The response to our series on Purity Culture has been overwhelming. We've heard from so many of you about your experiences, survival stories, and ongoing struggles that arose from the impact Purity Culture and dogma had in your life.
In this episode, we will delve into a few of those stories, and Grace and James will share from their experiences as well.
Although we weren't able to include the stories of everyone who spoke with us or wrote in, your stories matter. We will be including some more of your responses on our blog at FunShiftPod.com. Please feel free to leave comments there with your own stories if you feel inclined.
Referenced in this episode:
Protect Every Child
I Kissed Dating Goodbye/Joshua Harris
Axios on HBO
True Love Waits
Choose The Right
Check out James's song, God's Wingman, on our YouTube Channel!
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Music by '86 Aerostar
James: Heads up: the following podcast contains adult language and deals with adult subjects. Keep this in mind as you listen.
Grace: And you don't want to miss it. Today we're talking to you, our listeners, about your experiences with Purity Culture.
James: Your responses have been amazing and we can't wait to share them. On with the show.
Grace: Hey folks, I'm Grace.
James: And I'm James. Welcome to Fundamental Shift: the podcast where we explore the major shakeups in our lives, their fault lines and aftershocks.
Grace: Thanks for listening. You're in for a real shift show.
We want to take a moment to say that we hope you're enjoying the expanded programming we're bringing you from the Fundamental Shift network. You've heard James's show The Quieted Mind.
James: And you've heard the debut of Grace's show Mediocre Mystic. She's got another one coming up next time we drop a show in the feed. We always want your feedback. Let us know what you're enjoying about the shows and what you'd like to hear more or even less of.
Grace: We're here to build a community, and hearing from you really is our favorite thing. So speaking of that, let's do just that as we close out our series on Purity Culture. Sure.
As you might be able to tell from the title, we heard from people from all kinds of Christian backgrounds about how Purity Culture has affected their lives. We got to speak with several of you and we had some written responses too. We're going to be featuring those written responses on the blog. Be sure that you head over there next week on our off podcast week.
And please do comment. We'll give you a little reminder on the socials.
James: Because we heard from folks on three specific practices within Christian traditions, we'll be featuring stories in those faiths. First we'll hear from Francesca and Jaime who are Catholic. Francesca had a middle-class Northeast upbringing. Jaime was born in Peru and moved to the States just as he was coming up on his teenage years. Both adults, now starting their own life and family together, they reflect on how teaching on the virtue of chastity shaped their upbringing in the Catholic Church, their premarital counsel, and family planning.
Grace: When Francesca was in fifth grade, it was the early nineties. Hocus Pocus was the big box hit that year and was being released for television. She was so excited to be able to watch the movie at home at Halloween.
Francesca: And I'm watching it and then all of a sudden, a virgin lights the candle, and, the witches come out and Hocus Pocus starts and all the excitement takes over.
And I remember sitting there, and I think I'm in fifth grade, watching Hocus Pocus, not thinking anything of it, and I'm like, "What's a virgin?" And so I'm watching it. And you know, it's still such a big deal that Zach lit the candle because he's a Virgin, I'm like, man, I, I don't get it, you know, like I don't see what's the big deal.
So I walk upstairs to my mom and she's folding laundry and I'm like, "Mom, what's a virgin? And she looks at me, she stops folding laundry. And she goes, "Why do you want to know?" I was like, "I don't know, Hocus Pocus, Zach lit the candle and witches came out and everything started. And, but what was the big deal?"
And she said, "Well, it's what I was until I married your father, and it's what you'll be forever."
And I remember walking away from that conversation with more questions than I had before, because I'm like, so she was the same before she got married as this kid that lit a candle. And, I still don't know. And this is also pre-internet. So you couldn't just look something up at your disposal , especially as a fifth grader, when you ask your parents a question, you know, you expect that that's the truth.
So, you know, from that point on until early middle school, I just knew that a virgin was what my mom was until she was married. And it's what I was going to be forever.
James: Francesca's parents were devout Catholics and supported the Church's abstinence-only teaching to the point of excluding her from any outside education about sex.
Francesca: I probably didn't find out what a virgin was until late middle school, because my parents were the ones who didn't let me take Sex Ed in middle school. And I was too naive to not share the papers with my parents and just sign off myself that I could do it.
I didn't think about forging that, that early. So I was the one kid in my classes that had to sit outside during Sex Ed and my teachers had to find some other paperwork for me to do while everybody else learned about sex and what a virgin was.
Grace: Francesca finally learned what a virgin was in the eighth grade, and no, not from a parent, not from a teacher or even from a member of the clergy.
Francesca: And this girl standing in line behind me is like, "Oh my gosh, I just had the best sex yesterday." And I'm standing there you know like, "What?" So that's where I got my first Sex Ed lesson was standing outside of homeroom in eighth grade.
James: Growing up in a strict Catholic home, there wasn't much conversational teaching on purity. It was a tacit cultural expectation for Francesca and her siblings.
Francesca: Growing up, you know, like to the point there was not much teaching. It was purity. It was, "It's what I was until I married your father," and it's, you know, "what you'll be" for the indefinite future.
So there wasn't that conversation. And then even when I got to high school and, you know, a lot of my friends and people where you're getting on conception, that wasn't an option for me. So I didn't get to go on conception until I was in college and on my own.
That was pretty much it, you know, it was like the underlying expectation that you waited until marriage and that sex is only for marriage and the gift of life.
Grace: Fast forward to early adulthood and Francesca is still being indoctrinated with Purity Culture. She attended a required marriage preparation workshop with her fiance for couples about to be married in the Catholic Church.
Francesca: And there was a session on intercourse and the importance of not using contraception. And so I think that was the most prominent message that I received in terms of contraception, no contraception purity, and what that looks like in raising a family.
James: The Catholic Church's teaching on contraception is based in large part on a 1968 document called Humane Vitae by Pope Paul VI. Here's an example of some of the teaching a couple would receive not only about procreation, but how using contraception leads to other sexual sins in the eyes of the church. This is Bishop Barron of the Archdiocese of LA and American prelate of the Catholic Church.
Bishop Barron: Uh, the central argument of Humane Vitae is fairly easy to, um, to lay out namely that the integrity of the sexual act is a function of the coming together of its unitive and procreative dimensions. So when the sexual act expresses love between the married partners and remains open to the conception of a child, it has this, uh, integral quality. When through a conscious choice, a couple introduces an artificial block to procreation, they're doing something which violates this integrity and thereby, uh, stands opposed to God's will.
The Pope says, let them consider how easily this course of action—so artificial contraception—would open why the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards, not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness, and to understand that human beings, especially the young, are so exposed to temptation that they need incentives to keep the moral law. And it's an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Well, here's the thing, I mean, would anyone doubt that in the last 50 years, the years since Humane Vitae, that we've seen a weakening of the institution of marriage, would anyone doubt that we've seen a rather remarkable rise in the rates of, of infidelity within marriage. Um, can anyone sincerely doubt that we've seen a lowering a coarsening of moral standards?
Jaime: So I was born in Peru, which is predominantly Catholic, I would say 99% Catholic. It's very rare that you see any other religions present anywhere else around town.
James: This is Jaime. He has experienced Catholicism both in Peru and in the U.S.
Jaime: I grew up in a Catholic school. It was an all boys school. I was there until I was 12 years old and then moved to the U.S. My parents tried to continue forging that Catholic faith in me as we moved to this country.
Grace: Though Jaime was heavily indoctrinated from his birth, both in Peru and here in the United States, he found the faith lacking for him.
Jaime: Slowly, I stepped away from it, stopped going every other weekend, stopped going every month and it just grew, grew up bigger, bigger, and I stopped going at some point.
So, um, I have foundational knowledge that the Catholic church puts in you, but I don't exercise it.
James: Despite Jaime's lack of belief, he did choose to marry in the Catholic Church and will raise his children there.
Jaime: My decision to marry in the Catholic church is a way to provide my support to the relationship. Um, Don't do it personally for me, but for ourselves and our family and being able to provide that faith based home to her and our future children.
Grace: While Jaime sees the Catholic Church's teachings as a moral compass and uses the church's perspectives as a guiding post, he has struggled with the double standard regarding purity expectations for men and women. It was Sigmund Freud who first coined the term Madonna-Whore Complex. The dangers of Purity Culture taught in the Catholic Church perpetuate this characterization of women as having to fall into one of two groups: the good saint or the bad slut. This kind of view reinforces the patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic Church as we'll hear witnessed from Jaime's experience.
Jaime: Growing up, the expectations for, uh, you to be an upstanding Catholic member. Right. I feel like those expectations are placed more on women than there are on men. Um, my mother, and these early experiences, it's my mother always having to struggle with the church because they could not accept her having used contraception.
And even if she went to confession, it wasn't acceptable at that point. So she never felt like she was truly a part of the congregation because she was sinning. And even though she's the most devoted one out of everybody in my family. Right? So, she never felt welcome because of that situation.
Opposed to the first time I had sex, I got a non obvious high five from my dad, you know, like, "Hey, you got it. You got it done. Great for you." While he could judge a person saying, "Um, I don't know about that woman because she is known for having sex prior to being married." So there's a double standard happening.
James: When we asked Jaime how watching his mother being treated differently than his father affected how he treats women, he gave an answer that could probably apply to many of our own life situations.
Jaime: I tend to take people's reaction to situations and put them on themselves. So my comment to my mom was always, you don't have to have anybody's acceptance to be who you are. Not me trying to change the church or trying to change an organization because that's something that's out of my control. That's something that's, that's never going to happen from my initiation. So my point of view is like, Whatever you want to do if you are comfortable, you have to own it and you have to be that person. And if you choose for your own wellbeing to use contraception, that's great. And that's the choice that you have. And don't feel like you're being personally attacked by the church because you have as much right and as much, You are part of the church, no matter what, no matter what they say, like your faith has nothing to do with what the organization says. So like, my approach is not trying to change the expectations. Is trying to change how you perceive yourself when it comes to being judged with others.
James: Now we're going to hear from Tara who grew up as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. According to Mormonism, Tara lives in the promised land. No, not Jerusalem, not Mecca; Missouri. That's right—in Mormonism, Missouri is not only the Garden of Eden, it's where Jesus will return to reclaim his kingdom. Purity Culture training starts early in the Mormon tradition.
Tara: Around 11 or 12, I guess that's the age where you start separating boys and girls. So that's probably it because the boys don't get the lessons that the girls do.
Grace: Purity lessons for girls are very different from the lessons for the boys in the Mormon church. Tara is going to mention the terms "priesthood holder" and to "missionary" for those not familiar with Mormonism, only boys and men can hold the priesthood. So a 12 year old boy in this patriarchal system is technically above his mother.
Mormon young men are expected to serve a two year mission right after high school before attending college. Marrying a return missionary is the encouraged route for Mormon young women. Keep in mind these are adolescents, not even teenagers yet, receiving this teaching.
Tara: We're 11 and 12, and that's what we're being taught to do. It's what we did.
My favorite lesson they taught us was: Here's a cupcake. It's very pretty, you know, it has frosting, everything. But if you lick the cupcake, lick all the frosting off, that's like your purity, if no one wants a cupcake with no icing on it. You can't do anything before marriage or you're just like a cupcake with no icing. No one will ever want you. And there were so many lessons like that. That was just one that, like, I really liked.
You can't wear revealing clothes 'cause that would put thoughts into the boys minds, and we were told "Your job is to keep the boys pure... If something happens, you messed up ... your entire job when it comes to purity is to make sure the boys are pure 'cause they have the priesthood and they cannot do anything wrong."
James: When Mormon youth reach teenagehood and are entering the realm of dating, there are strict rules for courtship. Tara had a clear vision of how her life would look according to the Mormon way. However, it didn't appeal to her.
She's going to mention a term you may not be familiar with if you did not grow up in the Mormon church: Relief Society President. This is the women's arm of LDS church. It is purely service oriented and all of its activities must be approved by the patriarchal hierarchy.
Tara: We would always, at least once a month, have a lesson about what we wanted our future husband to look like. And it was such, the bar was so low. We want him to be a priesthood holder. We want him to be, you know, a missionary, but we also want him to be kind and loving and things that should already be there. We shouldn't have to list them.
They never talked about going to school or being successful. We knew you go to college for like a semester and then drop out because you've gotten married.
That was the expectation. If you hadn't already been married before then. So I assumed that I would go to high school and then get married as soon as possible. And then for the rest of my life, I would just be taking care of them, making dinner and... just loving everything.
Be Relief Society President. And obviously that's not how life worked for me. And it sounds like an awful life. I wanted to go to college and get a job, but I didn't think that was going to happen.
I didn't realize that it was a choice to go to college. And my parents supported my brother going to college and going on missions and everything. And for me it was marriage.
Grace: Tara has been the victim of sexual assault. However, in her upbringing in the Mormon church, that concept just doesn't exist. There's a practice of seeing your Bishop for what are called interviews. This is somewhat akin to a Catholic confession. A Bishop in the Mormon church is a layman as are all the leaders of the LDS church.
They indoctrinate all males with their teachings from the age of 12, when they attain the priesthood, and then they are able to serve as clergy. You might recognize Senator Mitt Romney's name. While known best for his role in politics, he has also served as a Bishop in the LDS church. These are regional leaders who are responsible to examine the members in their care.
These interviews with adults and kids often include graphic questions into one's sexual life. One former Bishop who wanted to reform from within, Sam Young, was ex-communicated for fighting this practice. Let that soak in. He was excommunicated because he said, Hey, older dude, all alone in a room with a young person, stop asking them creepy questions of any sexual nature. In an interview with her Bishop, Tara began to confront her sexual assault.
It was a confusing time for her, first blaming herself for breaking the Law of Chastity and then realizing, no, she had indeed been raped. Tara left the church shortly after this interview. However, in her case, it wasn't a direct result of this interview. It was a whole host of things as it usually is for most of us. We are storing things up on our shelves, trying to give the benefit of the doubt as long as we can. Then eventually that shelf is so full it breaks. This is a common metaphor ex-Mormons use when telling their stories. Tara said the worst part of the teachings for her was all the guilt she constantly carried, even when she wasn't doing anything wrong.
Tara: I did have a Bishop after I was like really leaving the church. I had an interview with him a few months ago and then had to have another one for like another reason.
And he had told me, it was like, "I knew there was something you wanted to talk to me about the last interview that you didn't, I feel a prompting from Spirit." I had no idea what he's talking about. And he was like, "No, like I feel it. I know I can feel it." And I, not a clue. And he just kept pushing me until I like broke down crying.
And the only thing that I could think of was the fact that like I, at the time, when I had the first interview, I thought that I had had broken the law of chastity. By the time I had had this next interview, I realized that it was sexual assault. But at the time of the first interview I hadn't figured that out yet because I hadn't had therapy. And it took a really long time for that because Mormon culture is sexual does not exist. You know you did something wrong, you were going to hell. So I, you know, I just assumed for a really long time that I was going to hell because I broke the law of chastity. So it got to the point in that interview where I finally was like, well, I was assaulted.
And he basically told me, "Well, you know, are you sure about that? That doesn't seem right. Like you did something wrong."
James: The Law of Chastity is one of the Mormon church's most central of doctrines. Breaking it ranks right up there with murder. This is based on the book of Mormon scripture, Alma 39:3-5, which is reinforced with repeated teaching by LDS profits and other clergy. The church gathers in spring and fall for annual general conferences.
This is Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, speaking about the passage at a fall general conference.
Elder Holland: In all of this, that prompts Alma to warn his son, Corianton, that sexual transgression is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Yea, most abominable above all sins. Save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost. By assigning such seriousness to a physical appetite so universally bestowed, what is God trying to tell us about its place in his plan for all men and women?
I submit to you, he is doing precisely that, commenting about the very plan of life itself. Clearly among his greatest concerns regarding mortality are how one gets into this world and how one gets out of it. He has set very strict limits in those matters.
James: This is the kind of teaching Tara had been constantly sitting under until just this last year when she left the church. She thought God would hate her for breaking the biggest promise.
Tara: I guess if I murdered someone
or like, so it's like murder, law of chastity, and like dating a girl,
I guess if I did all three of those, I would just be the worst person in the world.
Grace: Tara is not only brave for sharing her story, but she is resilient beyond measure. She has a quote by which she lives penned by Rupi Kaur that I think any survivor can garner hope from.
Tara: "...and here you are living despite it all." And I love it. I have it pinned in my room... I have it everywhere.
James: Growing up in the nineties at the height of Purity Culture, there were many movements of value signaling. We talked to Francesca and Tara about their experiences with promise rings.
Grace: The Silver Ring Thing, popular among Catholics and evangelicals alike. Francesca remembers noticing promise rings among her peers.
Francesca: We have the silver rings. That was the thing that was really popular in high school. You know, like, we grew up in, you know, a pretty suburban Catholic community. So that was a thing that a lot of girls started to do was wear the rings and show off, their purity.
Grace: Choose the Right is a church-wide campaign among the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Now, this doesn't exclusively apply to chastity for them, but it certainly does include it. And Tara told us about her CTR experience.
Tara: And you start getting these rings that say, choose the right on them or CTR. I actually got a really pretty one when I was my mom and dad bought it for me for Christmas and I was 13 or 14. But it's just this whole thing about, you know, you need to choose the right, you know, make good decisions and it's not necessarily like purity, because they're teaching it to four year olds. It's just like, don't lie, be nice to people. So it starts out really, really innocent. In general, probably a good thing to be teaching kids, but it gets to the point of, if you don't choose the right, bad things will happen. They could be doing such a good thing, but they take it too far and they throw God into it. And Mormon God is not nice.
James: True Love Waits was a widespread evangelical movement that began in 1993 and continues in the present. Its founder, Richard Ross, promoted it among youth as a coming out for purity to combat the coming out of LGBTQIA+ persons. Part of this movement was a ceremony wherein you'd pledge your abstinence, signing a card, and like the Silver Ring Thing and Choose The Right, there was often a ring involved, especially for girls.
Richard Ross: I said to my students almost immediately, you know, lots of people are coming out of the closet these days. Who or what would it be like if you sort of came out of the closet for what you believe, what you hold dear, what if you kind of went public related to this way of living this pure way of living.
Grace: So James, I remember going to a jewelry pawn because I wanted a very vintage, very thin band. I went with my father and my godfather. It was gold with beveled edges and a vine edging around it. And the funny thing is it made me feel safe. But not for the reasons the movement taught or that these men with me even thought, because I wasn't interested in boys.
It kind of kept them at bay for me and I wasn't out to myself, but I had very little interest in being physical with men or boys at the time. The ring was a visual reminder to the boy to leave room for the Holy Spirit as we used to say here in the South. Because of the reminder that the ring gave, these dates would often end early and I was off the hook. So I could still look straight without being straight.
James: Wow, that makes a lot of sense. I guess that was good for you at that time in a way. Well, I never really got into the ring stuff or I Kissed Dating Goodbye. But True Love Waits was definitely a presence. My memory of Purity Culture growing up and into adulthood was that it was all encompassing and wrapped up in so much of what we were taught about everything. This isn't something that was limited to church and Christian school; it was pushed heavily at home as well. At the same time my youth pastor and Sunday school teachers were throwing True Love Waits rallies at church, and comparing sexually active teens to chewed gum or popped balloons, I was told to never kiss a girl like they do in the movies, by my mom who I know meant well.
We were all taught to abstain from sex until marriage. And at the same time at my Christian school, I was told I was essentially an animal who can't control myself, that kissing is sex from the neck up, which I guess means kissing would make me lose my virginity, and basically anything remotely sexual when enjoyed outside of a heterosexual marriage was sin.
In adulthood, in college, that's actually when Joshua Harris and I Kissed Dating Goodbye became really big. And so there were a lot of students on campus who were sort of evangelists for that, but I kind of thought it was ridiculous at that point.
But, while I was going to church, I would hear this same narrative continued in college. The True Love Waits, the "men are animals," and in college and young adult small groups and individual conversations with men, they insisted that if it wasn't for Jesus, they'd be out there having sex with every woman they could, regardless of consent. I literally heard men say that they would be rapists if Jesus hadn't saved them.
I really hated these narratives back then. And I tried in my own way to sort of defy the toxic stereotypes that the culture pushed regarding the behavior of boys and men. So for the most part, I didn't pursue anything in the way of a romantic relationship. Although a large part of that was also due to social challenges that I went through as a teen.
I didn't even date anyone until I was well into my twenties. And even after I got married, these teachings still haunted me and made it very difficult for me to take on the role of relationship partner. I hesitated when it came to touching, I didn't want to be forward at all. I shied away from anything that could be considered aggressive, and I even found it difficult to do simple things like complimenting my partner's appearance.
And honestly, I still have trouble with some of those things at times, probably because of that programming, part of me is in there, still in there, trying really hard not to be the type of guy I'd been told all guys are. I know it's probably better than going all in on the church's version of manhood, but it seems that even defying the teachings can have its potential pitfalls, and that's something I've had to reckon with.
It's an ongoing process of unlearning and reprogramming that I don't know I'll ever be done with, but I guess we're all works in progress, right?
Grace: Absolutely. And we just want to give you guys a little teaser here and let you know that I'm coming up now that we've concluded our Purity Culture series , James is going to be doing some really awesome shows about toxic masculinity. We just thought that was the natural place to go from where we've been going with this, and so we're going to be exploring how this affects toxic masculinity and men in general, as much as it does women, going forward in the next couple shows.
James: So definitely reach out to us, give us your, your stories and let us know how those kinds of teachings, whether it be religious or non-religious, just the culture at large, those toxic masculinity messages that you received growing up and maybe still receive today, and, and how that plays out in your life then and now.
Grace: For sure. So James, while you're in there trying not to be the guy you've been told all guys are, I'm in there trying to unlearn all the things I was told a woman should be and just be the queer creature I am happily. I know I still trigger at certain things, and once in a while, I'll have a reminder of old rhetoric come at me, seemingly from out of nowhere. And then I remember it's not from nowhere. I was deeply indoctrinated by others and also by my own self while surrounded by fundamentalism at home, at school, and at church. I remember all these same lessons from church and the school you and I both attended that you mentioned.
And unfortunately I read all the things like I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Side note folks, Joshua Harris has left the faith. He is now divorced and he has disavowed his own books. The thing that had the most impact on me predated all of these media and ceremonies we've mentioned thus far. It was a book called Passion and Purity by missionary Elizabeth Elliott.
This is a name you'll realize if you grew up in any kind of mission-minded fundamental home. She was the widow of a fellow missionary, Jim Elliot. And I even did a play about her in college. She was a strong personality who wanted to do something adventurous and meaningful by dedicating herself, wholly to her faith.
And I really resonated with that. Once she returned from the jungles of Ecuador, she began teaching and became a powerful symbol of godly womanhood. And I wanted more than anything to be a godly woman. Raising myself, I always felt so out of place. And I had nothing in common with my classmates. I didn't connect, especially with the girls, with their struggle towards the boys.
When I hung out with the boys in our circle, that was just kind of weird, but most people really sectioned off by gender in our school. So I kind of was alone a lot and I buried any part of me that knew I was lesbian.
I felt so much pressure from my father, pastors, teachers, and most strongly, honestly, from the women in my life, whether that was at church or volunteering or school—anywhere, really—just to be that godly woman. It felt like since I didn't have a mother in the home, it was even more crucial for me than the average young woman in my life.
Maybe they could see the baby gay in me and double down on that teaching to try and save me. Purity culture stretches far beyond the topic of sex itself into these binary, gender roles and identity and orientation, and being worthy to find the correct mate, to have married heterosexual intercourse with. In my case, the message I received most was that I was to shrink to be nothing.
I did not belong to myself, but was bought with a price. Therefore I was to conform to the image of Christ's bride. In this, I might be allowed a husband. And if not, I was to soldier on, in the army of the Lord, a handmaiden for God who would be my husband. Mrs. Elliot was the loudest and clearest voice driving home that teaching to me in her books, radio show, and conferences, which I attended—pardon the pun—religiously.
Elisabeth Elliot: Can you imagine that being a popular concept in the late 20th century, you are not the owner of your own body. What is the world telling you? From all sides, we are bombarded. We are bludgeoned with lies, just pure lies. Have it your way, if it feels good, do it. It's your body. You have a right to your body.
And what does the Bible say? "You are not your own. You were bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body." Those are the words of the King James version. He says here, "You have been bought, and at what a price, therefore bring glory to God in your body."
So whose are you? If you are putting yourself under the orders of Jesus Christ, then that means obedience. If you are willing to be on his terms, that means discipleship and discipline. If you are willing to live for his purpose, then I can promise you that the ultimate end is joy.
God is our father. He loves us far more than our earthly parents and his ultimate aim for us is joy. The Bible says, "In thy presence is fullness of joy. At thy right hand there are pleasures..." not the temporary kind that the world is offering. And I do not deny the world can offer you plenty of fun. Plenty of pleasures. For which you will pay a very high price.
Grace: I once helped her, here in my state for a general conference I attended. I have a handwritten letter and a photo I'll post up on the socials. She was my hero. She was my mentor. And the complication with her is the same one you might have with someone like Phyllis Schlafly, a woman you might be familiar with, even if you didn't grow up in the far right fundamentalism James and I did from Hulu's Mrs. America. She led the opposition to the E.R.A. And these kinds of women get to have their freedom to travel and teach in a way they wouldn't dare be allowed in their own conservative, evangelical circles because they support and prop up the patriarchal religious systems keeping women sitting down, shutting up and submitting to their male authorities.
They get their freedom by telling us to give ours up. Now I do believe there's a certain survival to this, a price paid by them as well. And honestly, in trying to enter the ministry myself, I walked this fine line many times. This is the most insidious effect of purity culture for me, because it goes to the very heart of who a person is and how a person thrives or doesn't because this binary traditional role model, this just isn't that person's nature.
It wasn't my nature. Not at all. And then we found ourselves contorting beyond belief to be pure and holy by the standards of the church just to feel a tiny bit worthy of love. I'm going to end with a quote from the brilliant Jessica Valenti, whose books and documentary, The Purity Myth, I highly recommend.
She says, "I think virginity is fine just as I think having sex is fine. I don't really care what women [and I'll say people] do sexually and neither should you. In fact, that's the point. I believe that a young woman's [or I'll say person's] decision to have sex or not shouldn't impact how they are seen as a moral actor.
We use many resources for the show. Today, we went right to the horse's mouth for all of our quotes and clips. If you'd like to look into Joshua Harris debunking his own movement, we suggest his full interview on Axios with HBO. He's also got a website at joshuaharris.com.
James: We were delighted to have you, our listeners, as our guests today. We'd like to make a few recommendations. The first is Soul Force. Soul Force is working to defeat Christian supremacy. They have long been an advocate for the spiritually abused, Black and Indigenous People of Color, and LGBTQIA+ persons and allies.
Join them in their work at soulforce.org.
Grace: We also mentioned one of my heroes, Sam Young, who works to protect children, especially from inappropriate interviews with bishops in the Mormon church. I had the privilege to March on the Utah State Capitol with him and the hosts from Latter-day Lesbian, Mary and Shelly, pre pandemic, of course, to demand lawmakers get involved to protect children.
You can join him and his work at protecteverychild.com.
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James: Tune in next time for the second episode of Grace's new show.
Grace: And until then, remember, folks: shift happens.