Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Death of the Heart and Soul

With that title, what else could I be writing about but the Purity Movement?

My thoughts about the Purity Movement, covered here a little over a year ago, haven't changed. Never will change, actually. I still consider the Purity Movement (and all else within the Christian homeschooling movement) to be life in a jar...

"when you plant a seed in a jar, you sentence the plant that will result to a best case scenario of growing into the shape of the jar - but NEVER exceeding it. No matter how much the sprigs and shoots want to spread out and reach toward the sun that shines on them and gives them life, the jar forms a barrier that prevents it.

And such are the children of Purity. Until the glass walls shatter, they're doomed to a life of emotional ignorance and dysfunction, maybe even sexual dysfunction, and religious addiction and its associated baggage.

Elizabeth Esther wrote this great piece a few days ago, and it really resonated with me. I saw all of these things in my own deal - only from the other side of the glass, and without knowing where the ignorance and dysfunction originated. Since people still occasionally ask about the Purity stuff, and motivated by EE's great handling of the issue, I thought I'd add just a few more thoughts about all of it. As always, I'll be blunt (probably too blunt for some - so be it - you'll survive).

Any parent who forces their children into this culture is a horrible, horrible parent. Even worse, a horrible human being capable of doing horrible damage to other human beings, and who will do horrible damage to other human beings - especially their own children. If you've forced your children into this culture, you suck. You suck on many levels. You suck because of what you're allowing completely useless, senseless, and anti-Christ religious nonsense and zealotry make of you, and what you're trying to make of others because of your zealotry. You suck. I don't give a rat's ass about your intentions.

Any environment where love is a bad thing and to be feared is an insanely unhealthy environment. Any environment where feelings are to be feared is an insanely unhealthy environment. Any environment that only gives place to "approved" emotions is an insanely unhealthy environment. Any environment that teaches that emotions can be turned on or off is not just insanely unhealthy but also rabidly ignorant. Any environment that teaches that God will either "put in" or "take out" of your heart the proper emotions is a religiously diseased and emotionally ignorant environment. Any environment that teaches you that if you follow the proper formula, do x, y, and z, that the proper emotions will then develop is a domain ruled by emotionally unhealthy and ignorant religious addicts. Any environment that teaches you that if you marry the man your father (or authority figures) approves of, or "God's man" (or woman) for you, that love will then develop, well, it's unhealthy, ignorant, stupid, destructive, toxic, and about a thousand other adjectives that could describe its rancid mental and emotional necrosis.

How are people supposed to be emotionally healthy, and sexually healthy, in an environment where sex goes from the very worst thing a person could EVER do to the most wonderful thing a person can do, and the only thing that changes the dynamic are a few vows, a ring, and a few words from a preacher? That's a recipe for one effed up sex life (pun intended). When the value of a person is determined by whether or not they're "sexually pure" (or even "emotionally pure"), there really are no values - because people have become of no value, with the single exception of their ability to create new people to be indoctrinated. Then again, in a culture where marriage is founded on godly procreation and godly indoctrination rather than on being with the person your heart and soul loves, values shouldn't really be expected to have any substance.

If you consider love to be "an emotional thing", you're in trouble as a human being. Big trouble.

If any of this describes your environment, get out now. Shatter the glass and never look back. Go somewhere that you, as a person, as an individual, are valued more than a cultic religious or sociopolitical paradigm.

Your feelings matter. YOU matter. 


  1. My younger son had his heart broken a little over a year ago. The girl's family wasn't as crazy as the one you dealt with but he still had to meet the family and "ask permission" to date the girl. They were constantly chaperoned (the girl's mother accompanied them to a movie and sat between them.)

    I had a bad feeling about the situation from the start (the father compared his daughter to a vintage mustang and told my son basically "don't scratch my daughter" - oy) , but my son was 17 at the time and I stayed out of it as much as I could.

    I hate that he was hurt, and of course I prayed for the hurt to go away...but at some point we have to let our children loose to live their lives.

    1. Your philosophy of not intruding into your teens life is one I see all of the time and disagree with wholeheartedly.

      It's true that you need to let young people make mistakes; however while they live at home they need guidance. A better course of action is to set them down and talk out the situation giving them insights into motives, etc. They may still make the mistake, but you have at least made them aware of the potential problems and they may extradite themselves from the situation before much damage is done.

  2. I was one of those girls - the ones who wasn't ever really allowed to date alone - and when I finally could, it felt wrong (because of all the requirements I was made to endure before) - and haven't tried since. I broke two very nice young men's hearts, and think of them often. They are both happily married now, and I rejoice in that - but wish I could apologize without making it weird for their wives, so I stay silent - and pray the Lord breaks the walls of protection I've put up around myself, to protect myself from those guys with filthy minds... yeah right.

    My family made my first boyfriend (I was 18 & he was 19) read, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". I made my second boyfriend, in his mid 20s (I was about 20), ask my dad permission to date me - my dad was totally casual about it though - "Sure you can - protect her & make her happy".

    Now when I hang out around guys, I can't form sentences or even phrases of words - everything comes out all weird - because I honestly never learned to open my heart or express thoughts around guys.

    My 1st boyfriend gave me a purity/commitment ring. When I broke up with him (my folks didn't like him), my parents gave me a new purity ring.

    Several years later, after several very depressed years, I gained too much weight and the ring wouldn't come off - I had it cut off my finger by a jeweler and kept it as a reminder that the bondage I was lived under is slowly being broken off my life - and one day, I'll trust men enough to be willing to date again.

    It's hard - after being taught everything I was taught about it - I feel awful for what I did.

    My brother struggles too, because of the things we were told (NOT from my family, but from our church and homeschooling friends and the world around us)... that everything he struggles with is an abomination, and condemned by the Lord. Seriously - SOOOOOO many times my family and I would be on the floor crying with him after he was told the minor things he had done were terrible by the girls he dated. He still struggles to believe he's a wonderful young man.

    We grew up in a verbally (and I'm learning that early in my life, physically) abusive home - manipulative in ways, passive aggressive.

    My grandparents were worse, and the great grandparents even worse. It is my greatest desire that when I have a family of my own, that cycle (though improving) would be broken - and we would learn to trust our men, trust our women, and trust our CHILDREN.

    Life is a hard one - and it sometimes appears as though the emotional & manipulative & oppressive tone in "Christian" homes is taking its toll. I certainly feel it.

    1. You will break the cycle. I can see that in your words.

    2. A little late, but I feel to add a nod.

      I grew up as a male in a world where males and females were never supposed to talk, or contact until they were 18. Or something like that. It's very confusing. Fortunately for me, cyberschool (not homeschool) came along, and I quickly developed friends.

      I still don't know how to behave, or even manage around members of the female gender.

      ... I'm also quite anti-social. Or rather, I can only be social on the 'net.

      God have mercy on my parents.

  3. Thank you for always being blunt and to the point. Sometimes that's the only way that people can actually hear the truth.

    My father used to tell my sister and me, "You don't marry the one you love, you love the one you marry." That was his way of saying that we didn't need to love whoever he picked out for us. We'd eventually learn to love them.

    So sad. That's why I up and left and married the one I loved.

  4. Powerful stuff, Lewis. I like that you don't hesitate to name the damage done to individuals on all levels within this movement. I could see that a piece like this could be a real wake-up call to someone who is currently struggling, not sure where to turn.

  5. I'm getting a little hung up on terms here....I always think of the "Purity Movement" as being the Joshua Harris brand of emotional purity that caught on in mainstream Christian circles (and which I didn't buy even at the age of 15). I feel like you're talking about the P/QF lifestyle in general, which is different than what I think of as "The Purity Movement," though they overlap a lot--but isn't the P/QF lifestyle even more extreme that what would pass as "Purity" culture in most mainstream churches? (Again, though, there are many similar thinking patterns between them).

    1. The QFers are definitely more extreme as to the total lifestyle, but it's really all equally as toxic, from Harris' brand to the VF brand.

    2. Not too harsh at all - it really was that horrible! The strange thing is that it is only in hindsight that I realize how suffocating and abnormal our upbringing was, especially since we were so isolated and our few friends were the kids of "like-minded" believers. I remember how hurt I was when I finally worked up the courage a year ago, at 26, to confront my mother about the damage she had wrought on us eight kids and she just dismissed it, as if it was no big deal. But we're all so messed up thanks to her and my stepfather! I remember how peculiar a sensation it was when I went off to a little Christian college and was at 21 the oldest freshman, by far the most naive and sheltered student there while still feeling years older than my age because of my cynicism and baggage.

  6. Well, Lewis, why don't you tell us how you really feel?? Haha!! Seriously though, you know my situation and some of our decisions have been of the sheltering variety...but I totally agree with you on this. It's a bit difficult b/c as a parent you definitely have messages about purity that you want to communicate. I still think 2 virgins marrying is a good thing. But this is one of those areas where that C.S. Lewis, is it? quote so applies. The one about well-intentioned tyranny. There is a lot of dysfunction flying around out there.

  7. I grew up conservative Christian, had a purity ring, the whole thing. I was home schooled and went to a Christian girls' camp. Both places had in their curriculum a at least a few lessons about purity. I remember a really vivid demonstration in one of these classes where they had a paper heart which they used to represent your purity. As the speaker talked about all the ways you could be impure (everything from obsessing over a boy or even just looking at a boy, to having per-marital sex), she would tear off a piece of the heart. Kissing a boy? Rip. Thinking about sex. Riiiiiip. She did this until a small piece of paper was left. Then she asked the audience if this is what we wanted to give to our husbands someday? Many of the girls were in tears. It wasn't until years later that I realized how sick this was, and COMPLETELY ABUSIVE! It makes me sick to think about it.

    1. How horrible! :( This kind of thing makes me SO RAGEY. You poor darlings. I wish I could've given you some kind of hippie self-compassion owning your powerful womanhood talk or something, instead. :P

    2. Well Anon, I'm sure Doug Phillips does have a class on being a righteous as*hole, exhibiting the kind of nasty behavior he showed to women forced to end deadly pregnancies. Maybe you'd like to sign up?


  8. Hmm... I agree with you, for the most part. (Got to say though, being home schooled in a Christian family was, while being something of a mixed bag, far from being trapped in a jar like a firefly. I was free to roam valleys and sit in libraries and express myself however I wanted to. There were difficult parts, yes, but nothing I'd give up homeschooling to avoid. Loved those years. Many of my home schooled friends growing up feel the same way about our experience. The ATI ones, have come out strongly against that curriculum, but not homeschooling in general. Those of us who were more mainstream/liberal Christians, don't feel that way about our education.)

    The Purity Movement (which my parents weren't involved with--I was exposed to it through other Christians) always made me want to lose my virginity, haha. I thought, if there were people so hung up on that part of me, I'd rather they see me as worthless, than risk getting involved with them. Kind of like the label "slut" being a religious douchebag alarm system? xD

    But yeah... Virginity isn't the greatest gift a woman has to offer her husband. That's the stupidest load of crap. Your first time isn't even usually that great. Geez. (Helps if you've gotten comfortable physically and emotionally with your partner first, though. :P) It's your commitment, love, care, ear, heart, conversational skills, and brainpower--everything about you, and your choice to spend your life with a particular man, that's so remarkable. It's YOU, and your love, that a man should be honored to have, and cherish.

    My best friend who's into Josh Harris, I think, dated a guy she wasn't attracted to, just because he showed an interest. Fortunately she broke up with him. Before him, she'd never really had a guy friend (refusing to spend time alone with a man, can sometimes keep you from getting to really know any). So, while I respect her old fashioned choice in some ways, and while in other ways it concerns me, I see her still following her heart over the teaching, which is all I can ask of anyone.

    I do know some home schooled girls within the patriarchy movement, who have somehow managed to follow their hearts as well. While I don't agree with the oppressive teaching, their spirits sore above it, inspiring me to aim so high.

    So yeah, I um, agree with you. But I'm more optimistic. Girls can be really tough and brave. :)