There are a lot of people writing about Purity Culture and how ‘harmful’ it is. In some cases, what is actually taught in this culture can be harmful. There are many people with different ideas talking about having their church’s teens remain sexually pure.
Different people with different ideas can get confusing especially when a teen hears one thing from their parents, another from their relatives, and still another from Sunday School teachers and pastors.
Part of the problem is that these people throw in earthly content, secular ideas, and then re-shape some symbols to be a sign of purity. In most cases, it is not good. In part two we will be looking at what to teach but first a few other points need to be looked at.
#1. What is the purity culture
In our view, this purity culture concept seems to be a human attempt to fulfill divine instructions. 1 Thess. 4:3- 8 tells everyone:
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his ownvessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no one violate the rights and take advantage of his brother or sister in the matter, because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you previously and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in sanctification. 8 Therefore, the one who rejects this is not rejecting man, but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
As you can see, God wants us to be different from the unbelieving world. Lustful passions are very evident in the example of most Hollywood marriages. At least they are the most visible there.
So many Christian leaders have taken it upon themselves to get their teens to fulfill God’s will through wearing symbols, making vows, and so on. But making a vow is a very serious thing and no teen should make one until they fully understand what they are doing.
#2. Making vows
Getting vulnerable minds to make vows is not always a good idea. There is a lot of work involved in carrying out those vows and God takes them very seriously Numbers 30: 1-4 gives us how serious making a vow is:
Then Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the word which the Lord has commanded: 2 If a man makes a vow to the Lord, or takes an oath to put himself under a binding obligation, he shall not break his word; he shall act in accordance with everything that comes out of his mouth.
3 “And if a woman makes a vow to the Lord, and puts herself under a binding obligation in her father’s house in her youth, 4 and her father hears her vow and her obligation under which she has put herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall remain valid and every binding obligation under which she has put herself shall remain valid.
Do not think that just because those words are found in the OT that they are not valid. Jesus was even harsher with his words in Matthew 5: 33- 37 when he said:
33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.
Purity culture and its adherents can be getting teenagers and other young adults into some difficult situations by making them take vows to be sexually pure. After taking these vows, those adherents of this culture need to be prepared to teach those teens, etc., how to resist temptation properly.
For they will be tempted to break those vows and be put into faith ending crisis by evil. In other words, vows are not enough to preserve sexual purity or protect teenagers.
#3. The use of symbols
Purity pledges are vows taken by teenagers and young adults to abstain from sex before marriage. A prime example is the original pledge from True Love Waits (1993), which read: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, and my future mate to be sexually pure until the day I enter marriage.” (Source)
These are just like vows and really do not do a very good job of anything except to put a lot of pressure on the teens, etc., who take these pledges. They have enough pressure without adding more to them.
Purity rings are sometimes worn as outward symbols by those who have made a purity pledge. The rings were popularized by the Christian ministry The Silver Ring Thing, which promoted abstinence primarily through music events. A decade ago, the rings were worn by several young actors and pop stars, including Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and the Jonas Brothers. (Ibid)
Just so you know, these rings do not guarantee success nor keep the wearers from committing sexual impurity. They may the wearer look arrogant and prideful but that is about as far as it goes.
Purity balls (or Father-Daughter Purity Balls) are formal dance events attended by fathers and their daughters that promote virginity until marriage for teenage girls. At the balls the fathers would often sign a pledge that they would be the example of purity and model integrity for their daughter. The dances were originally conceived in 1998 by a California couple, Randy and Lisa Wilson, as a way of “celebrating God’s design and life’s little growth spurts.”(Ibid)
We know nothing about that couple and while we like the idea of fathers promising to set the example to their children, that example was set when they married their daughters’ mothers. Or at least it should have been set.
These balls or dances are only decorations of good intentions and do nothing except make people feel guilty that they could not keep their word. They may encourage the participants from time to time but there is no content to hold any of them to their word when meeting the challenges that come.
That is the problem with symbols. They do nothing but show off to everyone else that you think you are better than them. Symbols really do not mean anything and serve only as a reminder of what your vow was when you failed to keep it.
Sexual temptation is very strong when the hormones kick in.
#4. Books do not help
Books can give you information on how to meet temptation and that is good except when the books’ authors end up throwing away their faith and their words when they decide they have had enough of God’s kingdom.
One book and author that serves as an example is I Kissed Dating Goodbye. For us, dating and courtship are the same things, you are spending time with a person of the opposite gender and getting to know them.
Making big deals out of minute differences may make you a popular author but it does nothing to teach people the truth or God’s will. Usually, these books are the authors’ personal opinions supported by a smattering of bible verses that could or could not be badly interpreted or understood.
The ideas in those books could also contain a lot of secular ideas that God does not want to be a part of his followers’ lives. We know of too many Christians who accept bad teaching and ‘Christianize’ it in order to start a new Christian trend.
If you are going to read a book on this topic, make sure you ask for God’s guidance to get you to the truth. Interpretation does not equal truth.
#5. What Should We teach everyone
Don’t let anyone tell you that the words in the OT do not apply. If you want to know God and understand his will, then you need to read the OT. God does NOT change.
9 “Only be careful for yourself and watch over your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may have them hear My words so that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children. (Deut.4:9-10)
We placed the keywords in bold as one, you need to teach your children how to watch over their souls. Then you are to teach them God’s words so that they will respect a God and obey his will.
31 But as for you, stand here by Me, that I may speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, so that they may follow them in the land which I am giving them to possess.’ 32 So you shall be careful to do just as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. (Deut. 5)
“Now this is the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, so that you may do them in the land where you are going over to take possession of it, 2 so that you, your son, and your grandson will fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. (Deut. 6)
18 “You shall therefore take these words of mine to heart and to soul; and you shall tie them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets on your forehead. 19 You shall also teach them to your sons, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, (Deut. 11)
Instead of making teenagers and young adults make vows, wear rings, etc., you teach them God’s way all the time. parents are to teach their children and pastors their congregations the ways of the lord and how to obey them.
The ways of the lord when it comes to sexual purity is as follows:
14 “You shall not commit adultery. (Ex. 20)
18 Flee sexual immorality. (1 Cor. 6)
Adultery as you know needs a married person involved but sexual immorality is between unmarried people. Teaching your children God’s will and how to obey his will is the path to sexual purity.
Pledges, rings, and dances are just outward expressions of the heart if the heart is not being deceitful in this situation. Correct teaching and starting it at an early age is vital for the child to remain sexually pure until they are married.
Then God instructed the invading Israelites to destroy certain people because they practiced sexual habits and other sins that God found detestable. He does not want his people to learn those evil ways including sexual immorality.
17 Instead, you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, just as the Lord your God has commanded you, 18 so that they will not teach you to do all the same detestable practices of theirs which they have done for their gods, by which you would sin against the Lord your God. (Deut. 20)
To end this, we turn to some wise words one Dallas Theological Seminary professor told his son when the latter asked to hang out with non-Christian friends. He said-‘It was okay as long as his son was an influence on his friends and not the other way around’.
You can hang out with non-believers but make sure they do not teach you their sinful ways and that you are a proper Christian influence on them. You are the light unto a dark world and that light is cast when you practice biblical purity the right way.