What Comes After the Purity Culture Reckoning

"We don’t need a better guidebook or a different set of rules. We need to change the way we approach the conversation." - C.Today

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Ed Vasicek's picture

RACHEL JOY WELCHER had written a thought provoking article that offers some valid criticisms, but falls short of offering practical help for many teens. This is an article to get us thinking.

What she got right: Shallow, emotional decisions to maintain purity do not endure. The evangelical world needs to get over its addiction for decisions and needs to emphasize obedience and direction.

Such decisions can be made on the basis of false information and false promises.  Promising youth that, if they and their future spouse stay sexually pure, they will have an amazing sex life is fiction. Also, saying that those who have participated in premarital sex will always be handicapped is not necessarily true, either.  Amassing a quantity of reasons for staying pure may convince some, but the biggest reason boils down to one: obedience to God. You can mitigate the chances of pregnancy or STDs, for example.  And when young people see Christians who are unhappily married and lost people whose ethics were looser happily married (or happily shacking up), all of a sudden the reasons for purity have disintegrated, unless God is first in their lives.

What she gets right under certain conditions: If we had youth groups, for example, that studied the Life of Christ or Theology Proper, we might have youth groups that are much smaller than we now have (particularly if we expected kids to think). Not always. Some churches draw thinking people, but there are only so many who are willing to love God with the mind.  So that raises the old debate over outreach vs. developing believers via deep Bible study/discipleship.  We try to do both, but outreach brings in, in-depth teaching drives out.  

What she misses: We need concrete guidance. How far is too far?  What are some practical precautions? The older ARE to teach the younger, and we all need wisdom from other members of the Body. Sometimes what the older teach is incorrect, and sometimes wisdom from the Body of Christ is nothing more than parroting some party line.  And that, I think, is what happened. So we all need to be constantly reforming, as she advocates.  

Men do tend to be aroused more visually, which is part of the reason some Islamic cultures cover women so thoroughly.  But are men responsible for their choices? Yes.  And to put the whole burden on women is wrong.  Christians, however, should be cooperative in helping one another stay pure.

Young people do need specific guidance. Not all young people have sense, want sense, or how to apply concepts to particulars. They need other members of the Body of Christ to help them do this.

Focusing on Theology and God's Word is -- I agree -- the best medicine.  But not all young people, some of whom are genuinely saved -- can even pay attention enough to delve deeply.  Still others can barely read, etc.  Not everyone is upper-middle-classed from a decent family.

So is our only concern to help dedicated young people stay pure, or less-dedicated but professing believers too?  That is the question.

And what specific guidelines do we offer?  Wisdom, as in the Book of Proverbs, is specific. Nebulous direction isn't going to be helpful for most. Not everyone is bright.  I would never attend a church where you had to check your brains at the door. But some people need that kind of church, and the only way they grow is in such environments.  Again, not everyone is bright.

"The Midrash Detective"