Category: Purity Culture

Give Me Sex, Jesus – Now Available

I first heard about the documentary Give Me Sex, Jesus a while ago when pretty early in production. It has now been released to the public for free on Vimeo, embedded below. I’ve found it to be a bit of a scattered presentation with one story or idea not really flowing into the next one, but it still has a lot of great stories and ideas to wrestle with nonetheless.

Favourite line is a sentiment I’ve heard elsewhere, when a young woman expressed what she learned about sex at church (she’s my favourite interview):

Sex is terrible and bad and sinful, so save it for somebody you really care about!

The Rape of Bathsheba

David is one of the most interesting characters in the Bible. He was chosen despite being the youngest and weakest of his brothers to be the next King. He defeated the giant Goliath. He survived Saul’s attempts to kill him while refusing opportunities to kill Saul. He becomes King and raises Israel to its greatest heights of power. He is referred to as a man after God’s own heart and is thought to have written many of the Psalms in our Bibles. He also made some pretty terrible mistakes.

Gender - Male and Female Gummy

The Attempted Rape of Joseph

I have heard the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife many times. Here’s the text for those unfamiliar:

39 When Joseph had been taken down to Egypt, Potiphar, Pharaoh’s chief officer, the commander of the royal guard and an Egyptian, purchased him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. 2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man and served in his Egyptian master’s household. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made everything he did successful. 4 Potiphar thought highly of Joseph, and Joseph became his assistant; he appointed Joseph head of his household and put everything he had under Joseph’s supervision. 5 From the time he appointed Joseph head of his household and of everything he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s household because of Joseph. The Lord blessed everything he had, both in the household and in the field. 6 So he handed over everything he had to Joseph and didn’t pay attention to anything except the food he ate.

Naked and Unashamed

The “Paradise” part of Genesis – chapters 1 and 2 before “The Fall” – concludes with this potent phrase:

25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

It’s really easy to skip over this verse, mainly because we have no idea what to do with it or how it is relevant. I find it interesting that the original design for humanity did not include clothing. We kind of assume clothing now, especially in a lot of segments of Christianity where sex was/is treated as – here’s that other word – shameful.

Naked

The fact that they were naked could be looked at in two ways. In the more specific case, sexuality was not something to be afraid of. They were created to be one flesh, and so they were, with nothing getting in the way. I had a housemate who had the tendency to occasionally go into questions that nobody else even thought of, and he went ahead a couple of times wondering whether we are supposed to be nudists. I wonder if it is like eating meat; the original design was for humans and animals to eat plants only and prophetic imagery of the completed Kingdom suggest the same will be true then.

Modesty = A Function of Context

Here’s a quick point that shouldn’t be ignored in discussions of modesty culture/purity culture/rape culture. The whole idea of modesty is always a function of culture. There are no absolute rules for “modest” vs “immodest.” Let me give a quick illustration that came up over lunch in the Bible Society office recently.

One member of the office had just spent a week in the Philippines. Some of the younger members of the team who had never been there before were told ahead of time that they had to be extremely modest by North American standards. Many wore shorts and jersey-style sleeveless tops anyway. Not bad at all here, except maybe in some of the most conservative churches, especially if we were to reach the mid-40’s Celsius and extremely humid that it was there. We generally in North America consider this forceful modesty to be oppressive.

Another member was at a conference in the Netherlands, staying in a hotel. Clothing was not allowed in the saunas. Clothing was not allowed after 8pm at the pool. It was not even that you were allowed to swim naked. If you wanted to be in the pool area, you had to be naked. And that isn’t particularly unusual in a lot of Europe. 

The Flip Side of Modesty Culture

I’ve recently done a few posts pointing out the problems of Purity Culture. There is an important caveat, though, and I’m thankful to this post at Rage Against the Minivan for bringing it up. In short, while a man must be held responsible for his thoughts and especially his actions, a way that a woman dresses can indeed cause some confusion. A woman doesn’t cause him to sin, no, but can definitely cause some confusion. And of course it works for the genders reversed as well, but we usually talk about it in this direction. Some are disagreeing with this, saying that it still is defending the problems of purity culture. Personally I agree with the author but obviously you should consider it for yourself.

Before I unpack that some more, here’s the kind of thing in comedic form that we’re talking about:

In other words, a person goes out of their way to draw attention to their body. Somebody else notices. That person doesn’t initiate any touch, doesn’t stare or make crude faces, doesn’t make inappropriate sexual advances, just is simply caught noticing. The first person gets upset over it.

Defining Lust

Chocolate lust. Double the vice.

Along with a lot of other “progressive” Christian bloggers, Amy Mitchell of Unchained Faith has weighed in on purity culture. I share this one here particularly because it gets to a serious matter of biblical interpretation which fuels a lot of the harmful purity culture rhetoric in our churches. Here’s the passage at play:

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e]28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)

The Greatest Gift

Note: This is a guest post

Let me begin by saying, I think Ravi Zacharias is an upstanding guy – a person with a lot of God-given wisdom, who has shared the gospel in inspirational ways. So not surprisingly, as I was recently reading a book of his, I, Isaac, take Thee, Rebekah, I came across many convicting and important truths – the importance of selflessness and kindness in relationship, and the decision to love in a society that encourages us to leave if we’re not really feeling it. The first three chapters resonated with me and taught me a lot.

I reached the fourth chapter. Within a few paragraphs, I became overwhelmed by the rejected cries of the many many women at the well. I actually had to put the book down, and that doesn’t often happen to me when I’m reading. This was the sentence that got to me:

“In giving oneself in marriage, there are few gifts a single unwedded person can give his or her partner that are more sacred than the gift of purity.”

Gender - Male and Female Gummy

My First Blatant Encounter with the Problem of Purity Culture

Seen these visible reminders of the obsession with sex in some church cultures?

Like many other oblivious young men in the evangelical church, I never considered that there was anything potentially wrong about purity culture until I was about 20. I had consistently – not as obsessively as in many churches, but consistently – been told about the perils of sex before marriage or even being significantly attracted to someone (called “lust”) before marriage. As a teenager I started hearing bits and pieces about how the Christian women in my life could help us out by how they dress. That sounded pretty good to me; who doesn’t want help in not sinning? I never really thought of it as blaming women, just encouraging them to help us out. And since all of these conversations happened divided by gender, and I didn’t have a lot of female friends anyway, I didn’t ever hear feedback from women and just assumed that they were generally happy to help us out.

Gender - Male and Female Gummy

Justice, Simplicity and Legalism

This should be my shortest blog of my series on A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Some of the topic was already touched on in the previous chapter on Sex and Beauty. In the chapter, Rachel investigates the idea of modesty. The key ideas she goes on to discuss are that modesty is encouraged in Scripture as a check against materialism, not against sexuality, and that both Jewish and Anabaptist/Quaker traditions prefer to emphasize simplicity and not modesty in and of itself.

Anti-Materialism

Rachel makes a great point when it comes to how Scripture speaks about modesty. When people – both women and men – are cautioned to be modest throughout Scripture, it is almost always because of the implications of wearing extravagant clothes. Usually this means jewellery, which to this day is still typically a sign of wealth. Jewellery’s primary purpose, unfortunately, is often to prove yourself as better off than somebody else, and most of the time, that jewellery would not exist if not for unethical business practices such as most diamond mines. Many of the world’s largest clothing manufacturers also rely on child labour in third-world countries to be able to sell cheaply. So if you really want to live by the spirit of the biblical law, investigate where your goods are coming from and choose only those who have business practices which honour the humanity of everyone involved in the process.