Elizabeth Smart and the Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture

Many of you have emailed me pointing to the remarks of kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart, who recently spoke at a Johns Hopkins University human trafficking forum. Rachel has a post up right now about Elizabeth's presentation.

Reflecting on her experience of rape by her abductor, and on why many victims stay with their abusers, Elizabeth made a connection with the Christian purity culture. Specifically, Elizabeth noted that, because of the sexual abuse she endured, she “felt so dirty and so filthy,” ruining her for the rest of her life. Such feelings create an inhibition to return to the world where you will be marked and known as "damaged goods." Who would want you--who would marry you--if you escaped or left?

In making this connection Elizabeth describes hearing a lecture as a young person on abstinence where sex was compared to chewing gum. From the Christian Science Monitor article:
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I'm that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.' And that's how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value," Smart said. "Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value."
Again, many of you have pointed me to Elizabeth's remarks because in my book Unclean I give some psychological insight as to how the Christian purity culture produces this experience of "damaged goods." And the analysis in Unclean also provides a start on answering Rachel's question at the end of her post:
So what’s the alternative? How can we teach young people to value the sacredness of sex and the importance of responsibility without resorting to shame-based, fear-based tactics? 
As I argue in Unclean, I think the first step here is attending to how we metaphorically frame sexual sin, particularly for females. I recently summarized all this in a recent post.
Why is the Christian purity culture so toxic and shaming? Where does the feeling of "damaged goods" come from? Why do females carry the weight of this experience more than males?

And what might we do to change all this?

The answers have to do with the psychology of purity.

At root, purity is a food-attribution system, a suite of psychological processes that help us make judgments about whether or not it is safe or healthy to eat something.

One aspect of purity psychology is how we make contamination appraisals. The psychologist Paul Rozin has been a pioneer in naming and describing these appraisals. And one of these appraisals is the judgment of permanence.

To illustrate this Rozin will put, say, a cockroach in a glass of juice and swish it around. He then removes the bug and offers the juice for participants to drink. They, of course, refuse. That's to be expected. But then the interesting part of the experiment begins. Rozin goes on to sterilize the juice in front of the watching participant. He then makes another offer. Participants continue to refuse. This despite knowing, at a rational level, that the juice has been sanitized. So why refuse? Because at the affective level a judgment of contamination continues to dominate. The juice is judged as unclean. Despite all efforts to purify, sanitize, or rehabilitate.

Rozin's demo illustrates the attribution of permanence, which is a key part of purity psychology. The judgment appears to be "once contaminated, always contaminated." The implication here is that contamination--a loss of purity--is a catastrophic judgment creating a state that cannot be rehabilitated. The foodstuff is, as we say, ruined. And if ruined it's only fit for the trash.

As I discuss in Unclean, what happens when we structure parts of our moral experience with the metaphor of purity is that we import the psychology of contamination into our moral and spiritual lives. That is, we start to use the attribution of permanence (along with other purity appraisals I talk about in Unclean) when thinking about moral failure and sin. A loss of purity is understood to be permanent and is unable to be rehabilitated because, well, that's the way purity works.

Now what is peculiar about all this is that we use the purity metaphor in an uneven manner. Most sins don't get the purity metaphor. True, generally understood sin is understood to be a purity violation. But particular sins aren't typically viewed as a purity issue. Most sins are framed, metaphorically, as mistakes or errors, as performance failures. Another common metaphor here is sin as a form of stumbling or falling. What is important to note about these metaphors--performance failures and stumbling--is that these metaphors aren't catastrophic in nature. That is, they can be easily rehabilitated. If you make a mistake you try again. If you stumble and fall you get back up. Inherent in the logic of the metaphor is an obvious route to rehabilitation.

But not so with the purity metaphor. When the sin is framed as a purity violation the damage that is done is total and unable to be rehabilitated. A purity violation creates a state of irreversible ruin.

And with that in mind let's ask ourselves, what sin categories are almost exclusively regulated by purity metaphors in our churches?

Answer: sexual sins, the loss of virginity in particular.

Think about it. I bet most of us would say that the sin most Americans are guility of is materialism. I bet most of us would even say that materialism is the sin most killing the church. And yet, when did you ever hear a talk about "materialism purity"? Beyond never hearing such a talk, the phrase "materialism purity" just sounds weird. And try tacking "purity" onto any other sin. Fill in the blank: "__________ purity." Can you think of any sin--except "sexual purity"--that works in the blank, that doesn't sound weird when framed as a purity violation?

The point is, we treat sexual sins and the loss of virginity very differently from other sins, as a class of sin unto itself. And how do we make that happen? We accomplish this by framing these sins almost exclusively with purity metaphors. And in doing so we recruit a psychological system built upon a food-aversion system, a system driven by disgust, revulsion, and nausea. But instead of directing these feelings toward food we are now directing the feelings of disgust, revulsion and nausea toward human beings. More, we teach our children to internalize and direct these feelings toward themselves.

And I think we can sharpen this point even more.

Based upon my experience, I would argue that male sexual sin isn't generally framed as a purity violation. The loss of male virginity still gets the performance failure metaphor. If a boy losses his virginity it's a mistake, a stumbling. Consequently, this is something he can easily rehabilitate. He's not damaged goods. He can simply resolve to do better going forward. How is this so easy for him? Because his sexuality is being regulated by a performance metaphor.

By contrast, and this is the heart of of the matter, the loss of female virginity is almost exclusively regulated by the purity metaphor. For females the loss of virginity is a bit more than a performance failure. It's a loss of purity that, because of the way purity works, is catastrophic and beyond rehabilitation. And because of this she's got no way to move forward, metaphorically speaking. The game's over. And thus she reaches the only conclusion the purity metaphor makes available to her: She's damaged goods. And all the emotions related to that judgment of contamination rush forward as she internalizes all the shame, disgust, revulsion and nausea.

This is the psychology that makes the Christian purity culture so toxic.

But this analysis also suggests a way forward, a way to attenuate the damage done by purity cultures by consciously attending to the way we metaphorically frame sexuality for both men and women.
Be sure to check out the Elizabeth Smart Foundation.

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122 thoughts on “Elizabeth Smart and the Psychology of the Christian Purity Culture”

  1. Oh thank you a million times over! As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and 2 rapes as an adult, this is the best explanation I have ever seen or heard. The only addition I would make is that in the case of rape/abuse victims we are being judged not by something we did or chose, but by something done TO us -- against our will. And how can we be held accountable for another person's sin against us?

  2. Thanks Melanie. Great additional point. This post is just a small window into a particular part of the experience, that feeling of catastrophic and irreversible ruin. The psychology of blame attribution is another huge, huge piece.

  3. If purity is about taking things into the body (as in the case of food), then this explains why both straight female sexuality and gay male sexuality are often framed as purity violations (while straight male sexuality is not).

  4. Men get raped too. trust me, they feel damaged and violated just as much or more and they can't even say it in church. At least my women friends can proclaim their victim-hood Men can't unless they want to be viewed with utter disgust by all.

  5. I agree, I think a lot of this has to do with the role of penetration in the male sexual psyche.

  6. Thank you for raising that very important point. Couldn't agree more. I'm in a prison every Monday where this is a particular issue.

  7. So assuming I agree with what you are saying here (and I am pretty sure I do), what would you say about 1 Corinthians 6:18, which talks about how all other sins are outside the body, but that sexual immorality is a sin against our own body?

  8. This is a great post. I've often wondered why we put sins in categories, i.e., big ones, small ones, etc. But we even have other categories that label certain ones as socially acceptable and some that aren't. I grew up in a conservative Christian environment where divorce was taboo, then it happened to me, and I immediately felt like 'damaged goods'. That sense profoundly affected my self-worth and even my behavior for many years. I can easily see how losing one's virginity before marriage can cause similar feelings. Do we believe that God can restore us? (As in Is. 1:18) How do we convey that belief?

  9. Professor Beck,

    One of things I found interesting in Unclean (one of many things) was this idea of purity having an attribute of permanence because in the Jewish biblical tradition there are many "Purity" violations but each one comes with it's own methodology for reversal. It is expected that you should attempt to avoid becoming impure but also accepted that this isn't really possible while living life and so the society as a whole provides mechanisms for ritual cleansing. It seems like this was something that got lost in translation and created expectations that can't be met by human beings

  10. I think it goes to the point in the post about sins being general versus particular locations of contamination. When every sin is a purity violation, and every sin has the same cleansing rituals, you don't have the unevenness I'm talking about in the post. And when we are dealing with sins in this general manner the experience is more abstract and less visceral.

  11. You can frame it as a harm rather than a purity issue. Sexual sins might not have a clear location of harm (given the pleasure experienced) so Paul could be read as making the body the locus of harm.

  12. Professor Beck --

    I'll admit guilt in sharing this feeling (although unspoken) in regards to the opposite sex. And, knowing other guys, I know it isn't uncommon.

    So I'm cranking up the self-awareness to connect to the underlying thoughts.

    Firstly, I suppose we can blame God a bit for this by giving women a physical indicator of virginity (hymen). "I popped her cherry" is a measure of pride for many men. I suppose that is what is meant by talk of "can't un-chew a piece of gum." Beyond that, I think any other feelings in this regard stem from feelings (or fears) of inadequacy. None of us men are terribly excited to hear that our wife's (or whomever's) last sex partner outperformed us in regards to longevity, frequency, endowment, or any other marker by which us men may determine our potency.

    And yet as I type this out it seems shallow, immature, selfish, and self-obsessed. Which, ironically, it is. But I think I've fairly summarized why men would attempt to impose shame on women for losing their virginity -- because if we don't, then we have to suffer some feelings of emasculation.

  13. I can tell you first hand that God can restore purity, and yes, He can even restore virginity. He did that for me, and I cannot explain it. He created us, after all. He created virginity in the first place, and He can also recreate it.

  14. We, as a culture need to stop making these crimes about the victim. Yes, support them and help them heal, but let's keep the focus on the real problem, the perpetrator. They are the one who has done wrong, they are the one with the problem, and they are the one that needs to feel the intense repercussions of their actions.

  15. Found out about your blog and book due to someone linking to this post. Might have to check out Unclean.

    All the purity teaching I had as a twelve to fourteen-year-old was pretty negative for me. XD My parents didn't even condone it really, but they didn't know that people would teach me about how my virginity "was my single most valuable gift" at evangelical youth events. Objectifying much?

    It's horrible someone would compare a human being to chewed up gum. :(

    Sadly, this kind of thing was rampant where I grew up. They even had a billboard proclaiming "Chastity!" I don't know who put that up, but yeah... It was up for years. XD Not that I found that offensive. It just illustrates the culture of the area. :P

  16. I learned after counseling with John Lewis Lund that virtue and virginity are two separate things completely. After sufferring at the hands of multiple abusers, which a girl or boy suffer, and it is not their responsibilities to feel the guilties for loss of virginity, VIRTUE is still attainable. This understanding would lead one back on the right oath, to free his or herself of the feelings of self loathing. Acceptance by Christ and others should be tsught especially to these special children or adults after living through these horrendous circumstances. Glad I never heard of the dirty gum falsehood. Though I did hear some other falsehoods, by well meaning seminary teachers.

  17. There is an essential element missing from Richard Beck's analysis that resolves some of the contradictions that he points to:

    Purity is not a purpose in itself. It's about control, especially the control of women but also of subordinate males.

  18. Keep in mind also that, while the hymen may be an easily accessible symbol of virginity, it's not a terribly accurate one, biologically. Many women are born without a hymen, or with a very small one, and, since it is a pretty delicate bit of tissue anyway, it can be torn by many activities other than sex.

  19. This article and these comments are so wonderful to read. As a victim of abuse as a very young teen, I was very aware of talk about sex, chastity and virginity in church. I was constantly bombarded with these ideas that because I'd had sex, despite my unwillingness, I was unclean and ruined. Sadly, when I was finally ready to begin dating 7 years later, most of the faithful church-going young men I had wanted to date couldn't get past what had happened to me because of their ideas about sin, and helped perpetuate my feelings of being broken and vile. In truth, some just didn't see me as a victim, but many of them didn't seem to understand that I was, and always had been, chaste. I currently work with at-risk youth, particularly younger teen girls, and even outside of Christianity this idea of virginal purity has a strong hold. Many young girls who run away from terrible home lives and become prostitutes often stay with or return to their pimp because when given the opportunity to leave, they are confronted with this idea that they cannot ever again be clean or worth anything; nobody else could ever love them after what they have done. They are told to their face by their abusers, as well as people who just don't understand, that they are disgusting, worthless "creatures" (de-humanizing them). Even the girls who have looked to God for help often find his followers, while they may not verbalize it, feel the same way. This was an eloquent, logical way of talking about our ideas on purity and I am so glad to have come across it. Professor Beck, you've written something wonderful here!

  20. We've got to begin to connect the dots, as well, between the kind of rigid gender essentialism that undergirds purity culture and notions of "biblical" womanhood/manhood alike. We can't undo the harms of this culture without also addressing all the other ways that we silence and oppress women in our churches. There are so many facets to address--starting with pink Princess Bibles and on to youth group lessons on sexual purity and on and on into teachings on hierarchical 'complementarianism.' It's all of a piece...

    Thanks for this post, Richard. As always I am struck by the overlap in our research interests here--as purity operates, more or less, as the categorical opposite of hybridity and all things 'cyborg.'

  21. This is very interesting and I'm glad it is being addressed! Although, I feel like I (at least sort of) know the resolution because I feel like I have found it... I got pregnant as a high school-er and had my son when I was 16. I have always been part of the Christian church and continued on as part of it afterward, raising my son in the church. People knew about my impurity just by asking me how old I was and looking at my son... Duh! She had her son when she was 16 and not married! Whereas I could take that as having a stained life and feeling like I was walking around with a big sign that says "I'm impure," what I found was forgiveness, acceptance, and freedom. The Christians around me, instead of saying "wow, you've been sexually impure", said "God loves you no matter what your sin is. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and God wants to redeem your situation." And he did, I asked him to forgive me and make me clean, and I am. Now, 7 years after I had my son, God has brought a wonderful, strong Christian man into my life who looks at me like God looks at me, as forgiven and clean and pure, and we are now married and expecting our first child together! Redemption is available to anyone who is willing to repent of sin, or just come before God (if it wasn't your fault, in the case of rape) and say "God, if you will, you can make me clean", his answer is always "I will." Now, when people say "Wow! You look so young to have a child that age!" I smile and say, "I AM young! Let me tell you about it..." and it's a great chance to share about the way God redeems our lives from sin and makes it something beautiful.

  22. Yes--one "biblical" model (OT style) would be to steep us so deeply in the language of impurity, and to get us so accustomed to the mechanisms of purification, that the psychology of permanence simply isn't part of our culture any more. I think when Peter's vision said "Do not call unclean what God has made clean," Peter may have actually benefited from having lived in a culture where purifying--making something unclean into something clean by the power of God--was an experience that EVERYONE went through on a regular basis.

  23. Yes--oddly enough, my own Christian upbringing has been healthy enough that my reaction to someone like Elizabeth Smart is the extra care/ closeness we feel for someone who has been harmed, rather than the decreased care/ closeness we feel for someone who has been soiled.

    This extra care/ closeness can even extend to the sinner who has harmed himself--if your kid does something disobedient which gets him dirty you might well say, "I'm not going to touch you until you clean the dirt up," but if your kid does something disobedient which harms himself you would never say, "I'm not going to touch you until you clean the blood up." An awareness of sexual sin as self-harming seems to me to be extremely helpful in a way that purity/ avoidance is not.

  24. Thanks for the response. That makes me think about sexual addiction, but also the difficulties that improperly/unhealthily expressed sexuality can cause in our lives. I think harm/health is a much more useful way of thinking about sin.

  25. Very much enjoyed this article. And no matter which side of god the comments took, it still seems to be masculine biased. A woman can repent, and seek God's "forgiveness," and guys just keep it private, and personal (evidently.) I haven't read of any public confessions, and repentance seeking from guys who've had a one night stand - which was explored somewhat in the article.
    Churches run the gamut from being "sin conscious" to the notion that the "blood of Christ" is so efficacious that one needs no real moral boundaries at all. These kinds of convolutions make me happy and proud to be Pagan.

  26. It is crazy how true of a problem this is...and problem may not be the right word, but **I am still a virgin** and I STILL feel like a dirty old used rag because of this Christian purity deal. Why have people vilified/demonized girls and women this way? Why are our mistakes more than mistakes while men's mistakes are simply mistakes? And often enough, the times when we "good girls" end up as "dirty rags" are not times we CHOSE to engage in any activities. We're coerced, pressured, assaulted...and we're the ones who get the flak. We feel powerless to resist (why is that?!) and we are taken advantage of, and it makes us "damaged goods" that no one wants. It seems like guys wants to date a girl who will fool around, but they want to MARRY a girl who has NEVER fooled around or made mistakes. How does that make a "good girl" who has only ever wanted to save her purity for marriage feel? But then I also wonder, who is even left who has never made or been forced into a purity-related mistake?

    In light of what I've stated, let me say that I really appreciate your post. To know that a man understands my indignation is such a huge relief, to the point that I just want to weep. Thank you.

  27. I am so glad this has been your experience. It is definitely not everyone's. Praise the Lord that your church responded to you in what I would consider a more Christian way than the persecution and repulsion that other women experience.

  28. YES. the language of "sexual purity" connotes all sorts of ancillary messages about people--and sex itself--as dirty and defiled. this is a fabulous and needed takedown of the sloppy ways we frame our sexuality narratives.

  29. The Southern baptists do actually frame male sexual sin as a purity violation. I went to many, many large conferences where men that had "given it up" were labeled damaged goods by the speaker up front, and the women of the audience were told to not stoop to the level of marrying them, even if they had been some how able to keep their pants on since then. Because, as they explained, any man that has eaten of the forbidden fruit is not strong enough to ever resist its temptation again. I wish I was making this up or paraphrasing. I was often turned down for dates just because someone heard part of my testimony of not growing up in church and leading a "wild life" and assumed that meant I was "damaged goods".

  30. I hope this comment doesn't minimize in any way the focus on personal purity.

    The thought that comes into my mind with this psychology of contamination and permanence is the amount of waste this creates. In the realm of sexual purity, what is wasted is usually a human being, especially a female human being. What a tragedy.

    All around us we witness that nature relies on processes that clean and purify any contaminated system. Nature's ability to restore is amazing.

    Our tradition in water management came to mind. An amazing amount of the water we use ends up in the sewer (waste water collection system). Much of it had no exposure to contaminates between the spout and the drain. Still, our practice is to get our water from the river BEFORE it enters town and dump it back in the river (hopefully after treatment) as it leaves town. One city, realizing it would tap out all its water rights (every drop of water west of the 100th meridian is already "owned" by someone) and was still growing, did something different. The first part was the same, water was taken from the river before town, treated and returned to the river. They discovered that 10 miles below the city, the water was just as pure as where they took it above the city. Their solution was to take the water that had been treated by science and nature and recirculate it back up the geography and put it through the city water system as potable water again.

    Citizens went ballistic! The psychology that this was water they had flushed down their toilets was overpowering. There was protest and there were legal battles. After the political reality check and a passage of time, the city, very quietly, completed the system. Nobody died. Nobody got sick. Nobody even noticed.

    Abuse leaves physical, psychological and emotional scars. I can't imagine the burden of Elizabeth Smart when most people she is introduced to will immediately remember, "this was the girl abducted in Salt Lake City". Physical damage is the easiest to recognize and treat. Psychological and emotional damage require skilled therapy, patience and an amazing amount of a specific kind of love (agape). Healing requires action on the part of the victim, but also on the part of the witness. Experience predisposes us to look for any apparent contamination. If we reject the victim, we join hands with the perpetrator repeating to some degree their violation. We also create or reveal a chink in the armor of our emotional and psychological immune system as we participate in and become subject in some way to the same disease.

    I traveled thousands of miles and stayed in thousands of hotel rooms during my career. I volunteer now in the Emergency Room at the local hospital. I am a chronic pain patient. I do not get sick. I have a reserve of immunity to pain I can share with patients to comfort them. When we focus on eradicating every potential threat, our ability to deal with the threat is compromised.

    People who impugn permanent contamination on those who have experienced sexual predation or even chosen promiscuity are revealing a contamination they already carry. The noble response is that of the doctors in Camus "The Plague", we join in the celebration of their health and beauty and become partners with them to accomplish it.

  31. I agree. The CULTURE is a problem, with emphasis to the permanence part. This idea of permanence contradicts Christianity's belief in the atonement which allows people to pardon sins that have been committed. With the atonement there are no permanent sins and as such there should be no damaged goods. This is definitely an area where Christians as a whole should align their personal beliefs to their religious beliefs.

  32. Thanks for the Tweet Rachel! And for the original post about Elizabeth Smart. I'd miss all sorts of stuff if I didn't read your blog. :-)

  33. The Christian culture makes one feel "impure" - they just don't get close to you if they know you have a "past". I believe Jesus' sacrifice covers sexual sin just like every other sin. It's not up to people to judge.

  34. Thought-provoking insights. Thank you for posting. Not to in any way diminish or undermine the points made, but I'm not quite certain the purity metaphor applies only to women. I was as a 7-year old boy introduced to sex by two foster girls (tweens, probably themselves victims of abuse) who lived with us for awhile. I loathed myself. I felt irrecoverable. Oddly, it was the mouth-to-mouth part that shamed me most of all, far more than the genital contact. After that, if people kissed on a television program and others were watching the program with me, I invariably looked away and pretended I didn't know what was happening. I was that disgusted with myself. I didn't date until my second year of college, and then with someone who I eventually married. I 'confessed' to her that I hadn't 'saved myself for marriage' several years after we were married. It's odd to think of that now, decades later. Anyway, I don't mean to question that gender distinction, as in general it probably holds very well. But I think boys are not so exempt from the 'damaged goods' feeling as is implied. Perhaps only later does the dual-standard come into play. For me, the dual-standard was never something I accepted.

  35. The entire time reading this post and all the comments, I kept thinking, "Jesus wants the rose." Thanks for sharing this!

  36. On first blush, I agree with your stance. I've experienced the shame personally. There's a flip, however, that's not addressed. Perhaps the sin or violation of our souls that occurs in the loss that accompanies any sin is what ushers in a sense of being not pure. The definition then follows the experience verses the definition determining the sense of being pure. Either way, the redemptive work of Jesus justifies and cleanses. I'd just hate to see an oppositional stance that overlooks essential reasoning.

  37. You are beautiful! What a beautiful comment. It is a self worth issue and a lack of understanding of the atonement.

  38. " Why have people vilified/demonized girls and women this way?"
    Because the "people" you are talking about who demonize women are men or the women espoused to these men that are having sex with these other women. It's a lot easier to blame "that sleazy trollop" than the man you depend on for food, clothing, housing and protection. Those women are also getting through sex some of what should be your food, clothing, housing and protection. That was the deal that you were promised when you agreed to have sex only with him and take care of his food, clothing, house and children.

    We have also vilified the desire itself rather than how we express that desire.

    The world wants two standards today: Guilt and responsibility free casual sex while everyone is single and playing, but sex is supposed to become important, awesome and restricted when we become a couple. Did you change how you thought about chocolate when you became a couple?

    Have you ever heard of a gay male being criticized as dirty/demonic/contemptuous because of his desire for sex or because he has engaged in sex? Do we have a cultural equivalent with the same negative connotation as "slut" for gay men that engage in promiscuous sex?

  39. i was an adult in the church who got pregnant "out of wedlock" and experienced much shame-based responses to my pregnancy. i am glad the above woman recieved christlike love, instead.

  40. The problem with this article is that according to studies and shared experience, every rape victim feels dirty. They can have been promiscuous before, or completely conservative. They can be either gender or orientation. They can have had a completely open family or private...they all feel dirty.

    Can we teach more clearly...yes. Should we emphasize Christ's power to save and emphasize the way back? yes. Should we discuss more clearly WHY sex is so powerful? yes.

    But that feeling she's talking about is a universal response of rape victims.

  41. Have you thought about why this feeling is so common? The purity metaphor isn't limited to christianity, and it isn't limited to consensual sex in American culture.

  42. The struggle between truth and grace is tough for us mortals. Jesus nailed it. (npi) For sure the damage the "purity culture" has done is that they have not fully communicated grace. The bathwater is toxic but the baby (chastity, virtue, and, yes, even virginity) is still precious. Nobody is undamaged. All damage is cleansed by Christ. All future damage should be avoided. So, let's bathe the baby in God's grace and present her/him to the church as spotless and radiant.

  43. Richard - so valuable, so helpful. Thank you. The selective nature of our disgust and how we direct it is an 'ah-ha' moment for me.

  44. this is addressed in the article. other sins, while discouraging, are not framed with this purity metaphor and therefore, while they may well induce guilt (well-deserved guilt, even) they don't have the same sense of being irrevocably dirty and damaged, ie impure.

  45. i disagree with the statement that all rape victims feel dirty. violated, yes. but that's a different sensation from feeling permanently soiled.

  46. True enough. But I still wonder why it exists. It kinda serves as a virginal scorekeeper if you will. Something to add to the list of things about God that make no sense to me.

  47. I really like your insights and wanted to point out another factor. I was examining my feelings about the cockroach in juice experiment. I imagined myself as a participant, and realized that my judgment of permanence wasn't really directed at the juice, but at the experimenter. The act of introducing impurity into the juice and then offering it to me makes me distrustful, and I wonder what else could this person have done to the juice. On the other hand, if a cockroach had accidentally fallen in the juice and the experimenter had then said "Oh dear, let me purify that before you drink it" I would be much more likely to actually drink the juice. So, for me, it's more about my trust in the authority rather than the impurities in the juice.

  48. I think its more the Culture, and not even just the Christians itself. But yes, maybe just the culture part of it. But if we were all being TRUE Christians, we would all follow Christ's example a bit more, In a "He who is without Sin, cast the first stone" sort of way. Many people believe that Christ took Mary Magdolene as a wife. But yes, I think it would be great to see a culture more fixated on building self worth that isn't related to your past sins.

  49. It's possible that the other reason she stayed had to do with a betrayal bond; reenforced by the faulty application of religious beliefs or perhaps faulty religious beliefs in and of themselves.

  50. Valuable insights about how the improper application of religion can contribute to Betrayal Bonds are offered in the book "The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships" by Patrick Carnes PH. D. .

  51. Here in Australia, citizens of Toowoomba rejected by a huge vote to have their sewerage recycled. This water was more pure than normal water. I thought forgiveness was such that the sin is remembered no more, it's finished. Someone makes a mistake and tries top live a better life. Reminds me of a saying my Aunty Sophie told me "If anyone speaks ill of you live your life in such a way that no one believes them"

  52. I wonder if this passage is why sexual sin is seen differently. It is certainly indicated as being different, not that it is less forgivable or more offensive. But, it is different. Is it possible that all of us innately sense there is a difference and the analogy flows from that intuition rather than vice versa? Just some thoughts.

    12All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.13Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.14Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!16Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.”17But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.18Flee immorality. Everyother sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?20For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

  53. good point, anna. However, as a woman who has supported and counseled countless sexually abused young women and adults, it seems to me like a big, big deal. I'm talking about the sin committed against the female. There's just something robbed from the woman, whether virgin or not, an assault/violation that travels deep into the entire being. I think it goes way beyond the hurt or shame incurred by excessive purity doctrine. I do need to add, though, that I experienced the brunt of that kind of shame and it is damaging. A further assault on the psyche and soul of the individual, whether male or female. In that way, to me, the sin runs deeper. Sure, purity doctrine twists the blame and needlessly shames but my point is let's not blur the issue by focusing only on purity doctrine as the sole source of the damage.

  54. I have a Ph.D. in American Lit focusing on women's fiction, and it struck me as I read this that this "purity culture" did not originate with Christianity. I think American Christianity is borrowing this from other traditions. For example, the earliest American novel, The Coquette, comes to mind. This is a book that emphasizes the importance of sexual purity in order to safeguard women for future marriage. This philosophy understands women as objects or commodities whose financial value is lost if they are not sexually pure, and it understands marriage as a financial exchange in which the woman gives up her rights for protection (and financial security).

  55. "Why is the Christian purity culture so toxic and shaming? Where does the
    feeling of "damaged goods" come from? Why do females carry the weight
    of this experience more than males?"

    Somebody needs to tell you about patriarchy.

  56. I have only been a Mormon in my long life, and have been seeing myopically. I assumed the purity culture is a Mormon problem based on my church's history of polygamy. Now the church seems the need to prove to the world we are mainstream by being sexually pure and insisting that marriage must be between one woman and one man. One thing I do love about the Mormon culture is - there is mo double standard. Men, too, are strictly forbidden sex outside of the marriage bond.

  57. Um... this is anecdotal, but based on several dozen stories of people I know, women are much more likely to be punished by church discipline for the same kinds of sexual behavior than men are, and when they're punished it's much more harshly.

    It would be easy to blame this on the individual leaders making the decisions, if it weren't so systemic-- and if there were some sort of appeals process, or standards or rubric for making these decisions that is enforced. But there's not.

  58. I am, as the saying goes, still a work in progress, and as such, i pray regularly to learn to see people as Heavenly Father sees them, to forgo criticizing and judging. Judging is not in my job description. I make an effort to see people, not as or by what "sins" they have committed, or what sins others have committed against them, but as brothers and sisters who I have been told by Jesus to love.

  59. I think it's a bit more complicated than that. Patriarchy predates any American writings and you're right, it is not exclusive to American Christian culture.

  60. My experience has been the opposite. In the church it seems that men are more likely to be presumed guilty of pretty much anything vs women. But maybe we are, so I take it for what it is.

  61. My experience has been the opposite. I personally know two cases in two different wards and different parts of the country where the man was more harshly disciplined than the woman. In both cases all parties were married and having affairs. The only way I see it being more difficult for women is when they have a child. There is no outward sign that men have 'strayed;' there can be for women. I also see this as as much of an issue, if not more of one, with other religious and geographic cultures.

  62. I greatly appreciate this post; I was long a board member for a group that teaches using this metaphor and had never understood a problem with it! To me the point is that all of us are equally impure from sin but the blood of Jesus will equally make all pure again.

    This is the first I 've read of your work although you likely are part of church with my first cousins ( one owns beautiful Sayles Ranch
    Guesthouses). Just bought your book for my Kindle.

  63. "**I am still a virgin** and I STILL feel like a dirty old used rag because of this Christian purity deal."

    THIS. When I was in youth group, I had never so much as kissed a boy, but my youth pastor made me feel guilty for wearing clothes that would incite boys to lust--clothes that, in hindsight, were totally modest--just not quite burka-like enough. So much guilt for something that was never my fault.

  64. "I suppose we can blame God a bit for this by giving women a physical indicator of virginity (hymen)."

    Not all women have them and many times it's broken by normal active lifestyle that has nothing to do with sexual activity. Sometimes it never breaks at all. The obsession many men have with breaking it arose from biological ignorance. The fixation on the hymen is the result of the demand on women to be virginal for male consumption; it's just a side effect of the desire to control women's sexual status. Men who get off on 'being the first' are simply fetishizing the act of 'spoiling' a girl or getting some kind of superior claim over her body by being her first. Biology has nothing to do with that mindset -- it's all cultural conditioning.

  65. And what of Christian women who have remained literal virgins? I'm in my 40s and still a virgin. It's fine to comfort women who have been raped, and yes, God forgives consensual sexual sin, but be careful that in the midst of all this consoling victims or fornicators that you don't make virginity sound like it amounts to nothing. I had thought I would be married by my mid-30s at the latest (and having sex with my spouse), but that never came to pass- but I've kept my sexual purity intact. There is absolutely no support or concern shown for Christian virgins over the age of 30, but I see mountains of this "anti purity" type rhetoric all over the internet, and it has the effect of "shaming" and making the older virgin feel devalued.

  66. You and your sisters have walked with God in this thing and that is always good. Is the walk better than walking with Him in charity (avoiding greed or materialism), in humility (avoiding pride and remaining teachable) or in gentleness (avoiding violence)? I don't know, but think whether we walk with God as chaste single or as married, we are doing what we should to be like Him in our own peculiar situation. The idea that one state or the other is lower is a fallacious judgment, He made them both and counseled us on the best way to act in either. Do as His words counsel and you are literally a saint, destined for greater thing as you progress.

  67. I'm not sure what kind of support or concern you're looking for? I don't think women who "keep their sexual purity intact" should deserve some special prize or anything. There are loads of passages in the Bible that condemn obsession with perfection in any given area, and I think sexual "purity" is the area in which modern Christians tend to come closest to this sort of Pharisee attitude. I'm a Christian woman in my 20s and still a virgin, and I don't see at all how Christian virgins are "shamed" or "devalued"—quite the opposite. Maybe you have specific experiences I haven't, but I'm not really sure I understand where you're coming from.

    (I totally agree with Charlie's comment below, by the way. It's much better put than I could say it, but I wanted to chime in anyway.)

  68. I would argue that the area of sexual purity and the Pharisaic tradition are at polar opposites in this case. The Pharisees came up with hundreds of extra laws to make sure that they weren't anywhere near breaking the big ones. We on the other hand say, "Don't have sex before you're married" and provide no guidelines on how to prevent it. The Bible NOWHERE condemns an "obsssion with perfection in any given area." The Bible condemns self-righteousness and disregarding the commands of God because of the greater significance given to laws created by men. Scripture tells us numerous times "Be holy for the Lord your God is holy" and "Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect." We simply misunderstand and distort what the Bible has to say on the issue.

  69. but define perfect...there is no way in hell anyone can be "perfect..." it just isn't done...and if we can't accept the fact that we aren't perfect but rather flawed...we'll only torture ourselves and drive ourselves insane...and I feel that if we were to somehow (in the event hell freezes over or movie character start coming into the real world via magic ticket) actually become the very definition of what most people's idea of perfect is (i.e., flawless, does not err, ever, does not get sick or die, ever, or need to sleep to recharge the brain, ever, in other words, a machine, a robot), what would be left for God...what would separate mere humans from a divinity??

    As for the virgin purity sex-is-sin-and-therefore-is-bad rhetoric...the Bible also said "be fruitful and multiply..." Marriage is really a human construct used to invoke God to bless the union of a couple while in reality it was basically a property deal...Adam and Eve were not mentioned as being a married couple, nor was it mentioned that God frowned on the two of them for what the Church calls "living in sin..." therefore I believe this is all falsehoods made up for the purpose of controlling people and demonising those who WON'T be controlled...think about it like this for a second...if we didn't engage in "sexual sin" or "lose our virginity and become 'unclean' or 'impure,'" we would have ceased to exist as a species eons ago...yes, sex should be more that just rearing a child...I believe it is the ultimate act of love between a loving couple, married or otherwise...and I don't think, by the way, that it should be considered "premarital sex" if the couple don't plan to get married, there are those out there who believe that if you love each other, that's all that should matter, not official title contractual ceremonial superstitions bulls***...or the feeling that someone becomes property (i.e. dowries), and ceases to be an individual...."this is my car, this is my house, this is my wife, this is my husband, this is my this, this is my that, this is my other thing..."

  70. In other words, you tried using the Bible to justify your viewpoint, got called on misrepresenting it, and abandoned the pretense of scriptural support in favor of trashing the biblical text as the vestiges of a system designed to control people because you have a different set of values. Next time just say that. But you are never going to convince anyone of your viewpoint without intellectual honesty.

  71. It's not a good metaphor at all; my childhood answer was immediately "No, I wouldn't... I'd go get some more chewing gum the same flavour and enjoy that. Or are you saying each man can only have sex once in his lifetime? Because if I like my chewing-gum supplier, I'll probably be back at her stand asking for more."

    The problem with the metaphor is that it uses the gum to conflate the experience of sex with the person, thereby implying that there's something irrevocable and eternal about sexual acts in a way which doesn't apply to any other actions.

  72. Oh, sure, I don't thing Ms. Smart is saying "that's the whole of the damage"; rape is horrific and will always cause harm. I think she's saying "the way we talk about sex needlessly makes that harm worse", and I think she's right. It's a simple (not easy, but simple) change for us to make, that would prevent a lot of harm.

  73. In the sense that all cultures have done form of marriage, add you yourself suggested, yes, marriage is a universal human construct. The fact that marriage takes slightly different forms here or there does not change the fact that humans universally have felt the need to establish life-commitments in various forms. if you will notice in the comments above, I went into for-the-sake-of-argument mode and was not arguing from a biblical perspective and so gave no clue as to a specific type of marriage. That was an assumption on your part.

    Second, while some humans have trouble being monogamous, others don't have much trouble at all - another assumption/ over-generalization on your part. Beyond that my point in that regard had nothing to do with the validity of marriage based on that but simply that the examples invalidated Justin's argument that not sleeping around would have doomed the species centuries ago. His argument was pure fallacy and you are arguing against things I never said.

  74. I think your age at the time of your abuse was probably a factor in that; the double standard of male vs female behaviour is something that really starts to kick in mid-teens. And thank you for sharing your perspective.

  75. Sadly, the cultural equivalent with the same negative connotation is often "gay". But that's a difference prejudice issue.

  76. It seems that your perspective is that we combat a corruption of the Gospel message by being less faithful to the biblical concept rather than more faithful to it. Why would we think that we could come closer to the truth by venturing further away from it? The concept of purity and impurity are completely a part of the concept of sin in Scripture. The problems that we have are not because of that concept, it's because of a corruption of that concept. The point that I made was that what Elizabeth Smart learned was a false message that was not true to the Gospel. What women need to hear is not a further diluted and likely corrupted religious message, but rather one that is the truth that the Christian faith proclaims.

    I didn't miss the point being made, I disagree with the conclusion.

  77. "What Elizabeth Smart learned was a false message that was not true to the Gospel" - yes, a thousand times yes. So we should stop using the language that sent this false message, and start talking about all sins in the same terms - as redeemable, not eternal.

    If you have another suggestion that achieves this end, please make it.

  78. Reaction to the 91 comments I just read:

    1. Why is everyone here talking about sex as being sin? Sin is not something that happens to your body. Uncleanness comes from inside your heart. (Mark 7:20-23)
    2. Sex is not about you! It's about your spouse. It's about your offspring. When you make it about yourself, it's corrupt.

    Deut. 22:25-27
    But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. 26 Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbor, 27 for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her.

    There's no sin there. Maybe minor ones, like being alone in a field without an escort or something, but nothing worthy of death. It's like the sin of putting a plastic plate in a toaster - stupid, but not evil. She was violated in the same way murder happens.

    Sex isn't sin, guys. She shouldn't let the filth of this man's sin cling to her any more than I should feel guilt when a guy gets shot in my company. I don't know any Christian circles that teach anything other than this... apart from the folks on this thread. The purity of the Christian circles I have been in starts in the heart.

  79. I think that trying to make a difference between the "culture" and "true Christians" is part of the problem. The culture IS the message. One of my biggest problems with evangelical Christian culture is this constant claim that what the people are doing isn't the "true" thing.

  80. Interesting question, Mom23. In any case, the intuition of our Bible translators led them to insert the little word ”other” in verse 18 which you quoted (from 1 Corinthians 6), since without its insertion, there would be a glaring contradiction: ”Every sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” Though the whole contradiction disappears if Paul is quoting his opponent, probably a gnostic libertarian: [Gnostic libertarian:] ”Every sin a man commits is outside the body”. [Paul:] But, the immoral man sins against his own body. (Interestingly, this seems to be a pattern through this whole passage 1 Cor 6:12-20. (See Denny Burk’s article on this ,in Bulletin for Biblical Research: http://www.ibr-bbr.org/files/bbr/bbr18a05_burk.pdf )

    So Bible translators took for granted (through intuition?) what Paul was saying, while Paul might just as well have meant something very different, maybe even the opposite: that it's wrong to believe, as the gnostic libertarian thought, that (worldly) sins does not affect the spiritual life, but maybe instead the opposite: that (all) sins have to do with us, our actions in our body, in our here and now, that it's an error to separate body and spirit in our morals?

    Intuition is important. But could it be that we just mix it up with the traditional views we inherit from former views of former generations?

    Thank you Mom23 for bringing this passage into attention ^_^

    p.s. Another interesting question is what ”porneia” (and cognates) actually mean in this passage, (which is a central passage for understanding this central moral term).

  81. I found an interesting article (from the Jewish site chabad.org) that supports your sense of intuition that sets sexual intimacy separate from other things in life. I quote from the article: ”By its very nature--not by divine decree, not by religious belief or dictate--sexuality belongs to the arena of the sacred.”

    Source: ”An Intimate View on Intimacy” by Manis Friedman. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/483449/jewish/An-Intimate-View-on-Intimacy.htm

    Unsure though if this sensed difference leads naturally to the analogy of purity. Maybe "sacredness" is a better analogy? A main criticism against "purity" is that it leads so easily to the thought defilement. On the contrary "sacredness" is something that "contaminates", that is, it gives instead of only being taken away. (If I'm not mistaken, the torah uses the same logic in understanding both sacredness and sexuality, or put in other words: sexuality = human sacredness).

  82. I do not believe that because there is no specific mention of Adam and Eve being married in the garden of Eden does not negate that they would need to be married to not have been sinning by having sex outside the bonds of marriage. Further more we don't have a full account of all the teachings that the Lord gave to them. We can rely on his other messagers, prophets such as Moses and many others after him even to today, to give us very clear desciptions of the sacredness of matrimony and the need to keep sex within those bonds. It is the abuse of these God given powers outside of marriage that cause many of the major issues in our world today.

    Imagine for a moment if no one engaged in sex outside of marriage. What would the world be like? Say it hadnt happened for 150 years. Would we have AIDS, orphans, single mothers, prostituion, human trafficing, countries with appauling rates of rape and sexual crime? If every human for the last 150 years obey this commandment to keep sex within the bonds of marriage we would live in a much different and happier world today.

    I do not argue that this should be a forced law. If everyone would chose to follow this commandment it would be much different. Obedience isn't about being forced. Its about chosing to obey. This shows the greatest strength. As we work to obey and keep the Lord's commandments we receive the blessings directly related to obeying those commandments. The Lord has said, "I, the Lord, am bound when you do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."

    I believe that if we want to avoid the pain and suffering that happen when populations engage in sex outside the bonds of matrimony we must encourage those around us to stop engaging in that behavior through our personal examples. The Lord blesses us according to our obedience. If we don't obey He doesn't curse us, we do that ourselves.

  83. An amendment to part of the last statement...I don't use God to influence people to my way of thinking so that I could get my ass rich and hold power over the ones stupid enough to buy into my bullshit...I hope that clarifies.

  84. And no, there is NO animal in nature that is instinctively monogamous...cite your evidence. Cats spread their seed around....Dogs spread their seed around, fish spread their seed around...and Japanese Clown fish even change sex. You're buying into this mythological claim that animals can process right and wrong like humans can...they can't.

  85. Oh, and I wasn't using the Bible to justify anything...I was pointing
    out the hypocritical bullshit contained in it...and fyi, the species
    COULD have been doomed because there was a point that sex even between
    married couples was punished by the authorities. I wasn't saying "sleep
    around." I was pointing out that it is in human nature to do so, right
    or wrong. And I was also addressing the absurdity of the claim that
    "sex in all forms is bad." I was countering it with the idea that if it
    wasn't for that "bad" thing called sex, we would have ceased to exist.
    I wasn't talking about extramarital or marital sex, I was talking about
    ALL SEX period, from the time of Adam and Eve. If they never engaged
    in the "sinful" act, then you bet your ass we wouldn't be here today.
    Aside from the Virgin Mary...how many "immaculate conceptions" do you
    think there were in history? NONE.

  86. Well, I couldn't help but notice that all my comments were deleted, some of them probably due to the language I used but I know the TRUE reason they were deleted...I spoke truth and scientific evidence to refute Mr. St. Claire's idiotic claims that not having sex (unless you're married) prevents bad things and I was persecuted for my viewpoints by the moderator deleting my comments...but that's okay...I KNEW it was to be expected from these nice "Christian" folk that know for a fact that any TRUTH that refutes their dogma in ANY way cannot be allowed to exist on a page to enlighten and educate people in ANY fashion. This alone DISPELS any notion that the Christian belief system isn't designed to control people or that it isn't about controlling people, and instead proves my point all along that the laws of Judeo-Christianity are in EVERY WAY, SHAPE, and FORM, a tool with which to control people. Not all of my comments contained bad language or undesirable tones...but they ALL contained true, irrefutable scientific fact, and that's what scares these fools so much...this is why they hate education, liberty, and open-mindedness...because it penetrates the smokescreen and reveals the sham that organized Christianity really is. This comment might get deleted as well given that it also speaks the truth but honestly, I don't care...I know my heart, I know my mind, and I know what is truth and what is falsehood. Good luck keeping the masses ignorant and seeing ONLY YOUR point of view. I on the other hand will have no part of this because unlike most of you Christians...I was raised to THINK FOR MYSELF!

  87. First and far most, I would like to say that Elizabeth Smart is the shining armor to the world of young women who have been sexually violated. I lived by her when she disappeared. I searched for her with hope to find her alive. I saw the tent in the hills by her home. I called out her name. I prayed every night with my children she would be found, as I do every time I hear of a young girl abducted. The day she was found, I sat on a fence and prayed for her family to be comforted. WHY? I have walked her walk. I was raped from the time I was six years old until I was put into foster care at 15 yrs old. I was too scared to tell my story, in fear of judgement that I had no value. I too have always felt like damaged goods. I married young, to only find out, I was not valued by even a spouse. Divorced and remarried. Later, a child out of wedlock. 14 years later, I remarry, to only discover, my value was on the line again. As an adult, I have spent many years in counseling, self help, and several psychology classes. Rape stays with you forever, and it does affect who you attract. I became of the same faith as Elizabeth at age 26. It saved my life, as I am sure it has saved her. I am a single mother, almost 50 years old and have raised four boys, but mostly alone. I now have become the only member of my family to graduate from high school, and finally a college degree in Sociology. My emphasis is Play Therapy. I will begin my process to enter into my MSW into BYU with hope to give back what I have been given. I am a Life Coach with intense training to learn to look in the mirror and say that my value is not on the line with the God who created me. I have let go of the fear of judgement. I believe my faith has made me whole. I hope to help other women as Elizabeth is doing. Women who have been raped are not trash or their value diminished. We are who we see. Women are to be cherished. GO ELIZABETH!!!!

  88. If the world were run by people without rules, there would have already been an apocalypse. Good rules are neccessary for survival and the best rules are found in organized religion. Don't hate Christians for promoting strict rules. These rules don't hurt anyone; they only make the world a better place.

  89. From what I understood we are not talking about sex...but rather sexual abuse and immorality. Christian or not...predatory sexual behavior inflicted on a child is wrong. However, in order to achieve this abuse the child must undergo a destruction of self-esteem, self-worth and develop an internalization that they are not of value. Children are naturally attracted to structure and trust created by adults. They also believe adults to know how to lead and teach what is needed for survival. I am Christian...but, I also believe in education. I have been educated in the Cal State System with very open minded and enlightened professors who taught without any religious filters. My views about sex are my own. If I choose to believe and live my life in a way that I feel is sacred "Judeo-Christian" based does anyone have the right to argue with me and try to change my mind...simply based on the fact that they believe something different? Mr. Justin O'Reilly I am neither scared nor a fool. Your claim to have irrefutable scientific facts is in itself an irony. When it comes to human behavior and belief there is no such thing as predictable behavior from irrefutable scientific facts. I wished you could be right...because if we could use science to predict the sane behavior of humans across the board we could eliminate crime...especially deviant sexual behaviors like rape and child abuse. Imagine a safe world to live in! Anyway, here is my point...the article is very enlightening and in my open mindedness I think it has merit as to why some children stay with their abusers and even begin to see them as protectors (For example in the case of Patty Hearst.) And as for Mr. O'Reilly's comment about Mr. St.Claire's claim...be an American and respect the views of others even if you don't agree with them...you don't know everything! And just like the makers of Saccharin once claimed that it was scientifically safe...you may find yourself changing your mind when NEW evidence is found "scientifically!"

  90. I really hate the bad repentance analogies used by so many teachers. The Atonement completely restores/replaces what was lost, so used chewing gum, dirty food, etc. are horrible analogies and paint a completely wrong picture of how sin, grace, and repentance work. Sex instead needs to be taught as something good - so good, in fact, that only the misuse of it is a sin. For Christians, "misuse" means now with your spouse. This more correct and optimistic perspective (in addition to giving kids more accurate information about how things work from a young age and making sure to teach them about abuse and that it's never their fault) will help kids see it more as sacred and have an easier time adjusting to it being OK once they're married.

  91. couldn't agree more, I think that's why the church has been getting rid of these "tainted" analogies from the manuals for some time now, but they still linger unfortunately. I just gave a talk in sacrament meeting inviting the ward to drop these dangerous and fallacious analogies of chewed gum and pies with poop in them....

  92. Thank you. I think you hit the point that, when teaching our children the Gospel, we need to focus more of the love of Christ and his great sacrifice-that through him we can become not only clean but transformed. The center of the Gospel is Jesus Christ, not the list of do's and don'ts.

  93. Great start to an article but I'd love to hear the next half - how do we move forward in changing how we frame things? How do we make that culture change that is always so hard to do?

  94. The problem in the world is a lack of understanding of why purity is considered so grave a sin and what our purpose on this earth is. God gives us commandments and he has a purpose in those commandments. He is not asking us to refrain from sex as a test of how obedient we are or how much we love him, he gives us the commandment to remain pure because he cares very deeply about how we get into this world and how we get out of it. Sex is first and foremost the power to procreate, this power is gods greatest power as he is the creator of all and we are asked in this life to manage just a small portion of that power. We are learning to manage the power of creation on a much smaller scale preparing us for the greater powers we shall inherit. When we misuse this power we are abusing our control over another life in a similar way that murder is abusing control over another's life. Both the power to create life and the power to take it have a direct effect upon the path that a spirit might have in this world, what opportunities it encounters and the trials and or paths it is directed on, in this life. I was always taught that I was using a power that had so much potential effect on another persons spirit that to take it lightly was the sin. I was also taught that birth control did not thwart that responsibility because that would be like taking payment before the work was completed on a job. The pleasures of sex were payment for the righteous undertaking of the responsibility of creation. People can take that payment all they want but they will owe god when all is said and done. They will owe him repentance. I will not teach my child they are dirty if they abuse this power or opportunity and I will always assure them that if they are abused they did not abuse that power therefore they are not accountable. I will however teach them that sex outside of marriage is an abuse of the power he gave them and the consequences can be grave for another spirit entering this life as a result of this abuse. Birth control can lessen the consequences to another spirit but it cannot clear us of the debt we will owe God because we partook of that pleasure. Finally, I will teach them that God will always forgive if repentance is exercised, and after all isn't the purpose of this life learning to be like God? If so, we must learn to forgive ourselves too.

  95. I agree that many of us could probably do better at teaching our children to love and respect themselves and not blame themselves for other peoples actions. However, it saddens me to see such a distinction made between male sin and female sin. When we choose to go against our moral upbringing it hurts, regardless of gender. We may express the pain differently but we hurt the same. I've seen this separate judgement placed on different genders many times throughout my life and it has always felt unjust.

  96. I feel like there is a HUGE difference between choosing sexual sin and having been raped or molested. One is a choice by you. But the other is a choice forced upon you either, by manipulation or by physical force. One is not ruined by the the later. Hurt yes, wounded certainly, but ruined? Never. I have taught the chastity lessons in the LDS church. Because I am a survivor of sexual abuse I tried to stress that there is a enormously HUGE difference between these two things.

  97. I am sorry your posts were deleted. And my last name doesn't have an "e" on the end (just saying...). But the problem with your posts, from the perspective of many people is that they simply weren't the truth. They were what you accept as the truth, but not the truth. They were far from irrefutable and you contradicted yourself with every other post. You rant and rave about how we supposedly only see our own points of view, but your posts demonstrated that exact same practice of not actually reading and responding to what was said but instead arguing with a straw-man that none of us were holding up. A perfect example if your statement "I spoke truth and scientific evident to refute Mr. St Claire's idiotic claims that not having sex (unless you're married) prevents bad things..." NOWHERE did I say anything of the sort, and yet supposedly you presented irrefutable scientific truth to refute it? Nothing you presented was irrefutable and much of it wasn't coherent, at least in the context of the discussion that was actually taking place.

    Again, I am sorry your posts were deleted. I believe in a free and open discussion. I believe that an untested opinion is a weak opinion. But your posts, as demonstrated by the one above, are about militancy and anger, not about logic and truth.

  98. I was told in Young Women's that if you get raped, it's your fault because you obviously didn't do enough to stop it. You should have let him kill you before letting him take your purity.

  99. That YW leader was wrong to say that. The LDS church believes that no one is at fault if they did not choose to commit the sin. Even if she was walking around wearing barely anything, the fault is still NOT hers. Sometimes members of the church teach false doctrine (people make mistakes). It's important to know that the LDS church does NOT believe victims of rape are at fault in any way. They have nothing to repent of. I love this article because it explains why so many women feel at fault when attacked. If it was beyond your control, you are NEVER at fault. You are only responsible for your own choices.

  100. Loved the way you worded this. Abuse of power/gift Heavenly Father gave us. Great way to teach. Thanks.

  101. That is the exact opposite of what Christ would have taught. I had this great institute teacher. We read a scripture story in class wherein a young woman was raped and felt the spirit leave. He explained very clearly that she wasn't ruined, she wasn't "impure," she was hurting. She felt awful because something awful happened to her and she needed the atonement to heal her. She needed the atonement in the same way you might need it when a family member or friend passes away; she needed Christ to take her heavy burden and make it light.

    No one can EVER take your purity, and Christ can ALWAYS make you clean again. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

  102. My favorite analogy that I've ever heard is grab a dollar bill from your pocket and drop it on the ground. It's still worth a dollar, even if it got a little dirty. So you pick it up, wipe it off, and put it back in your pocket. It's value never changed, it just fell for a little while!

  103. The one case I know of, the guy was excommunicated but the woman he was having an affair with wasn't. Both married with kids.

  104. I've always liked the dollar analogy as well. I also herd said that even though the dollar is crinkled, you can take an iron to it and make it presentable/whole again, or make it

    We still have our worth, and while we may not feel like we do, God can take that "iron" to us and smooth us back out, help us become whole again. He can help us find that confidence again to know we do have value.

  105. This hypothetical woman you're talking about actually has a choice :if she ( and women in general ) wouldn't walk around in public wearing promiscuous clothing , they wouldn't send the wrong message to the men and thus they wouldn't get attacked .

  106. What the woman is wearing is irrelevant. Women who are fully clothed are raped. Her choice to wear modest or immodest clothing has nothing to do anything. The man makes the choice to rape her. (He probably couldn't care less about what she's wearing!) You can't say, "oh well, she was wearing yada yada..." You can't equate her choice of clothing with his choice to commit a heinous act. There is no comparison. And hey, I wholeheartedly believe women should dress modestly, to show respect for themselves and for God. But I don't agree that immodest women are sending the message that they want to be raped. That's ludicrous.

  107. I don't think it's about what she is or is not wearing. When 70, 80 and 90 year old women wearing grannie clothes are raped, it's not about what she's wearing. It's about someone committing an act of violence against an individual unable to defend themselves. When 3, 4, and 5 year old are raped, it's not about the diaper and little girl undies. It's about the evil in the heart of the attacker. It's not about the clothes.

  108. This purity theory seems to explain (un)-honour killings.
    Not accurate to target modern Christians.They accept sin, even sex-sins and move on to forgiveness.

  109. Wow, then I guess the person who j walks has it coming to them when the drunk person hits and kills them. Marie, please go back and re-read this article. I think you missed something.

  110. I'm not sure how you've chosen to raise your sons (or if you have any) BUT mine have a full understanding that they have complete control of how they react to any temptation or provocation.

    They were not raised to be like an animal that reacts with instinct but like a human being who respects himself and those around him.

    Hypothetical question - your son notices a bank is unlocked, he goes in to take money, and gets caught by the police with a bag of cash on his way out. During his trial, do you think his lawyer will try to argue that by not securing the door lock, the bank was 'asking to be robbed'?

  111. What happened to Elizabeth Smart was evil and tragic and has NOTHING to do with a Christian “purity culture.” Victims who are horrifically violated and viciously abused are filled with fear, confusion, and pain. It is heinous and evil for Richard Beck to exploit that apparent confusion to make a connection (false to the core) between the rape and the Christian purity culture--i.e. virtue of purity and/or Christian ministries that encourage moral purity. The Christian virtue of purity NEVER implies that a victim of rape is impure because of what the rapist did. Spiritual impurity CANNOT be forced upon you against your will. Her innocence remains.

  112. This post used Elizabeth's first-hand account of her experience as an entry point only, the argument doesn't rely on it. And there's no denying that, in her own experience, she connected her rape with purity culture. Right or wrong, that's how she perceived it.

  113. I feel so bad for Elizabeth Smart and what she had to go through but in the end she still is giving presentations on how important your virginity means a lot. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and in my religion we can not have sex until we are married. This rule will always stick with me. My advice to others are keep your virginity it means a lot and wait until you are married, wait for the right man to have kids with.

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