Purity: Not an End in Itself

Evangelical Christians had a thing called “purity culture” back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I’m not an evangelical, so I was never a part of that, but it had to do with spreading word about the dangers of premarital “fornication” and preserving one’s purity for marriage.

A popular book on the subject was titled I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and the author, Joshua Harris, has recently recanted his view that dating in itself is intrinsically bad. I never read the book, but upon hearing the title and reading the synopsis, I wondered how one was supposed to find a spouse if one never dated. You have to know what kind of person you’re looking for, right? And how else can one do that without dating a bunch of different people?

I suppose the author must have advocated, in place of traditional one-on-one dating, group dates or supervised hangouts where young people get to know each other without spending too much time alone, which can lead to a loss of purity. That’s all well and good, but there are certain things that you can only know about a person when you spend time alone with him or her. People tend to behave differently when they are in a group setting. So I can understand why the book has fallen out of favor in even the eyes of its own author.

The “purity culture” made the mistake of having teenagers, especially girls, think that their entire self-worth was based on the status of their virginity. If they were virgins, they were pure and good and righteous. If they were not virgins, they were soiled and damaged and no decent guy would want them.

One can be a virgin and have the filthiest mind on the planet. On the other hand, one can be a non-virgin and be fairly innocent and of course still be an intrinsically good person. A person is more than the sum of his or her sexuality, although in high school, that can sometimes be hard to believe.

The true aim of the “purity culture” should have been on getting teenagers to understand exactly why premarital sex was bad rather than telling them that they will shrivel up and die and go to hell if they have sex. Human beings have intrinsic worth, sex is an incredibly powerful force, and honestly, when you’re in high school or even college, there are very few teenagers who are emotionally mature enough to handle the ramifications of sex.

Obviously, if you have premarital sex, you may not go to hell. St. Augustine was a notorious playboy and kept a mistress, but he eventually had a beautiful conversion experience and became one of the greatest and well-known saints of all time. Salvation is complicated, and purity is complicated. Sins against purity are, at their base, like every other sin. If you choose to continue in your impure ways without seeking or wanting forgiveness and knowing full well that what you’re doing is wrong, then yes, you have a high chance of going to hell. However, if you were once “impure” and even had premarital sex, and you come to an understanding of why that was wrong, and you seek forgiveness and sincerely attempt to turn away from your past behavior, then you have a shot at heaven.

Abstinence or “purity” education needs to be based on not just the fact that premarital sex is wrong, but rather on why it is wrong. St. John Paul II wrote a series of lectures known as Theology of the Body, which explains in detail how valuable we are as human beings, the correct understanding of purity, and much more. That’s the foundation on which we need to be basing abstinence education, so teenagers can get a sense of “why” rather than just a judgmental statement (“premarital sex is wrong and you’re going to hell if you do it”) that only leads to more questions.

Thursday Three #42

  1. The biggest news is the latest Storm of the Century, Hurricane Florence. Fortunately, it is now a Category 2 and doesn’t look like it’s coming directly for North Carolina anymore, but it’s still going to bring a ton of damage. We are prepared… well, as prepared as we can be for a natural disaster.
  2. I found an interesting site where you can list your web-based fiction: Web Fiction Guide. I had no idea something like that existed until about a week ago, so it will definitely be something to keep in mind if I ever publish something online.
  3. Last weekend, my husband and I went to the Eucharistic Congress, which is basically Catholic-palooza. The most notable thing was that we got to see the bishop, and honestly, I found myself staring at him very hard, while I wondered whether he was a “good guy.”

If you are in the path of the hurricane, stay safe!

First Comes Love…

The inevitable happened. You remember that rhyme you used to sing when you were in elementary school, the one that went “first comes love, then comes marriage”? The thing that, in tradition, happens after marriage has happened to me.

My first thought was that I majorly screwed up, and I internally heard laughter at the joke (which I now relate to completely) that goes “What do you call people who use the ‘rhythm method’? Parents.”* My immediate second thought was “I’m married… isn’t this what’s supposed to happen?” My third thought was about how much tinier our 600 square foot apartment was about to become. Then I tried to stop thinking altogether and called the ob/gyn. It took a couple weeks for the morning sickness to kick in, and I am fortunate that it never got as bad as some women supposedly have it. I never actually got sick, but I got darn near close to it, and I was so tired that all I wanted to do after work was flop down on the couch and sleep (which I did on most days).

The exhaustion lifted slightly after the 12th week or so, along with the nausea. But I still wasn’t able to get happy about the whole situation. I’m Catholic, so I’m supposed to be all joyful about this little soul that God deigned to put in my weak human body. Man, was it hard to be joyful. Every now and then, the joy would come, but the next second I’d be back to kicking myself for what I perceived as ultimately a birth control failure. We should’ve been like one of those couples with great self-control that somehow manages to use NFP successfully for the first five years of the marriage, then has a kid in “God’s perfect timing.” Nope, we’re just regular people after all. The ideals have fallen yet again. So I have been contenting myself with the cliché: “Nobody is ever ready to be a parent. You just do it.”

I’m trying to tell myself that we didn’t fail and that this is in fact a great success (and, you selfish thing, you better think about all the people who desperately want children and can’t have them), but my perfectionist nature is reluctant to buy it. The reality is that now is the time to let go of my perfectionist nature once and for all. I’ve been telling myself that it’s OK if the dishes don’t get done the second after we eat or that the apartment isn’t going to burst into flames if I don’t vacuum exactly on schedule. Or if someone emails me at work, I don’t have to get back to them within the next five seconds. Not to mention that I’ll traumatize my son (and probably my husband, too) for life if I keep being such a perfectionist.

All this life-changing craziness started in April, which means a little more than I’m halfway there. Then in January, we’ll hopefully have a healthy, crying, screaming little creature to be responsible for, for the next 18 years and beyond. Scary? Hell yeah. Fun? Yes, from what I hear. But marriage is my vocation, and with it comes children, as the rhyme goes. So my life’s true mission has begun. 🙂

As a side note, I’m not sure what will become of this blog in the meantime and after January. I’ve been using it less and less, even though the actual desire to write has not left me. I won’t ever delete the blog, but I may not keep my own domain. I’ll try to post every now and then, but I doubt it will be regular at all. I want to try really hard not to be someone who only writes about their kid and/or posts pictures of their kid. If I was a kid these days, I’d be pissed at my parents for posting pictures of me on social media.

*NFP is not the rhythm method, but it still relies mainly on self-control, which fails far more often than we weak humans would like.