Is the purity culture pendulum swinging back to the middle (as it should)?
It’s Friday, the day when I usually publish a 400-word inspirational marriage piece (to counteract all the long pieces I run on other days! 🙂 ). But I have something important to say today, that will likely take more than 400 words. I hope you’ll bear with me.
I want to tell you a story.
When my daughter Rebecca was 13, I read the book I Kissed Dating Good-Bye by Joshua Harris. Josh was explaining how dating is really quite harmful–especially for a teenager. You’ll get your heart broken. You could easily go too far physically. And it’s irresponsible when you can’t settle down yet.
I didn’t agree with him initially at all, but by the second half he had won me over. I had had so many heartbreaks as a teenager, and I wanted to spare my daughters that.
Josh later wrote his book Boy Meets Girl about how courtship should be done. Basically, you don’t really ever “date”. You only start seeing someone when you’re seriously interested in pursuing marriage. And then there’s no touching until marriage. No kiss until the wedding. Not even real hand holding!
I couldn’t buy into that, but I did think that the general idea of courtship–that dating had to be going somewhere–was definitely a good one.
My first post that went viral on Pinterest was actually a post I wrote coming out of reading that book, called 7 Ways to Raise a Teen Who Won’t Date Too Young. My aim wasn’t to say that nobody should ever date–I differed from Josh there–I just didn’t believe that dating at 15 was a good idea.
Then something funny happened.
My girls started to grow up.
Even though they didn’t date when they were young teenagers, they still had normal crushes. They still experienced real heartbreak. The “not dating” rule didn’t stop that.
And even beyond that, at 16 and 17 my daughter Rebecca was really quite mature. In fact, she was absolutely ready to think seriously about somebody who could be in her future.
When she was 18, she started to attend a college & careers group at a town near us. She was asked out for coffee by several guys. She went out to dinner with a few. And it wasn’t a big deal at all. She was just getting to know them. In fact, it was rather healthy, because how could she know if she wanted to pursue a serious relationship with someone unless she first got to know them?
We also knew some people who did grow up in the courtship culture. They were waiting for the “right person” to come along, and they wouldn’t so much as talk to anyone of the opposite sex for fear it may tarnish them. I know of several kids who ended up dating someone, and then it got far too serious too quickly because they felt that if they didn’t get on the “marriage track” they’d be sinning. The purpose of dating, after all, is to marry, and if you don’t end up married, then you’ve only “dated”. And that’s bad.
And so I wrote a post reconsidering my original stance on dating. I’m more nuanced now. There isn’t one-path-fits-all, I don’t think.
For many kids, dating at 17 or 18 is a bad idea. They should wait, and wait until they’re in a position to get married. For others, it’s totally okay. I’m glad my girls didn’t date in high school, and I still support that as a general guideline. Just not a rule.
I think we’ve been making too many things rules without realizing that what may be a weakness/temptation for some is not for another. And one person may be ready to marry at 18 while another isn’t ready until 28!
There’s nothing wrong with waiting until your wedding to kiss if that’s what God called you to; but there’s nothing wrong with kissing before your wedding if God hasn’t called you to that. There’s nothing wrong with having coffee with different people; but there is something wrong with it if God has called you to wait.
Life shouldn’t be about rules; it should be about seeking God’s will for your own life.
I wrote about this in my post 10 Things That Scare Me About the Purity Culture, and I was blown away by the response to that. I think that those who preach radical purity may be the loudest, but they’re not the majority. Most of us do actually believe that purity is not about what we do with our bodies but about what Jesus did with His.
Yet far too many high profile pastors and bloggers are still preaching adamant rules about purity, modesty, and dating that can become prison cages. And what I’ve found so interesting and fascinating (as well as rather tragic) over the last few years is watching the people who have preached this stuff the loudest fall the hardest.
The Duggars. Bill Gothard (of the homeschooling movement, who taught radical purity, and whom the Duggars followed). Other high profile pastors, who taught a very conservative idea of family where fathers and church elders have all the power, have fallen because of abuse in their ranks. Doug Phillips, leader of Vision Forum which advocated “stay at home daughters” and a strong courtship model, reportedly had an extramarital affair and had to resign. C.J. Mahaney, who founded Sovereign Grace Ministries, had to step down both because of pride and because the ministry was accused of covering up sexual abuse in their ranks.
Those who put forward the purity movement are now largely in disgrace.
And one person who sat under the teaching, and then who made that teaching mainstream, is now having second thoughts as he has watched the leaders around him fall, and seen that rules can’t fix a person’s heart.
Josh Harris served under C.J. Mahaney, and witnessed all of this firsthand. And last year he announced that he was leaving the ministry and going to seminary. He wanted to figure all of this out for himself.
Well, a week or so ago there was a funny Twitter conversation going on where people were tweeting about the bad side of growing up in a fundamentalist household. And Josh Harris chimed in:
Then Elizabeth reached out to Josh, and they were both so gracious:
I just loved seeing this in real time! I later found a blog post talking about it, too, with more of the background of that Twitter conversation. (and I used their pics–my computer died so I couldn’t screen shot my own! But head over to read more background).
It seems like people are willing to talk to each other now, and see each other’s point of view, rather than saying that only one way is right.
I do think that teens should be discouraged from having serious relationships when they’re young. But I no longer believe in blanket rules. And I think that by preaching courtship so much we’ve hindered a whole generation of teens from knowing how to interact with the opposite sex.
I don’t have any wise words today. I feel more like a bystander, watching some pieces fall into place. The pendulum is swinging back, and I hope that it will find its rest in the middle, where dating is okay at the right time and place, and where we raise kids to first and foremost chase after Jesus rather than chase after rules. Because it’s only by chasing after Jesus that we’ll be able to figure out what God wants for our own lives–and that isn’t the same for each person.
What do you think? Did you read I Kissed Dating Good-bye or Boy Meets Girl? What effect did it have on you (or on your parenting?) Let me know in the comments!
What’s #1 at To Love, Honor and Vacuum?
This week we look at marriage, and more specifically, at husbands in the Tops. If there are issues going on between you and your husband or if you are looking for new ways to spark intimacy with your husband, this is the week for you. Check out what this week’s Tops have to share and how they speak into your marriage!
#1 NEW Post on the Blog: What Do You Do If Your Husband Is Unmotivated To Work?
#1 on the Blog Overall: Top 10 Tips For Initiating Sex With Your Husband
#3 from Facebook: 25 Marriage Tips
#3 from Pinterest: Is Masturbation In Marriage Wrong?
I’m doing a lot of work behind the scenes on the blog today so I’m not going to write much more! but I hope you have a great weekend–and for my fellow Canadians, have a great long weekend!