By: JANA GREENE
As an adolescent, I was terrified of “making purple.”
Those of you in the evangelical world know that kids in youth group are warned on mission trips (lock-ins, religious rallies, the woods behind the church, etc. and so on) to not fool around with boys if you’re a girl, and girls if you were a boy. Blue + pink = purple (get it?) Many a time, a youth leader has been driving a bus full of kids and said, “SHOW OF HANDS!” and all the teens would have to lift their hands to show their hands were not in places they shouldn’t be. Purple places, I guess.
And of course, they weren’t in the wrong for monitoring the kids. They are liable and it is not the occasion for those kind of shenanigans. It’s the subversive idea that your sexual purity determines your worth as a young woman that bothers me.
The youth group I attended (religiously) as a teenager was quite the circus. I was a hand-wringing thinker of deep thoughts, and I wanted answers. At one point, I made an appointment with the senior pastor, (who was later revealed to be having affairs with three women in the congregation, Oh, the irony!) to talk about predestination. What I would later learn is severe anxiety propelled me to find answers, and I couldn’t let it go. I’ve always been a seeker. Plus also, I was scared to death of Hell, so I needed to know these things.
I also carried a Bible to high school with me every day, like an amulet. It served the dual purposes of making me feel holy, and keeping the “bad kids” away, lest I be tempted. I also wore a ring to signify my purity to remind me that I didn’t want to lose value as a woman by fooling around. How awful that is to me now.
All I knew was that the human heart is deceitful above all things – never trust it. And to love yourself? Sacrilege! That’s vanity and placing yourself over God, you dirty heretic. Jesus said to love everyone, but throughout 2,000 years of human dogma, a long litany of stipulations had been applied to loving self.
“That’s an awfully big question,” the pastor said at our appointment. And then he launched into a diatribe about how God chooses who will make the cut BEFORE you are even born. This was very disturbing information. Was I behaving for nothing? “But everyone gets a choice,” he continued. It made zero sense whatsoever but who was I to question? Questioning was especially egregious and rebellious.
I can tell you now, loving yourself is NOT a sin. In fact, it’s essential. You need to have the ability to be tender with yourself, which requires love. And these days, Love is quite literally my religion – I am learning to love myself and actively loving and accepting others.
I will say that I don’t believe “hooking up” habitually is good for the mind and spirit. But you do you, Boo. To each their own. It’s enough to take my own spiritual inventory; I surely cannot take yours.
But purity culture? I instilled that in my own daughters from an early age, as it was instilled in me. In retrospect, it’s janky. Not because teens having sex is a good thing, but because I basically taught my daughters without realizing it that a substantial part of their value hinged on being “pure” for your future husband. Not that I myself made it that far, I did not. (I discovered alcohol, which was a game changer, and is an entirely other story for another time.)
It’s the self-worth factor that ires me. You must stay pure, and none of my kids – all adults now – ended up that way, by the church’s standards.) The message that you are a commodity that has value, but your value can be reassessed if you do naughty things. Again, it seems so obviously wrong now.
The boys are told not to engage but are not held to the same standards at all. Where’s their purity rings? Where’s their chastisement? No bueno. Can you say “Patriarchy Jr?” (And yes, I have apologized to my daughters.)
I know this firsthand because in tenth grade, the youth leader for the church I attended – who had adamantly told us never to watch “The Breakfast Club,” because it was of the devil – had the idea to host a lock-in at the church that was also a TOGA PARTY. Yes, a toga party. We wore SHEETS to the lock-in, because what could possibly go wrong? Hoo boy. These kids definitely needed monitoring!
Animal House had nothing on our group.
I was so terrified of sinning, I sat in the sanctuary for most of the event. But many kids in the gathering space were a’sinnin’. The youth leader fell asleep around 11 pm, and (surprise!) the kids did not.
It ended up being a big scandal, because when parents found out what happened that night, they raised holy Hell. Lots of my friends got in trouble for doing things in the sheets IN THEIR SHEETS. We had a whole youth meeting to address the Purple and prayed the lust away for an hour. Or that was the idea.
And it was then that the seedlings of faith in the church started to grow in wonky. Because the way the church proper took on things was contradictory. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’. Or worse, ‘do as I say because I have the inside skinny on God.’
Still, I would cling to the church for another 30 + years because FEAR. Oh my God I was so afraid to trip up. That people-pleasing follows me around still to this day, if I don’t do my shadow work.
Churches are just made of people – many well-intentioned. They are trying to save other souls from eternal conscious torment (that a “loving” God doles out if your ticket isn’t stamped “Pre-destined” because they TRULY believe we are all bound for Hell at birth. And this is confusing because they very often DO care and harbor no ill will. They, like I was, are mired in the letter of the law.
But to paraphrase with the vernacular of youths today (and I’ll write about what I believe the issue of Hell later,) that shit cray. Also, I CAN’T EVEN anymore with the religiousness. I seem to be acquiring a repulsion of all things church that are not of Jesus. Like, on a primal level. “That’s NOT what he said!” I want to shout. “That’s not what he was about!”
I’m not saying sin isn’t a big deal. I’m just saying love is a bigger deal.
And I want to be what Jesus WAS about. I don’t want to follow rules of an ancient text. I want to accept all and love all. Period.
Truly, I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater though. I’m keeping my Jesus, because what you cannot learn from an entity like the modern church, you can feel in your bones. Yes, I know it sounds woo-woo, but we are equipped with spirits conjoined with Christ, he is already there, you don’t have to carry a Bible everywhere you go or bruise your knees hollerin’ on the floor of a prayer room. You are already destined for glory, even here as we travel Earth-side. This revelation is EVERYTHING.
Plus, Jesus came pre-installed in my hard drive before I was born. That was a really nice service he provides for us ALL, as redeemer of all.
And that, my friends, is part of the long and winding road that is this journey. Placing purity over people. Putting the kibbutz on shame and guilt of past mistakes, while showing yourself grace in the future. It’s doing the ultimate reassessment of you value through the eyes of a loving God. It’s revelation of identity.
Since opening my mind and learning to trust that conjoined Spirit, I realize that the church is just wrong about some things, but that doesn’t make them – or the Me of six years ago – bad people. They are just doing what I did as a young mother and for most of my life, a self-proclaimed Christian.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry about all the lies filtered down for ages, but I’m starting to see that it would be really easy for me to fall into giving the anger a permanent home in my heart, as I feel so deceived. That’s the very heart Jesus inhabits. If I am unkind to people in the church, I am no better than when I was a raging fundamentalist with nationalist leanings and an evangelical bent. (Oof. That smarts!)
I pray that the pain of your upbringing and living in religiosity is quelled. I pray that you break off the shackles of believing you are inherently “bad.” I hope you find safe friends to walk this out with you, and that you too try to remain kind to all. And I pray that you learn to love yourself, as you deserve.
Purity culture is really about finding out you are already pure in the sight of God.
God bless you all.
One thought on “Delving into Religious Deconstruction (Part Two, “Making Purple”)”
Wish there was a 💥ranking above and beyond 5!
div>I read the dismal, abysmal interpretations of God over many centuries and cultures and I