“Passion and Purity” part 6

Chapter 31

In this chapter the author describes a day spent with Jim after a long period of separation.

“We went Oregon’s Magnificent coast of a day. We walked down through the thick fir forest to an isolated cove where we explored sea caves and swam in the frigid Pacific. We built a driftwood fire. Sitting close together, watching the sun sink into the gleaming sea, the temptation to express ourselves, to do what we felt like doing, was nearly overwhelming. Because the final choice had been made long before, by the grace of God we were not overwhelmed.

I write this for one reason To show that it is possible for two young people, full of all the juices that youth is endowed with by the Creator, to resist temptation.

They can’t do it unless they have a motive that makes it worthwhile.

They can’t do it alone.” p136

I’m not sure how to tackle this. The general idea is that she and Jim were able to keep pure, even at their moment of greatest temptation. Elisabeth credits this “victory” to their commitment and faith in g-d. She states at the end of the chapter though that she doesn’t recommend entering tempting situations if your faith in g-d isn’t strong.

There is a lot even right there. That if your faith is strong enough you will not fall into “temptation.” And the flip side of this is that if you do give into temptation then your faith wasn’t enough. You should have had stronger faith or held closer to your beliefs.

I will point out the statement that Elisabeth notes that these desires are “temptations.” This type of mentality can lead to a war being waged between your natural desires and a desire or goal for “holiness” or “purity.” This doesn’t need to be the case, you can have a healthy relationship with your own sexual desires without completely shutting them off.

Chapter 32

How do you say no or “keep a safe distance” from a guy or girl? Well according to Elisabeth, just say no and walk away. She admits this isn’t easy but that it is possible with g-d’s help. She then quotes this hymn.

More and more I can see why fundamentalism is so appealing. You ask a question and you get a simple answer. And if you feel like you can’t do it then you are told to just look to g-d.

Chapter 33

This one starts off really bad.

“What looked to Jim like ‘militant morality’ was partly the knowledge that is deep in a woman that she hold the key to the situation where a man’s passions are involved. He will be as much of a gentleman as she requires and, when the chips are down, probably no more, even if he has strict standards of his own. He will measure her reserve, always testing the limits, probing.” p142

I hope the issue jumps forward at you as you read this. This is a common teaching in purity culture. That the woman has to regulate or control the man’s sexual demands and advances. And there is even more underneath this statement as it implies that the man is always the more sexually aggressive one and the woman often isn’t, with men being portrayed as this uncontrollable sexual beast. This allows men the mentality that they aren’t responsible for their own actions in regards to inappropriate sexual behavior as they just “couldn’t control” their behavior.

She has a quote further in this chapter that also illustrates this.

“Psychologist Henry Brant tells of his son’s angry retort when his father forbade him to go out alone in a car with a girl.

‘What’s wrong, Dad? Don’t you trust me?’

‘In a car – alone at night with a girl? I wouldn’t trust me. Why should I trust you?'” p144

I don’t want to get too far into this, but this attitude often carries over to sexual assault and rape as well. Within the church, women are often blamed for being in a place or situation that allowed them to be taken advantage of. They are often told that ‘if you hadn’t have gone there,’ or ‘if you weren’t drunk it wouldn’t have happened,’ or even sometimes ‘well what were you wearing?’ The victim is often blamed for not pushing away or stopping the abuser. They are held to a standard that requires them to act and dress a particular way to prevent abuse and sexual assault. Those that didn’t follow those standards are often blamed and told that they were “asking for it.”

Now she moves on to the idea of causal sex, stating that as sex becomes common place, it loses its beauty and desirability.

“‘Keep your distance,’ I say to women. Recognize that fundamental anomaly of human nature, that we prize what we cannot easily get. We take for granted, we even come to despise, that which costs us no effort.” p142-143

“If there is one reason why sex becomes dull and a bore, it is that is is commonplace. It’s available anywhere, everywhere, to everybody who is looking for it. Nothing is kept in reserve. No pleasure are saved for the wedding night, let alone for the bride and bridegroom exclusively.” p 143

The idea is that the “mystery” of sex is the main draw, and if you can have sex at anytime or with any person then that “mystery” is lost. At that point why do it, it’s boring and unexciting.

Personally, I think this is a very shallow argument for purity. Sex should not be exciting only because it is withheld from you. What does that say for someone who does it all the “right way” and waits until they are married. They have sex and it’s okay, but that “mystery” is gone and they can now have sex without any great effort. If that was their only motivation for staying faithful, a “mysterious” reward after great effort to reach it, what is there keeping them faithful now?

I think this also leads to a bit of a discussion on young marriage in the church. The Church tends to focus on how you must marry to have sex. Sex is presented as this mysterious and wonderful reward, but you can’t have it yet. They are told before sex you need to marry. Because of this, a decent number of young Christian’s will jump into marriage far before their “secular” counterparts.

The Southern Baptist Convention used to tell couples to wait until they reach financial stability, said Jon Akin, pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon. “What we’ve communicated to our young people is finances are more important than sexual sin, and the Bible seems to say the exact opposite of that.” Now, the denomination is emphasizing practical and theological reasons to marry younger. Marriage helps keep young people from sexual sin in the midst of their sexual maturity, Akin said, and helps them fulfill God’s design for men and women as complementary beings.

Southern Baptists encourage marrying younger, avoiding sexual sin (tennessean.com)

To help further the idea that waiting is a positive thing, the author describes her mentality as similar to the joy of waiting to unwrap presents at Christmas or waiting for dessert after she finished her meal. Waiting for the mystery and surprise is half the fun, and anything before the “appropriate time” would just spoil the fun.

Chapter 34

She discusses several romantic times spent with Jim in this chapter. She describes having great longing for Jim, but being aware that she can’t fulfill that longing; once again leaving the timing of that fulfillment up to g-d.

Chapter 35

I just want to hit my head against a wall. Why does the author presume that you can’t have a committed relationship without marriage? You can most certainly commit and have an exclusive relationship without a ring or a certificate of marriage. Also the language in this quote almost borders on implying the husband’s ownership of the wife.

“Unless a man is prepared to ask a woman to be his wife, what right has he to claim her exclusive attention? Unless she has been asked to marry him, why would a sensible woman promise any man her exclusive attention? If, when the time has come for a commitment, he is not man enough to ask her to marry him, she should give him no reason to presume that she belongs to him.” p150

Chapter 36

Most of the quotes in this chapter come from letters Jim wrote to the author.

“It bothers me somewhat that you are one my mind when I ought to be praying, and it’s a discipline not to indulge overmuch in remembering. Not that I feel a conflict – I am assured that loving you is part of my life now – important as eating, and God knows, I need it.” p152

The reason this bothers me is that Jim had previously told Elisabeth that he was waiting for g-d to give him direction for their relationship. This never was really addressed; he just suddenly now has peace that it is okay to show romantic love to Elisabeth. If this was up to g-d what was his sign that g-d gave the okay that the relationship was a go? A feeling of “assurance,” was that it?

“I’m glad that last is still ahead. Glad I’m not jaded by nights in bed with you, as married couples are. They can bear to sit at opposite sides of the car. I’m glad I sill can’t quite keep my hands off you, sill must be warned not to ‘muss you up.’ I have you now unravished, and that is just how I need you now. The schoolboy in me still wonders and is awkward – we’ve not had “experience” – which takes the edge off. We will, I suppose, get used to each other, the feel and smell and look of one another, but I am glad it is not so now. As I never felt before, I feel now that I must keep myself for you. God knows it is a stay to purity, and He knows how many shakings to purity are ahead.” p153

There are a couple things I want to stop and address. One of the major ones is the fact that he says that he needs to be reminded to keep his hands off of her. This is a bit of a throwback to the same ideas. That the women is the one slowing down the man’s sexual advances.

It feels that he’s really just keeping himself pure for the prize at the end of it. He has clear desires and expresses them, but he feels has to hold them back. No further argument or reason is given, just that he can’t or that it is wrong before marriage.

Also there is a statement about saving himself for Elisabeth. If you aren’t familiar with the idea, purity culture often tells men and women that they are saving their virginity for their spouse as a type of wedding day gift.

Conclusion

I would honestly call this the worst part of the book so far. With the worst point being the idea that women are to control men’s sexual desires and appetites. Men are played off as this well of sexual tension and struggle, and women’s sexual desires are often downplayed. Also as I pointed out earlier, this can lead to some very poor ideologies that can further sexual abuse. Also when a woman does “give in” to a guy then she is often blamed for not enforcing those “boundaries.”

The author’s “just do it” mentality regarding purity really rubs me the wrong way as well. Couple that with the previously mentioned ideas that we need to suffer for g-d and you have a really odd mixture of ideas. A view that states, “I did it, I suffered for g-d. Why can’t you just do it.” She also has a very condescending tone towards anyone that opposes her view of purity – this includes Jim at times. Often not even bothering to engage with opposing viewpoints.

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