Our parents got a lot wrong, but they didn't have it easy.
It’s amazing how judging past generations becomes so much harder with context 😬.
As a woman who grew up in the purity culture, I applaud your writing and I completely agree. Very well said on all points.
That's really interesting about the ratings of movies. D you think that has to do at all with the shifting acceptability of what makes it R vs PG-13? Anecdotally it seems like the threshold has been raised, but I definitely could be wrong on that. (This isn't an argument against your position, was just curious).
I agree many had very good motives at the time. What is discouraging is when leaders continue even now to put out unhelpful messages despite pushback.
This is probably the most helpful thing I've read on the topic of purity culture since...purity culture. We can laugh at Rebecca St. James songs and scorn Josh Harris books all day long, or we can look at the historical moment that they rose from and ask, "why was this plausible?"
While I agree with what you said about many of the criticisms of purity culture being valid, many just seem like Lewis's chronological snobbery at internet speed. Or, as you put it here, re-writing the narrative to exonerate ourselves. This has a lot of overlap with your book review in the latest issue of CT.
Samuel- I am a producer for a documentary about Purity Culture and really appreciate your perspective here - and now am I subscriber- and would love to talk to you about it. Could you email me? email@example.com
Hello Mr. James, I am a brand new Substack writer and this is my very first comment. I have enjoyed perusing your long list of very meaty writing, in depth and well-considered. Right now, I cannot afford to subscribe and hopefully on ahead, I will be able to.
From my perspective of a nearly 70-year old Boomer who lived and rambled throughout the disaster that was and is the sexual revolution, I can appreciate your thoughtfuness with this loaded subject in general. Since I tend to get verbose, I will make this short. My new Substack is focused on my Prodigal journey back to God, after over three and a half decades of roaming in sorrow, away from God. I spent a full decade of my youth, having far too many sexual partners and embracing promiscuity, bisexuality and "if it feels good, do it." As I said, a DISASTER! From my front-line perspective, I can write about the selling of "sexual freedom" and it was a total lie from the one who lies for a living, that fallen angel, Lucifer. The results are visceral and raw. I am spending the remainder of my life in writing about my Prodigal journey back Home and about the wages of sin and how lies are told and woven.
Blessings to you for tackling so many items in the Christian world view. I placed your site on my recommendations list, first one.
Wendy Williams (abluntoregongirl on substack)
I also keep asserting in my spheres of influence that now adults who were teens in the 90s could take responsibility for what they chose to latch onto in regard to the philosophies and worldview of that time. We can't only keep pointing the finger at our parents and saying they failed us with embracing "Purity Culture." Purity is important in a Christian's life, but some of us wanted to believe the false premise that said if we were pure God would bring us the perfect husband/wife. It seems like some whiny now-adults want to place the blame wholly on our parents when in reality we should have been more discerning ourselves.
I never liked IKDG, especially when Harris spoke at my Christian college's chapel. I knew something was off with it and didn't fully absorb his ideals. For those that bought the lies, I grieve, as in many ways it clouded their view of God-ordained purity and relationships. But we always have to be discerning. And also be asking ourselves, how are we as adults not being discerning now with our own kids? Because I am sure there are messages we are sending to our children, whether or not we are aware of them, that our children will thoughtfully examine in the coming years and hold us accountable for.
And, who were the older Christian adults in young Joshua Harris's life as well as the editors and publishers who actually thought what he was spouting was accurate, biblical, and life-giving? Seems to me they saw the opportunity to make a buck, so out went truth. Which purportedly "Christian" books are in the same camp today? Many in my opinion. And that is why parents must teach their children to be discerning in any time, culture, and context.
A mostly quite thoughtful piece, with some good argument. I sense however, that there is support here for the current narrative that boys and men, by virtue of being male, are predatory, and are always culpable when a sexual encounter (usually casual, often drunken) doesn't meet the "standards" of the female involved. The "me too" movement is leaving much destruction in its wake as a result of absolving women of any responsibility in the dating process. It is becoming increasingly evident that men are forgoing the pursuit of women altogether, given the cynical current "rules" of relationships (men are wholly responsible for obtaining "consent" - an altogether slippery concept - which can in turn be revoked at any point in time).
A major irony that is seldom being mentioned, is that girls and women have never been less modest in their dress and behaviour than they are currently. They are taking their sartorial "cues" from pornography and from popstars and the like who push every envelope when it comes to sexual exhibitionism. This is being done with impunity, as anyone who raises a concern is attacked for "slut-shaming" or contributing to "rape culture" (however illogical these charges are).
It is also common practice in this age of technologically mediated "dating" (probably much more accurate to say "hook ups") for women to post/send explicit pictures of themselves cavalierly. Yet while boys and men are being hectored about every aspect of dating rituals, and taken to serious task for any "transgressions", this behaviour is at a minimum ignored, and at worst, affirmed.
I found it interesting that this piece refers to topless women at Woodstock 99. I appreciate that the behaviour of many was of a low moral standard, but I have to question the rationale and motive of the young women behaving in such a way in the first place.
We must be very careful to avoid a blanket endorsement of the "me too" clarion call, and the various social rules that are being implemented as a result. The deck is stacked against men, and this will only lead to a further erosion of relations between the sexes.
Really helpful historical perspective, Sam.