The FAQs: What You Should Know About Purity Culture

The Gospel Coalition | 7/24/2019 | Joe Carter
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Last week Josh Harris posted on Instagram that he and his wife were separating after 20 years of marriage. Because Harris is considered a foundational influence on “purity culture” the announcement has launched fresh criticism and debate about the movement.

Culture

What is purity culture?

Purity culture is the term often used for the evangelical movement that attempts to promote a biblical view of purity (1 Thess. 4:3-8) by discouraging dating and promoting virginity before marriage, often through the use of tools such as purity pledges, symbols such as purity rings, and events such as purity balls.

Pledges - Purity - Rings - Purity - Balls

What are purity pledges, purity rings, and purity balls?

Purity pledges are vows taken by teenagers and young adults to abstain from sex before marriage. A prime example is the original pledge from True Love Waits (1993) which read: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, those I date, and my future mate to be sexually pure until the day I enter marriage.”

Purity - Rings - Symbols - Purity - Pledge

Purity rings are sometimes worn as outward symbols by those who have made a purity pledge. The rings were popularized by the Christian ministry The Silver Ring Thing, which promoted abstinence primarily through music events. A decade ago, the rings were worn by several young actors and pop stars, including Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and the Jonas Brothers.

Purity balls (or Father-Daughter Purity Balls) are formal dance events attended by fathers and their daughters which promotes virginity until marriage for teenage girls. At the balls the fathers would often sign a pledge that they would be the example of purity and model integrity for their daughter’s lives. The dances were originally conceived in 1998 by a California couple, Randy and Lisa Wilson, as a way of “celebrating God’s design and life’s little growth spurts.”

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