As this conversation unfolds, it’s important to keep two things in mind. First, the purity culture I’m describing never fully captured the church. Millions of people have thankfully lived their entire Christian lives free from the extremes I’ve described above.
Second, however, it’s absolutely vital that Christians do not leave the task of confronting extremes to a secular world and media that is often hostile to (or doesn’t understand) Christian orthodoxy itself. The secular critique is typically all confrontation, no redemption.
The Christian response, however, requires both confrontation and redemption. It recognizes that Christ holds the answer when the church fails. As I’ve written before when addressing the failures and faults of the purity movement, through Christ even stories of past pain and suffering can be redeemed and transformed into instruments of grace and mercy.
Shortly after we received the first reports about the Atlanta killer’s motives, my friend and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Karen Swallow Prior tweeted two insightful words, “Culture cultivates.” A culture that defines a person by their sexual sin cultivates misery. When it places women in a position of guarding a man’s heart, it cultivates abuse. And sometimes, when a man’s heart is particularly dark, it can even cultivate murder.
The problem with purity culture is not Christianity. The problem with purity culture is that its extremes are not Christian at all.
Reports that the Atlanta shooter was a Christian who killed massage workers because they were a “temptation” he wanted to “eliminate” ignited a conversation about purity culture. Blaming women for a man’s sin is an old, oppressive story. My Sunday essay: https://t.co/6mlw26BJNa
— David French (@DavidAFrench) March 21, 2021