Why Purity Culture Is Bad For Mental Health by David Lee Chu Sarchet

In today’s American Christian circles, there is a trend that is highly popular. This trend has been commonly referred to as Purity Culture. What exactly is Purity Culture, you wonder? Purity Culture is:

“a subculture of evangelical Christian culture that emphasizes strict gender roles and norms, abstinence and modesty”.

Proponents of this ideology will advocate for complete abstinence of any physical affection prior to marriage such as kissing or even hand holding. There are many issues with this sort of ideology, but for the sake of this blog I will focus on three of the issues.

After reading this, I hope that you will see that Purity Culture is something that needs to be rejected. However, I would like to say that I am not in any way saying that Christians are not to remain sexually pure before marriage. Scripture is clear that we are to abstain from sex prior to marriage and I do not aim to contradict Scripture. 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us,

 “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.” 

As Christians, we need to be careful not to commit sexual immorality because that will dishonor God and the marriage covenant. However, even though Purity Culture starts with a good premise, their practical application has some devastating effects on mental health. Some of these are the following: 

The 3 Issues

  • 1) Purity Culture burdens the consciences of its adherents 
  • 2) Purity Culture stifles affections between couples 
  • 3) Purity Culture sets people up with unrealistic expectations

These points are not the only things wrong with Purity Culture, but I will not say that someone who adheres to this ideology is not saved. I will leave that up to the Lord Himself because He knows those who are His. I will now elaborate on each of these points. 

1) Purity Culture burdens the consciences of its adherents 

The first reason why this ideology is so dangerous is because it creates unnecessary anxiety amongst believers. I say this because believers who subscribe to this ideology spend inordinate time worrying about trivial things such as whether or not its sinful to hold hands with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They also spend a lot of time stressing over whether or not to even kiss one another.

Regardless of what Purity Culture tells you, kissing and holding hands is NOT the same thing as having sex. Anyone who says otherwise does not know anything about sex. There are plenty of Christian couples who manage to hold hands and kiss one another without succumbing to fornication or sexual immorality and if kissing were the same thing as sex, what does that make of parents?

According to Galatians 5:1 we read, 

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”

Christ came to set us free from all forms of legalism and Purity Culture is a form of legalism. The command to flee sexual immorality is more about matters of our hearts than about following some strict moralistic guideline. Yes, we must avoid sexual immorality, but we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

2) Purity Culture stifles affections between couples 

It is a known fact that any relationship survives off of both the man and woman showing one another affection. As a matter of fact, I do not know of a single woman who would want to be with a man who shows absolutely zero affection towards her. So, a man who refuses to do something simple such as hold hands with his woman will only hurt his chances at being in a relationship with her. As soon as another man comes along who shows affection, that woman will be attracted to him. This is basic common sense. In order for a relationship to survive and thrive, there must be affection. 

3) Purity Culture sets people up with unrealistic expectations 

I have seen it over and over again with people who subscribe to this ideology. These people tend to believe that they can meet someone and jump right into marriage without there being any affection whatsoever. It is almost as if these people honestly believe that someone will magically be attracted to them without any pretense. That is not how relationships work at all. In reality, relationships require work and lots of affection. If someone is not willing to put in the work or show affection then they cannot expect to ever be married to anyone! They are merely setting themselves up for a life of loneliness and despair. 

I trust that now you can see how this ideology is dangerous and should be avoided but if you can think of any more reasons please feel free to share them in the comments below. I do believe that the people promoting this ideology mean well, but their practical application is burdensome. Thank you very much for reading and may the grace of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ richly bless you all! 

-David Lee Chu Sarchet 
Christian Mental Health Advocate 

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