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?
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.