Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Stuff Christian Culture Likes


#45 Purity rings

posted by Stephanie Drury
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A purity ring is a ring given to an adolescent girl to show that she has made a vow to not have sex before she’s married. It’s sort of a public statement of virginity and also reminds her of the commitment she made to “remain pure” until marriage. These rings are also worn by guys, but they’re way more common among girls. The ring is ideally given to a girl by her dad, but if he isn’t on the scene or is otherwise apathetic then she might get one herself or ask her mom for one, either because she really does want to make this commitment or possibly because the Jonas Brothers wear them. (Bristol Palin had one too.)

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Sometimes the purity ring is accompanied by a Vow of Purity. This certificate is signed by the girl (and ideally her dad) then is framed. If they never get around to framing it though then it is evenutally folded up and kept in her embossed white naugahyde bible with the gold-edged pages. A Purity Ball may be attended, for which the girl and her dad will get dressed up and pay $85 each to participate in a formal event where pubescent girls in white dresses stand on a stage with their fathers and promise not to bang anyone without getting a marriage certificate first.

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The father’s involvement is an interesting factor in the purity quest. Even the psychological (i.e. objective and scientific) community acknowledges that a father’s presence has a profound effect on the sexuality of both their sons and their daughters. Both boys and girls innately look to their father for the basic formation of their sense of self worth and if he isn’t emotionally attentive then girls will get male attention somewhere else. This isn’t really by any fault of their own.

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Purity vows and purity balls that require fatherly involvement are indirectly addressing this psychological fact. The implication is that the father will “guard” his daughter’s heart and emotions (and her virginity, by proxy) until she is married. The scientific, nonreligious community might be hard pressed to find anything wrong with this. (But who knows.) Still, things start to feel a bit creepy with the tangible display of this highly personal sentiment. The point starts to become skewed. Maybe all this virginity talk is actually sexualizing girls when they are still too young. Girls may want to wear a purity ring as more of a means of joining a club or being part of a movement bigger than themselves, so in other words, it’s trendy. The dad feels peer pressure too. “Dads, men of faith, fathers in Christ: we’re taking our preteen daughters to the purity ball.” What churchy dad is going to refuse to ensure their daughter’s purity? Nobody really talks about how much time he is actually emotionally present for her, which is the crux of the entire thing. His involvement with her and protection for her are an allegory for how God loves and watches over her but this is barely implied, much less outright discussed and emphasized. There is the wearing a cute dress and signing the vow with her dad present and the taking of a white rose and kneeling at a wooden cross to seal her vow alongside dozens of her friends. The dads all shake hands and congratulate themselves that their daughters won’t grow up to be whores. The ceremony perhaps takes on a bigger meaning than the sentiment. It’s easy to get caught up in. It is the hallmark of Christian culture: Doing Things and Avoiding True Relationship. (And nobody talks about this aspect, but it’s sort of gross that a dad would attend a public event on behalf of his daughter’s cooch. This smarminess is partially obscured by his good intentions in “protecting” her which makes the whole thing difficult to criticize.)

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For all this talk about purity, the gray areas are not discussed. We all feel much more comfortable with the black and white so we try to stay there. Black and white means only two things here: Doing It and Not Doing It. The gray area is everything in between. Oh crap, the Bible doesn’t say if we can make out. So where should we draw the line? It’s just kissing, right? Okay we can. Then…hey where did my shirt go? Well, it’s okay because I’m still totally a virgin cause I have my jeans on. But…now he doesn’t. Stopping sucks. Well, as long as we’re not doing IT then it’s okay, right?

The Bible doesn’t talk about the exact details so we have to struggle with them. WWJD? Not sure exactly, it’s a grey area. Great, now we actually have to deal with this because we don’t have our black and white guidelines.

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When a girl who has worn a purity ring gets married, this detail is almost always announced at the altar on the day of her wedding so that no soul present is unwitting to the fact that her hymen is intact. While the pastor talks at length about this priceless gift she will give her husband, the wedding guests fight to get the vagina visual out of their minds. Hymen Bride’s parents beam with pride at their daughter’s alleged morality. And even if she IS very pure, is God pleased? Has she entered a struggle to get there and has she wrestled with God in the context of relationship, or has she played it safe and stuck to the churchy rules so she can feel happy with herself because of this good work she’s accomplished? And if she has wrestled with God and anguished and cried and pitched a fit about it, could God be more happy about their interaction than he is about the technically pure bride who white-knuckled it there totally on her own? What IS purity? What IS true love waiting? Not being sure is difficult. It’s easier to make a ceremony out of it and focus on the symbols.

*This post originally aired on September 24, 2008, and warranted a repost just because I saw some people wearing purity rings today.



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Your Name

posted July 11, 2010 at 5:36 pm


These are odd… mostly because I know a lot of women who wear them who are definitely not virgins in any sense. Guess as long as other people don’t know, it’ll be fine?
Creepy stuff this…



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Skeptigirl

posted July 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm


Unlike certain purity ring wearing friends I made it to my wedding night with my hymen much more in tact than theirs. Some were actually pregnant.



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copperchips

posted July 12, 2010 at 7:37 am


Ahh, just another “blogxample” of liberal hipocrisy. It’s rather amusing to me as to what length people will go to justify their “non-convictions”. It seems to me that SCCL is looking down their ostentatious noses, once again, at a ceremony to solidify the importance of moral and spiritual purity, and to deem it more of a crutch for the dad, than a marker for the child to look back upon. The purity ceremony isn’t a magical seance to rid a girl or boy from all sin. Neither is it intended to be the placebo to a guilt-ridden father who doesn’t parent his children perfectly. We all can identify with our daily struggle with spiritual failure. In reality, the father who takes the time to go through a purity ceremony with their children is likely to be more concerned and interested in the well being of their children than the father who takes no action at all and hopes all goes well with their children in the natural course of life. Ceremonies like these often serve as a watermark for them to look back upon in their stuggle with sexual purity.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 12, 2010 at 9:53 am


CC,
You might consider that religious liberalism is actually the notion that Christianity is about making bad people good and good people better, which is precisely what the glorified moralism and therapeutic deism of purityism is all about. But Christianity is actually about reconciling sinners to God, not meeting the psycho-sexual felt needs of fathers.
For my part, I’d much rather take the time and effort to catechize my daughters. You seem to make a false dichotomy between purity balls or nothing at all. Do you understand that those who catechize their kids might fall somewhere in between? Or maybe your dichotomy is a function of the very black/white vs. gray problem mentioned in the post-proper, the one moralists have in the first place.



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brambonius

posted July 12, 2010 at 10:06 am


yeah, those liberals who don’t follow the bible and what it says about purity balls and true love waits pledges. Those who add their own freaky traditions to their faith…



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Julie Presley

posted July 12, 2010 at 10:10 am


I feel totally jipped. All I ever got was the ring, which is now part of my husband’s wedding band, so it WAS a fact that was included in our wedding ceremony. We chose to make it public because we worked in an environment then where we were the only believers, and everyone was so surprised that we didn’t already live together. We wanted our coworkers and friends to know that sex wasn’t just something two people share, but that it’s valuable, and that we valued each other enough to wait. We had a very intimate and beautiful wedding, and in being so up front and honest about the sanctity of our relationship and beliefs, one of our friends who’d been about to enter into a green card marriage, totally changed his mind b/c he suddenly saw marriage in a different light.
All that being said, I wouldn’t have gone to a “purity ball” with my dad if he paid me. That’s just about the lamest thing I’ve ever heard. I’m all for the purity ring, but it was just a symbol of a commitment I made with the Lord. it didn’t make things any easier, and it certainly didn’t stop me from putting myself in compromising situations. It’s not like it holds super powers.



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Julie Presley

posted July 12, 2010 at 10:14 am


oh, and? My mind went to a TOTALLY different place when you first said “Purity Balls” mwahahahah.



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Flah the Heretic Methodist

posted July 12, 2010 at 10:26 am


No, CC, I think it’s just ridiculous to insist that a woman’s “purity” exists in her intact hymen, and it’s barbaric to imply that it’s her father’s property until he symbolically hands it to her betrothed.
I think the whole purity myth sets a woman up for all sorts of dissatisfaction in life. Or rather, CAN or MAY do so.



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copperchips

posted July 12, 2010 at 10:53 am


Stephen, it seems as though you’re assuming that comparing a father who provides opportunity for his child to etch a marker in his or her life with biblical principles of chastity and one who does nothing at all is the crux of my thought. Wrong…(I’m not suprised). Your comparison of purity balls and therapeutic deism is a misconstrued excuse to intellectualize theology and bibilical doctrine and to look at events, such as purity balls, as laughable, moronic, and totally emotion-based. When you catechize your children, aren’t you simply teaching them biblical principles to live by? Why do you scorn an event like purity balls as being rediculous. I have attended such an event and it has nothing to do feeding people a bunch of theraputic deism. As parents, we know full well that choices that our children make are of their own doing. Being diligent to communicate biblical principles in a creative setting is a method, not a cure-all. A method, by the way, just like catechizing is a method.



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bren9

posted July 12, 2010 at 11:16 am


Bristol Palin had a purity ring? Why?



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copperchips

posted July 12, 2010 at 11:53 am


The decisions of our children are birthed out of their own free will. They are products of what they do and do not do with the truth. Not all outcomes should be viewed as pre-determined. The onus we have as parents is to be diligent in communicating biblical truth to our children, not to manipulate them into adhering to it.



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Sarah

posted July 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Copperchips,
I wonder if you read the entire post carefully; your response indicates that you missed the point. Something seems to have offended you, since your manner is combative and rude, which is curious because I’m not sure what is so offensive about questioning a practice that has no roots in biblical method. I’m interested in how you interpreted the post as roundly condemning the practice of purity rings and purity balls, and curious as to how you seem to have failed to grasp the post’s actual point, which centers around the many ways American evangelical Christian culture takes private devotion, the thing itself, and turns it into public displays, a substitution for the thing itself, which Jesus openly criticized, if not outright condemned.
“They have received their reward in full” takes on a really ominous cast when you look at some (a lot?) of the results of these public parades of purity. By focusing almost exclusively on the act of penis-to-vagina intercourse, Christian culture effectively reduces a girl’s and a woman’s identity to her possession or lack of pre-marital virginity, which in many ways thoroughly neglects her physical, sexual, spiritual and psychological wellbeing. This is not to say that virginity isn’t good, or that promiscuity is healthy; this is to say, however, that a girl can be warped in all kinds of ways by her environment (ways which can often affect her experience and expression of sexuality her entire life), and she can be involved in a relationship with extremely unhealthy dynamics (since the ideal progression of the physical mirrors the emotional in relationships, which can be entirely ignored by the exclusive focus on penile/vaginal sex) and Christian culture doesn’t care about those things as much as it cares whether or not she fulfilled her contract as a good Christian girl by preserving her hymen for her husband’s penis (never mind whether or not he’s fulfilled his contract; it can’t be strictly verified, so he gets away with treating women almost any way he wants, although it’s assumed, or at least pretended, that he’s been a good boy too).
It’s easier, certainly, to focus on one action and make it an absolute, since sexuality consists of almost limitless variables. But it’s not actually for the betterment of a girl to look back on a watermark experience which abrades her with reductivism, depersonalized expectation and guilt, which, in my experience and observation, is often the case with these kinds of ceremonies. A lot of people I know, myself included, grew up with the idea that Jesus cares more about how good I am than about how loved I am. And Jesus is very clear in the Gospels, and psychology is pretty clear in the studies, that love is far more important, as a motivator and an effect, than the appearance of goodness.
Also, you say that children should not be manipulated, and I agree. But you don’t see that this kind of ceremony is often inherently manipulative? You don’t see how cultural pressure and a desire to please parents can restrict a young person’s freedom to choose?
And what is biblical truth in regard to this issue? Is it only about A + B = sex, or is it about the ways in which human beings live in love, freedom, redemption and forgiveness?



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copperchips

posted July 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm


By what means have you determined that current Christian culture has only accepted penile/vaginal sex as is basis for having a purtiy ball, or something similar? I completely agree that the reasons go far, far beyond that. But, in no way do I agree that these types of ceremonies reflect a piety or public display that Christ frowns upon. The particular “ceremony” that our children attended wasn’t intended to bring public attention or “closure” on the “sex issue”, it was to cause reflection within their own lives about what the Bible says about purity, maturity, humility and service to others. Also, my comments do not refect an ideology that deems purity ceremonies as required by biblical law. These “ceremonies”, which vary in content, demeanor, and extravagance, are simply methods to paint a vivid picture of biblical principle. Jesus communicated in parables and performed miracles to accentuate biblical truths. Why is the issue of sexual purity ceremonies, which encompasses much more than the condemnation of penile/vaginal sex, considered theraputic deism? If it isn’t private devotion, then why bother going to church in a public manner with all the rest of the congregation?



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Stephen Charles

posted July 12, 2010 at 2:44 pm


CC,
I scorn these things because they are precisely not biblical but behave as if they are. Catechizing is biblical. These things have a form of godliness but actually deny its power, which is a mark of classic liberalism (which is ironic, given your charge of liberalism in the post). Yes, purity balls and catechizing are both methods, but one is biblical and one isn’t. They are completely different. One verses a sinner in how to be reconciled with God and live accordingly, the other merely verses a sinner in how to be pure.
And when I catechize I am not “simply teaching them biblical principles to live by.” I am indoctrinating them in what eternal truths they should first believe in and then how to live in light of them. It’s called the indicative-imperative. My guess is that purity balls don’t really care much about what sort of religious or doctrinal indicatives are taught so long as a certain moral imperatives are followed. Catechism-Christianity rejects Mormonism, purity ball-Christianity makes the world safe for Mormonism because all it wants is the zipped up moral life. But Christians care deeply about those narrow doctrinal indicatives that distinguish between faith and unbelief. We’re also quite at ease with the reality of sin and the complexities of being human and have little to no use for human traditions that seek to simply make sinners hyper-moral.
So I’ll leave purity balls to the moralists. My girls prefer movies and restaurants. (Does anyone else feel icky saying the phrase “purity balls”? It almost sounds like something purity ring bearers dangle from their rear-view mirrors.)



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Sarah

posted July 12, 2010 at 3:03 pm


Copperchips,
Quick question before I address anything else you said or asked: From which standpoints have you experienced purity rings/purity balls/purity ceremonies of any kind (child, adolescent/teenager, young adult)? You’ve said you attended them with your child(ren), so you’ve experienced this ritual and its attendant ideology as a parent, but it doesn’t sound like you experienced this as a rite-of-passage in your own upbringing.



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Chrissy

posted July 12, 2010 at 8:11 pm


Don’t be offended Copperchips. We’re not all liberal hypocrites. Most of us just think purity balls are weird for a number of reasons. Your kids will probably think purity balls are weird when they grow up too. Ain’t no thang. They might even end up writing about how strange christian culture is and how manmade ceremonies and formulas skewed their world view for a time, but how they waded through it and found Christ in everything, nonetheless. And they might end up talking about it with people like us. No big deal. It’s always interesting. God still loves us. God loves us even though most of us have no interest in taking our kids to a purity ceremony.
Some people DO look back on their purity vow days with pride, and found them helpful when considering relationships. Some people look back on those days with questions. Many of Stephy’s readers are the latter. Neither is better. It’s simply two different outcomes of taking the same vows. I still have faith. I still love my parents. I’m grateful for my upbringing and the outcome of it. Purity ceremonies simply aren’t for me.
Stephen Charles,
Yes. “Purity balls” sounds hilarious and awful :)



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Bill

posted July 13, 2010 at 12:41 am


Chrissy, YOU are always interesting.
Stephen Charles: I’m interested in how catechizing is biblical. As a liberal not so interested in form but interested in not denying power, let me say I’m not saying I’m opposed to it, I’m just interested. This is separate from this whole purity ball thing. I’ve been interested since I read The Scarlet Letter: “Child, dost thou know who made thee?”. It’s completely outside my experience. Like Stephy and many of us here, the “indoctrination” of Evangelical Christian Culture has done perhaps more harm than good. How does catechism and Real Life reconcile itself? Because CC and Real Life don’t bother.
[captcha: “encored standards”]



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copperchips

posted July 13, 2010 at 7:00 am


Stephen, how can you say that reconciliation is biblical and purity isn’t??? How can you say that a purity ceremony isn’t indoctrinating the biblical principle of purity in one’s life? Hmmm. Stephen, you are really hung up on this issue moralism. Obviously, you automatically assume that conservative, fundamental Christians lean heavily upon moralism (being a good person) and accuse them of basing their faith on propped-up facades of “programs” and superficialities. You also seem flatter yourself with your high-brow vocabulary in presenting you point. I find the combination of these reveal that you’re just about as narrow-minded as those you accuse of being so.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 13, 2010 at 10:00 am


CC,
Careful, you’re anti-intellectual slip is showing. But why do you get to use your brain to converse and when I do it’s narrow-minded? It may seem clever to turn the tables like that, but it’s really an old fundie trick that goes like this: I can because I’m me but you can’t because you’re you.
Yes, I do automnatically presume that Fundamentalists lean heavily upon moralism (that’s why they’re called Fundamentalists). You say that as if it’s a problem. But I think I can say that because I used to be one (albeit an unconvinced one), and I married into a family of fundies, so I see it pretty much all the time. I know you guys refuse to recognize your glorified moralism, but the question I always have is this: if something like purity balls (tee-hee, that term tickles me) isn’t an example of glorified moralism then what would be? Mormons throwing purity balls (snicker)? Why, because they’re them and not you?
See, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it usually is a duck, and it doesn’t matter if that duck says he’s a “conservative, Fundamentalist Christian.” Assuming by that fraught phrase he means orthodox Christian (as in Reformed or Lutheran), then he’s simply not being consistent with his Christian confession, because glorified moralism isn’t the same as Christian living; they are diametrically opposed.



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copperchips

posted July 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm


Transcending truths, like the principle of purity, overlap all forms of human government and religion.
You couch the term “moralism” in a negative light, Stephan. I also find it somewhat humorous that you are beset by the fact that I have a problem with that. Obviously to you, those who base their religion, or faith on moralism are far too superficial to be confessionalistic. Glorified moralism, I assume, is living out our faith in God based upon unbiblical and irrelevant traditions and interpreting them as being biblical. I do not believe that I’m moralistic. And I not buying into your explanation of it. In my particular vein of Christendom, I believe in exegeical, literal interpretation of scripture and it’s applcation to everyday life. Whether that comes in the form of taking the biblical principle of purity and participating in some kind of ceremony or communicating the unadulterated Gospel to my neighbors or community, etc…I call that living out the Great Commission and applying the teachings of Christ to my life. If you’re so adept in explaining what glorified moralism is, then, by all means, explain what true Christian living is.
I find it interesting that, while I’m not at all educated or versed in Reformed or Lutheran orthodoxy, I get the impression that there’s no room for liberal expression of transcendant, biblical truth in the way you believe. It’s gotta be liturgical or nothing, I suppose. No room for color or personal application of scripture that conveys emotion.



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Jeannette

posted July 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm


Haha, this aspect of christian culture ALWAYS creeped me out. For reals. I’m so glad I never took a purity vow or wore a purity ring, virginity is a myth, it’s a social construction. Whole lotta fuss about nothing. BEHOLD: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/virgins-and-other-mythical-creatures/



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Stephen Charles

posted July 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm


CC,
If you don’t buy into my explanation of glorified moralism then I doubt you’ll have much use for what I think Christian living is. But, yes, moralism is always always always bad. You may not like my way of explaining it but how about Christian Smith from Notre Dame:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moralistic_therapeutic_deism
“The authors say the system is ‘moralistic’ because it ‘is about inculcating a moralistic approach to life. It teaches that central to living a good and happy life is being a good, moral person.’ The authors describe the system as being ‘about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherent’ as opposed to being about things like ‘repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering…”
See the contrast he makes between moralism and repentant living? Keeping ther Sabbath, observing the rites/sacraments of the church, routine prayer, seeing moral character nurtured via suffering (instead of happy-shiny pagaents designed to avoid suffering)–these are all ways that likely make you choke as much as purity balls (tee-hee) make me puke.
And, now, what’s this? You seem to be hinting that “LIBERAL expression” is a good thing. I thought liberalism was your original charge against this post? But now you’re making my point for me: self-expression and emotions are highly prized, and any routine and churchly expression are suspect. Don’t you know that is precisely the ingredient for liberalism? But maybe you aren’t aware that liberalism is the end product of evangelicalism. So in my book the problem really isn’t liberalism so much as evangelicalism. And the solution is confessionalism.



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 12:37 pm


This is a very interesting interchange to witness.
Stephen, I am, like Bill, curious about your definition of liberalism.
Copperchips, your whole statement of faith explains a lot. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure that by moralism Stephen tends to mean a rather rubric-based reliance on a code of moral conduct (whether interpreted from the Bible or not — and most self-proclaimed Christians would, I think, claim that their/our morality is interpreted in some way from the Bible), rather than an expression of Christianity that is definitely harder to pin down but more centered on grace. I’m unclear as to where the liturgy fits into that (I love liturgy myself for a number of reasons) but I don’t think the issue is moralist vs. liturgical; that’s a nonsensical comparison.
Also, I’d like to know what you mean by the transcendent principle of purity. Is this only to do with sexuality, or is this encompassing other areas? Jesus blessed the pure of heart, but that’s a different kind of purity from the kind you talk about here. Jesus didn’t say much of anything about sexual purity of the kind Christian culture impresses upon its children, and in fact his denouncements of divorce and adultery had a lot to do with indicting men for oppressive behaviors toward women. So when you say you’re applying the teachings of Christ to your life, I don’t think you can mean things like the evangelical concept of purity, which Jesus didn’t talk about. You’re applying the teachings of Paul (or letters attributed to Paul), and applying them in the spirit of one subjective interpretation of those teachings.



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 12:41 pm


On a more or less unrelated note, is anyone else COMPLETELY creeped out by the still shot of frilly white-lace-clad assumed virgins with their arms raised in worship of the cross?



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copperchips

posted July 13, 2010 at 1:21 pm


Stephan, my interpretation of living the Christian life IS living a repentant life and adhering to the sacraments of the church. It just so happens that including ceremonial activities, like “purity balls” is only periferal to the tenants of sound, biblical doctrine and repentant living. Just because I think these types of activities are ok, doesn’t mean that I’m moralistic.
Sarah, trancendant truth is like gravity. There are absolute truths that the saved and unsaved accept or reject. As for purity, the unrepentant person rejects it because he wants to live a life without accountability and consequences sexually. As for those who are repentant, they realize purity’s virtue, yet make the decision whether or not to abide by it. In each circumstance, purity stands as a trancending truth…it is what it is, just like whether or not we like gravity, it will never change and will always stay the same.
1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”
1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
Purity can refer to one’s intent to live according to biblical principle and it also refer to living pure and undefiled without immoral or sexual influence.
Stephan, you got me. You make a convincing case in relation to my mention of liberal expression. I think the differences between you and I have much to do with how we interpret the inner workings and outer expression of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I believe that the Holy Spirit gives believers the ability to understand scripture and also to speak to us, guiding and leading us in ways that don’t necessarily conforms to particular confessions or creeds. I believe that everything the Holy Spirit guides us to do conforms with scriptural principle, but what He speaks and where He leads doesn’t necessarily have to be found in scripture. This is why I can find a pruity ceremony (minus the creepy girls in white crenlin) perfectly acceptable, because if I’m convicted by the Holy Spirit to emphasize a biblical principle in my children’s life, like purity, through a ceremony, then I’m walking in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Following the strict codes of confessions and creeds is ok, but what about the leading of the Holy Spirit that may not adhere to the “sola scriptura” found in confessional orthodoxy?



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copperchips

posted July 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm


Sarah, All scripture (Pauline letters included) is God-breathed. Whether I refer to refrences found in I Cor. or other apostolic letters, or actual quotes from Christ Himself, the Bible is absolute truth. Whether I apply the teachings of Christ or those of Paul, I am applying them as I live out my Christian faith, considering all of scripture as equal and inspired by God.



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm


Oh, I know your definitions and defenses and points of view (and the Bible) pretty well, Copperchips. I was schooled in them impressively, and I used to believe them in the same way you do – almost identically, from what you’ve written. Have you heard anyone here, though? You seem pretty interested in making us all see your perspective, which makes sense since you hold to the idea of everything as absolute; have you listened to the differing perspectives presented in this thread? It can be challenging and scary to consider alternate approaches to the faith; I remember when I couldn’t wait for someone to finish with their “wrong” opinion so I could set them straight, and in all my arguing I wasn’t really listening to what the other person was saying. That’s not how it really works, though, in relationship, and in love. I discounted and invalidated a lot of people by doing that; in my quest to adhere to and to make others see truth, I failed, many times, in the deep love of Jesus.
Love requires seeing eyes, listening ears and understanding hearts. I’m still not always very good at that. But I’ve found Christ a lot more present in me and in my relationships the more I try to see, hear and understand.



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm


Which, you know, I’m also having some trouble doing with you, so I’m not throwing rocks. Pebbles, maybe. Again, I totally remember being where you are.



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Stepehn Charles

posted July 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm


CC,
Sorry, but you seem to be saying that these activities are more than just OK, that they are compatible with Christian living and even help buttress it. I am saying that they are the complete opposite, that they militate against biblical and historical Christian living.
And you are correct that we are coming from very different perspectives. When you say that “the Holy Spirit guides us to do conforms with scriptural principle, but what He speaks and where He leads doesn’t necessarily have to be found in scripture” this is not confessionally Protestant at all; it actually has more in common with Roman (Catholic) or Radical (Anabaptist) outlooks that take issue with sola scriptura. And where you are convicted by the Holy Spirit (pneuma-centered) that these activities are conducive to true piety, I am convinced that the Bible (Word-centered) has no use for them.
You ask: “Following the strict codes of confessions and creeds is ok, but what about the leading of the Holy Spirit that may not adhere to the ‘sola scriptura’ found in confessional orthodoxy?”
That’s what the Radical Reformers asked the Protestant Reformers. Evangelicals such as yourself are descendants of the Radical Reformation, not the Protestant Reformation. Appealing to the Spirit instead of the Word has plenty of problems, not least is that nobody can judge the inward workings, but the Word is public and its interpretations can be judged. Lots of falsehoods have been taught and done because someone said he was “led by the Holy Spirit.”
Sarah,
Re liberalism, I am of the mind that American (or western) Christianity can basically be distinguished between confessional expressions and evangelical ones. (See Darryl G. Hart’s book “The Lost Soul of American Protestantism” where he makes this case.) American evangelicalism has two streams: liberalism and fundamentalism. The former follows Kant and dispenses with supernatural aspects of Christianity and takes the ethics and elevates reason over scripture. The latter retains a sense of the supernatural and the ethics but elevates experience over scripture. What they share is a healthy disdain for institutional religion and highly prize self-expression, morality and ethics.
So, actually, to the extent that the moralist is the evangelical and the confessionalist is the liturgical, I’d say that the moralist/liturgical distinction is a pretty good one (not nonsensical, as you suggest).
Re the pic of virgins, that was the pic I chose for the Facebook shot when I Facebooked this totally awesome post. Does it get any creepier than that?



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Bill

posted July 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm


Stephan,
I appreciate this definition of “liberalism”; it’s a pretty classical or academic definition, which is fine. It doesn’t really apply to me when I self-identify as a liberal, though. I guess I conform more to the fundies’ reaquisition of the term :).
This I don’t get:
“The latter [fundamentalist] retains a sense of the supernatural and the ethics but elevates experience over scripture.”
This seems to be not quite the standard definition of fundamentalist we are used to, which, like this one (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fundamentalism) tend more to be scripture-literal and, well, conforming experience to scriptural interpretations.
No one seems to genuinely appreciate “experience” or otherwise like the mystics, so they get the drop-through once again :).
(I still also don’t get the moralist/liturgical distinction. It seems that a person with a liturgical bent could still easily become a moralist.)



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm


Stephen,
Oh, I didn’t suggest, I outright said that the moralist/liturgical comparison is nonsensical. I based that statement on the disparity of the terms. Moralist and liturgical aren’t enough related to place them in binary opposition to one another, even with your expansion of the implications of the terms; moralism can just as easily run in liturgical expressions of worship as in evangelical.
Thanks for the definition of liberalism; it’s not the one I use, so I’m glad you clarified.
That’s pretty hilarious about the pic. What cracks me up about it is that it looks so much like portrayals of ancient pagan goddess-worship by acolytes, with which evangelical Christianity tends to refuse to identify.
Also, I’m probably inordinately amused by the argument here because it’s so seldom that I witness a debate in which have so little basic theology in common with either participant. These issues usually feel so polarized, but I’m realizing that there are all kinds of little polarities and it has me squirming and laughing at myself a little with thoughts of diversity and the unifying nature of love, and how that applies to people with whose perspectives I strongly disagree. It’s so much easier (and more fun) to argue.



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Your Name

posted July 13, 2010 at 4:13 pm


Bill,
Re “The latter [fundamentalist] retains a sense of the supernatural and the ethics but elevates experience over scripture,” I have in mind Lutheran Don Matzat’s perspective instead of Merriam-Webster’s:
http://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/why-i-like-lutherans-don-matzat-on-the-new-liberals/
Sarah,
Fair enough. Perhaps it’s for different reasons, but I’ll be content to join those who see the utter silliness of American evangelicalism. Yes, the irony of the pic is wonderfully delicious: Fundies are always racing around trying to stop paganism, yet here they are looking pretty pagan (as in worshipping the cross…golden calf, anyone?).
Bill and Sarah,
I suppose it’s true that a liturgical could become a moralist, but then he’d be a bad liturgical.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm


Oops, that was me, not “Your Name.”



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm


I gotta be honest, if the golden calf were made of butter I’d totally be grabbing up my host wafers and pelting toward the idol for a share.



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copperchips

posted July 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm


Sarah, I appreciate what you are trying to say. Granted, I dove into this discussion with a little over-zealous muster. As I reflect and re-read my origional posts, my tone was edgy. Forgive me. Also, my interest in this dicussion eminates from my experience as a parent who encouraged my children to partcipate in a “purity” ceremony, which had more to do with devotion to God and His Word than penile/vaginal sex. Over the course of discussion, however, notice my terminology, “I believe…”, “My interpretation…” etc in my posts. I’m not trying to change the course of your belief system, I’m simply rebuffing comments made by Stephen about how he thinks I’m a moralist. I simply dissagree and I’m stating my point.
Stephan, as per our dicussion, I’m sorry too. It seems that your experience with conservative fundamental Christianity has left you rather bitter. I’ve read your posts in the Confessional Outhouse. I’m sorry that you look at us who view relationship with the triune God as one that’s based upon feelings and meaningless . In fact, I’ve taught many lessons against basing faith on feelings alone. As far as keeping the confessions and creeds, I adhere to the Nicean and Apostolic Creeds. Too bad, according to you, so many “fundies” are so misguided in their thinking. Maybe you should take the advice that Sarah was giving me.



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Entomologista

posted July 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm


The rigid gender roles and toxic culture of masculinity enforced by Christian culture probably inhibits fathers’ involvement in children’s lives. Instead of having care-giving and work balanced between two people, each parent takes on one of those roles. If you’re working 80 hours a week, you’re going to be distant from your family. Also, telling children that emotions are for girls and facts are for boys doesn’t create healthy adults who are able to form normal relationships.
Julie Presley says:

We wanted our coworkers and friends to know that sex wasn’t just something two people share, but that it’s valuable, and that we valued each other enough to wait.

Oh, I’ve worked with one of you before. Trust me, nobody wants to hear about your sex life. Especially at work. Why do you want your coworkers to know about your sex life? So you can lord it over everybody about how much more pure you are, that’s why. But the thing is, we heathens don’t share your beliefs, so we don’t care. We just think you’re creepy for spouting off about your sex life at work.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 13, 2010 at 7:01 pm


CC,
I’m not one much for emotionalizing disagreements, so the charge of “bitterness” sort of falls away. Were I as bitter as you want to suggest I doubt I’d have the warm relationships I do with my in-law fundies. If you’re like my fundies your experientialism is likely pretty tame and you like to point to high octane Pentecostals as examples of emotionalism, etc. But there are different modes of experientialism, low and high octane.
But you seem to still want to reject the charge of moralism. Again, if purity ballism (tee hee) isn’t moralism could you give me an example of what is?
Bill,
I missed your question above about how catechizing is biblical. Here’s a link from a former fundie now Reformed pastor that says it well enough:
http://www.reformedreader.org/rpc.htm
I detect a bias perhaps against indoctrination. But since it’s natural and we all do it with our children, it’s not indoctrinating that’s the problem, it’s bad indoctrinating. I indoctrinate my children against the sort of moralism that lies behind purity balls (tee hee), which is to say, as you did above, evangelicalism.
Sarah,
Honesty is the first step.



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Julie Presley

posted July 13, 2010 at 8:47 pm


Entomologista
The fact that we didn’t share the details of our sex life (b/c there wasn’t one) was actually praised by our co-workers if they asked about it, and trust me, they DID ask, everyone talked about their everything, it was a night club. That’s what they talked about. There were plenty of them that said “Wow. That’s incredible.” or “Damn, I wish I’d waited.” To which I’d simply reply “It’s what we decided to do.”
We didn’t flaunt anything. We didn’t lord anything over anyone. B/c of my chastity ring being made into my husband’s ring, we chose for it to be a part of our ceremony, and if it ever came up again, it wasn’t because of us.



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Aaran

posted July 13, 2010 at 9:09 pm


“Oh, I know your definitions and defenses and points of view (and the Bible) pretty well, Copperchips. I was schooled in them impressively” – you sound a lot like the apostle Paul Sarah, Philippians 3:4-6.
Out of curiosity, what are your credentials?



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 10:32 pm


Haha, I’m not claiming any sort of expertise or Ivy League education, Aaran. I was informally schooled in the arguments/defenses/points of view/knowledge of the Bible impressively in the way many kids in American evangelical Christian culture were schooled — and the American evangelical religious education system is impressive (which is what I meant by “schooled impressively” — I’ve never seen a system of indoctrination like this one). I became Catholic a few years ago, and knew my Bible better than the parish priest, thanks to my good old Baptist family and church education. In Sunday school we did “Sword Drills” (ever heard of those? they were quite the thing and the winners got CANDY!) and had contests about who could memorize the most verses; at home I had to read three chapters of the Bible every day before I could play video games or watch movies or go anywhere with friends. My youth group studied the Bible and books by contemporary Bible studiers. I was also inundated with more Bible and Christian education at my college, but I majored in English there, not religion or Christian studies or what-have-you. I did have a lot of discussions and debates with the Christian studies students, and Christian theology was the pet topic of any conversation on campus.
So Paul’s formal education and credentials, like those of a lot of commentators here, far outstrip mine. :) I’m just familiar with the bulk of the arguments Copperchips presented in this thread, because that was the culture of my upbringing, and that culture took its positions very seriously.



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Rocky Presley

posted July 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm


Ecto, it seems to me that you have taken a particular statement, draw it out of context, and applied it to a scenario that is vaguely similar to prove a point. In that point, you personally insult someone who is only sharing their story.
Maybe a better approach would be to argue the merit of the statement. Here is an example:
Julie Presley says:
We wanted our coworkers and friends to know that sex wasn’t just something two people share, but that it’s valuable, and that we valued each other enough to wait.
Your Response:
The problem with this is like some scenarios that I have been involved with where people lord their “purity” over others. This statement made me think that you were doing exactly that. From my personal experience, no one wants to be treated like that, so could you clarify that for me? If it were me, I would feel pretty creeped out as someone who doesn’t share in your beliefs.
There. Now you haven’t insulted a complete stranger, and you can have a proper dialog about an issue that is important to you. Both parties involved are allowed to see a different perspective on the way that we see the world, and we collectively become more informed individuals.
I find these kinds of responses troubling, not just because they are directed towards my wife, but because they destroy conversation and mutual respect, which is a commodity that our world is severely lacking. Truth is, Julie would value your opinion on the matter. Question is, would you value hers?
Just to give you a context, this “workplace” was not [insert corporate American job] where you would get sent to the HR person for making a “That’s what she said” joke. Rather, this was a concert night club, where people often times freely spoke of their sex lives, living together, etc. Julie and I weren’t living together, which was a choice that we made, and one that they thought was weird. So they prodded and asked questions, which was “creepy” but they were honestly intrigued. I mean seriously, we are gooooood Christians! We don’t talk about sex! Oh my….



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm


Also, Copperchips, thank you. Your last comment actually made my day. Edginess forgiven. My parents, like you, meant very very well in their teachings to my sister and me about purity, and no one means to criticize those intentions. Like Stephy said, sometimes there’s a darker side to the practice of the ceremony; and like Chrissy said, some people grow up to look back and think it was weird, and others look back fondly. The sad part is when any change in approach to the faith that children develop as they grow up puts a rift between them and their parents. My relationship with my parents has been fragile since I took a different way of following Christ, and that’s caused a lot of pain; and I’ve seen it happen to many other differing degrees in many other families. Expectation can get in the way of grace and understanding when we think all Christians have to be one way or another.
Chrissy, have I told you lately that you’re awesome? You’re awesome.



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Sarah

posted July 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm


Rocky, well said! So glad you’re back.
Entomologista, I LOVE your point about the way our fracturing of gender role inhibits wholesome family relationships.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 13, 2010 at 11:52 pm


Rocky and Julie,
I have a question. To your minds, what is the point of a purity ring? I don’t mean any disrespect or anything, but it sure seems to me that when a more thorough-going conservatism thinks of “purity” it thinks engagement ring. Whatever else can be said here, a purity ring just seems like little boys and girls trying to play grown-up. I can’t help but think some of this turns on the distinction between adolescence and adulthood.



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Aaran

posted July 14, 2010 at 12:16 am


Sarah
Have you engaged with any academics who hold the theological positions that American evangelical Christian culture derives from?



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Bill

posted July 14, 2010 at 12:20 am


Stephen, Thanks for the links. When you said catechism was biblical, I thought you meant traced mysteriously to some biblical-era practice like a sacrament. I see you meant the *content* is biblical, or at least orthodox-conformant…but still a man-made enterprise.
I also appreciated the confessionalouthouse link, though I found the article disappointing. I found the classical (Kantian) definition of liberal fine, but the author’s definition of “postmodern liberal” I thought was a tad contrived and actually more descriptive of the kind of form-before-substance evangelicalism Stephy describes here–and these folks would never in a million years describe themselves as postmodern or liberal in most if any sense. So that’s very interesting.



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Entomologista

posted July 14, 2010 at 4:26 am


I find these kinds of responses troubling, not just because they are directed towards my wife, but because they destroy conversation and mutual respect, which is a commodity that our world is severely lacking. Truth is, Julie would value your opinion on the matter. Question is, would you value hers?

I googled your name to see if you were somebody whose opinion I would value. Your comment made you sound nice enough. But then I found this. Assuming this is you, you think that being gay is like being an alcoholic. I see you know all about fostering respect and communication. The answer to your question, then, is no. Your (or your wife’s) opinion is not one I would value. I will not be engaging you in further conversation.
For those who are actually interested in why sexual purity is a harmful concept, read The Purity Myth. Here is an excerpt. It’s a fantastic book from a feminist perspective.



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Entomologista

posted July 14, 2010 at 4:26 am


I find these kinds of responses troubling, not just because they are directed towards my wife, but because they destroy conversation and mutual respect, which is a commodity that our world is severely lacking. Truth is, Julie would value your opinion on the matter. Question is, would you value hers?

I googled your name to see if you were somebody whose opinion I would value. Your comment made you sound nice enough. But then I found this. Assuming this is you, you think that being gay is like being an alcoholic. I see you know all about fostering respect and communication. The answer to your question, then, is no. Your (or your wife’s) opinion is not one I would value. I will not be engaging you in further conversation.
For those who are actually interested in why sexual purity is a harmful concept, read The Purity Myth. Here is an excerpt. It’s a fantastic book from a feminist perspective.



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Sarah

posted July 14, 2010 at 6:49 am


Aaran, now I’m curious: Why do you ask?



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Stephen Charles

posted July 14, 2010 at 9:24 am


Bill,
Re catechism, my original point to CC was to suggest that churchly disciplines are to be contrasted with churchy activities. I place catechism in the same category as sacrament. Most purity ballers (tee hee) I know also shrink from any notion of ecclesiatical formalism, indoctrination, etc. And the principal good work of every believer is Sabbath worship, as opposed to whatever plethora of man-made actitivties within the other six days. This is similar to how Christian Smith work tries to contrast moralistic-therapeutic deism with orthodox religious expressions. One is churchly, the other is churchy.
Yes, you’re right, purity ballers (tee hee) never would describe themselves as postmodern liberals. But my point is that they share many of the same presuppositions as classic liberals, and so it becomes difficult to accept their rejection. Some of it may be a matter of fraught terminology and semantics (i.e. liberal, conservative). But ask purity ballers (tee hee) to attend a confessionally Reformed/Presbyterian or Lutheran service that is liturgical and sacramental in nature and they recoil the same way a Protetsant liberal would and for similar reasons. When you tell them that a child’s baptism and catechatical instruction (with an eye toward communion) is all they need for spiritual sustanance, they may be polite about it, but they reject that whole notion. They think more is needed than stuffy, outdated religion.



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Paul

posted July 14, 2010 at 9:41 am


I have to say that I’ve learnt a lot from this thread about the distinctions between different Christian theologies.I mean that in a good way – it’s been a fascinating discussion.
To me, however, the question goes beyond whether ceremonies are good or bad. To me, the problem with purity balls is the skewed focus it gives to sexual purity. There are a lot of sins. Why give so much attention to sex? Underage drinking is a serious issue. Why not have a ring and a party for that? And what about theft? And lying? And listening to rock music? We’re starting to resemble Liberace already.
Why lift one sin so much higher than the others? Why set it up so that it extolls a much greater price of failure than for other sins. We’ve added into the bargain a broken oath, huge parental and community expectations disappointed and the choice between the ongoing hypocrisy of continuing to wear the ring or for her to out herself as a whore by taking it off. Is this really justified?



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Rocky Presley

posted July 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm


Stephan, I think that yours is a valid point, and today, if my wife were single, I don’t think that a purity ring would be the choice. Sometimes though, people use sacred reminders to keep moving them forward towards their goal, whether that be your IPhone alarm telling you to go work out, that note on your fridge reminding you to not visit the contents after a certain paint, a phrase on your bathroom mirror that helps you focus your day, or a ring that reminds you that you have made a choice to wait for your spouse. It is true that those things aren’t entirely necessary, and at times people use them, as Ento put it, to lord over others who don’t share similar beliefs. But there is in my opinion where the immaturity lies, not in the symbol or even necessarily the ceremony.
I have my sons name tattooed on my arm in Arabic as just such a reminder, because I can at times make compulsively poor decisions. But I can’t count how many times those opportunities have arisen and I looked down and saw his name and recalled that there are more important things in life than my immediate selfish desires. I should be able to make those decisions without any reminder and the majority of the time I do, but there are those few circumstances where anything extra is going to help. The same is true with the ring, and it was a gift that my wife gave me that is my most precious possession because it signifies more than lines our preacher had us repeat. That may not mean much to you, and I can see how it wouldn’t, but to me, it’s a really big deal.



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Sarah

posted July 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm


Paul — right on.
Stephen, I love the liturgy, and I think a return to a confessional faith can be a really healthy thing; it has certainly had deep benefits for me; there’s a simplicity and a peace that comes from the traditional words and prayers and sacraments that I never received from my evangelical upbringing.
At the same time, anytime I hear that a solution to a problem is an “-ism,” I get twitchy. I think the solution to the problems we face as a diverse universal church in a complex world transcends any one approach to the faith. As Bill noted, even the traditional liturgy and catechism going back to the earliest days of the church were constructs made by human beings. I pretty much assume that there will always be many approaches to the faith, and that the unifier is love.



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Spinning

posted July 14, 2010 at 1:22 pm


I’m kinda surprised that nobody has commented on the whole daughter-dad aspect of this, which strikes me as being SUPER-creepy.
Like the dad owns his daughter’s body (and maybe her soul, too?)
I would not be surprised if some people have taken this and twisted it into an OK on incest.
It’s also incredibly creepy in light of the continuing stories on sexual abuse of kids in various churches (primarily Roman Catholic) that have been in the news off and on since, oh, 2002 or so…
On the whole: eeep!



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Julie Presley

posted July 14, 2010 at 1:32 pm


SC,
I got the ring, honestly, at the time, for probably the wrong reasons. I think I was 14 or 15 when I got it, and I had no concept of what it felt like to be turned on, or even attracted to a boy for more than his looks. So starting out, it was probably more because it was cool than anything else, but I DID know what it meant, and I DID make the commitment that went with it, which was to save my virginity for my husband on our wedding night. When I was a teenager, I definitely had all sorts of skewed ideals and perceptions, and b/c of where I went to school and who my classmates were, I not only felt I was holier than them, they called me “Praise Team Girl”. I looked down on them for their weekend activities, and I judged them. I paid the price for that.
As I grew up and ventured into the real world (outside of the bubble my parents created for me), my eyes were opened to a lot of things. I drank alcohol, I kissed boys, I went dancing, but none of those things required me to compromise my beliefs. Those never changed. My convictions remained the same, and though it was certainly not something I focused on, the vow behind my purity ring became even more important to me, especially as I saw friends who went through different situations, that I didn’t judge, but certainly didn’t want to go through myself. They didn’t want to be going through them either. I remember walking with a friend to the Dr.’s for a pregnancy test (why we didn’t just go to the store, I don’t know)after school, and how scared she was, how scared I was… ugh.
Not only did I make the promise of purity, but I spent a lot of time dreaming about and praying for my future husband. I have a cannister full of letters that I wrote him while I was growing up (Yes, I was totally your cliche Christian teenager, feel free to mock.), and though they are cheesy and lame as heck, they were part of the whole “sacred” thing and on our wedding day when he wore his ring, that mine had mind molded into it, and I gave him those letters, I gave him something that was meant for only him, something that no one in the world could ever take from him. Something that was created for only him to enjoy.
so it was more than just a symbol to me of what I’d vowed, it became something precious when I gave it to my husband and said “I have treasured this and protected this for my whole life, and now I want you to have it.”
I don’t care who you are or what you believe, committing to and actually saving sex for marriage is a big deal, just like marriages that last more than 5 years in today’s society. There is so much fighting against morals these days, and I’m proud to say that we (gosh everything I think of to type next has some kind of sexual connotation to it so here goes…) Came out on top. Made it. Did it. You get the picture.
So um, I just realized I didn’t really answer your question: The point of a purity ring is to symbolize a commitment to save sex until marriage.
There.



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Entomologista

posted July 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm


Everybody who thinks that “sexual purity” is actually a thing that is good needs to read “The Purity Myth” by Jessica Valenti.

Of course, chastity and purity, as defined by the virginity movement, are not just about abstaining sexually, so much as they’re about upholding a specific, passive model of womanhood….For women, especially, virginity has become the easy answer – the morality quick fix. You can be vapid, stupid, and unethical, but so long as you’ve never had sex you’re a “good” (i.e. moral) girl and therefore worthy of praise.

Read an excerpt from the book here.
I’ve never had any negative consequences as a result of the pre-marital sex I’ve had. When I started having sex I was mature enough to properly use prophylactics. I don’t wish I’d waited and I’ve never had an STD or been pregnant. What I did have was a whole lot of fun.
Also, if Rocky Presley is the same guy that writes the Worship Merger blog…ew. I don’t talk to people who think that homosexuality is like alcoholism.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 14, 2010 at 5:14 pm


Rocky and Julie, thanks. I’m still way more an engagement ring guy than purity ring guy. I like to think I married my wife and not her virginity, you know? I mean, it just seems to me like purityism is ironically way over-focused on sex, which seems precisely the attitude it seeks to counter. My wife is a human being which includes being sexual, yes, but that’s not all she is. Engagementism (sorry, Sarah, I like my ‘ism’s) seems to take into account the whole human being, purityism seems only interested in sex. It seems to me that purityism reduces people down to their sexual denominator, such that one might choose a spouse based mainly on virginity instead of humanity. I hate to think I would have never married my wife simply because she (hypothetically) had sex before she met me. Isn’t that the flip side of rejecting someone because s/he is a virgin? Both seem to render a person “icky” based on sexual status. That’s not to diminish the importance of sexuality at all, but is to question the prevailing fixation on its importance.
Sarah:
“…anytime I hear that a solution to a problem is an ‘-ism,’ I get twitchy. I think the solution to the problems we face as a diverse universal church in a complex world transcends any one approach to the faith.”
Good point. I hear you on the simplistic undertones of of certain assertions. I get twitchy myself when fellow Reformed confessionalists seem way too excuberant about what they think our tradition can actually do. Some of them can sound like the confessional versions of revivalists. I hate that lots.
At the same time, I am convinced that our tradition is the superior form of Christian expression on the good earth. I know, I know, that sounds really fundi-ish, but I drank the Kool-aid and it went down so smoothly. I love our tradition, and not just because of “what it does does for me,” but because I think it’s true. And when someone thinks it’s true s/he wants others to see it as well. Call that narrow-minded, but there it is.



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Spinning

posted July 14, 2010 at 6:52 pm


Like some others here, I have a big problem with the use of “purity” to mean “chastity.” (And for some weird reason, the overuse of “purity” reminds me of the Ivory Soap ads from my childhood.)
If sex = impurity, then how on earth are people who’ve been hammered with that belief supposed to be able to discard it once they’re married?! (Applies to men as well as women; I know guys who were raised in this way who have had difficulty with the abrupt switch from “it’s all bad” to “it’s all good.”)
To my way of thinking, choosing to remain chaste is a *whole* lot different than choosing to “remain ‘pure.'” I’m glad I didn’t have to go through the “purity” thing as a teenager and feel for those who have and/or are in the midst of it. I think I would have taken it far too seriously for my own good.
Again, the involvement of fathers (re. their daughters, not their sons) continues to strike me as not only creepy but the lead-in to Quiverfull and other, similar unhealthy ways of thinking and living…
(What’s with the capcha? Mine is “reawaken His”!!!)



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Entomologista

posted July 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm


Spinning, you’re exactly right. Parents should definitely not be that interested in the sexuality of their children. It’s why all that purity stuff gives normal people the screaming heebie-jeebies.



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Aaran

posted July 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm


Sarah
Just wanting to qualify your statement that you know the “definitions and defenses and points of view (and the Bible) pretty well”



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Kristen

posted July 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm


Not sure if anyone’s commented about this previously, but in the Christian Girl’s Purity Diagram, WHAT exactly is the male holding in his left hand? Apparently it’s not allowed in the gal’s cooch, under pain of damnation and hell… and as it bears striking resemblance to a cigar, I must say I’m fully supportive of that. D:



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Kristen

posted July 14, 2010 at 8:52 pm


*Christian Girls’ Abstinence Chart
*Whoredom and damnation
My bad.



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Mar

posted July 14, 2010 at 9:55 pm


I wonder if part of the problem of purity rings and balls is that they make a visible categorical distinction between people who are supposedly “pure,” and those who are not. Everyone is impure, and no amount of purity balls, contracts, nor rings can save anyone from that. Following Christ does not mean sin-free, and bestowing labels of purity imply that one can be sin-free and pure when in fact that is impossible. It’s about following the person/God/Holy spirit who has it right for you.
How can one determine how pure or impure a person is? By a ring, a vow, or a hymen? First, we can’t; that would be up to God, so I’m not too confident in people’s purity labels for others and themselves. Second, it doesn’t matter: it’s a false distinction that some are more pure (and therefore less sinful) than others. All sin is sin. There is not a first-class and coach-class in salvation. Encourage chastity if you want,* but remember that no one is pure, even couples who don’t kiss until their wedding.
*Keeping in mind the value and efficacy of comprehensive education about sexuality that addresses informed decision-making, healthy relationships, communication, and consent, in addition to reproductive biology and “just don’t do it!”



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Spinning

posted July 14, 2010 at 10:17 pm


@ Entomologista: oh hey, I was evangelical/charismatic for a few decades (although that’s not my original religious background), and … there are levels and degrees of support for this kind of thing. Let’s just say that I didn’t belong to a church that endorsed the whole “purity” deal. (I don’t think I could have stayed if they’d started with that… and – as an aside – am still Christian, though not evangelical anymore.)
@ Mar: well said! I personally can’t square all the creepy overemphasis on “purity” with what I see in the NT. ;-) (Even typing “purity” – in this context – makes me flinch a bit.)
As for the Us vs. Them thing: you got it.
[:waves to Sarah, Stephy, your name, Rocky, Bill et. al.:]



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Spinning

posted July 14, 2010 at 10:22 pm


@ everyone (but especially for Mar): reading Matthew chs. 6 and 7 and then looking at this post again is… interesting. (Especially in light of Jesus’ admonitions to keep away from showy, self-aggrandizing religious acts, as well as that bit about looking on someone with lust…)



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Bill

posted July 15, 2010 at 12:42 am


Hey Spinning! Yes, the primacy of the father’s role here is creepy beyond words. And that photo looks like it’s from a May Day celebration or something. Unbelievable.
Paul: Liberace! Ha ha!! Grace upon us all.
Sarah, Stephan: Sarah summarizes perfectly. The added benefit I see of the liturgical/confessional is how well vetted it is…change is slow, deliberate, incremental, so orthodoxy and sound doctrine is better guarded than in these sprawling non-denoms pastored by undereducated preachers. I find resonance in myself with both of your love of it, though I haven’t yet so observed faith, at least since I was a small boy.
That said, however, we should not react so strongly against the fear of philosophical metaphysical relativity that we start to equate singular Truth and singular Observance. To elevate theology in such a manner seems to me idolatry. Creation is myriad, and the fact that Incarnation can reach Catholic and Quaker alike is truly miraculous. Though I speak as a son of the postmodern, who rejects its use as a dirty word ;).



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Paul

posted July 15, 2010 at 2:54 am


@Kristen, think Monica Lewinsky.



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Sarah

posted July 15, 2010 at 8:54 am


Context, Aaran. I said I know Copperchips’ (emphasis on “Copperchips'”) defenses, arguments, etc., pretty well. It would be silly to state that I know THE arguments, defenses, etc., of the Bible comprehensively; I’m learning new things about approaches to the Bible all the time (and greatly thanks to the people on this forum, which is one of the awesome things about it).
Also, I am leery of the world “qualify.” In my experience, very few people “just want to qualify” something; and qualification generally is something we tend to do when we’re entrenched in a singular point of view.
Bill, amen and amen! However highly I regard the liturgy, I don’t think of it as “all,” and I don’t think God’s keeping a tally chart of who goes to what kind of church and how often.



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Sarah

posted July 15, 2010 at 8:55 am


(Hi, Spinning!!)



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Spinning

posted July 15, 2010 at 1:44 pm


@ Bill: I was thinking more along the lines of vestal virgins – and you know what happened to them if they had sex…. eep!!!



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Aaran

posted July 15, 2010 at 7:38 pm


Thanks Sarah,
‘Know pretty well’ is an open statement. I was just curious as to how well.
I think there is often a difference between the positions held by lay people and academics. Academics are usually more nuanced, have greater philosophical background to their position and tend to be more coherent.



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Sarah

posted July 15, 2010 at 10:23 pm


Aaran,
Yeah, I was keeping my familiarity to the context of one particular viewpoint of Christianity, and from one particular (that is, generally well-read layperson’s) understanding of that viewpoint. The church of my upbringing, from the academic pastor down to the barely literate ten-year-olds, was filled with the kind of arguments presented by Copperchips, so I’m familiar with where s/he was coming from.
So, what did you mean by that last statement, then? I’m guessing you meant that I would find a different tone discussing the same basic positions with a scholar than on this thread here with Copperchips (please, Copperchips, I mean no offense). Either that or you were slamming me somehow.
You’re right, I have met some academic fundies who are softer in their approach than their layperson counterparts. Sadly, only some (and I include Copperchips among the “some,” academic or no); the rest, who tend to be under 30, which is weird to me, are just as vehement as the less formally educated laypeople in their absolutist perspectives and their unwillingness to entertain the possibility that their understanding isn’t the only “correct” one — and in their insistence that anyone who disagrees with their understanding is wrong and needs to change in order to be right with God. It depends on the person, I think, and while education can be a positive factor, sometimes it gives an asshole even more tools with which to be an asshole (these people tend to hold the deepest fears or harbor the deepest hurts, I think), and you’ll find that all over the board. And sometimes too a culture’s values and attitudes toward things like absolute truth shape how its constituents behave toward people who don’t fall in line with those values and attitudes.



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Rocky Presley

posted July 15, 2010 at 10:32 pm


Entomologista, on the blog, I am that icky person that you speak of! You are once again taking something out of context to prove a point. I do have to hand it to you. You are consistent. But thanks for the shout out though. Had a little traffic boost, so any additional readers is a good thing. Now I should probably post something up there to keep them coming back! You shouldn’t stay away though just because you don’t agree. Rather, get in and discuss. We’re all adults, right?
Now this gave me pause. Parents should definitely not be that interested in the sexuality of their children? I think I am reading that wrong, and I don’t want to repeat previous mistakes where someone improperly interprets something. In light of what Spinning (Wave back to you!) said,I believe that you are saying that parents shouldn’t have a psychotic level of interest in their children’s sexuality, because that is just weird. If that is what you said, then I agree. If you said that parents shouldn’t be interested in the sexuality of their children…yikes. Couldn’t disagree with that one more. There is a healthy level of involvement that every parent should have when it comes to their kids sexuality, and I do think that allot of this “purity” thing gets in the way of that.
I am curious though as all of us Monday morning quarterback this issue. Are there any parents out there that are speaking honestly about their teenagers sexuality and the choices that they are faced with? Do you have any wisdom to shed? What are some of the barriers that you face, the insecurities, the challenges that as a parent you have to deal with in having a healthy relationship with your kids where you help guide their sexuality?
While I think that every parent should take interest in their children’s sexuality, the reality is that most either avoid it or do it poorly. I think that a purity ball is more of an avoidance than being actively involved.



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Aaran

posted July 16, 2010 at 3:19 am


Sarah
There are philosophical underpinnings to the argument, such as how we know God, how can we know we know anything, the effect of sin on our knowledge of God, ect. An academic will probably be aware of different views and may be able critique them, the layperson probably accepts what they are taught and are prone to getting frustrated.



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Rocky Presley

posted July 16, 2010 at 9:54 am


Stephen, you married your wife, which included her virginity, or maybe it didn’t. Maybe that was or was not a quality that you looked for in a woman, but I don’t think that there is a man or woman on the planet that looks at only that, or even that firstly, unless they are completely inept at human interaction. But to your point, humans are not sexual only, but I can tell you this. If I had slept with a bunch of girls before my wife, she might not have been interested in me in the least. To her, it says something about my character that she was not interested in, and it would have been something extremely difficult for her to reconcile in our marriage. I would same that the same is true for me.
I can recall when dating other girls, there were things about her that made me like her or not. Most of the times those things were shallow. Is she into music? Does she like to have fun? Is she physically attractive? Does she annoy me when she laughs? Is she a cat or a dog lover? All of these things culminate in attraction, but for the most part they are shallow. If she passes the shallow test, then maybe you want to go deeper. Is she a compassionate person? Is she selfish? Do you share the same religious beliefs? Is she a Democrat? This may also be where your sexual compatibility comes into play, because typically couples will find the occasion to get it on for the first time during this phase. We all have our scruples as to what we prefer in a woman. Then you go even deeper. Can you spend your life with this woman? Can your collective dreams find root together? Do you want to have children? Are you in love with this person? Do you think that you can be committed to this one for the long haul? I think that this is where one another’s sexual past comes into play, and for some it can be a deal breaker/maker. For some, they can work past it. For others it may be the end of the road, but no more so than if you figure out that you don’t feel that your lives together could work, and if it is more so, then one should certainly examine their priorities.
I don’t think that considering one another’s sexual past is a sign of immaturity. I do however believe that if it never becomes a part of the decision making process, then that is extremely immature, but sexuality isn’t the denominator. It is part of the equation. It is part of weaving together a healthy relationship, and if it is one of the issues that break a couple up, then it probably did so because it needed to. There are so many reasons as to why that is, but to land the plane, sexuality is an important factor in any relationship.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 16, 2010 at 2:12 pm


Rocky,
My point wasn’t that “considering” another’s sexual past is a sign of immaturity. My point was that “prioritizing” it is. And the immature prioritizing can cut both ways: I won’t marry her because she’s sexually inexperienced (you know, the whole fornicating philosophy about “test driving” every aspect of another before “buying”), or I won’t marry her because she’s been around the block. Please bear with the poor analogy.
I think purityism nurtures the latter application of this myopic sense of sex. The irony of purityism is that it shares the same undue sense of sex of the fleshy culture it seeks to counter. And that’s what I think some here are driving at when they say “parents shouldn’t be so interested in their children’s sexuality.” They don’t mean parents should be apathetic, they mean parents shouldn’t be pedalistalizing their children’s sexuality. And dad’s bringing their girls to purity balls (tee hee) and convey that their worth and identity is bound up in their chastity are like dad’s who take their boys to cathouses and convey that their worth and identity are bound up in how many notches they put on their bedposts. Granted, chastity is more virtuous than conquering, but it’s all inapprorpriate because it is all so sex-crazed.
And, frankly, my view would be that, within reason, I don’t really care what non/experience my prospective other has, so long as she understands that upon marriage it is radically limited to me alone.



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Rocky Presley

posted July 17, 2010 at 1:39 pm


Stephen, right on dude.
My friends and I had purity balls growing up, but they weren’t for girls and we would NEVER put a ring on them…eh thank you? The whole county knew and coveted our purity balls. People would come from miles around to see our purity balls, and we would out of pride would gladly show them off. I know that that might be off putting to some here, but don’t hate, especially if you didn’t have balls growing up.



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Sarah

posted July 17, 2010 at 11:55 pm


Aaran, you’re still not being clear, though you’re pretty obviously criticizing someone; but that’s okay, you’re welcome to whatever opinion you have in whatever way you came by it. I know what I know, and you know what you know, and the twain don’t have to meet.



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Stephen Charles

posted July 18, 2010 at 9:01 am


Rocky,
You talk about purity balls the way Alec Baldwin talked about Schweddy Balls:
http://www.evtv1.com/player.aspx?itemnum=1415



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Gift of Grace Books

posted July 20, 2010 at 11:56 am


This is an interesting article. But I would like to say that being pure is more than purity rings. Many times parents think that just because they suggest their children to wear the rings they are completely protected. No!!! please communicate and talk about abstinence!! your children will listen!!



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Aaran

posted July 25, 2010 at 7:35 am


Sarah
I’m just saying where I think the ‘twain don’t meet’. I think you agree with me there. I’m not trying to slam you



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Nadia

posted July 26, 2010 at 6:51 pm


Yeah, the purity rings/pledges/balls are doing a great job. I will never forget how surprised I was a few years ago when a number of sweet purity-ringed college girls of my acquaintance informed me that they were still virgins because they’d “only” had anal sex. Um, okay…
My two cents: it might be really interesting to count up how many times Jesus spoke about virginity/sexual “purity” (or really anything having to do with sexuality at all) vs. how many times he spoke about things like how we should treat the poor/hungry/socially ostracized. Just to, you know, get a sense of what he thought was important. Yep, that might be very instructive.



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Skitzo Leezra

posted July 27, 2010 at 1:53 am


Purity rituals escorted by daddy?
Rings and balls?
Someone chick wanting a dress-up opportunity for her daughter floated this idea and no one had the balls to say no.
What does daddy do when the ring is “lost”?
captcha (not a joke): results loins



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Christianity is Bullshit

posted July 31, 2010 at 2:16 pm


Good, the less little hardcore christians there are running around ruining the planet, the better. Let them have their “purity rings”, the outcome of such is much better for society than their “God hates fags” rallies.



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Purity Rings

posted August 19, 2010 at 1:33 pm


I love the abstinence chart. I think there should be a couple more red lines on there though.



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Christina

posted December 2, 2010 at 5:29 am


My very Christan cousin had one of these. I found the whole thing just slightly creepy. Although that may have been because her mom said that the ring meant she was “married” to her dad until she got married. She was not happy to say the least that her dad had converted her from her beliefs (JW) and to his (very evangelical) although she failed to see the irony in that.



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ROJA

posted April 19, 2012 at 3:48 am


PURITY is GOD’S DIVINE PLAN 4 EVERY ONE SO LIVE IT ACT AND SHARE IT WITH YO DIVINE PERSON GOD MADE YOU TO BE WITH BIG LOVE



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