If you haven’t heard, Joshua Harris has recently come out with a statement and a documentary about the ways his views have changed from those he laid out in his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye.
With all the media and blogs and tweets coming out about this news, it raises again the topic of “purity culture”.
Now, I always look onto these discussions with great interest, because I was raised to save sex for marriage, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was part of “purity culture”. Primarily because there weren’t many Christians where we lived, let alone enough to form a whole “culture”, but also because there was a distinct lack of creepy Daddy/daughter stuff.
I’ve been specifically thinking about the language we use around sexual purity – the phrase “saving myself for marriage” or “waiting for my future husband”. (The latter being popularised by Rebecca St. James’s song “Wait For Me”. I had the matching journal, Letters to my Future Husband, in which I poured out my weird little teenage heart. Hmm, maybe I was more part of purity culture than I thought…)
The problem with these sayings – euphemisms for abstaining from sex until marriage – is that they place the emphasis, the reason, for not having sex as an unmarried person on the eventual hope that you will marry. And that’s a great hope, even goal for a teenager to have, but what about those who don’t go on to marry, despite desperately wanting to and pursuing this goal?
Where does that leave their sexuality? Being saved for something – someone – that will never come. And to be honest, I think that leads sexual immorality. It leads people to think things like, “If I did the right thing by saving myself, why hasn’t God given me a husband?” and “If doing the right thing didn’t get me what I was promised, then I may as well not bother any more.”
Not to mention, that “saving sex for marriage” is totally the wrong frame. It approaches the issue from the perspective of the (secular) world, who have no moral constraints on sex apart from “consent”, and kind of says, “Well, I’m not going to just have sex whenever I want, I’m going to save it.”
What would it look like, how would we speak about this, if we started from God’s perspective? If we held as right and true that:
- Sex is a good gift for married couples
- Singleness is also a good gift.
- The only appropriate context for sex is within marriage.
- This is not about a personal or religious choice, it’s simply about obedience.
Maybe then we (and our children) could speak not of “saving ourselves for marriage”, but instead we would talk about “living holy lives to God’s glory” and “obeying God because we love him”.
Whether that looks like getting married and having frequent sex (in obedience to God).
Or staying single and celibate and living wholeheartedly to please the Lord (in obedience to God).
In all things, let’s live to His glory.