On April 24, 2018 at Hiram College, we were finally able to pull off the event I’d been preparing for since December of 2017. I’ve written a little about why I wanted to do it here and here, so I’m going to spare you the monologue. I was, however, able to record a video of the presentation. It is available on YouTube and embedded below.
Scroll down to follow along with notes and references as you watch. Some of Emily’s quotes were particularly poignant, I thought, and I wanted to capture them here. Additionally, Emily alludes to a great number of resources–and I wanted to provide some direct links for those who wanted to do further research.
I hope you are as inspired by the presentation as I am, and I’m eternally grateful for all of you who have supported and continue to support this work.
One last thing: we are still raising funds to cover the costs of the event. If you are able to contribute, please do. Any amount helps: http://gofundme.com/AfterPurity
Annotated Notes and References
Faith and Sexuality Beyond the Boundaries
Featuring Emily Joy
April 24, 2018
Sponsored By: Mantua Center Christian Church and Hiram Christian Church
Watch the video here: bit.ly/AfterPurity2018.
Emily begins her presentation.
Emily performs “You Are Not a Princess,” from her album All Prodigal Daughters and Sons.
Emily performs “How to Love the Sinner & Hate the Sin: 5 Easy Steps.”
Emily talks about her personal story and background, growing up the daughter of an itinerant southern Baptist preacher, being groomed for a romantic relationship by an older Evangelical preacher, living in a culture that lacked any form of sex education, entering into period of faith deconstruction in her early adult life, earning a certification in Christian Ministry from Moody Bible Institute, and using it as a basis for a different kind of ministry than they intended. “You can’t give me the tools and then be mad about what I build with them,” she says.
Emily talks about how she and her friend Hannah Paasch started the “Purity Culture Rehab Project,” in which they engaged in various activities they’d been forbidden from as adolescents in an effort to reclaim their autonomy.
Emily defines “purity culture.” She references a short video on YouTube titled, “What Is Purity Culture? #StillPurityCulture.” Basically, she defines it as the expectation of “mandatory abstinence until legal, heterosexual marriage,” usually accompanying some kind of threat and manifesting itself in a variety of ways across different church communities. She further describes purity culture as “the religious corollary of rape culture.”
Emily discusses the tendency for people to want to keep the fundamental theology behind purity culture, while condemning some of its unfortunate fruit. She references the #StillPurityCulture hashtag containing stories that highlight exactly what this looks like.
Emily discusses the story behind the #ChurchToo hashtag, originating in November 2017 as a subset of the recent explosion #MeToo movement (started by Tarana Burke in 2006). She references a sex abuse scandal from several years ago involving CJ Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries. She also references the Twitter thread in which she shares her own story. She then references a few examples of high-profile sexual abuse cases in the church that have come to light in part as a direct response from the #ChurchToo movement: mega church pastor Andy Savage’s assault on Jules Woodson and the issues surrounding Bill Hybels of Willow Creek.
Why does she focus exclusively focus on sexual assault in the church, when it’s coming to light in every sector of society? Emily says, “The culture around sexual abuse and assault is the way it is for a variety of reasons. I am not an expert in politics. Nor am I an expert in Hollywood social circles. I do not know the specifics of what makes it terrible there. But this is the water I’m swimming in—is faith communities.” Furthermore, sexual abuse in certain churches contains additional factors that aren’t as prevalent in other society institutions. “It’s one thing for somebody to abuse you, and it’s another thing for somebody to abuse you and say, ‘This is how God wants it.’”
Emily discusses what church leaders can do to prevent sexual abuse from happening in their churches. She suggests that, while there are basic things that can be done such as background checks for staff and explicit policies stating that law enforcement will be notified should abuse occur. However, the fundamental problem is not church policy regarding sexual abuse, but church doctrine regarding sexuality. (See Emily’s article, “What’s Purity Culture Got to Do With It?” in which explains the connection between purity culture and the #ChurchToo movement).
Emily discusses the process of unlearning, saying, “The ability to take in new information about the world and about ourselves, and adjust our beliefs and our behavior according, is what differentiates us from rocks.” She describes how letting go of old beliefs can be scary, but it’s also necessary. She adds, “We approach these conversations out of a base place of fear…the thing is there’s no avoiding that fear if you want to live a full, healthy, authentic life. There is only living alongside of it.”
Question and Answer Session
Where did purity theology come from? Emily references the religious right’s formation as a political movement, described briefly here.
Can you speak more about how purity culture links to and/or enables sexual abuse in faith communities?
I find the use of masculine pronouns for God, at least when used exclusively, to be one more artifact of patriarch/purity culture that has a deleterious impact on the entire community of faith. Thoughts? “It’s okay to emphasize one thing if it’s been de-emphasized for a really long time.”
How does purity culture harm men as well, or does it? Emily references examples of toxic masculinity she’s seen discussed on Twitter. She may have been alluding to this promo video for Christian men’s conference or this story about Liberty University opening a multi-million dollar competitive shooting range.
What was it like growing up as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in the church?
How much more purity is demanded of people of color, especially women of color, in an American church that is intent on marginalizing everyone who is not a straight, white, male of high socio-economic status? Emily references a writer named Fred Clarke and his blog Slacktivist. One piece, “This is what abortion politics is for,” specifically addresses abortion and its ties to racism.
I believe in challenging authority. The Bible and its teachings must be challenged in order to continue to live and breathe. If it is dead and inflexible, then how can it be vital and relevant?
My wife’s previous husband was a minister who had several affairs, preying often on parishioners until he’d get found out and move on. One of my wife’s children came through all of this shame and anger with her faith intact, but her brothers both rejected God and church along with this despicable pastor. You’ve alluded to your experience. With the pieces of your religious indoctrination chipped away, what was left? God? Faith? New insights and beliefs? Or nothing? In short, more like my step daughter or step sons? “The less things that I believe numerically, the more strongly I believe in the things that I have left.”
In what form of a phoenix has your faith been reborn?
What can the local church do to help with the one who has or is deconstructing his or her faith? Is there a way to keep the church as a safe and supportive place for the ones who are deconstructing their faith? “If you’re a safe space, you don’t have to say that you’re a safe space.”
Okay, #ChurchToo (the hashtag) is out there. But what can a local church do to address this? Has the church as a social institution been strained beyond repair? Why would one want to come to the church? Emily references this Newsweek article about the dwindling population of white Evangelicals under 30 years old. Emily also mentioned Emmy Kegler, who can be found on twitter @EmmyKegler (here is the specific tweet Emily references) and also operates the online resource for LGBTQIA+ Christians: Queer Grace.
*Annotations completed by Doug Rice…so don’t get mad at Emily if something is messed up 😉
After Purity logo created by Jessy Rice.