Like Virgins

A couple of days ago I congratulated The Revealer's Jeff Sharlet for his balanced and generally respectful article in Rolling Stone about young, single evangelical Christians who have embraced virgininity and sexual abstinence until marriage. The piece was a bit flip and foul-mouthed, but, well, this is Rolling Stone.

Now, there's more. Jeff's latest post on The Revealer features the reaction to the story of R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Seminary and, as Time magazine puts it, "reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S." Mohler liked the article, too, but expressed some of the same reservations I had:

"Anyone who thinks that the idea of sexual abstinence is a recent development tied to a political agenda within the Christian right just hasn't been in touch with conservative Christianity....

"The reporter's analysis serves as a fascinating lens through which to see the sexual values of the dominant media class. They haven't considered sexual abstinence as an option for years, and at least some of them have a hard time believing that sexual abstinence before marriage was ever considered the normative expectation for young people. Coming of age in the 1960s--or raised by parents who came of age in the 1960s--those who live in the dominant sexual culture now hear the idea of sexual abstinence as something genuinely innovative and assuredly radical."

Amazingly enough, Sharlet agrees with Mohler:

"But my argument isn't that Christian conservatives have just discovered chastity; it's that there's a new, broad embrace of it among a generation of exceptionally pious virgins who are, however, fully engaged with mainstream culture. Moreover, that Christian political activists have moved it to the center of their concerns, a notion emphasized by many abstinence activists. It's worth pointing out -- as I failed to do in Rolling Stone -- that this shift began in the early 1990s, just as the Cold War ended. What's the connection? Pre-marital sex is the new communism, the new 'evil empire.'

"Such an assertion, however, is evidence of my secular perspective. I look for explanations in worldly events. As such, my foray into the chastity movement has an inevitable 'among the natives' tone...."

It's a fascinating discussion.

Evangelicals: We Can't Play the Persecution Card Anymore

An editorial in the July issue of Christianity Today rejoices that evangelical Christians are finally getting the respect they deserve from the media:

Except for cases still found in some places--Lewis Lapham's 'The Wrath of the Lamb' in the May issue of Harper's being one of them [My note: That's the essay in which Lapham touted as "good news" the supposed Death of God in the 1960s but now is peeved because He won't stay dead]--evangelicals can no longer complain about a media conspiracy against them. We're no longer overlooked, persecuted, discriminated against, and misquoted in the mainstream news media. Clarification: the term 'news media' here doesn't include the opinion writers, whose voices in The New York Times, for example, still alternate between befuddlement at discovery of evangelicals (Had you any idea people like this existed?) and insulting them (They're the ones who believe that science and faith are mutually exclusive!)....