Depending on who you talk to, “purity” is either a wonderful word to describe a high concept, or a toxic word used to oppress people (most often women).
For myself, I believe that purity, when properly understood, is a good thing, but that ‘purity culture’ is a form of gender based violence. I also have a few ideas about what purity is really meant to be about – and my thinking and theology are still forming. Meanwhile, I had the following to say in my 95 statements on hope, sexuality and consent):
81. Purity is the debating ground for what constitutes belonging within, or exclusion from, community. One way or another, the debate usually involves people’s genitals.
82. “Purity culture” and “modesty culture” are both forms of gender based violence.
83. “Purity pledges” can only bring a curse; they bind a person but, unlike wedding vows, do not mark transition into belonging.
84. “Purity” and “holiness”, properly understood, are about covenantal belonging to/with God.
85. Purity-as-separation subverts God’s plan for reconciliation and is contrary to the church’s covenant calling.
86. Modesty is about veiling glory as a means of inclusion, particularly in a context where a person has the right to display it.
87. Purity (membership) is a state to be entered; once entered, it is not easily lost.
88. Purity (intimacy) doesn’t plateau; it deepens as people respond to God’s calling and commissioning.
89. Purity (belonging) is a privilege to be exercised in the midst of sin, in service to others.
90. Purity (covenantal inclusion) works reconciliation while it waits for the fulness of redemption.