If you haven’t read part one, definitely start with that!
In this part, I’m speaking out on Purity Culture and LGBTQIA+ within the fundamental Christian religion I was a part of. So, trigger warning on those topics!
Purity Culture within the evangelical community is a big deal. There are two sins in the belief system that are the ultimate no-no’s: sex before marriage and identifying as LGBTQIA+. First, I’ll share a true story I’ve experienced about purity culture several times.
“Good morning teens! Welcome to Sunday School!” The teacher said. He was a young guy, probably in his early 20’s, and he was going to be teaching the group of pre-teens and teens. It was a typical Sunday morning routine for me to be at church. I was wearing an ankle length skirt with three layers of shirts to cover my chest up to my neck and cover my shoulders.
“Today, we are going to be talking about how to please the Lord. You all want to please God, right?” He continued.
“Ladies, do you see what I’m holding here? It’s a brand new piece of gum unwrapped. I am going to use this piece of gum as an example for you ladies to live by, ok?” He said, as he was holding up a stick of gum wrapped in foil. He did not address any males in the room and kept his attention on females.
“You are like this piece of gum. You are untouched, you’re holy, and you’re pure. This is how God wants you to be and this is how your future husband will value you.” He continued, as he held up the piece of gum for all of us to see.
“Now, what if I do this…” He said, as he unwrapped the gum, stuck it in his mouth, chewed on it a few times, then removed it from his mouth. He held the partially chewed, drool infested, wad of gum into the air and said, “This is what you are like if you allow yourself to lose your purity. You will be just like this piece of gum: used, chewed up, and unwanted. Think about it, would any of you take this gum?”
And that, was one of my core memories of a message that women are valued based on sex and that if I ever were to experiment with sexuality of any kind, I would be a used up piece of gum that no one would ever want. The worst part was that there was no discussion on consent, safe sex, and most importantly; there wasn’t a purity message for the boys. Our virginity was considered a prize. If you were to participate in any form of masturbation, you were also to be considered ‘impure’. However, for the males, they were given a pass for this if there were ‘health related issues’.
They would take purity culture to another level of extremism and control by teaching us all of the different ways that women are responsible for men’s ‘sexual sins’. One time, we were told to cover our shoulders because it can cause a man to lust, which is considered a sin. It was taught that married women MUST give their husband sex, even if they didn’t want to, because it was their ‘duty’ and ‘prevents affairs’.
They didn’t stop at that teaching and instead added that if you were a woman and you were sexually assaulted and/or raped, you needed to sit and think about the ways that YOU could’ve caused it. Maybe it was that you were at a bar or maybe you had your shoulders showing. Maybe you were out running an errand during your normal bible reading time when the assault took place. Any possible way that they could help a victim find fault within themselves, they did. In the next part of this blog post series, I’ll be sharing the final event that helped me leave this religion for good, and unfortunately, it’s addresses this type of scenario.
So what does someone like me, who followed this purity culture scam for YEARS and then broke it, do when coming back into this church labeled as a big wad of used gum? Hide in shame. On one hand they would tell me that my testimony of struggles turned success was a ‘beautiful example of God’s grace’. On the other hand, they would remind me that it would be best for me to find a husband that would be ‘ok with’ the fact that I broke God’s orders and am ‘not pure’. I was told that it would be very challenging for me to find a ‘Godly husband’ because I have had sex and/or masturbated. To be honest with you, even typing these words brings this cloak of shame, despite being out of this belief system for years now. It was taught to me at such a young age for a consistent period of time, so it’s not easy to shake off. There are times that I wonder if I really am the derogatory names that they call women who’ve had sexual partners in their lives.
I was taught to hate my body and only value it based on sex. I was taught that all of this had God’s stamp of approval. I already struggled with the way I felt about my body, so adding that my higher power had standards on my body, did NOT help.
When it comes to LGBTQIA+, this religion is relentless on proving that every word behind each letter is one of the worst sins imaginable. In their doctrine, they believe that marriage and relationships should be between male and female only. Unfortunately, parents who do not support their child’s identity and/or sexuality, are praised for not supporting them. To take it a step further, conversion therapy is strongly encouraged. The entire congregation will pray for you to change and you will not be able to participate in any form of leadership or activities such as choir, caring for kids or teaching lessons, being in nursery with the babies, etc. All because “you are not right with the Lord”.
A young man in my church was ‘caught’ on a tv show dating another male. He was ‘exposed’ to the pastor and within days, he was no where to be found. He was told to leave the congregation and was referred to several conversion therapy residential programs for teens (many of which the church’s offering had a portion supporting them). Come to find out, he was so hurt by this experience and suffered with his mental health and survived suicide attempts. I’ve tried to find him for years, but never could because he’s completely isolated himself from the chance of seeing an old Christian friend.
Another friend of mine was banned from his Christian college for the same thing. His immediate family went no contact to him and only his grandmother is in his life. When his grandmother hosts holiday gatherings, his mother makes a point to state that she will not attend if her son is there, whether he brings his significant other or not. Someone please explain to me how this is considered love from God. My friend is still with the man he was caught dating and lives a beautiful life, but still has to live with the daily reminder that his own parents completely abandoned him.
I remember being attracted to both male and females and always thinking that I was evil for it. I truly believed that my parents would go no contact as well if they ever found out. They have found out and haven’t really said much, but I know in my heart that my mom forever supports me, even if it’s different from her beliefs and way of life. As rejecting as it can feel, I know that who I love or who I’m attracted to isn’t what makes her love me any more or less. I remember as a teen I would ask hypothetical questions to my parents like, “if I were gay or bisexual, would you come to my wedding? Would you support me and still love me?” and without hesitation, my mom always answered, “Of course I would.”
I couldn’t continue to support this belief system and doctrine knowing that it was directly harming myself and my loved ones. I couldn’t support something that caused others to question their value in this world. I couldn’t keep supporting a belief system that hates people for loving someone. Stay tuned for the final part, part 3, where I’ll share my departure story and where I’m at now in my spirituality journey.