Four Duggar girls – teens from the homeschooling re- ality show 19 Kids and Counting – have just released their first book. Garnering the most press attention
is the little tidbit that they will save not just sex, but also
their first kiss for their marriage.
I have several friends who have saved the smooching
for the ceremony, and they’re very glad they did. I certainly
don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, though the
thought of hundreds of people watching me kiss for the
first time is more intimidating than romantic. But I still
find the whole movement a little perplexing.
My mother grew up in a very conservative rural Manitoba community. They kept the Sabbath sacred, didn’t wear
makeup and certainly didn’t dance. But kissing, at least
when you were engaged, was fine. Today, though, large
swaths of Christianity seem to be more conservative than
our parents’ and grandparents’ generations were.
What’s going on?
I think it all started with Joshua Harris’ I Kissed Dating
Good-Bye: A New Attitude Toward Relationships and Romance (Multnomah Publishers, 1997). That book spread
like wildfire through the Church. Dating, which had been
one of the main attractions of youth groups for decades,
became a dirty word.
Yet, while I agree there’s little benefit to high school relationships (an opinion I am so glad my teenage daughters
shared), Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship (Waterbrook
Press, 2000), Harris’ follow-up on courtship, still left me a
little uneasy. He and his now-wife didn’t kiss until they were
married. They really only did that famous Christian side
hug every evangelical teen has perfected. And Harris has a
list of strict guidelines they followed so as to not feed lust.
Lust is a real battle, yet this movement to grab it by the
throat and throttle it until it’s dead seems like overkill. We
have purity ceremonies where we ask girls to stand with
their dads and pledge not to have sex until marriage. We give
endless talks on modesty, discussing hemlines and cleavage
and how high T-shirts should be (two finger widths below
the clavicle, apparently). I do believe in modesty. The world
would be a much better place if everyone agreed that leggings are not pants. But in our eagerness to combat the
sexual revolution, do we do more harm than good?
Are We going Over-
board on Purity?
The current conservative trend may be
causing more problems than it’s solving.
That’s the question Amanda Barbee asked recently in her
viral article “Naked and Ashamed” at www.theotherjournal.
com. She says the evangelical church has made teenage girls
ashamed of their sexuality, and this causes much sexual
dysfunction later. As a sex and marriage author, I certainly
see where she’s coming from. We spend so much time telling girls, “Don’t do it! Don’t even think about it!” And then
they get married and suddenly some switch is supposed to
go off that lets them view sex as a positive thing.
What makes it especially problematic is the way we
frame the whole issue. Boys are walking hormones who will
lust all over anyone in a tight sweater. It’s your job to keep
him from lusting! Girls’ sex drives are barely mentioned,
while boys are presented as testosterone-induced drones,
rendered helpless by cleavage. Girls become responsible
not just for their own purity, but for boys’ purity too. Sex becomes something boys want, but girls have to fight against.
No wonder so many girls grow up ambivalent about sex.
Barbee’s article didn’t offer an alternate approach. Yes,
we’re shaming girls too much, but purity is important.
Sex before marriage damages you both spiritually and
emotionally. We do need to teach our kids to wait.
Or do we? Maybe that’s the fundamental problem with
our current approach. My teenage girls’ biggest complaint
about youth events is that they always centre around three
messages – don’t have sex, don’t drink and don’t cut or
starve yourself. But if we really want kids to make good
choices, maybe we should stop teaching them to do the
right thing and start introducing them to Jesus.
I spoke recently with a 19-year-old woman who didn’t
date in high school, but is now in quite a serious relationship at university. When she and her boyfriend were first discussing boundaries, they decided not to define how far they
should go, because as soon as you draw a line, you immediately rush to it and start flirting with it. Instead, they decided
they would begin every time they’re together by focusing on
Jesus. Make Jesus the centre, and the rest will follow.
We have become so scared teens will have sex that we
have created a purity culture centred on rules and shame,
rather than Jesus. Yes, we should be modest. Yes, we should
be pure. But we’ll achieve that much faster by having a relationship with Christ than by memorizing a bunch of rules.
I’m convinced that Christian kids often rebel because
we put too much energy into teaching rules and not
enough into showing them how to love Jesus. Rules don’t
win people to God – Jesus does. And He’s the only one
who can help us create a purity culture anyway. FT
SHeILA WRAy gRegOIRe is an author and inspirational
speaker ( www.sheilawraygregoire.com).
Women’sColumn n BY sheILA WRAY GReGOIRe