Purity Culture: What is the harm

The Hippocratic oath says in part, “do no harm’. This is one of the reasons why doctors and hospitals order expensive tests or place patients on life support that end up costing the patient or their families hundreds of thousands of dollars.


This example provides a very good lesson in the subjectivity of the words do no harm. While the doctors, etc., are trying to keep the patient alive they do not realize that they are causing financial harm to those families.


These professionals do not look at the word harm in all of its contexts and end up violating their oaths. They are causing harm in one sense although, in their minds, it is not a medical harm so they feel fine about ordering those procedures.


When Christians see the words in 1 Thess. 4:3, the basis for most purity cultures,


For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexualimmorality;
They create rules, gimmicks, and odd phrases to help keep their young people from sinning and going against the will of God. They do not see that those rules, gimmicks, etc., are doing some harm to the very ones they are trying to protect.
Part of the problem is that many church leaders and parents, see only a part of what scripture is saying, just like the medical professionals do, and act according to their own understanding.
They fail to see that there are other scriptures in the Bible that will help them understand what Paul was meaning when he wrote those words. One verse that helps church leaders is found in Proverbs 23:23 and it states:
‘Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
By getting to the truth of 1 Thess. 4:3 we can learn how to teach our children to do the will of God and give them the tools needed to avoid sexual immorality without bringing harm to them.
However, some people are lazy and only stop at the verses mentioning sexual immorality and use those verses as a sledge hammer to force their children to obey God. They offer no real teaching, no real instruction nor any wisdom. They usually go with ‘do as I say…’ and end the discussion right there.
It is understandable why young adults feel that they have been harmed by the purity culture.
#1. The harm that comes
We have done some research on this issue and in a simple search we came up with far more material than we can use. Fortunately, most of those websites all refer to the same issues and describing them as harm to the people subject to the purity culture.
One of the main issues that we found is that many of these issues were brought on by the assumptions and leaps to conclusions of those teenagers and young adults.
Not all, but many just came to the conclusion through the instruction they received that their bodies were bad and could not be trusted. However, what they failed to see is that God gave them that body and they should not reject it nor not trust it.
They are to take care of it through proper diet, exercise and to avoid sexual immorality as well as other sins. As 1 Cor. 6:13 says:
The Body is for the Lord and the Lord for the Body”
This is not a guilt trip being placed on anyone here as those words apply to both men and women. Women are not being singled out in this article. These words should show the person struggling with sexual issues that they are not mere objects but have something that is important to God.
Unfortunately, those leaps to conclusions and assumptions overwhelm men and women and lead them to lose their faith or think less of themselves. They come to thoughts like:
– Purity culture taught me shame. (1)
– Purity culture taught me to think negatively about sex.(1)
– purity culture is twisted, dangerous and offensive (2)
– someone’s worth being tied to their virginity, (2)
– those who have had sex are somehow ‘damaged goods’.(2)
– This culture tells women that their bodies aren’t really theirs;(3)
– bodies are only bargaining chips,(3)
– Women aren’t inherently valuable (3)
These are only some of the ‘harm’ opponents to purity culture have listed in their different articles. we are not going to deny that men and women think this way, we will just say that they have come to the wrong conclusion because they do not understand scripture very well.
If there is some real harm that purity culture has done is they have spiritually harmed those they teach these ideas to. They have not provided solid biblical teaching that helps young adults navigate through this sexualized culture.
Nor has it helped the young people understand God’s intention for sex and love very well. The evidence for those remarks is very clear and undeniable. However, we will disagree that God and Christianity are at fault.
#2. They Blame God or their Religion
One article that we read, came out very clearly in this issue as did most of the articles we read. They all blamed conservative Christian faiths and denominations for the harm done to them. Some young  people did the same:
Smart, who was kidnapped and held for months while her captor repeatedly raped her, recently discussed how her religious background made her feel worthless after the first rape (3)
Purity culture has become central to many fundamental and evangelical Christian movements, (2)
The church told me to be chaste, and that my body could be either a weapon or a stumbling block.(1)
But if you look at all the verses talking about sexual immorality, not one shames the person, not one over rules God’s grace when you fail, and not one is making anyone feel worthless.
Yet these people and purity culture opponents blame God rather than the real source for their struggles.
Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Cor. 6:18
The people who do sexual immorality do so because of their own desires. They have stopped thinking about God and his will and started to think about their own.
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior Gal. 5:19
It is the secular world that helps lead people astray and puts pressure on them. The leader of the secular world is evil yet no one blames evil for their harmful assumptions etc., or the source of their struggles with sexual purity.
They blame God, their religious faith, their parents but not the source of sin. The secular world is full of false teaching about love and sex. You just have to watch t.v. or the movies to see the extent of that influence. Not to mention all the magazines, internet ads and so on.
Those sources do not come from God. Then the men and women in the church who are not fully sanctified or struggle in the area of sex or let their lusts control their words and actions that do the harm.
Those people are not following God but giving in to the temptations that seek to harm their spiritual lives. Don’t blame God for he is not the source of sin nor is he the source of those assumptions or bad leaps to conclusions.
God has provided instructions to help you get through these struggles
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil. 4:8
The solutions are very clear– stop reading those magazines that lead you to think incorrectly, stop watching t.v. shows and movies that promote sex and a false idea of love.
Walking in the counsel of the ungodly leads you to those ‘harms’ everyone places on purity culture. if you are using the unbelieving world as your standard for holiness or the right way to do things, then you will be led to the wrong view of what God wants from his followers.
You end up losing your faith and accusing God of things he never did. You also end up losing the very source that can protect you from sexual sins. The world and many of the purity culture opponents we read all try to lead Christians away from God’s will and into a sinful life.
Thus we must ask, which is worse, the alleged harms that come from purity culture or the harm that will come from living a sinful life? It is easy to blame God and Christianity, everyone does it at one time or another.
It is another thing to point the finger at yourself and see where the real source of the harm comes from. Yes, there are issues with purity culture but God is not the source of those issues either. But it is not totally at fault.
I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence, she said (3)
The bold is ours and is intended to highlight what we just said.
#3. No Biblical support
This is another thing that we noticed in the arguments against purity culture and the claims it does harm. Not one person wrote one bible verse or pointed to one passage of scripture that shows that abstinence or no sex outside of marriage made one person feel worthless, like an object, or that they should feel negatively towards sex.
The Bible teaches us that following God’s will is the path to being holy and God is not worthless, damaged goods, or feels like an object. Nor did Jesus feel those things as he practiced abstinence throughout his life.
He faced the same things you do and he overcame them with the proper use of scripture. Yet, those who oppose abstinence and no sex outside of marriage concoct different ‘harms’ to say that abstinence is wrong and damaging to people.
When you obey God you do get rewarded but those rewards may not be what you have in mind. They will be what God knows is best for you and your witness or testimony.
Some people are called to be single and that call should be accepted but f you can’t wait until marriage to have sex that way you do not bring sin into your married life.
#4. Some quotes to deal with
We did come across some quotes that should be addressed  and here are some of them:
Men get passes, women get reputations, and real, lasting humiliation travels only one way.” (3)
Not necessarily true. Men like the fictional Sam Malone of Cheers may have been idolized but that was from other men who failed to see the beauty of being married to one woman.
There have been many articles in the real world about men claiming to have slept with thousands of women as if that was some grand prize. All they ended up with was a number and missed out on real love and happiness.
They also ended up with a reputation. They are usually called womanizers or playboys and those titles bring a negative reputation not a positive one. The men we know do not approve of such treatment of women.
Women are not responsible for men’s actions. Men are not mindless bags of hormones and they are able to control themselves. (1)
While we have dealt with this in another article, it should be repeated. Women, you cannot go around naked, half-naked, or dressed very simply and be blameless. If you willfully display your body in an erotic manner then yes, you are helping men make the wrong decisions.
Men, the same applies to you. Help stop people from sinning by dressing modestly.
I’m not comfortable with someone’s worth being tied to their virginity, or the implication that those who have had sex are somehow ‘damaged goods’. (2)
That author may not like it but one, most people’s worth is not tied to their virginity. The only people who do that are those who do not respect the other person nor who they are, their talents, and characteristics.
God certainly does not tie a person’s value to their virginity. He is trying to keep their value by telling them not to be sexually immoral. Then, spiritually, both men and women are damaged goods if they practice sexual immorality and do not honestly repent of their ways.
They cannot make an impact for Christ when living by the world’s rules or practices.
Abstinence education routinely teaches young women that they need to control the brakes of sexual responsibility, putting a halt to the men who only know how to accelerate (3)
This may be so but in reality, men are charged to be holy long before they reach the age of puberty. Everyone is told by God through the Bible how to live and it is each person’s choice to obey or disobey God no matter their age.
Men are to look after themselves and not blame women for their decisions and vice versa.
Some final words
Yes, there are problems within the purity culture. Yet, those harms are not inflicted by God but by a variety of sources and influences. Identify those sources and then look to God to find out how to deal with them his way.
Do not blame God for your problems with sex in marriage. Blame yourself for not taking the time to deal with them with the aid of godly people who understand what God is saying when he says ‘avoid sexual immorality.
God is not stopping you from having sex or enjoying it. He is telling you how to have it better. When you apply 1 Cor. 13 and other key passages to your sex life it should be even more enjoyable.
The key is to not blindly believe everything you are told. As the Bereans did, search the scriptures with God’s help to make sure you are being told the truth.
Then if you are not, take the right steps to ignore those false teachings and look to get the truth in your life.
There is one article we did not quote from. We liked it and feel it will help fill in any blanks we did not cover in this series. You can read it at this link. The key is to obey God over man when the latter is telling you to sin against God and do what is wrong.
Purity is the best policy as it helps hold your marriage together and shows that you can be trusted. But if you have failed, there is always God’s grace and forgiveness to see you through those trials.
Some men and women may not be so forgiving, and when that happens move on to someone who is. There is no reason to let yourself be harmed by those who do not grasp scripture very well.

2 thoughts on “Purity Culture: What is the harm

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