Talking Back to Purity Culture
It's time to talk back.
The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy—its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex for those who follow the rules.
In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher reviews the movement carefully, examining its teachings through the lens of Scripture. Compassionate, faithful, and wise, she charts a path forward for Christians in the ongoing debates about sexuality—one that rejects legalism and license alike, steering us back instead to the good news of Jesus.
It's time to talk back to purity culture—and this book is ready to jump-start the conversation.
"Purity rings. Abstinence pledges. Promises of delayed gratification bringing awesome married sex. These—and many other practices and teachings—have characterized evangelical purity culture. And they've done some damage. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher holds to a high view of Scripture and its sexual ethic, challenges prosperity thinking, and calls Christians to a better way—one that celebrates embodied living at any age or stage, views others as creatures worthy of respect, and has as its focus the glory of God. I can't think of one demographic that wouldn't benefit from this book."
"Talking Back to Purity Culture is saturated with gospel truth and clarity that confronts the overwhelmingly legalistic, shaming, and hopeless rubric of purity culture—especially the ways in which it blames young women for the sins of their brothers and fathers. Parents, and especially you moms, it's time to speak the truth to your children about sexuality and to assure your daughters of their worth as created in God's image. I'm thrilled to recommend this wonderful book."
"Impeccably researched, gently written, and a timely word for those who grew up kissing dating goodbye, wearing purity rings, attending abstinence rallies, and waiting (perhaps waiting still) for their 'one.' Welcher is deft in her exploration of what went right and what went wrong for the lives of millions of Christians—before marriage and after it—and she is careful in her admonition to future leaders and lovers. A needed and healing work."
"Rachel Joy Welcher's book is a God-honoring and human-dignifying work that will help people find healing for sins, for shame, and from abuses inflicted on them. It is one I wish I'd had available during my teen years and twenties as I navigated purity culture and came out pretty lost. Rachel offers such a pointed, gracious corrective to the many missteps and also a clear, hopeful, honoring path forward for women and men alike whose perspective on sexuality and purity has been skewed by this culture. I'm so grateful for her strong, gracious words helping readers understand what purity means to God, not just as a fabricated culture."
"Rachel Welcher writes with biblical clarity and Jesus-centering grace as she probes the smoldering ashes of purity culture. For those who grew up under its teaching, for those who propagated it in good faith, and even for strangers to it like me, she offers a gift: not just a critique, but a vision for something better. She gently shows that taking God at his Word—not adding to it or subtracting from it—is that better way and invites us to walk in it."
"This book is a must-read for anyone who is looking for a thoughtful and thoroughly researched reconsideration of purity culture teachings. Rachel has done a masterful job of synthesizing decades of Christian literature on the subject into a sincere biblical critique of purity culture. But most importantly, Rachel casts a vision for the reader to move forward with compassionate yet faithful teaching on the subject, and she gives practical application for parents, leaders, teens, and singles alike."
"As an educator of college students for more than three decades, I understand well the difficulties in helping young people sort through the mixed messages from both the church and the culture regarding sex. It is easy, in correcting the falsehoods of the world, to make errors in the opposite direction. Rachel Joy Welcher navigates these tensions scripturally, wisely, and compassionately—and does so within a wide range of topics of concern to people of all ages and all stages of life. Talking Back to Purity Culture is a book I will recommend over and over, not only to my students but to all who are striving toward a more holistic and biblical understanding of human sexuality in these times."
"I typically bristle at the mention of purity culture because I often think it's an excuse for the church to reject a good and flourishing sexual ethic and the importance of training our children. And yet I find myself reading Rachel Welcher's work with interest because she is saying some very important things for Christians to heed. Rachel calls us to reject both a works-based futility and a hedonistic lifestyle; both lead to spiritual poverty. Instead, Rachel urges us to adopt a gospel-centered sexual ethic that is countercultural in both its approach and in its pathways to grace. So read this book and learn from one of the most gifted writers of our time, and be drawn, once again, to the beautiful and sacred old paths God has laid out for us."
Foreword by Scott Sauls
Introduction: It's Time to Talk Back
1. From Rings and Pledges to Conversation in Community
2. The Idolization of Virginity
3. Female Responsibilities
4. Male Purity and the Rhetoric of Lust
5. First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage
6. Problems with the Promise of Sex
7. What the Sexually Abused Hear
8. Submitting to God's Sexual Ethic as Embodied Souls
9. What Will We Tell Our Children?
10. Purity Culture Moving Forward