Are Christian Purity Balls Reflective of Ancient Virginity Cults?

So our family was relaxing on Saturday night. There were toys on the floor still, and dishes waiting to be put in the dishwasher. But we were not worrying too much. It would get done. I have noticed that the time change has left me with the feeling that we still have more time, that it is not as late as it really is.

Well, my spouse received a text from a man in our church saying that we need to watch Nightline Prime right away. The episode was about “Girls’ Purity Balls” and this is a growing trend in many super conservative Christian circles.

I was surprised by the opulence and grandeur, but not by the theme.

I received the Lord, at 19 years old and began to go to church. That same year the church I was going to held a purity conference for the young girls. It was complete with a testimony of shame, and a testimony of victory. It had fancy tooling and candles. It had croissant sandwiches and tea. And it ended with a cheap metal purity ring that enclosed a rolled up contract for my purity.

This isn’t new. And I will say, that for a girl who did not grow up in the church, and did not walk with the Lord, I was very blessed at 19 years old to hear that God washes away all our sins and makes us white as snow. But the focus of the event that I went to is that my virginity and purity is a matter of my heart, and that it is between me and my God.

My church never taught me that my father on earth is the keeper of my virginity. And while I think that many Christian young women have wonderful fathers that teach them the word of God, and pray with them, and disciple them–how can any earthly father replace the Holy Spirit in a girls heart when it comes to purity? An earthly father can only set up rules.

And what happens when the young girl breaks her “vows” she made at the purity ball. Does her guilt before God get replaced by a lesser sorrow of, “Oh no, I let my dad down!”

 For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

(2 Corinthians 7:10)

A purity ball has so many seemingly beautiful elements. The girls are dressed up, treated like princesses that they are, they are celebrated, and they are honored by their fathers. That is great. In fact, fathers need to step up. More fathers need to take a vested interest in their daughters, and in their spirituality. I applaud fathers who are stepping into their God given roles for the family, who lead in love and speak truth and the Word of God into their children.

But in a couple ways this purity movement seems troubling to me. Here are a few statements that seem like they could play into unhealthy father daughter relationships:

“Our daughters are women. They thrive in beauty; they are representative of beauty in all of creation . . . What I hear from these young ladies is that there is that need for a physical touch, and from a male being.” (Randy Wilson)

He goes on to imply that a father can fill that need for affection and physical touch. There is nothing wrong with a father dancing with or hugging his daughter; girls need hugs from dad. That is wonderful, but I don’t like hearing a dad talk about his daughter having needs for physical touch from a man, and for the father to be that man.

I also really don’t agree that the Bible teaches “You are Married to the Lord and Your Daddy is Your Boyfriend” Your dad cannot be your boyfriend. He won’t ever fill that void and desire in a young girls life. And to say that it should is deceptive and arrogant. Cynthia McFadden from ABC even said, it is Freudian. The girls vow to never date or kiss a boy until marriage. While I think that there is nothing wrong with choosing to deny recreational dating, and to set up boundaries to prevent tempting situations, this may be legalistic.

There was a part of the episode where the girls said, “I don’t need a boyfriend, because I have my dad.” and the girls’ mom added, “And Jesus.” And the girl said forgetfully, “Yeah, and Jesus.” I love the idea of a young girl finding her satisfaction in Jesus Christ. But I don’t think it is healthy for a girl to think of her father as her boyfriend. Only Jesus can satisfy that need for love that a girl has, especially during the teen years when the temptation to make idols out of the handsome boys around them is so strong.

It is also troubling to hear that these girls are “giving their virginity to their fathers to protect.” A father is there to protect more than just a girls virginity. A girl is more than just their sexuality. A father needs to protect her heart, her mind, her emotions, her time. He needs to keep her accountable to do her devotions, homework, chores, etc. He needs to guide her attitude and actions. But raising a godly woman is supremely more than just raising a virgin. There are plenty of virgins out there that don’t believe in God, let alone serve him. Virginity does not equal Christian. Virginity does not guarantee a godly young woman. It is not the only goal of a parent.

The point of this ceremony, with the Purity Ball, and the purity ring is to show the young girl that until she gets married, her father is the “man in her life.”

Why not Jesus?

It reeks of the patriarchal movement. There are Christian ministries that promote this idea, such as The Vision Forum (among others) which produce materials that teach the young daughters that they belong to their fathers until marriage. These materials also teach that girls not to go to college or get jobs outside of the house because it isn’t “Biblical.” They are taught that until they get married their job is to take care of their fathers until he gives them to a godly man that he approves of. This is very controlling, legalistic, and abusive. You have grown women, adults, being told that they can’t leave home because “the Bible says so” —when it doesn’t. 

In all of the patriarchal movements obsession with their daughters sex life, the founder of the Vision Forum just stepped down due to an “long term inappropriate relationship” with a girl who was rumored to be much younger than him. Maybe he needs to stop focusing so much on young girls and virginity?

I am in no means a feminist, but I am someone who hates it when people lay heavy unbiblical burdens on God’s people. These contracts go beyond the Biblical requirements of purity. These 12 year old girls sign a contract/vow to their fathers stating that they will not even kiss a boy until marriage. Did God ask her to make that commitment? When Jacob saw Rachel he grabbed her and kissed her. Was Rachel any less pure because of that? Why are the fathers’ requiring their daughters to vow to them instead of the Lord? It sounds like the fathers are implying that these girls are more their property, than their child.

And in all of this I am wondering, what about the boys?

What do you think it would like like if this were a group of boys, would they be as excited to make vows of purity? Why is it just the girls?

I am waiting for the “Cut Off Your Hand, Pluck Out Your Eye” Ball for the boys. Where is the urgent call for them to guard their eyes? Where are the “Job Rings” for the boys that promise to set no unclean thing before their eyes? “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (Job 31:1). Where is the seriousness for the boys to be men WORTHY of godly virgin girls? Why the double standard?

Why is the emphasis so strong on the women to make the VOWS of purity?

Think about what this would look like if the roles were reversed . . . A young boy dresses up in a tuxedo to go out on a special “date” with his mom. Where he performs for her, and she talks to him about his sexuality and purity. She tells him that she would like to be his “girlfriend” and satisfy his needs for female affection until marriage. And she cradles him in her arms and dances with him. At the end of the night she asks her son to pledge his virginity and purity to her, until he gets married.

It would be weird, right?

Now I get it, the mom is not the “priest” of the home. But why are these families not doing more to promote purity in the boys? In this day and age where pornography is EVERYWHERE. Where is the fancy ball for boys to go to? Let’s begin to start honoring our daughters by teaching our sons to respect women and lead godly pure lives.

Cynthia McFadden said, “Purity is expected of the boys too, but the emphasis is on their role as noble protector of their sisters, and ultimately the woman they will marry.”

I couldn’t help it, but remember the story in Genesis. Where Dinah goes into town and gets raped.

One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the Canaanite women.  When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, who was chief of that region, saw her, he took her and raped her. (Genesis 34)

In those days, women were not to travel unescorted.

 “Unattached young women were considered fair game in cities of the time, in which promiscuity was not only common but, in fact, a part of the very religious system itself.” (Morris)

There should have been someone watching over Dinah. I wouldn’t let my kids wander off into Canaan unsupervised. There is a place for protection. If we don’t protect all of our women, they could get hurt.

Dinah had 12 brothers, but it seems they were more concerned with her “honor” than her feelings. Because they allowed her to go live with the rapist, just so they could enact their plan of revenge on him.  In the end, Simeon and Levi ended up killing the men of Shechem and stealing the women of the city for themselves. It doesn’t make sense. There was a double standard–when rape becomes more about stealing honor, than about hurting a valuable person. Dinah’s value was not based on her virginity. Dinah was a daughter of the living God.

My problem with this idea of elevating a woman’s virginity is that it makes it easy for men to minimize their own impurity.

We are equal. We are all sinners. We all need to stay pure. We need to do it to please God though, not just the people around us. And the men need to do it too.

It all reminds me of the cult of Diana and the Vestal Virgins of old. 

In a land of sexual abandon, and pagan sexual practices you would find the Vestal Virgins. These icons of self denial and religiosity.

The “Super Holy” women who worshiped the goddess of the home and hearth. Do you see the similarity here? Goddess of the home and the hearth? Goddess of virginity? The parallels between this partriarchal “Stay At Home Daughters” movement and these ancient pagan virginity cults is staggering.

And from the earliest days of the church movement, the enemy has brought these pagan ideas into the church–disguised as simple virtue. Virtue can easily be disguised as holiness, but it isn’t the same thing. And since the idol makers of old couldn’t allow their business to close. Maybe they said, “So why don’t we turn our idols into saints?”

Mary, the mother of Jesus, filled an important functional role for the formerly pagan peoples of the Roman/Hellenistic world. These new Christians had to fill the gap created by the loss of a female religious principal, i.e. Juno/Hera, Ceres/Demeter, etc. Mary began to assume some of the features of these goddesses and could fill the need for both men and women to invest their religious heart in the warmth of a mother figure. Her virginity was in keeping with Diana’s and the vestal virgins of Rome. (Answers)

But Mary, was just a daughter. She was a virgin, who had a special relationship with God. It wasn’t about her father’s reputation; she ruined it. It was about her obedience to God. Holiness, not virtue. But she also could understand the pain of a society that would ostracize a woman that it felt broke the rules of purity. Mary, undeservedly carried the shame of an adulterous woman.

Why do we cast all the shame of all our sexual deviancy on our daughters? 

Do we want to put that same shame on our own daughters? The shame that was thrown like stones on the woman caught in adultery . . . who was brought before Jesus, alone and naked–to be judged.

Did they notice that in their “religious zeal” that they allowed the man to get away with it?

That is why Jesus wrote in the sand.

It wasn’t just about the woman’s purity.

It was about ALL OF US.

We all need to drop our stones, and go and sin no more.

I for one, am going to teach my children that purity begins in the heart. Purity and holiness is an impossible and shallow goal–apart from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.

“Without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).

I will not try to replace the role of the Lord, or the Holy Spirit in the lives of my children, by making their sexuality about my husband and I.

Their sexuality belongs to them, and they will answer for their choices–but they have to answer to God. This is the only way it can possibly work.  Because we can’t be with them 24/7, but God can.

And if I replace their fear of disappointing God, with a fear of disappointing their father–I am no longer teaching them Christianity.


About The Last Hiker

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37 Responses to Are Christian Purity Balls Reflective of Ancient Virginity Cults?

  1. margie329 says:

    Good article and research. Had not heard of this practice. The last pic reminds me of Wicca and goddess worship. They do all dress in white, and have rituals they do like this. This all reminds me of the Catholic “Holy Communion”, where little girls dress up in all white with a veil. This was my experience as a young girl. It is a pagan practice with the RCC.

    This is a good article. It is important, for girls to guard their virginity; but I think all this carries it too far. It’s healthy to have a normal attraction to boys. Of course their should be as much as possible, parent supervision in their lives and love. It’s also good that girls and boys have a desire to remain godly, according to biblical standards.
    Have shared this on our website, Proclaiming The Truth; in our Blogger group. Thanks!

    • Thank you Margie! God bless you!!!

      • margie329 says:

        Glory to God! Your welcome. It’s so important for real truth to be told today; in this day of correctness in speech. We need God’s wisdom, when raising our families. What is being put upon us, by the apostate church (not all), is perversion of the Word of God in many areas. I’m thankful our family is all grown up. We did not encounter all the challenges to truth, that this generation has. Our motto is, if it’s not in the Word of God; we reject it. His word has given us plenty of direction, on how to live the Christian life and walk.

  2. abundantlife says:

    Your post brought up some very, very interesting and strong points. I do NOT think that young (Christian) girls should think of their fathers as boyfriends. This is really, well, quite perverse – and unscriptural. Your linking ancient virginity cults to these purity balls is certainly thought provoking, as is the need for young men to have accountability for their actions towards the opposite sex.

    Purity of heart is what the LORD does seek. He is not interested in enslaving us, but setting us free by His grace. He longs for a relationship with His children – not performance that leads to burnout.

    • margie329 says:

      Amen! Abundantlife. Re: girls thinking of their fathers as boyfriends. We raised 3 boys and one daughter. There was a healthy Christian love for all of our children; and given in return. But this emphasis to me is a perversion of a daughter / father relationship. There should be respect and love for the father, that’s good; but this carries it too far.

  3. abundantlife says:

    Reblogged this on ABUNDANT LIFE LIVING and commented:
    I read about these Purity Balls. The Last Hiker blogger brings up some very interesting thoughts about these purity balls being on par with ancient virginity cults. I think I agree with that after reading her post (I have not seen the show on Nightline – have only read about it online). God is interested in the heart of each of us – that we would be holy and pure, and develop intimacy with Him. We walk in grace and mercy, don’t we?

    On another note, I am bothered that this movement teaches young Christian girls to call their fathers “boyfriends” as this is creepy, let alone unscriptural. I could see how this could be really, really twisted by unsound persons. Godly fathers are to train their children up in the way they should go so when they get old, the will not depart from it. They are NOT to become boyfriends to their little girls.

  4. J Reese says:

    This absolutely reeks of perversion, and pagan roots!! Of course, it is all wrapped up in a nice package, by the father of lies. Just a hint of leaven…leavens the whole loaf. Passing on the inheritance of who Yahweh is, how we get to Him through Yeshua, and how to build that relationship is what will produce purity in sons, and daughters.

    • Ginny says:

      I absolutely agree! I remember seeing a picture of something like a “daddy date night”, and a young girl was shaving her father (towel around him, shaving cream on his face, etc.). I thought it was way too sick. Nowhere, in all the pictures of this (and similar events), did I see a mom. As we know, there are no such events for boys. I wonder why.

  5. Jordan Renouard says:

    I have had strong reservations about the way purity has been preached by the church for a long time. When I hear that teen pregnancies and STDs are more prevalent among abstinence only sex-ed classes, I must question whether this method of teaching is fruitful. My perception is that the church is too focused on external behavior (specifically, suppressing fornication) and should instead focus on teaching children from a young age to develop a relationship with Christ.

  6. My first thought when I read that the daughters should not go to college or have jobs outside the home was of the Muslim religion where the daughter remains in the home until the father arranges a marraige for her with someone he approves of.

  7. Where’s the ‘like’ button?

    • Mike says:

      Darned straight! Rock on girl! These guys are just all controlling pervs in my eyes and I could write for an hour about these religious nuts who are obviously NOT Christians, by any means, imho.

  8. Bravo – well said — I am sharing this! Thank you! Praise God – it is a Holy Spirit thing….amen.

  9. Scarlett says:

    Absolutely brilliant post! I’d not heard of this practice, but after reading, I’m appalled at the rather incestuous notion of a girl’s father as her “boyfriend”. And, as a matter of fact, the entire concept and practice of the “purity ball”, altogether.

  10. Sue Long says:

    excellent article! I totally agree with you.

  11. jujizig says:

    As usual, we as humans mess everything up…we can do something wrong a 1000 different ways but there is only One Right Way and that is thru a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and thru the obedience and guidance of the Holy Spirit…all the rituals in the world cannot give us what we need from our Heavenly Father nor the Blessings from Him…
    Two things that stand out to me with this….besides it being Creepy….1) Self-righteousness …. Is this not feeding something so harmful to our young girls….placing so much emphases on the outward when it is as you said before a pure heart that God is watching! I am all for physical purity…we all know the consequences that come with sex outside of marriage, spiritual and physical …. and it is the consequences that are the reason our heavenly Fatner wants us to remain pure…..but physical purity will not get us to heaven and feeding Self righteousness will keep us from seeing our own sin therefore understanding the NEED for our Savior….We as parents have driven Self Worth, Self Respect, Self Esteem……Self, Self, Self into our children to such a point that we have and are are producing a Self Centered and Self Righteous Generation…Our children cannot even come close to understanding how their righteousness is as filthy rag, Isaiah 64:6 but we are all as an unclean thing,and all our righteousness are as filthy rags; …..
    I know this first hand….our oldest daughter is your typical First born Perfectionist….she was a virgin when she married and yes, we did give her a ring to remind her to be obedient God but the emphasis was on her and her relationship with God NOT her Daddy….but even so, one day we were leaving church and the pastor had preached on Isaiah 64:6 and how our good was not good enough …. On the way home I asks my daughter what was wrong and she said, “He made me mad telling me my righteousness is filthy rags…I am a GOOD person, I don’t do this and this….she begin to rattle off all her good deeds”……And I cringed at my daughters words….where had I gone wrong??? What had I done that my daughter didn’t know how much she needed her Savior…we proceeded to explain of course just how Wrong she was, thankfully she did come to this realization and did realize she need her Savior…….but I learned a Valuable lesson that day….and I now pray God holds on to my children but that they fall enough to know how much they need HIM and that Only what He allows touches them and is used for His Glory!
    The 2 thing …. What about little girls that are orphans … How do these girls taking part in these purity parades…see these girls? Maybe it crosses my mind because I am an orphan on earth but Spiritually I have the King of Kings as my Father…however I do know how it feels to be looked down upon or just simply being left out or different….. NO woe is me, God intervened in my Life thru what I lacked and I Have been Richly Blessed Thankfulness and glory to Him….my concern is for these girls and what is being fed into them thru this hoopla……
    Thank you for posting …. we as parents need to know what is out there and stay on bended knees, not only for our children but for our own walk with our God!

    • jujizig says:

      Please forgive me for allowing My brain to take off and I just started posting…let me Thank you so much for all your research and studying you put into your blogs…I appreciate your insight and wisdom it shows in all of your writings ….
      I agree with you this seems more like a cult and pagan practices ….
      We cannot be our childrens Holy Spirit, we have to teach them to listen and hear from God for themselves …. It is about the state of our hearts and sometimes it takes falling for that work to be accomplished ….
      The issue with boys you are right on with that too….. We have a son and it is just as important for him to abstain as it was for his sisters……I cannot imagine him looking at me as his girlfriend.. that is sickening….as an example Yes, I hope he does see God in me and his father…and may we always point him to Jesus!

      God Bless!

    • margie329 says:

      Wonderful sharing. A verse just came to mind, and this is the spirit of this age; SELF, which is the spirit of anti-christ. Men will be lovers of themselves. Vanity also comes to mind. Having a form of godliness. The “lovers of self” is big today!
      2 Timothy 3:1-5
      1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
      2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
      3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
      4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
      5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
      LOVE OF SELF, is what we have today.

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  13. L. Davis says:

    Creepy, creepy, creepy! Augh!!! I always thought this “purity ball” stuff was beyond weird, having known victims of abuse. It just struck me as odd, though the cause seemed worthy. I don’t like the language, the ceremony or the feel. I also noticed a double standard too, and I agree with you about the goddess worship/vestal virgins sense of it all. I wasn’t able to put my finger on why I felt so uncomfortable with this until I read this, so thanks.

  14. Ballerina says:

    A lot of folks in charismania are into these purity balls, not saying that it’s the only area in the church that embraces them, but when I was still in charismania I heard a lot about these balls in the youth services. It’s all very linked up in the bridal paradigm perversion.

    Great post, sis! Keep up the good work!


  15. Thank you all for your insightful comments. I appreciate them so much. God bless you!

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  18. AGiess says:

    Excellent thoughts….! I totally agree.

  19. William says:

    My Christian daughter grew up under Elizabeth Elliot and after reading her book “Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under God’s Control” signed the purity pledge at the back. I agree that turning this into something akin to the old southern cotillion is going too far, we are a people prone to “movements” and the desire to belong to a like-minded group. I am not sure what the answer is, but I can see this as Elizabeth’s effort at responsible purity taken to its logical conclusion 30 years later.

    • I thought I might add that we (Christians and Jews or people of the book as Islam calls us) have a need for liturgy; the Old Testament and Revelation is rife with it and it appears to be built into us by God. Some of what you see in this Purity Ball movement is the natural outgrowth towards codifying belief and commitment into liturgy. I always chuckle at my non-denominational friends who tell me they have no liturgy until I show the exact order of their services and the things that almost always are done. There is a reason for this and like anything else under God’s creation all liturgical expressions can become outlandish and over the top or just shells that have lost their original meaning.

      There is a balance in all things and that is what we must strive to find.

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  21. My heart is disappointed that a blog so otherwise well devoted to dealing with sin in the church and advocating for the church’s purity has treated the purpose of the purity covenant between god-fearing parents and their daughters so one-sidedly by focusing only on the attendant external failings associated with it. OK, so a bunch of people persuaded toward establishing moral righteousness in their daughters in total harmony with the exhortations of God’s Word have failed in their approach. What else is new? What exercise toward righteousness has not been been subject to assault by deception, abuse, excess? Is the failure in something the proof that it should never have been undertaken? Should there have been no Law because some Jews became Pharisees and Essenes and everybody else abandoned it? Was Samson’s complete moral failure due to the fact that God instructed his parents to bring him into the vows of a Nazarite? What excesses in impressing the importance of such vows on Samson might his parent’s have committed? What about such vows? Are they purely pharisaical, or did God author them? Is the “normal” fatherless covenant-breaking gentile culture as voiced by some news network our standard for what God considers “normal” in how we are to raise our families? Is the fact that some or many of us had to be washed out of a life of open moral filth the standard for declaring that going forward no one should try to establish purity with the next generation from a clean slate by entering any vows and all such vows as “legalistic”? To me, this post evidences a jaded spirit by its choice of terms (“cheap metal purity ring”) that may reveal its own author’s need for a deeper healing and cleansing because of some past abusive experience relative to covenant. This fine blog may be under more assault than is warranted for failure to equally discern the godly intent behind the hearts of those who may otherwise fail in their God-appointed mission to live in a godly covenantal way.

    • I am sorry that I struck such a nerve, I can assure you though that my feelings do not come from my own personal need to heal. I did not grow up in this type of culture AND I do value sexual purity. I think it really is about how certain (mostly dominionist and patriarchal) churches seem to hyper focus on the girls. And I do honestly think a lot of this is creepy. Yes, girls should be VALUED and taught by both parents that the Bible says to wait for marriage. But so should should boys. I do think this is pharisaical, because it adds to scripture–and it isn’t voluntary or God ordained (like Samson’s parents)–it has become a cultural trend. I realize some people find it beautiful, but the same people who began this tradition are the same people who believe it is a “sin” for girls to go to college, for girls to move out before marriage, and that girls should serve their father as a husband until marriage–that is patriarchal slavery and it isn’t Biblical. I am just calling out the movement and highlighting a trend I think is damaging to young girls. I am not saying purity conferences are bad. Although we usually host them for boys AND girls, because everyone has a sin nature. But yeah, my beef is how the patriarchal churches have taken purity too far and made it almost Freudian.

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