Home » Ethics » Let’s Think About This Practically: A Response to “I Lost My Purity (And I Haven’t Had Sex)” Part 2

Let’s Think About This Practically: A Response to “I Lost My Purity (And I Haven’t Had Sex)” Part 2

The article, “I Lost My Purity (And I Haven’t Had Sex)”[1] is well written, provocative, cleverly titled, and advances the true notion that sexual purity is bigger than virginity, fornication, and physical adultery.

In “Let’s Think About This Practically: A Response to “I Lost My Purity (And I Haven’t Had Sex) Part 1,” however, I began to unpack some foundational issues that need to be addressed in light of the author’s use of certain truths to vehicle what I deem insidious ideas.[2]

The problem isn’t in her theological assertions, but in her “therefores” in her criticisms of the church’s traditional moral standards, preferring as she does what she deems higher standards. While acting like she is raising the bar for Christians, she, unintentionally, I am sure, eradicates meaningful lines in the sand that have great practical value for life, and statistical viability. By, intentionally or unintentionally, leaving the impression that sins are not graded or practically distinct, she does not actually raise standards for behavior, but rather raises them so high theoretically that they become a practical impossibility, and, as such, must either crush the soul, or fall into practical meaninglessness.

She writes, “…the Church needs to stop glorifying sexual purity. We should value purity…But we should not glorify purity, because all glory in the Church goes to Jesus.” She goes on, We boast in Jesus, not abstinence. We boast in salvation by grace, not preserving-myself-for-marriage-by-my-own-effort.” She adds, “We lose sight of the gospel when we talk about sexual purity like it’s something we can keep, rather than something we have lost that is now restored to us by Jesus’ grace.”

Sounds profound, but it is merely cutesy. She may not intend to belittle these standards, but she has. Does preaching practical standards (like the Proverbs do) really equal spiritual idolatry? This is the clear implications of contrasting the church’s supposed “glorifying” with the author’s more appropriate supposed “valuing,” expressed in a far greater concern with the shamed than for the struggling. It is akin to saying, “Holding physical standards makes some people feel bad about themselves, so we should forget about those standards and talk only about another mental standard that EVERYONE has blown a thousand times over.”

Does this author imagine this method will promote greater sexual purity in the church? Does this provide an anchor for the tempted? Will her article keep young men and women from crossing sexual lines that have profound practical ramifications for life in the real world? She may act to sooth those who struggle under guilt for past indiscretions, but does the process by which she seeks to show compassion actually make the situation worse for more in the long run?

Consider:

Kahn and London (1991) 

Data from the National Survey of Family Growth in the United States indicates that “women who are sexually active prior to marriage faced considerably higher risk of marital disruption than women who were virgin brides.” These scholars explain that even when controlling for various differentials between virginal and non-virginal groups, such as socio-economics, family background, attitudes and values, “non-virgins still face a much higher risk of divorce than virgins.” (Joan R. Kahn and Kathryn A. London, “Premarital Sex and the Risk of Divorce,” Journal of Marriage and Family 53 (1991): 845-855.) 

Laumann, Gagnon, Michael and Michaels (1994) 

The massive and highly respected National Health and Social Life Survey, conducted at the University of Chicago, was the first serious, fully reputable study of sexual behaviour in America. It found a marked connection between premarital sex and elevated risk of divorce. The authors explain:

  • “For both genders, we find that virgins have dramatically more stable first marriages…” (Edward O. Laumann, et al.,The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 503.)
  • “The finding confirms the results reported by Kahn and London…those who are virgins at marriage have much lower rates of separation and divorce.” (Laumann, 1994, p. 503-505.)
  • “Those who marry as non-virgins are also more likely – all other things being equal – to be unfaithful over the remainder of their life compared with those spouses who do marry as virgins.” (Laumann, 1994, p. 505.) [3]

The fact that one can deliberately confuse the definition of “virginity” in order to mock the standard as “meaningless” “fuzzy” “unhelpful” may allow some to pat themselves on the back imagining themselves clever, but they have done a disservice to the world, and a dirty turn to the young who might yet keep themselves from crossing statistically powerful lines, if these lines were not obliterated with pseudo-spiritual posturing, and a message of hopelessness in regard to those standards. As Shaunti Feldhahn puts it, “If the ship is going to sink anyway, why work so hard to bail it out.” [4]

So… should the church get off it? Should the church stop holding out these lower moral standards of “virginity” and “purity” when this author has so wisely shown us that we are all guilty, we’ve all already lost it, we’re all equal failures with a ready access to a get out of jail free card that renders us all the same???

To answer this question, let me take a detour to discuss the recent ruckus over statistical fraud.

In her book, The Good News About marriage, Shaunti Feldhahn, exposes many of the false statistics that have been bandied about, even by the Barna Group, with whom she worked in writing her book. She does so, because false or poorly conceived statistics change the way that people feel about a subject. False numbers dishearten people and nations alike, or encourage the masses to accept things they might otherwise reject.

If someone tells you that Marriages fail at a 50% rate… how does this affect American attitudes toward marriage? If people suggest, as did a recent Barna Group study, that people in the church get divorced as much as if not more than atheists, how does that affect people’s attitudes about religion.[5] If you are told that 1 in 12 people are gay or bi-sexual, as I was growing up, or 1 in 4 as my kids were told in school, how might that change the way the public perceives the homosexual agenda?[6] If teens believe that the average age to lose one’s virginity is 13 or 15 rather than 18 or 20, what kind of pressure does that put on them as they strive to navigate the social dynamics of high school?

One important way people manipulate numbers in statistical gathering is to add outliers. As a teen I read a study that said that 99% of boys engaged in homosexual behavior before the age of 18. When I pressed to get the details of the study it turns out that the numbers of what normal humans consider homosexual behavior (actually having sexual context with another male) was not part of the study. Instead, those doing the study asked students to answer yes or no to a lump sum of sexual practices… one of which was masturbation… labeled in this study as “homosexual practice.”

I was once asked to lecture on the use of statistics in dissertations. I decided to investigate stats on domestic violence, pushing beyond the published results wherever I could in order to evaluate how the studies were done, how the measures were divided, and how the numbers related to published results. I don’t have time to go over everything I discovered, though the truth of domestic violence was shocking, in that all popular published results are deceptively manipulated to foster a vision of the problem that does not coincide with reality.

One study had outrageously high numbers on abused women, but concealed the fact that the study lumped together actual acts of violence with “raising the voice” or “giving dirty looks.”

So why go to so much trouble?

People seek to alter numbers in order to add emotional weight to their positions because things that affect 90% of human beings vs. half a percent do impact the way people think, feel and react to a given issue. Outliers are particularly effective because they blur the lines between genuinely aberrant actions from typical human struggles.

So, returning to our “purity” discussion, we must realize that there is a psychological component to creating an amorphous, impossible to maintain blob called purity, that is destroyed before one knows what it is and can’t be maintained on any level even after one discovers what it is, and receives forgiveness and a reset when violating it.

How does this author expect to impact her audience emotionally when she has blurred the lines between sexual impulse, admiring looks, fornication & adultery? How does a 100% failure rate impact perception, when the standards are set impossibly high, without distinguishing sin from sin? If these standards are not only impossible before salvation, but impossible afterward? When the theological realities of “sin is sin,” is not distinguished on any practical level, when forgiveness is presented as if there is not a profound fall out from violating practical standards that she deems “idolatry” even though the whole of wisdom literature in Scripture holds them out as practical guides in a real world?

So here are some takeaways from both the article and my response to it:

  1. God is merciful and forgiving, but also cares deeply about our sexual purity.
  2. Sexual Purity is more than some technical maintenance of physical virginity.
  3. Marriage is hard, but some things make it harder… like fornication and adultery and warped sexual fixations.
  4. One should focus on keeping one’s self for marriage before marriage, to one’s marriage partner after marriage, and battle against those habits that corrupt and endanger that relationship both before and after entering into it.
  5. All sin is sin, but some sins carry more devastating consequences in life. You can be forgiven but will always pay a price in this world for everything you do.
  6. Small sins left unchecked, grow easily into devastating sins.
  7. There is not much you can do about past sins, other than repent and accept forgiveness, but you should set your mind like flint to strive for sexual purity in the future. It’s the best way to minimize the damage.

[1] https://adrawofthecurtains.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/losing-and-finding-purity/

[2] Taking insidious as “deceptively damaging.”

[3] http://www.focusinsights.org/article/marriage-and-family/premarital-sex-and-greater-risk-divorce#footnote1_lm34rxk

[4] The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce, pg. 4.

[5] Shaunti Feldhahn worked with the Barna Group in tweaking the actual numbers for her 8 year study of marriage statistics. She wisely suggests that people pay attention to how statistics are gathered, what criteria are used, how data is measured. She says, “Another very important finding was that the rate of divorce is not the same in the church. That is a misunderstanding of Barna Group data – because Barna was not trying to study divorce ” in the church.” They were studying beliefs, so those who said they held Christian beliefs had the same divorce rate as those who said they didn’t. But since Barna wasn’t studying actions, the researchers didn’t include worship attendance in the analysis.” (Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/author-debunks-myths-about-divorce-rates-including-of-churchgoers-119843/#I4Yp4GHRED5ZYCDt.99)

[6] The actual numbers are just slightly over 2% in actuality… 1 in 50.

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