The Purity Culture Isn’t Pure

I was reading in Colossians last night and ran across this passage:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? (Colossians 2:20-21.)

Paul went on to explain where those rules – “Don’t do this! Don’t do that!” – come from:

These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:22-23.)

Paul calls them “merely human commands and teachings,” another way of saying these are not at all from God.

Not at all.

As I read the passage I was reminded of what people call The Purity Culture. This is a movement that is becoming hijacked by people who are going beyond teaching teens how to grow up in a world that idolizes sex; they’re making up rules to follow and lists to check off.

Depending on which purity leader you are reading, you might see rules like these:

    • Courtship is the only Godly path to marriage – no dates, no time alone with each other, no private conversations on the phone, and absolutely no texting.
    • Your clothes (especially if you’re a woman) must cover a sufficient part of the body. What is sufficient varies from teacher to teacher, so meeting one person’s standards might lead another person to judge you an impure woman. Men and boys often get a pass regarding their clothes from the same leaders who come down hard on women.
    • No alcohol, no movies, no dances, no …

All of these rules and many more are prominent in the purity movement. And they all sound like they could easily fit right into the bogus rules Paul lists in Colossians 2.

These Are Not God’s Rules

How do we know these are not God’s rules? Because these human rules lead to condemnation, not spiritual fruit, and as Paul said they “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

I’ll repeat: rules like this have absolutely no value in restraining sensual indulgence.

All these purity ministries are spending time making up and then enforcing rules that don’t work. What does work? That’s easy, but it’s not a what; he’s a Who.

The Holy Spirit works in you. As Jesus told his friends in John 15, spiritual fruit comes from abiding in him, something we can do because the Spirit of Christ now abides in us. (2 Timothy 1:14.) And the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t look anything like a checklist from the purity culture:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-25.)

You don’t need a checklist or set of rules to tell you when you are in step with the Spirit. All you need to do is see whether you are bearing the fruit (joy, patience, etc.) that Jesus wants to produce in you through the Spirit.

Remember too that if you are feeling guilty, condemned or accused, those accusations, condemnation and pronouncement of guilt are not coming from God but from Satan. He is our accuser. (Revelation 12:9-10). The purity culture people who make up these rules are setting you up for Satan’s accusations of failure and condemnation. God, on the other hand, never condemns anyone who belongs to Jesus. (Romans 8:1-2.)

The bottom line on purity culture? Its rules and checklists are worthless and empty.

And not at all of God.


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93 Responses to The Purity Culture Isn’t Pure

  1. “No alcohol, no movies, no dances, no …”

    This was christianity according to my parent’s generation. It didn’t work then – what makes anyone think it will work now!?

  2. janehinrichs says:

    Humans sure love to make up their own religion…..”there’s nothing new under the sun.”

  3. Jeannie says:

    Great post, Tim — I think that you nailed it!

  4. vrein11 says:

    Thank you so much!!! I have been trying very hard to teach my kids purity, but I was following others rules and regulations and it wasn’t working!! We were just fighting all the time about it!! It doesn’t and didn’t work!! Blessings!!! vicki

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Vick. I’m praying for your kids (and their parents!).

      • vrein11 says:

        I have come to realize that your approach is much more healthy! They need to learn to handle those issues or just stay away from the beach, waterparks, or wal mart!!! haha!!! Seriously, though, I appreciate your prayers as I still have several to go through the teen years and those types of struggles!!
        Thanks! Vicki

        • Tim says:

          I am glad to say that we safely navigated the teen years by God’s grace. Now for their twenties!

        • vrein11 says:

          hahahaa!!! I know what you mean!! I have several now in their 20’s! Keep in God’s Grace for these years too!!!

    • Mary Wilson says:

      I still think that dating is the most dangerous thing a girl can do. Date rape is real.

      • Tim says:

        Possibility of great danger? Yes. The single most dangerous? I would say probably not. But I completely agree that date rape is real and boys and girls both should be educated about it as they grow up.

      • Christine says:

        Yes, date rape is real. You know what else is real? Marital rape. Should girls not get married? Stranger rape. Should girls not leave the home? Home invasion rape. Should girls not have homes? Intrafamilial rape. Should girls not have families? College rape. Should girls not go to college? How about, instead of placing the burden on girls to not get into situations where there is a small chance that they will be raped, we put the burden on men to not be rapists. You know, where it belongs.

        • Tim says:

          That’s exactly where the ultimate responsibility lies, Christine. Thanks for emphasizing this.

        • Jason says:

          I would agree to a point. Holding every man responsible is like saying let’s convert all of the terrorists so there is no more terrorism. Fact is, we are light walking among darkness and there will always be bad people everywhere we go. The goal for women is to be smart about where they go and what they do because predators simply exist. How about just not doing blind dates; know the person before you go out with them; take another couple with you and do a double date; stay among good people and lessen your chances of running into someone under the enemies domain. Unfortunately the lion never sleeps.

        • Christine says:


          I’m a sex abuse prosecutor. I cannot tell you the number of “good men” who have committed terrible crimes, including rape.

          When you place the onus of rape prevention on women, you circumscribe the lives that they can live simply because they are women. That may be acceptable under your religious beliefs, but it isn’t acceptable under mine.

          When Golda Meir was asked to place a curfew on women to help end a series of rapes, Meir replied by stating, “But it is the men who are attacking the women. If there is to be a curfew, let the men stay at home.”

          No one is holding “all men” responsible. But you are asking “all women” to change their behavior because some men rape. And when the women do get raped, your framework has already decided that she only got raped because she wasn’t “smart,” which implies that she brought it on herself.

        • karen d says:

          I wish more people in my religious tradition understood what you just said.

        • Tim says:

          Christine, that is an excellent response.

        • Jason says:

          “good men” is a very relative term and also applies to my earlier statement of “good people”. I’m not making blanket statements about women being responsible for their own rape at all. Please save that argument for someone who thinks that way. My point is that we all wake up in a war zone every day of our lives weather we realize it or not. Everyone should be as prepared as they can possibly be to fight the war and not become a victim of the battle around them. That thought process applies to everyone, man, woman and child. Those who are able should be helping and protecting the people around them that can’t fight on there own.
          I’m sure your career path keeps you very sensitive, or maybe desensitized to the relative term of “good”. It can’t be easy and I applaud you for your work. I also fight the same battle you do in the preventative form so people don’t end up acting in a despicable way or becoming the victim of a despicable act. And many times I listen to the victim after the fact and help them move on.
          You and I are fighting the same battle we are just coming from different angles. I try to prevent the crime and you prosecute the vermin that commit them.

        • Tim says:

          Good points, Jason. I remember a police officer telling me about the small town he started his career in. The chief of the small police force told him he wanted them to patrol so well at night that no woman in town should feel at all reluctant to be outside no matter what the hour. I think that goes for men too, because there are a lot of places i will not go willingly at some hours of the night.

        • Christine says:

          I guess, Jason, that the point I am making is that you can’t tell if someone is a “good” person by looking at him. I have been a sex crimes prosecutor for 18 years. In that time, I’ve had hundreds of defendants who were, to all outward appearances, exactly the guys that you would call “good.” They were church-goers. They were Christians. They believed what you believe, they wore the same clothes you wear, they sang the same hymns on Sunday you sing, and they read the same Bible that you read.

          They were supported by their peers. Their pastors sent me letters, telling me that these defendants were good men, who made mistakes, and didn’t deserve to be treated like “those criminals,” by which they always meant black people, or poor people, or people who weren’t associated with their religion, even when the acts committed by their friend and congregant were horrific.

          If anyone is an expert on sexual assault and abuse and the people who commit it, I am. And I am telling you right here, right now, that there is nothing that any person can do to ensure that they will never be victimized, because, by definition, a victim is not in control of what happens to him or her. There is no place that is completely safe. And telling women to go through their lives in fear is counterproductive. We need to seize our opportunities, and take our chances, and live our lives boldly. Just like men. Cowering in the corner doesn’t mean we won’t get hurt, it just means we’ll never get a chance to really live.

          I get it that we aren’t going to agree.

        • Don Hayes says:

          So right! I was a youth leader years ago and I wish I knew then what I know now.

      • vrein11 says:

        very true… Best way is to stay in a group I think..

      • Joel Zimmerebner says:

        I am so tired of the whole mentality of women being helpless creatures. “I am worried that my daughter will be raped, so I will lock her up and never let her have any social interaction.” How about instead of teaching your daughter to be a victim you empower her? Teach her about common date rape conditions. Teach her how to defend herself. Make her carry mace. I am an Iraq veteran. I am 6’4″ and 240 pounds. Every girl that I have ever dated or been friends with I have made sure that they know how to defend themselves. It frightens me how few women know any basic defense. I teach my friends moves that I was taught in the Army. My goal is for them to be able to defend themselves against me. And it only takes a few sessions for them to do that. If they can stop a huge guy like me, then I am satisfied with my training of them. And I know that they will never be the victims that you are training your daughter to be.

        • Wow, Joel, the training you give your friends is fantastic!

        • Zoe says:

          I’ve taken self-defense training myself. But *my* goal isn’t to train all women so they can defend themselves; that’s up to them. My own goal is to train my SONS to treat other people with respect, and especially women because they learn from every direction that women are less worthy of it. So giving women equal respect will take extra effort on my boys’ part as they go through life. And I’m working to teach them to do it.

          So *my* goal is to turn out three boys to whom it wouldn’t even occur to attack a woman or to let others slander her.

          I don’t want to underplay the value of self-defense. I simply want our MAIN GOAL to be eradicating rape–not teaching self-defense to potential victims. Every woman in the world could be great at self-defense and would it stop rapists from trying to rape (and some of them will still succeed at it)? No. But if every man in the world learned to respect other people, rape would end overnight.

          So teach self-defense. Learn self-defense. But keep in mind that that is the fallback position, the secondary goal. The primary goal has to be tackling the problem at the source–rapists and potential rapists.

        • Pastor Bob says:

          This is one active posting!
          With 85 posts above this, I forgot the source, but this is good:
          “I simply want our MAIN GOAL to be eradicating rape–not teaching self-defense to potential victims. Every woman in the world could be great at self-defense and would it stop rapists from trying to rape (and some of them will still succeed at it)? No. But if every man in the world learned to respect other people, rape would end overnight.

          So teach self-defense. Learn self-defense. But keep in mind that that is the fallback position, the secondary goal.”

          I spent some time with a young lady who had been raped a young teen and was encouraged by her quiet strength. She saw first hand the lack of self-control by one male teen who took advantage of a young heart and inflicted great pain, Her clothing was not the issue, it was the lack of respect. (Real men do NOT do this -EVER!)

          On the one hand, cover certain parts is important, how much is debatable, and why we debate to great lengths is almost unnecessary. Young teens who are oblivious to some of these things need wise mentors to help them see some aspects of life differently. Will the mentor share things gently or with a heavy hand?

          As a Youth Pastor, my approach has been to share the main points, starting with God’s principles. Then to break these down and discuss these by looking at how we were designed, and recognizing these how to apply God’s principles in our lives.

          I hope you can see that I stress self-control as a primary part of life. Non-Christians stress this but for a different reason, and a different source to draw strength. One example is Why does she want to open that extra button or two?

          Having said this, the heavy point is that no matter what she looks like, or dresses, he must treat her with respect. This concept is repeated as many as possible, as many synonyms as can be found. Honor her a child of God, treat her as you wished to be treated, there are consequences.

          I have made it a point to hammer home the word respect. I demonstrate it, I expect my leaders to model this as well. At some point, we as leaders do admonish the wrong child, and when the mistake is made apologies are offered. This has to be one of the greatest ways to demonstrate respect, admitting a mistake.

          The one who commits sin is responsible for their own actions. I told this young lady that she in no ways bears responsibility the actions of another. Always a modest dresser, this was not the issue, and it never should be. The courts hold the “doer” fully responsible for their actions. Stimuli are irrelevant to the courts in these cases, for when she says NO he is required to stop.

          My tears grew as I heard how the first woman she went to asked her what she was wearing. Over the course of a few meetings, I have earned her trust, and look forward to when the right (female) mentor she can trust will enter her life.

          Susie, not her real name, has a long way to go in healing. Your prayers will be appreciated. She moved recently and has stayed in touch.

          A painful description to demonstrate self-control, but an important one.

        • Tim says:

          “no matter what she looks like, or dresses, he must treat her with respect.”

          Well put, PB, and yes I am praying for her and for wisdom for those helping her.

        • Tina says:

          AWESOME, Joel!!!

        • Christy says:

          A woman could be butt naked. If a man forced her to have sex, it is still rape and still isn’t the woman’s fault. People need to quit blaming women for men’s behavior and bad decisions men choose to make. Teach boys/men how to respond to a woman barely covered instead of so called protecting your girls and making them responsible for a boys behavior.

          A year ago today, I was date raped by a man that I had known for 2 months. I did everything I could to make being with him safe. But it still happened. He made a choice. It was his fault, not mine. People who blame women for their own rape are despicable.

        • Tim says:

          Christy, I am so sorry you were attacked, and I agree with you completely.

    • Continue with what you are doing, but the key is a balance. Checklists and guidelines are a good idea, for we all need a starting point. The best advice I received as this: “Where is your heart as you _______ .” It boils down to the Fruit of the Spirit, “… self-control … ” which is taught, seen, experienced and developed.
      Keep up the good work, keep going!

      • Tim says:

        The Spirit’s fruit is a great list. I think Paul was speaking about the complete uselessness of morality lists; he said they are worthless for controlling behavior.

        • Pastor Bob says:

          Tim, I had to read what you wrote a couple of times. Why? In Galatians 5, Paul was contrasting the lifestyle of the believer and the non-believer. Preceding the Fruit of the Spirit is the Works of the Flesh. If you are speaking – shall we say – against lists, this whole passage won’t do.
          It looks like you seek to place practicality in opposition to spiritual conduct. Often the two work together.

        • karen d says:

          I might be reading your comment incorrectly, and if so I apologize, but I understand the fruit of the spirit to be descriptive, not proscriptive, meaning we aren’t necessarily to go out and “work” to have all those qualities, but rather that as the Spirit infuses our life, we will see the evidence of it by this Fruit in ever-growing measure. If this is correct, then the Fruit of the Spirit doesn’t function as a “list” in the same way these morality lists tend to.

          Am I off here in some way?

        • Tim says:

          Paul was speaking to believers who were allowing themselves to be led astray by people who advocated the morality lists, though, Pastor Bob.

        • Tim says:

          That’s the way I read it too, Karen. I took care to refer to both John 15 and Galatians 5 in the post to show the connection between us bearing fruit and who produces it in us.

        • Pastor Bob says:

          Worthless for controlling behavior, much like like laws are useless for controlling people. In a fallen society I am more correct than not. In the Christian culture, we NEED guidelines, especially when the world is twisting everything around. If we are in Christ we are to show the fruit listed, the key here is -SELF CONTROL- but we cannot ignore -LOVE- putting the other person in front of our own needs/wants. Rape does NOT happen if true agape is in both lives.
          -While never encountering a “list” for purity, I have always taught guidelines and principles. I had a pastor early in my Christian life who stressed the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” like this, keep your attention on the “Do’s” and you won’t have time for the “Don’ts.”
          =Philippians 4:8; “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
          Looks like a “list” to me.

        • Tim says:

          It’s a list, Pastor Bob, but it’s not a checklist. 😉

  5. karen d says:

    I’ve been reading about the “purity culture” for some time now. Thankfully it was not part of my church experience growing up. We were legalistic for sure, in some ways, but never touched this level of fundie. What gets me is how deep the assumption goes that the female body is dangerous, or that a particular woman’s body was made and formed for (only) one man — presumably her husband. I am coming late the table here (slow, I am) but it is truly shocking and amazing to me how we women (and girls) literally spend our entire lives, from puberty onward, trying to mitigate our female bodies. Shame, fear, anxiety, failure, embarrassment — these are the drivers, not to mention the outright control of some men in some subcultures. I love how you are always preaching freedom, tim!

    • Tim says:

      It’s for freedom we’ve been set free, Karen, women and men both. These leaders with their rules are enslaving men and women both. It grieves me that they don’t understand the gospel and the words of Jesus where he proclaimed that when the Son sets you free you are free indeed.

    • Checklists and guidelines: What ever happened to Boundaries?
      Seems like we spend less time (as a culture) talking about “self-control.”
      While we are at it, maybe that word “respect” needs to be hears more.
      Tell me what I missed?

  6. They said: “Don’t do that.”
    I said: “Okay.”
    And I often spouted to whoever would listen that I was going to wait until marriage.
    Imagine everybody’s surprise when I started living with my then-boyfriend now-husband…

    Both our children have yet to enter puberty, but we are fast approaching that time. We are coaching our children through discussion and prayer, rather than the “don’t go there, end of discussion” approach.

    Thanks so much for this post, Tim. It would be really easy to get sucked into the purity culture’s rules and regs and then think, “We’re good!” A form of that didn’t work for me and won’t work for anyone.

  7. Becky says:

    I agree about the rules and checklists often not being of God. But beyond that, I’m not quite sure what you are advocating for here, Tim. God’s word does tell us to “flee sexual immorality.” I know a lot of people take that and create a whole list of things that we MUST NOT DO (not just with purity, but everything), and those things aren’t necessarily sinful on their own. But if a person’s intent is to avoid sin, and not just maintain an appearance of righteousness or “purity,” then who are we to judge them for giving themselves boundaries? Or for encouraging the same in their children?

    • Tim says:

      Good question. The problem with those man made rules against sin is that they don’t work, as Paul said in both Colossians and Romans. In fact, he said they lead to more sin. What I am advocating is there in the post, Becky; measure yourself by the fruit of the Spirit that Christ produces in you, not by whether you are following a set of rules.

  8. Becky says:

    I don’t think there are such things as “man made rules against sin.” God is against all sin, as we should be as his followers.

    The difference here is that people often make up their own rules and then treat them as if breaking them is sin. But Paul addresses that issue as well, when he talks about those whose faith is weak in Romans 14. If one BELIEVES that going to a movie is a sin (or eating pork, etc.) then for him or her it IS a sin. We shouldn’t be quarreling about disputable matters or trying to convince someone who’s trying to “stay pure” that their efforts are pointless, because that is putting a stumbling block before them.

    I am with you on measuring yourself on what fruit the Spirit is working in and through you. But I also think that certain guidelines that we set for ourselves and our children can help us avoid temptation, as long as we are not making the “rules” the yard stick by which we measure our walk with Christ. Because then we can become legalistic judgmental hypocrites.

    For example, in my house we don’t drink. Not because we believe alcohol consumption is wrong or sinful, but for my husband it is a weak area and can lead to sin. We’ve been careful with our kids about what friends they can spend the night with, whether they can go to parties, etc., not because we believe that any of those things are inherently sinful, or becaus they are against some “rule,” but because we don’t want them to be in situations where it may be easier for them to compromise or stumble.

    So it’s not always about “Oh my gosh, you went to a party. You’re such a sinner!”

    It’s about making choices that will honor Christ, and helping our children to do the same.

    • Tim says:

      Great points, Becky, every single one. My post is about the purity culture that oppresses people with their rules, not the type of good parenting methods you go over in your comment.


  9. Becky says:

    I suspected that we were basically saying the same thing. But it seemed to me that some people might take what you said and run in the completely opposite direction. 🙂

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  11. Andy says:

    I would say that adding to the scriptures does not work (adding more rules) and subtracting form the scriptures has the same affect (focusing on rules and demeaning the Holy Trinity by drawing focus away from them)

  12. Beth Caplin says:

    I agree that the purity culture is harmful…but what about purity itself? Is it still a good thing that’s just been hijacked by a bunch of fanatical legalists? And if so, how do we go about teaching it in a healthier way?

    • Tim says:

      Good question, Beth. I’d say our purity is in Christ, rather than in some sort of cultural construct. Can we teach better the truth of Jesus and how he lives in and through us? Absolutely, and that’s who we should focus on – Jesus – rather than some rules one purity leader thinks are great and another thinks are still not strict enough.

      • karen d says:

        Tim, is it my imagination or is all of a sudden purity and modesty getting an inordinate amount of airtime? I see articles and (thankfully) satires out there all the time in the blogsphere and I wonder why they (purity/modesty) have become such a hot topic of late. What do you think?

        • Tim says:

          There has been a ton of harm done by the purity culture, and I think people are finally speaking up against it instead of merely saying it’s just a bunch of kooks off in a corner not hurting the rest of the body of Christ. It hurts us all when it hurts anyone in the body. As Paul said, when one part suffers the whole body suffers.

        • karen d says:

          “…when one part suffers the whole body suffers.” I am so glad you said this! I feel like this is the sticking point that I keep coming up against on all these issues of gender discrimination, rape culture, complementarian/egalitarian debates, etc. It ends up in this moment when the other person basically says, “Well, that’s not my experience” or they’ve don’t know anything about what is happening in the Christian patriarchy movement, or the extreme homeschooling groups, or just the ways in which so many young women are discouraged from seminary tracks as theologians, I could go on and on. It doesn’t happen to them, and they don’t read about it all or listen to the stories, and so the conclusion is, “This is not a thing.” And inside I just die because it IS a thing to me — the suffering of girls trafficked for sex, the Nigerian girls kidnapped and still not returned to their families, the girls who are coming forward with rape allegations at Bob Jones and Pensacola, and so on. These girls matter to me! Their stories matter to me. Sometimes I wish they didn’t because I feel so powerless to help them or change the world for them.

        • Tim says:

          If you ever want to write about this from your perspective and have me run it as a guest post here please feel free to send me whatever you have, Karen.

        • karen d says:

          great idea! i’ll work on it 🙂

        • Like Tim, I’m looking forward to reading that post, Karen!!!

  13. Mary Simmons says:

    Thank you for bringing this topic up. I can speak from my experiences raising three daughters who are all very committed to purity. One is 22 and getting married next month. The other two are 19 and have finished their first year of college. My girls are standing the test of time. We focused on teaching the girls that our over sexualized culture was a trap for people who don’t understand their true worth. The rest was all about helping them see how much they are loved by God and us. “Your worth the wait.” Enough said.

    • Tim says:

      When we show our children the love of God and how much he loves them, we’ve done much more than those purity checklists could ever hope to do. It sounds like you showed them that very well, Mary.

  14. Dano says:

    If you’re feeling guilty it must be Satan? Really? Might it not be your conscience?

    • Tim says:

      I think we may be talking about two different kinds of guilt, Dano. Our conscience could point out that we are guilty of committing a sin, that’s true. But guilt in the sense of a Christian supposedly suffering condemnation before God only comes from Satan according to Scripture.

  15. Great discussion here, Tim! Glad this post is getting more traffic and a thoughtful discussion.

    This satire on the purity culture:
    When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ
    got me thinking about how tired I am of hearing “don’t, don’t, don’t” being spoken to women. Some commenters on that article have made the point that the “what to & not to wear” line of reasoning eventually results in full burkas being worn. There’s simply no way for women to dress so as to never display their body shape. Because of sexual deviants even non-sexual children are desired by some. It got me thinking about the impossibility of success in attempting to never “arouse lustful thoughts in another.” So I wrote this bit of fiction:

    On Modesty

  16. Becky says:

    Such an interesting discussion here, Tim. I am a Christian. I am a woman. I am a mother. As a Christian, I believe that we should live our lives in a way that lines up with God’s word, and teach our children to do the same. God’s word talks about modesty, so that should definitely be something we consider in the way we dress and behave. It isn’t about following a set of rules, but about deciding for ourselves how to best represent Christ.

    • Tim says:

      Becky, you’ve summarized my whole post in one short paragraph. Thank you so much for articulating it more succinctly than I ever could have.

  17. Sarah says:

    I just want to say that I really appreciate this article. I grew up in the purity culture and didn’t even realize it had a name until recently. I have found it so reassuring to know that other Christians feel the same way I do about it, and that I’m not actually crazy for disagreeing.

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  19. Peter T says:

    Could you give some reliable sources for how common in the purity culture the two rules are from your list:
    ◾Courtship is the only Godly path to marriage – no dates, no time alone with each other, no private conversations on the phone, and absolutely no texting. (…)
    ◾No alcohol, no movies, no dances, no …

    Courtship traditionally included time alone with each other, seen but not heard by the woman’s parents or a chaperone. I don’t see how forbidding texting and phone conversations could be called a form of courtship.

    Dancing has traditionally been a highlight of courtship, as an opportunity to hold each other together with exchanging a few words. Some puritanical communities forbade dancing for everybody, but from what I have heard about today’s purity culture, dancing is not forbidden.

    • Tim says:

      Good question, Peter. They are rules I’ve seen as I’ve read some purity/modesty bloggers. You could also try looking at the web pages of the men I listed in this post, as a place where this type of thinking leads to odd practice. Another is in the link above labeled “purity culture” at the start of this post.


    • Terri says:

      In many conservative circles dancing, movies, and alcohol (etc.) are forbidden. I thought this was common knowledge, as it is common practice in these circles. You may not be as familiar with these circles.

      • Tim says:

        And let’s hope those circles fall into greater and greater obscurity, Terri. Their teaching needs to fade away to nothingness.

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  21. Dressage_Girl says:

    I was raised in the purity culture movement and followed it wholeheartedly. It took me 29 years to truly recognize how damaging the rules, regulations and guilt were to me. What I learned from the modesty rules was that my body was dangerous and something that could cause my brothers in Christ to stumble, and needed to be covered up. This eventually translated into me being ashamed of my body, as it could lead my brothers into sin. I developed such a level of shame and body-hate that it was a big contributing factor to the eating disorder I developed in college. It took five years of treatment from a Christian therapist to overcome this, and I nearly took my own life during that time. Nine years later, I am just finally learning to that my body is a wonderful and beautiful thing and that I don’t need to be ashamed of it.

    I have an extremely difficult time building even a general friendship with men. I spent so long trying to follow the rules for emotional purity that I didn’t realize I was simply teaching myself to emotionally withdraw from men entirely.

    Rules and checklists are things that I have walked away from entirely. I no longer follow purity culture or modesty culture. That is not to say that I am having sex with guys – I still have never even kissed a man. But I am focusing on living by the fruits of the Spirit rather than a list of dos and don’ts. I have been condemned at home and in the church for leaving rule based purity culture in favor of focusing on living by the fruits of the Spirit.

    I appreciate you taking time to write this blog, Tim! Peace and blessings be with you.

    • Tim says:

      Thank you so much for writing, DG. People who live under rules can’t understand that letting go of the rules is the way to truly know what it is like to live with Jesus as their guide. I am praying you continue to grow in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and enjoy the freedom of Christ found in him. Your heavenly Father loves you forever.

  22. Pingback: Free to Date | Steak and a Bible

  23. Don Johnson says:

    I do not agree with the human made rules of the purity culture, and I appreciate you speaking out against them. As you point out, they have no value in restraining anyone, per Paul.

    I do have an exegetical concern. You seem to claim that as human-made rules have no value in restraining anyone, then it follows that any rules have no value; but this omits the possibility that God-made rules have value. In other words, in your desire to avoid legalism, you might be ending up justifying license. I am not sure, you might not be, and just using abbreviated statements, but your statements seem to conflate rejecting human-made rules with rejecting all rules, including God-made rules.

    I do agree we as believers are to walk by the Spirit and assess this, it is just that I incorporate God-made rules in this assessment, as I can deceive myself. Thoughts?

    • Tim says:

      I was speaking only of “these types of rules”, as I phrased it in the post. When it comes to God’s rules, I am no more antinomian than Paul is. 😉

      • Don Johnson says:

        You know and I know that Paul has been understood by some to be very much against the Law/Torah, so your comment in very ambiguous. I think those believers get it exactly backwards, per Acts 21 and elsewhere. I assume essentially all believers THINK they believe what Paul did, but just because one thinks something is the case, does not make it so. Because of the wide disparity of beliefs in this area, I can assert that some believers are wrong in their belief about Paul, as they cannot all be correct about him.

        If you wish to discuss this further, please explicitly request it or I will just drop this discussion and let you have the last word if you want it.

  24. ZechZav says:

    Thank you for this post. I completely agree with you. Going to one of the comments above about the value of rules, although it was a year ago, I want to add something else. Good parents set rules for the well-being of their children. They don’t make the rules for the sake of rules. The rules have no value if they do not fulfill that purpose. Jesus said that the entire law and prophets hang on the two great commandments of loving God and your neighbour (Matthew 22). Paul said whoever does this fulfills the law (Romans 13). James calls this command “the royal law” and John’s first epistle agrees. Jesus said “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. If you substitute the word “sabbath” with “marriage” I can imagine Jesus having a similar conversation with church leaders today.

    I have written a whole series of articles on church tradition, focusing mainly on their sexual ethics. I used to hold to them and was involved with some ex-gay Christian support networks which advocated celibacy, and went to a church that heavily taught purity for all singles (gay and straight) and it was oppressive and abusive. They are nothing more than the “commandments and traditions of men” based on a few cherry picked Bible passages. Other passages which contradict their views are either ignored or explained away with quick answers.

    This is my article “Thou Shalt Not Enjoy Sex:

    • Tim says:

      Marriage was made for people, not people for marriage – I think that’s right on the money, ZZ.God has the god of his people in mind when he gives these gifts. The gift is a means for us to not only the gift but also the giver.

  25. Christy says:

    5 tips for rape prevention:

    1. If someone is drunk, don’t rape them.
    2. When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone.
    3. Use the buddy system! If it is difficult for you to stop yourself from raping someone, ask a trusted friend to accompany you at all times.
    4. Carry a rape whistle. If you find yourself about to rape someone, blow the whistle until someone comes and stops you.
    5. Don’t forget: Honesty is the best policy. When asking someone out, don’t pretend you are interested in them as a person. Tell them straight up that you plan to be raping them later. If you don’t communicate your intentions, they may take it as a sign that you do not plan to rape them.

    Rape culture directs women to police their clothing, beverages, behavior, and sexuality at all times to avoid men. It portrays men as powerless against their violent sexual urges. Rape culture demeans everyone, and everyone should speak out against rape culture.

    This was copied from a picture a friend sent me.

  26. Pingback: The Purity Culture Isn’t Pure – Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another – Lamb's Harbinger

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