A brief note about the title: the “you” here may not be you personally, and it’s not that the term “purity culture” doesn’t have its place. Rather, there are specific uses of this term that have put a dent in a speaker’s credibility for me and impeded their argument. In those moments, I’ve wished for the words to explain to them what I thought they were doing wrong. This post is my attempt to put together those words: first by explaining the origins of “purity culture,” leading into my understanding of its key traits, and then contrasting that against the kind of usage I see a problem with.
[Crossposted to Pillowfort.]
lol nothing like a little academic reading on “purity culture” to reopen some old baggage
[cn: conservative Christian talk, anti-ace stuff, discussion of rape (fictional and political)]
priest: *drops half the communion bread on the floor*
priest: *out loud, to the whole congregation* One of those moments when I’m glad I’m not Roman Catholic.
[cw: sex-normativity, misogyny, rape culture]
It is through sexual union that people feel closest to Christ. Not only does God reveal himself in sexual love, but, as one book poetically argues, the only way mortals can find Christ is in the marital act, which is the holiest of acts. In this sense, the marital union is seen as a profound prayer, as “no human activity gives more glory to man’s creator than the act by which man is permitted to share in creation.” […]
Husbands and wives are obligated to honor each other’s sexual needs for “it is God’s will that married people enjoy sexual relations.” Abstinence from sex is allowed only under specific conditions, by mutual agreement, and temporarily. […]
The two principal types of sexual maladjustment cited in the manuals are frigidity on the part of the wife and premature ejaculation on the part of the husband. According to one book, “sexual frigidity is without doubt the greatest sexual problem threatening contemporary marriages. It is not an exaggeration to say that the majority of modern wives are, in some degree, frigid!” These authors are pessimistic regarding the transformation of cold into passionate wives. “There are frigid women, many of them, and the most skilled lovers would be powerless to ‘cure’ them.”
Lionel S. Lewis and Dennis D. Brissett, “Sex as God’s Work”
Nothing to say here that I haven’t said already.
Thanks again to Kristiny for the link.
Contrary to popular misperceptions of fundamentalists, then, [James] Dobson does not see sex as a necessary evil. For Dobson, sexuality is our most primary energy. Whereas in Dare to Discipline, he castigates the “scientific experts” whose theories of child rearing led the nation to lose confidence in its heritage of biblical wisdom… Dobson idealizes and fights to preserve the modern family created by those scientific experts he loves to hate. But the point of his nostalgia was never historical accuracy. The point was discipline.
In large measure… this discipline is about maintaining middle-class status. Historian George Mosse has argued that the emergence of nationalism in the nineteenth century was intimately connected with white middle-class norms regarding respectable sexuality. Dobson cites Joseph Daniel Unwin… who frames the issues as quasi-mathematical law: a civilizations level of cultural attainment is inversely proportional to the openness of its sexual regulations regarding extramarital and premarital sex.
Drawing on Unwin, Dobson identifies sexuality as our deepest truth. It is the heart of personality: “Self-awareness begins with an understanding of our sexual identity… Everything we do is influenced by our gender assignment.” […] Whereas Freud presented the discipline that civilization exacts as a source of discontent, Dobson presents this discipline as true contentment. For the mechanism by which society effects sexual discipline (according to Dobson) is private property: having a mate, a family, and a home of one’s own.
Ann Burlein, Lift High the Cross, p.155-156
According to Leonardo Boff, what social analysis calls “structural poverty,” faith calls “structural sin,” and what social analysis calls “the private accumulation of wealth,” faith calls “the sin of selfishness.” Suffering exists because sin represents the root of all that is wrong with the world… For liberationists, sin is communal. All sins, even those committed by individuals, have communal ramifications. All too often, Eurocentric theology has made sin and its redemption personal. Sin becomes an act of commission or omission, while salvation from our sinfulness rests in a personal savior in the form of Jesus Christ. Conversion, however, is never personal but must extend to social transformation. What is missing for Eurocentric religious thought is the structural nature of sin. Oppression and poverty as expressions of sin are mostly caused by societal structures that are designed to enrich the few at the expense of the many.
–Miguel A. De La Torre, Liberation Theology for Armchair Theologians, p.54-55
I don’t like the tone of most of this book, but at least there’s this.
There is no mention of freedom for non-Jewish slaves. The point here is that when non-Jewish people (like many African-American women who now claim themselves to be economically enslaved) read the entire Hebrew testament from the point of view of the non-Hebrew slave, there is no clear indication that God is against their perpetual enslavement. Likewise, there is no clear opposition expressed in the Christian testament to the institution of slavery [itself]…. Womanist theologians, especially those who take their slave heritage seriously, are therefore led to question James Cone’s assumption that the African-American theologian can today make paradigmatic use of the Hebrew’s exodus and election experience as recorded in the Bible. Even though Cones sees that for the Hebrews “election is inseparable from the event of the exodus,” he does not see that non-Hebrew female slaves, especially those of African descent, are not on equal terms with the Hebrews and are not woven into this biblical story of election and exodus.
-Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness, p.146-147
You ever read a sentence you feel like you’ve been waiting for your whole life?
Before taking a look at Paul we must glance at a strange passage in a later epistle, namely, 1 Peter 2:13ff., which tells us to “be subject to the king as supreme” and to “honor the king.” Oddly, this passage has never given commentators any difficulty. As they see it, the matter is simple enough. The king was the Roman emperor. That is all. On this basis, then, sermons are preached on the obedience and submission of Christians to political authorities. Interestingly, in parallel Bibles there is usually a cross-reference to the saying of Jesus that we must render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. In fact, however, this whole line of exposition displays great ignorance regarding the political institutions of the period.
First, the head of the Roman state was then the princeps. This was the term for the emperor at the time when Christian texts were written. This period is known historically as the principate. The princeps was never called the king (Greek basileus). The title was formally forbidden in Rome.
–Jacques Ellul, Anarchy and Christianity, p.74-75
Picked up this book recently while getting a couple of others. After it arrived in the mail, I started flipping through it and immediately found enough racism to tell me I should take this book with a sack of salt, specifically a sack and not a grain so that there will be enough to form a circle and ward off the evil as I sift through this thing for anything novel or good. And while I haven’t found anything quite like I’d hoped for when I bought it, I did find this take on 1 Peter 2:13, which… is one I haven’t been exposed to before, at least.
The direction he goes with this is, um, not what I thought it’d be. He rules out that “king” could mean the Roman emperor, and then somehow he interprets this as meaning the author was talking about pledging loyalty to… a different nation that did have a monarchy? Dude, what? I… okay. Sure, I guess.
I forgot to tell y’all about this church sign I found that just says “EPIC FAIL?” over a stock photo of a man with his head in his hands.
This is a real thing that I passed on the road.