In response to I am damaged goods, by Sarah Bessey.
Courageous and beautiful. Risky and grace-filled. Honest and healing.
As yet another child of youth groups in the 90′s and as a woman and as a mother and as a friend and as a wife, I am thankful for the conversation that is going on about sex and purity and virginity.
However…I think the conversation is just getting started. And as it continues, these are some things I would like to hear. It is pretty easy for me to sit at my computer and spout them off. I would like to promise a follow-up post or two or ten. I won’t promise. But I will try.
I want to hear a man write about these things.
I want to hear a man’s voice. Because the conversation is still about the purity of girls, the virginity of women, and the shame women feel.
I want to hear men be addressed. By men or by women, I don’t really care. But why are we still only talking about women’s purity, women’s virginity? What about the issues boys face and bring?
I want to hear a distinction between consensual sex and rape.
I do not want to hear the willing loss of virginity for an American sitting in a church pew compared to the 1 in 4 American girls who are sexually abused before 18 or compared to the rape of 48 Congolese women every hour. Read that. Read it again.This is from the HuffPost article. It is yet another example of setting up America versus the Congo (at least the specific word ‘Congo’ is used, and not the general, ‘Africa’). Look how the American comes out after her consensual sex. She is a single person, identifiable, easy to relate with, clearly valued. That anonymous clump of Congolese women? Exactly that, anonymous. The numbers overwhelm the individuality of their experience. What the reader sees is 48 and the number boggles. The reader does not see a face, not a particular, relatable, identifiable woman.
And, this seems to put consensual sex into the same discussion as rape. They are not the same things, there may be some overlap but don’t lump them together.
I want to hear global voices. I want to hear from non-white, non-middle class, non-suburban church-goers, non-evangelicals (which means I should shut up and listen myself).
I want to hear from people of other faiths which also value purity. I want to hear from Muslims and talk about these things together. I believe we can learn from one another. It is clear that purity rings and purity pledges have not affected actual sexual behavior. It is clear that outward forms of modesty have not affected sexual behavior. Why? Because these are external, verbal, physical. They do not address the issues of the heart, of the soul.
Now that we have been told how damaging the old conversations were, I would like to hear new options for how to talk.
Alongside hearing how pastors and churches and elders and parents have failed, shamed, humiliated, I want to hear about those who have done well.
I do not want to hear that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Purity still matters. Talking with our kids and your youth group about sex is still important. Just like talking with them about cheating and drinking and fasting and reading the holy book and praying and character is still important. Yes, let’s learn from past mistakes that brought shame and humiliation and undue pressure. But let’s keep talking, keep exhorting one another as members of a community who delights in honoring God with our lives and our words.
God still has standards. His standards are perfection. This is where grace comes in. As a youth pastor friend of mine said, (thanks Jeremiah) he hopes to, “…disciple people to live an above-and-beyond the world lifestyle but within a context which acknowledges that their identity in God is not defined by their level of success.”
Because guess what? We will none of us succeed. There is no one righteous, no not one. That is why there was an incarnation and a perfect life lived of loving outcasts and loving the powerful and of bringing the kingdom. That is why there was a cross and an empty tomb.
So we rely on Jesus for help and for what he has already accomplished on our behalf. We clothe ourselves in his honor, in place of our shame. Not because we have succeeded, not because we have maintained purity or attained to an impossible standard of perfection. But because he has already succeeded and is perfectly good.
I want to hear about Jesus.
Please send me links if you know where I could read some of these things that I want to hear about.
If you are one of these voices I want to hear and you would like to share a post, please contact me. Djiboutian, Muslim, a man, someone with ideas for fresh ways to talk about sex, someone with a positive experience…you get the picture. Let’s talk.