrine.
Now, if you think I’m twisting the Biblical verses to find a loophole for sex before marriage, all girls reading this should remove their braids, take off their Kendra Scott necklaces, and throw out their Kate Spade purse.
1 Timothy 2:9
…that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire
You may be thinking,
Well of course, no one follows this rule now, Nour. It’s outdated. It doesn’t pertain to today.
Interesting you mention that, reader. Historical context is important, I agree.
So why have we disregarded the historical context surrounding other quotes in the Bible? Do you really think marriage is the same now as it was in Biblical times?
Girls would be wedded off as young as 13 years old. That’s a much shorter time frame to abstain than the additional 14 years we are told to do now. Marriage did not involve a priest, a ceremony, or government interference. Marriage was simply two people agreeing to live with one another until the rest of their lives…. and they had a much shorter life span than us today.
I find it hypocritical that historical context is necessary to understand some verses in the Bible such as Timothy 2:9 regarding modesty and humility. But cherry picked verses about sexual immorality are fully applicable today.
Purity culture is not what I believe Jesus intended. He speaks of sexual immorality but He also speaks of lying.
1 Peter 3:10
For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.
But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite.
So why is my fat pastor scouring the Bible for the few verses on sexual immorality?
And to follow this difficult path of staying abstinent until marriage, children are rushing to get married instead of taking their time to ensure this is the right person for them. They are attempting to avoid the temptation of sin altogether, fearing they will fall.
God did not want us to do things out of fear. Yet, here we are taught that if we commit this sin we are to be shamed and and our bodies are literally less valuable. That it is better to remain “pure” than to take your time choosing your life partner.
“Fear not” is said in the Bible 365 times.
One for every day of the year.
I don’t believe we should continue to teach sexual purity as it stands today. Rather we should address a more realistic view that I believe Jesus was wanting us to follow in the first place.
We should be practicing sexual integrity meaning we should be careful, take our time, and choose wisely who we bring into our lives. That we should by treating our bodies as the holy temples they are by not allowing people without our best interest at heart to see the most intimate side of ourselves. Girls’ sexual histories should no longer be referenced as chewed up gum or flowers without petals . And girls AND boys should be held equally accountable to honor God with their mind, body, and spirit.
The main difference between sexual purity and sexual integrity is one is done out of fear and humiliation. And one is done out of love for ourselves, others, and God.
Purity culture attempts to help Christians struggling with sexual immorality but fails to offer compassion, understanding, and forgiveness to those who have fallen. Fear mongering and shameful tactics can only work for so long until those same people who were told their body is less valuable to their future partner leave the faith for a secular world that allows them to indulge… slowly biting into the fruit from the tree of knowledge and losing their relationship with God altogether.
Purity culture tried…and failed. And it’s time we as Christians search for answers by talking with Him, reading the Bible, and fear NOT the questions and answers that lie ahead.