Church / Culture / Ministry / Sex & Marriage / July 27, 2013

Purity, Virginity, Guilt, Shame, and the Church

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Much has been written recently about the evangelical “purity culture.” Basically it is a culture that emphasizes sexual “purity” in two unhelpful ways. The first is to equate purity with virginity, something that can never be regained once it is lost. The second is to elevate sexual purity above all other aspects of purity of heart, thus creating a culture of guilt and shame.

Reams and volumes could be and have been devoted to this subject. It is timely and important, after all, in the sexualized and sexually active context in which we live. In the most recent episode of the podcast I co-host, “What Did They Say Now?”, we talk at length about this. It was a lively and honest conversation, and I would encourage you to listen. No matter where you stand in relation to the church’s stereotypical response to sexual sins I think you’ll get something out of it. Here are some of the thoughts we discuss:

Virginity and purity aren’t the same thing, and purity can be regained even when virginity is lost.

Virginity shouldn’t be the highest virtue or standard by which young women are judged nor the most defining aspect of their value. To do this creates an uncrossable chasm between those who have either made mistakes or been sexually victimized and the grace of God.

It’s no longer safe to assume that someone you are talking to in the church has a guiltless sexual past (if it ever was) and to do so alienates them and perpetuates shame. Sexual sin is not a minority, closeted thing; it effects a large percentage of people in the church. Better to acknowledge this and relate accordingly instead of keeping our heads in the sand as if our fellow Christians are a bunch of virginal saints.

The most significant need in overcoming the shame culture in the church, especially as it regards sex, is an embodiment and understanding of grace and forgiveness which emphasizes the reality of sin being removed. That’s what purity is, a removal of sin. Jesus didn’t die so the church could perpetuate the guilt of the sexually sinful. His death provides the removal of sin from us to Him and the gift of purity from Him to us.

So take a listen to the podcast. I think you’ll appreciate it; at the very least you’ll find some fodder for conversation or argument. You can find it at iTunes or if you don’t do that you can stream it here.

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