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The Purity Movement Broke Me

by | Jul 19, 2019 | Courtship, Purity Culture, Sex, Sexual Abuse

The purity movement broke me.

For the last twenty-four hours the shocking news has been rippling through the evangelical and exvangelical communities: Joshua Harris, the author who essentially birthed the modern-day purity and courtship movements, announced yesterday that he is separating from his wife.

Harris’s first book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, which started a veritable tsunami of purity reform in the 21st century evangelical world, lay out one simple promise: courtship with strict purity standards, when practiced correctly, is guaranteed to produce a happy and fulfilling marriage, a stellar sex life, and will virtually fireproof yourself against divorce.

Listen up, friends, this is a lie.

Here’s what else purity culture taught me:

Purity culture taught me that, as a future bride, my virginity was the only gift that I could offer my groom that was of any true worth and value.

Purity culture taught me that while consensual sex prior to marriage is an unredeemable sin, non-consensual sex after marriage is a woman’s calling from the Lord — an act of silent, submissive martyrdom for Christ.

Purity culture taught me to don’t dare even consider marrying a man who has seen pornography, for any past viewing of porn is guaranteed to cause irreconcilable division and heartache in a marriage.

Purity culture taught me that, because of my history of sexual abuse, I should be considered unmarrigible. I am a rose petal that has been permanently bruised and marred by the stain of impurity; I am a used piece of goods.

Purity culture taught me to believe the man I was courting when he told me that he didn’t think I was a suitable candidate for marriage because my childhood abuse was “too much baggage.” Who wants to deal with baggage anyway? Baggage is messy and hard work.

You know what broke me? It wasn’t my imperfect past. No, it was the lie that because of my past, I was no longer valuable. THAT is what purity culture taught me, and that is what broke me.

Fellow cult-survivor and friend of mine, Kristyn Cuevas, writes, “Purity culture is poison. It is saying that sex is a sin that is too big for the blood of Jesus to cover.”

Purity culture focuses solely on sin and it’s life-long effects and tells you that living a sinless life is the only path to a God-honoring, fulfilling, and blissful marriage.

I don’t think anyone will argue the fact that living a life contrary to God’s Word can result in pain and hardship, but is that the end of the story? What about grace? What about redemption? Wasn’t THAT the promise — the hope — that Jesus brought?

Jesus didn’t bring a checklist or recipe card that says if you follow these steps you will experience complete happiness and fulfillment.

He brought an invitation to all who are broken: bring your brokenness to me. Bring your shattered and scarred hearts. Bring your fears and insecurities. Bring your addictions. Bring your selfishness. Bring your sin. I will take on those burdens, place them on my own back, and in exchange I will make you WHOLE. I will make you redeemed. I will offer no condemnation. I will give you fulfillment, security, love, and joy abundant.

Everyone is broken. Everyone has scars. Everyone has a past.  While purity culture taught me that a man wouldn’t want to deal with my sexual past, grace taught me that true love will see my scars and see redemption and healing, not an ugly blemish.

I do believe that keeping the marriage bed sacred is a God-honoring thing to do. I still wholeheartedly believe that sex should be kept within the bounds of marriage. But that still doesn’t make purity the magic potion to a happy marriage. Neither is family-inclusive courtship.

Only one thing can produce wholeness in a marriage and that one thing is Jesus.

Have you been harmed by purity culture and the courtship movement? You are welcome to share your story here.  ?



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About the Author

Emily Elizabeth Anderson is a Christian blogger and rising activist for people who have experienced abuse within a Christian environment.

After growing up in a fundamentalist cult for 23 years and experiencing childhood domestic violence, Emily began her journey to recovery in 2015 and eventually found Jesus to be her ultimate healer. She soon turned her passion for writing into a blog and her story has since been featured on several media outlets including NPR.

She married her best friend, Joshua, in 2020 and together they are passionate about educating on the realities of trauma survival and recovery, as well as supporting survivors they meet through their online community.

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