Christian Aimee Byrd Reviews Sara Moslener’s book “Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence”

Christian Aimee Byrd Reviews Sara Moslener’s book “Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence”

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Before I put the content in about the Virgin Nation book, a reminder:

If Morgan suddenly (or even a few months later) does a blog post mentioning the Virgin Nation book at his blog after this post appears on my blog, you could bet dollars to doughnuts he first heard of this book here on my blog.

I haven’t been to his blog in a few months. I don’t think he’s ever discussed this book at his blog.

Really, dude, stop using my blog as a resource. It’s very hypocritical to believe on the one hand I am not a trustworthy source because I use a pen name, but then turn around and believe I’m trustworthy enough to use to get blog post ideas from.

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Virgin Nation – Book Review by Byrd

This was an interesting review.

As the summary of Moslener’s book indicates, she brings up a few of the points I have here on my blog before.

I’m not opposed to Christians believing in, promoting, or living out sexual purity, and it dismays me to see how many Christians are actually arguing against sexual purity (including virginity and celibacy) these days.

However, I do sometimes question just how Christians go about teaching or promoting sexual purity. Some Christians have also turned sexual purity into a marketing gimmick, where they make money selling books about the topic, which also bothers me (and I’ve blogged about that at least once before).

Here are some excerpts from the book review (I would encourage you to use the link below to visit the page to read the review in its entirety there):

(Link): Virgin Nation:  Sexual Purity and American Adolescence by Sara Moslener (a book review by A. Byrd)

Excerpts (I placed a few of the observations I found most interesting in bold face):

  • …a very good thing, Christian purity, has become a commodity instead of a process in sanctification.
  • …Moslener traces the sexual purity movement in America, showing how it developed as an ideology linked to national security. She identifies “several cooperating impulses: evangelical political activism, deep anxiety over gender roles and changing sexual mores, fear and moral decay, apocalyptic anticipation, and American nationalism”, making the case that “sex and national survival are the poles around which evangelicals have constructed a national identity.”
  • …Moslener begins with tracing sexual purity back to first wave feminism and the reversal of traditional gender roles. Where women used to be thought of as the morally inferior sex (the whole “it was Eve who first took the bite” shtick), in the 19th century this idea took a 180-degree turn. Purity was regarded as a feminine trait.
  • Women exploited their newfound status as moral superiors to extend their power beyond the domestic sphere and control the sexual behavior of men.
  • Moslener connects the reversal of the female status as moral superiors in first wave feminism to the political movements fueled by evangelical tropes of manhood and womanhood.

  • She demonstrates how the correlating emergence of the field of psychology contributed to this movement by introducing the category of adolescence.
  • Yet as women gained spiritual, social, and political influence, men began to feel threatened by a feminization of theology. The response was a promotion of muscular Christianity. Moslener traces the emergence of leaders such as Dwight Moody, Frances Willard, Catherine Beecher, and Ellice Hopkins to reveal the connection between framing male and female roles with the protection of white culture and social welfare.
  • …Moslener then demonstrates how Carl “Henry and Billy Graham crafted a rhetoric of sexual fear that linked sexual immorality, national decline, and pending apocalypse – a discourse that will remain highly relevant within evangelical circles and serve as the architectural foundation for later sexual purity campaigns” (76).
  • Again, while reading this you may want to get angry with the author. But Moslener is not actually criticizing sexual purity itself. Nor is she critiquing biblical theology.
  • She is interested in critiquing the evangelical tropes that couch the language of sexual purity as a commodity that will save civilization and the ideologies that Americans hold dear. This makes those of us who prize both our faith and sexual purity ask the question, why? What are our motivations?
  • …With Darwinian theory gaining popularity, Christians began losing social clout. Moslener tracks the evangelical response as promoting a religion of fear, demarking boundaries between Christian faith and purity in opposition to communism and licentious living. In order to gain a voice, evangelicals accommodated to the psychological language of the culture. As they emphasized family values, they focused on the benefits of sexual purity for personal fulfillment.
  • …But all this historical background builds up to our current climate of True Love Waits and The Silver Ring Thing parachurch organizations. Moslener ponders the need to publically declare one’s commitment to purity as an evangelical movement when it is already a basic conviction of the Christian faith. Sexual purity is now marketed as revolutionary and empowering.
  • … Moslener demonstrates how purity becomes the answer offered to the problem that needs to be cured. While Jesus is presented as necessary to this “personal transformation,” the language used sounds more like a psychological issue for personal fulfillment or even locking in a happy marriage with a great sex life, rather than an offense to a holy God in whose image we were created.
  • It’s the all too familiar rhetoric of the prosperity gospel: in exchange for sexual purity, God will bless you with a wonderful spouse who will fulfill your every desire. Where is the theological language of sin, holiness, sanctification, and glorification?
  • …There are many take-aways from reading this book that provokes important questions to ask about the purity movement. How are we framing our apologetics? What compromises are we making to advance our own ideologies in American politics? Sexual purity is important to me. But turning chastity into an ideology cheapens it.
  • …The problem with this book is that many who would benefit from reading a critique of the purity movement in America will not read it. And that is a real shame.

Several people left comments below the book review, including Byrd. Here are one or two comments:

by A. Byrd:

  • Greg, I knew you’d be after this. I doubt I have the same motivations as Moslener either. I got the feeling that she was badly burned by the purity movement. But that doesn’t make her critique invalid. While the purity movement has a lot a biblical rhetoric, it has become it’s own thing to trust in, rather than God’s Word. Biblical purity is one thing, movements are another. I think my review makes that pretty clear.

An abbreviated copy of this same book review can be found (Link): here

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Related Posts:

(Link):  Sexual Purity, Virginity, and Celibacy As Product – and: Christian Myths That Are Keeping Marriage Minded Single Women Single Courtesy Dannah Gresh

 (Link):  When Women Wanted Sex Much More Than Men – and how the stereotype flipped

(Link):  I thought Christians “worshipped” virginity? Guess not: TLW (True Love Waits) Spokesman Says TLW Will NOT “Elevate Virginity” – LifeWay to Relaunch “True Love Waits” Campaign

(Link):  Christian Patriarchalists and Gender Complementarians Sexualizing the Trinity and Insisting Sexual Activity is Necessary to Fully Know God (via Under Much Grace blog)

(Link): No, Christians and Churches Do Not Idolize Virginity and Sexual Purity – [they either downplay both or attack both]

(Link):  Depressing Testimony: “I Was A Stripper but Jesus Sent Me A Great Christian Husband”

(Link): AARP post: How to Handle a Sexless Married Life – But Christians Promise You Great Hot Regular Married Sex

(Link): More Married Couples Admit to Sexless Marriages (various articles) / Christians promise you great frequent sex if you wait until marriage, but the propaganda is not true

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