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Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality

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It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex for those who follow the rules. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher reviews the movement carefully, examining its teachings through the lens of Scripture. Compassionate, faithful, and wise, she charts a path forward for evangelicals in the ongoing debates about sexuality--one that rejects legalism and license alike, steering us back instead to the good news of Jesus. It's time to talk back to purity culture--and this book is ready to jump-start the conversation.


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It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex for those who follow the rules. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher reviews the movement carefully, examining its teachings through the lens of Scripture. Compassionate, faithful, and wise, she charts a path forward for evangelicals in the ongoing debates about sexuality--one that rejects legalism and license alike, steering us back instead to the good news of Jesus. It's time to talk back to purity culture--and this book is ready to jump-start the conversation.

30 review for Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Manchester

    This is a sex book. SUMMARY This is not a sex book. Rather, it's a sexuality book. Welcher writes after reading multiple purity culture books from the 90s/early-2000s and interviewing a host of people involved in that movement. In some ways, it reminded me of The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters where the church has fallen into legalism yet knowing that licentiousness is not the answer either. In so many ways, I am the target This is a sex book. SUMMARY This is not a sex book. Rather, it's a sexuality book. Welcher writes after reading multiple purity culture books from the 90s/early-2000s and interviewing a host of people involved in that movement. In some ways, it reminded me of The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters where the church has fallen into legalism yet knowing that licentiousness is not the answer either. In so many ways, I am the target audience for this book. I grew up deeply within the purity culture movement and it has defined my life to a degree. I've wanted a book like this: one that not only addressed flawed thinking in my mind but also helped me parent in this area better than I was. THE GOOD Welcher demolishes purity culture rhetoric. She also consistently reminds you what the real problem is: "So many of us walked right past the gospel on our way to a purity conference. Our parents and youth leaders were so concerned about our budding sexuality, scrambling for direction and wisdom, that some of us ended up signing abstinence pledges before falling on our knees in repentance. We wore purity rings as badges of honor, forgetting that it is Jesus who cleanses us from all unrighteousness." Her chapters on "Female Responsibilities" and "Male Purity and the Rhetoric of Lust" are her best chapters in my opinion, though every single chapter slaps. I highlighted a good portion of this book. Most will particularly applaud her chapter "Problems with the Promise of Sex" where she takes a look at what the purity culture movement have done to discourage those who are divorced, barren, or same-sex attracted. She writes so carefully, yet boldly, that it's such a winsome chapter. Let me post some of my favorite quotes: "It also reveals an issue with our functional theology: if we truly believe in the Imago Dei—that all people are created in the image of God—then we must recognize that what some brush off as “boys being boys” is actually a perpetuation of abuse that insults the image of God." "The idea that we need to offer non-virgins some sort of symbolic “second virginity” reinforces our misunderstanding of where purity comes from." "How we want our children to live, sexually, is what we really believe about sexual purity." "Jesus himself was single: would we relegate him to the kids’ table, forcing him to sit on a too small plastic chair? Singles do not belong at the margins of our churches. No one does." "I may have been a virgin when I got married, but I was also an adulterer." "Teachings about the moral superiority and responsibility of women place a burden on them that Scripture does not. The rhetoric reduces women to their sexual function, instead of depicting them the way Scripture does, as image bearers of God and coheirs of the kingdom. [...] Such “empowerment” leaves women feeling defeated and guilty, rather than valued by the church and strengthened in Christ." "And in the same way wearing a purity ring does not guarantee virginity, virginity doesn’t guarantee purity." Also, this book doesn't go for the easy answers. There's lament found on these pages. And can I take a moment and praise the last paragraph of every chapter. Welcher is a pro at summarizing her thoughts at the end. They were so good, I noticed how good they consistently were. In my reading experience, that's a rare thing. THE CHALLENGES I should give a trigger warning for those who have been abused, particularly in conjunction with the purity movement. There's a chapter that focuses on abuse and Welcher doesn't shy away. Also, due to my own issues, I didn't find the chapter as comforting as some women might, but Welcher does make mention on male survivors and that helped. Also, Welcher is direct in this book. Loving, but direct. I'm grateful that she speaks very plainly about sex and sexuality, but it's gonna feel awkward for us purity culture kids. :-) The only other challenge I had was regarding parenting advice. Welcher states that she's not a parent at the time of writing this book. However, her work with teaching really shines through where there is little parental experience. It still makes me want a sequel in 15 years if she becomes a parent. (*insert Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship joke here*) CONCLUSION It is my hope that every person/parent reads this book. I know that I'm freaking out since my kids are at "that age" but the gospel encouragement Welcher writes reminds me that purity isn't the goal, Jesus is. It has encouraged me out of the same mindset that formed me. 4.5 stars, rounded down.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

    Rachel Joy Welcher has written a powerful new book about purity culture; what it is, what it did to a generation, and how to respond to it. Purity culture is a Christian movement that took place beginning in the late 20th Century and has extended into the 21st Century. It was a direct response to the sexual revolution and the AIDS epidemic, its main goal was to promote a form of Christian ethics that taught sex should be saved only for marriage. Purity books, rings, and pledges were all a part o Rachel Joy Welcher has written a powerful new book about purity culture; what it is, what it did to a generation, and how to respond to it. Purity culture is a Christian movement that took place beginning in the late 20th Century and has extended into the 21st Century. It was a direct response to the sexual revolution and the AIDS epidemic, its main goal was to promote a form of Christian ethics that taught sex should be saved only for marriage. Purity books, rings, and pledges were all a part of promoting this culture. As time has passed, some Christians have started to reevaluate purity culture’s teachings because many young people who grew up in it, have either developed a sense of shame because of it, or have realized that some of the promises of purity culture were not fulfilled. Welcher addresses all of this and more in her book. The strongest parts of Welcher’s book is when she focuses on the harmful effects purity culture has on women and men. For women, they were taught that they had the power to control male sexual urges and could do it by dressing modestly. In essence, purity culture caused women to think they were responsible for male purity. Women were also blamed for their husband’s indiscretions if he cheated. Men, on the other hand, were taught to control their sexual urges and to basically avoid women so they aren’t tempted. Welcher argues that these teachings were wrong and explains why. Welcher also addresses the flaws in purity culture. Some include that purity culture makes virginity an idol and that purity is seen as a stage in life rather than a lifelong process. Purity makes promises that may not occur such as marriage, sex, and children; some people never get married, remain celibate, or are infertile. Welcher argues that purity culture as it exists does not address those types of people. The author does a good job at explaining how the Church can be there for those who fit in those categories. In sum, the book contains powerful quotes from people Welcher interviewed which I believe helps centers her arguments in each chapter. Each chapter ends with discussion questions and activities, which are great. Her book could definitely lead to fruitful discussions in Bible studies or church book clubs. Overall, Welcher’s book is clear, full of wisdom, and very well written. There were parts where I disagreed with the author but as a whole I think it is a good contribution to the ongoing debate on purity culture. Thanks to NetGalley, InterVarsity Press, and Rachel J. Welcher for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on November 10, 2020. Review first published on Ballasts for the Mind: https://medium.com/ballasts-for-the-m...

  3. 4 out of 5

    E.M.

    Meticulously researched, saturated with the Scriptures, written with grace & courage, this is a towering achievement, indeed, the definitive work on “Purity Culture”.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Josiah

    I'm pretty sure I was already on the same page as Welcher for all the issues she was talking about, so I don't know how much this book really changed my perspective. But it was nice to see someone else arguing for many of the conclusions I've slowly been coming to myself over the past 5-6 years, and she puts it rather well. Her sections on the value of singleness and the people that purity culture has marginalized were particularly well put on both fronts. In terms of which sections I learned th I'm pretty sure I was already on the same page as Welcher for all the issues she was talking about, so I don't know how much this book really changed my perspective. But it was nice to see someone else arguing for many of the conclusions I've slowly been coming to myself over the past 5-6 years, and she puts it rather well. Her sections on the value of singleness and the people that purity culture has marginalized were particularly well put on both fronts. In terms of which sections I learned the most from, that would probably be the first several chapters where she outlined some of the different things that major players within the "purity culture" circle taught. And... yikes. I knew some stuff already, but there was some rather shocking things that influential people were willing to say and argue. I've been reading critiques of purity culture over the past decade, and I was still surprised by some of the things Welcher highlighted that were hidden in popular books. In-all, while this book was preaching to the choir a bit for me, this is a solid book that helpfully critiques the unhealthy aspects of purity culture while still upholding a biblical Christian ethic. Rating: 3.5-4 Stars (Good).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Nicolls

    I just finished this book in about 7 hours. If you were involved in the purity movement in the 90s and 2000 like my children or the church's view of marriage roles during that time, this book is an excellent Biblical thought provoking book that shows how the churches made an idol of sexual purity instead of directing Christians to develop a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, who loves them unconditionally and who will guide them in all truth to navigate through this issue. I fo I just finished this book in about 7 hours. If you were involved in the purity movement in the 90s and 2000 like my children or the church's view of marriage roles during that time, this book is an excellent Biblical thought provoking book that shows how the churches made an idol of sexual purity instead of directing Christians to develop a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, who loves them unconditionally and who will guide them in all truth to navigate through this issue. I found personal healing for me in the truth shared here. A much needed book.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    The Purity Culture movement dominated discussions in my youth. I became disenchanted years ago not with holding a Christian sex ethic but with the way Purity Culture had shaped faithful obedience into something beyond Scripture. Welcher pulls back the veil on the false promises and points us to a better way.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    This book involves so many loaded topics that it is hard for me to know where to begin. Thus, I have immense respect for Rachel Joy Welcher, who took on the challenge of writing it. Throughout this book, she provides an orthodox perspective on purity culture, addressing its unbiblical promises and demands without discarding Scripture in the process. Unlike other books about the purity movement, which focus on religious deconstruction and reject Christianity, this book reevaluates purity culture This book involves so many loaded topics that it is hard for me to know where to begin. Thus, I have immense respect for Rachel Joy Welcher, who took on the challenge of writing it. Throughout this book, she provides an orthodox perspective on purity culture, addressing its unbiblical promises and demands without discarding Scripture in the process. Unlike other books about the purity movement, which focus on religious deconstruction and reject Christianity, this book reevaluates purity culture through an orthodox lens, asking where Christians can go from here. Welcher separates biblical teaching from human-constructed legalism, and encourages her readers to be willing to reevaluate their beliefs. Evaluating the Fallout At the beginning of the book, Welcher provides a history of the movement from the late 1990s to the present, quoting from popular books that shaped many young Christian’s views of sexuality and their faith. In response to these books, she cites published resources and shares personal stories that show the damage and fallout from these beliefs. Some of these stories come from her own life, others are from personal conversations, and still more come from official interviews. In the following chapters, she addresses how purity culture held out heterosexual marriage and children as a guaranteed reward for chaste behavior without acknowledging the realities of long-term singleness, same-sex attraction, divorce, marital frustrations, and infertility. Welcher also provides a complex analysis of how badly Christian culture addressed sexual abuse during this era. Only the worst resources actively blamed victims for inviting their trauma, but others sent mixed messages or avoided the topic. Welcher challenges Christians to keep sexual abuse victims in mind when they talk about sexuality, because even though writers and speakers have often treated abuse experiences as an anomaly, they are heartrendingly common. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest parts of the book, because she addresses the topic in great depth, with reference to a variety of different situations and experiences. There are other topics that she can only address in passing because of the book’s limited scope, but because she previously did academic research on this topic, she was able to address this with the depth and nuance that the topic deserves. Looking to the Future Welcher writes with great humility, leaving room for all the research, analysis, and understanding that is yet to come. She also maintains a gracious tone towards others, and because many books about the church’s failings are abrasive and condemning, I admire her ability to write about so many challenging topics with grace, compassion, and empathy for everyone involved. This book is not just for people who feel victimized by purity culture, but is also for those who promoted it, and those who still hold some of these beliefs. Welcher calls Christians to reevaluate their approach to understanding sexuality, and even though she is not yet a parent, her experience working with youth gives her credibility, especially in the chapter about how parents can pursue ongoing, nuanced conversations about sexuality with their children. She also encourages adult Christians to talk about sexuality with each other, and supports this by providing discussion questions and group activity ideas at the end of each chapter. It never would have occurred to me to view this as a reading group recommendation, but I agree that challenging topics like this should not stay within the realm of private reading, and need to spill over into conversations and relationships within the church. I appreciate the thought, effort, and care that Welcher invested into writing this book, and even though it cannot possibly cover every person’s experience or concern, the discussion questions give readers a chance to build on this in their own conversations. This is a solid, orthodox guide to reevaluating purity culture and seeking a better path forward. I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    “It is not earthly marriage but the marriage supper of the Lamb that we are promised. It is adoption as sons and daughters that we receive, not because we stayed sexually pure or dressed modestly but because Jesus spilled his blood for our sins. Whatever our relationship status on earth, Christians can stand firm in their identity as children of the living God and as the church, his body, and his bride.” This is the book I have been waiting for. Rachel Joy Welcher wrestles with some of the proble “It is not earthly marriage but the marriage supper of the Lamb that we are promised. It is adoption as sons and daughters that we receive, not because we stayed sexually pure or dressed modestly but because Jesus spilled his blood for our sins. Whatever our relationship status on earth, Christians can stand firm in their identity as children of the living God and as the church, his body, and his bride.” This is the book I have been waiting for. Rachel Joy Welcher wrestles with some of the problematic aspects of how the church has addressed gender and sexuality in the last few decades. She identifies ways that Christians have failed and even harmed the people in the church’s care, while boldly pointing to God’s teaching in the Bible as the only path to true freedom and flourishing. She is fair in the way she explores and assesses the popular books she critiques. Most importantly, she points beyond the confusion to the gospel of Jesus Christ as our one sure hope.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nellyyy

    I will review this book by talking about how I felt reading it and that is seen, acknowledged and honored. Rachel writes with such kindness, it felt as if it was a letter from an elder sister. I'm in awe of the way she spoke about sexual abuse, singleness, same sex attraction and infertility - with such empathy, understanding and wisdom whilst also staying true to the word of God. This is a must read for every christian as I think we all have been affected by how sexuality has been approached in I will review this book by talking about how I felt reading it and that is seen, acknowledged and honored. Rachel writes with such kindness, it felt as if it was a letter from an elder sister. I'm in awe of the way she spoke about sexual abuse, singleness, same sex attraction and infertility - with such empathy, understanding and wisdom whilst also staying true to the word of God. This is a must read for every christian as I think we all have been affected by how sexuality has been approached in Purity Culture whether we are aware of it or not. This book is so healing to the soul.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kendall Davis

    Welcher gives an excellent introduction and theological critique of the purity culture movement. Her reliance on actual stories and experiences from a variety of people makes this about real flesh-and-blood people and not mere abstract ideas. She provides a helpful and thorough summary and overview of many of the major and formative works in this movement. This makes her analysis based on what people in this movement actually said and published in writing. It was also helpful to me as someone wh Welcher gives an excellent introduction and theological critique of the purity culture movement. Her reliance on actual stories and experiences from a variety of people makes this about real flesh-and-blood people and not mere abstract ideas. She provides a helpful and thorough summary and overview of many of the major and formative works in this movement. This makes her analysis based on what people in this movement actually said and published in writing. It was also helpful to me as someone who did not grow up with any of this literature and who is therefore unfamiliar with much of it. I especially appreciated how she highlighted the experience and perspective of gay/same-sex attracted Christians committed to an orthodox sexual ethic, the sexually abused, and others. Welcher helpfully challenged me to understand how the perspective of these fellow brothers and sisters in the faith should affect all ares of sexual ethics. They are not to be relegated to their own topic as if their perspective and voice did not matter. Welcher is also consistently committed to maintaining an orthodox and scriptural ethic on sexuality. She seeks to put forth a vision of sexuality that does not compromise on what is Christian and scriptural in the slightest yet is sensitive, nuanced, and compassionate. She engages well with alternative progressive visions of sexuality that advocate libertinism. I found her critiques to be respectful and helpful for building up her own argument. I'd strongly recommend this book to anyone wanting a thoughtful, faithful, and compassionate overview of this topic. My quibbles are minimal and are likely to be more a result of my own fastidiousness than deficiencies in Welcher's work. In discussing the way that purity culture affects men and women, Welcher focuses far more on the female perspective and experience over against the male perspective and experience. Of course Welcher is herself a female. I don't expect her to understand the male experience equally well as the female! However, while she has a chapter devoted to women and purity culture and then one on men and purity culture, her chapter on women is about twice as long and surveys twice as much material. I found that even when she did discuss purity culture and men, she seemed to still be primarily interested in how the messages purity culture sent to men affect women. I don't recall her claiming outright that she believes that purity culture affects women more than women (which one could argue) or that she was going to choose to focus on women (which she does do in her chapter on sexual abuse). I would've appreciated more balance or at least an explanation of the obvious lack of balance. This is very nitpicky, but I found her insistence that God is the goal of our purity to be less than helpful. She is absolutely right to point out how purity culture makes the goal of sexuality the service of the self and understands marriage to be the only real or good sexual endpoint for the person. However, I don't believe that God is in need of our sexual purity because God needs nothing. God certainly desires that we live a sexually pure life, but strictly speaking our sexual purity is in service of our neighbor, as are all of our good works. I believe that this is largely a function of our different theological perspectives, but I do believe that framing the issue in this way is unhelpful. Again, I can't emphasize enough how much I appreciated this book and am so grateful for Welcher's faithful and compassionate witness. Christians would do well to heed her analysis and admonitions. I would love to see churches embrace Welcher's vision for a gospel-centered approach to sexual ethics lived under the cross and resurrection.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Haley Baumeister

    Admittedly, I've grown weary of most talk about purity culture. It's almost a buzzword that few take the time to flesh out — or counter with substantive, helpful alternatives. It's now seen as a shallow talking point. It's become a scapegoat for destructively swinging in the opposite direction. All of that has discouraged me. So, though I trusted Rachel to be a wise guide, I put off reading this one. I'm so glad I chose to pick up this (audio)book. Rachel loves the church and loves the scripture Admittedly, I've grown weary of most talk about purity culture. It's almost a buzzword that few take the time to flesh out — or counter with substantive, helpful alternatives. It's now seen as a shallow talking point. It's become a scapegoat for destructively swinging in the opposite direction. All of that has discouraged me. So, though I trusted Rachel to be a wise guide, I put off reading this one. I'm so glad I chose to pick up this (audio)book. Rachel loves the church and loves the scriptures. She has no jaded and cynical takes, only a heart for seeing clearly what purtiy culture was and how that can be corrected with both scripture and the wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit in us. In this book I found a refreshingly kind, well researched, and practical antidote to the man-made claims of this movement. Sexuality is held up to the light for the good and complex gift it is — in the light of God's own words. I recommend this wholeheartedly. You'll be drawn to healing, clarity, and worship.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Aimee

    Rachel Joy Welcher writes with grace and humility as she addresses the effects of Christian purity culture and its messages. Several of her points expressed thoughts or conversations I have had in recent years; others revealed false teachings I did not realize I had internalized. In this book, Welcher shines a light on some of the seemingly harmless but actually insidious teachings in the church regarding sexuality, and she does so while holding Jesus up consistently as the one who deserves our Rachel Joy Welcher writes with grace and humility as she addresses the effects of Christian purity culture and its messages. Several of her points expressed thoughts or conversations I have had in recent years; others revealed false teachings I did not realize I had internalized. In this book, Welcher shines a light on some of the seemingly harmless but actually insidious teachings in the church regarding sexuality, and she does so while holding Jesus up consistently as the one who deserves our focus and obedience.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Beckisue Knight

    This book was excellent. I so appreciated the author’s showing the harm of some of the teachings of Purity Culture without downplaying what the scripture has to say about true sexual purity.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melody Schwarting

    In my reading about purity culture, Talking Back to Purity Culture has felt like the most constructive offering so far. Welcher actually offers an alternate route instead of dismantling and leaving her readers with the pieces. I especially appreciated her intentional inclusion of single Christians (widowed, divorced, and never married), and infertility. She discusses several famous purity culture books at length, including books by Joshua Harris, Dannah Gresh, Shaunti Feldhahn, and John Eldredge In my reading about purity culture, Talking Back to Purity Culture has felt like the most constructive offering so far. Welcher actually offers an alternate route instead of dismantling and leaving her readers with the pieces. I especially appreciated her intentional inclusion of single Christians (widowed, divorced, and never married), and infertility. She discusses several famous purity culture books at length, including books by Joshua Harris, Dannah Gresh, Shaunti Feldhahn, and John Eldredge. Once more, I was on the lookout for an application of 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, but it was absent, so I'll quote it here: "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 NIV Welcher discussed Bathsheba, rape culture, and sexual abuse in Talking Back, and I know this passage would have substantially supported her claims. The brief section on LGBT matters was wanting. It was a part of the chapter on singleness and infertility (these three should have gotten individual chapters). Compared to the other sections, I felt like Welcher listened less here, and didn't use the space to share what she learned from interviews (only one was cited). When she listed Christian writers on this topic (Henri Nouwen, Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, Jackie Hill Perry, and Wesley Hill), it felt like a cop-out: "listen to these people so I don't have to talk about it." She doesn't even quote them or name book titles. This section got 6.5 pages, while singleness got about 5 pages and infertility around 5.5 pages. However, singleness is part of Welcher's own personal story (she was divorced by her husband of 4 years when he walked away from Christianity) so it regularly comes up elsewhere in the book. I also somewhat resented her use of "same sex attraction," since that term is literally only used in Christian circles and often isn't self-selected by Christians who follow a historic Christian sexual ethic without "praying the gay away." In my imaginary extra chapter on this topic in Talking Back, there would be a solid discussion of labels and terminology surrounding sexuality. Occasionally, she refers to her casual Twitter research related to topics in her book, and this section was screaming for the same treatment. Recommended for folks like me, who reject the legalism and extrabiblical teachings of purity culture, but who do adhere to a nuanced, historical Christian sexual ethic. Welcher is by no means progressive in her Christianity, but she's not a Bible-thumping bigot either. (Though I wish she'd thumped 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8.) I was reminded of many things I liked in Beth Felker Jones's Faithful: A Theology of Sex.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joelle

    Rachel makes a beautiful statement in this book, as she quotes a mom talking about how she tries to view all of her kids' conversations, and - I'm paraphrasing - but it's about bringing everything into the light of Jesus. Sin would like us to hide in the darkness, telling us that it is where it is safe, and comfortable. Rachel reminds us that the Light of the World, the Gospel, the Living Word, offers hope, grace, healing, and redemption. In His Light there is no more shame, no matter how hard a Rachel makes a beautiful statement in this book, as she quotes a mom talking about how she tries to view all of her kids' conversations, and - I'm paraphrasing - but it's about bringing everything into the light of Jesus. Sin would like us to hide in the darkness, telling us that it is where it is safe, and comfortable. Rachel reminds us that the Light of the World, the Gospel, the Living Word, offers hope, grace, healing, and redemption. In His Light there is no more shame, no matter how hard admitting our sin will be - light is the safest place to be. I will always remember that. That light is safer than darkness. Rachel doesn't slam the church; nor does she nitpick through books and point out the enormous flaws of the various authors. Rather, she loves the church, and she seeks to see the church united and strong in the Word of God, ministering to all the broken saints. She acknowledges that the authors were only human, and that they had good intentions, but they went awry. She frames the issue - purity culture - not as a whole church issue but rather as a subculture issue within the church that has distorted how we interpret the Bible. It is a refreshing take on the movement: one that argues for humility and unity within the Body while still showing the flaws of the subculture, and how to remove them. She is comfortable using words like "sexuality" in their proper context; she is comfortable having frank discussions about masturbation without needing to seek permission. She is right that our children need to be taught that their bodies were created to be good, and ARE good. Our children do not need to be taught shame about their bodies at a young age; they should be taught how to honor God, themselves, and others. She speaks of compassion those who have same sex attractions, a topic that the purity culture movement completely avoided. Or, if it did, treated as "get married and get cured." I happen to be in a situation in my own life where this "solution" has led to devastation and utter family rending. She reminds us that sex is Godly and good, and as such should be MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL; it is not a right for one party only. It is NOT good if one party is suffering intense physical pain. It is also not a right promised to us simply because we exist; we might have to lead celibate lives. We might have issues with sexual intimacy in our married lives. She restores dignity and respect to those who have suffered assault. Purity culture taught these victims that they were the reason for their own trauma; so often they were even blamed for ruining the lives of - in the majority of cases - "good men". For those who weren't directly influenced by purity culture, the wounds were still aggravated by the message like lemon juice. Rachel lovingly explains why, without having to go into titillating details, and sharing private details of those who should be believed simply because they are created in the image of God. Light is healing. Light is restoring. Light is beautiful. And shining light into the deep recesses of the purity subculture will only bring more unity and more of the true message of the Gospel into our current lives, which our new generations so desperately need, as they navigate this world of ever increasing sexual awareness, sexual identity, and the church's place in it.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Persis

    Rachel Welcher critiques what happens when purity is reduced to sexuality and driven by legalism, disconnected from the gospel. This is a must read for those burned by purity culture and parents who want to guide their kids. It's also for the entire church because much of the harm happens when this topic isn't discussed in light of the whole of scripture, grounded in the gospel, and within the context of Christian community. I hope to elaborate more in this review at some point. Upon a reread, I Rachel Welcher critiques what happens when purity is reduced to sexuality and driven by legalism, disconnected from the gospel. This is a must read for those burned by purity culture and parents who want to guide their kids. It's also for the entire church because much of the harm happens when this topic isn't discussed in light of the whole of scripture, grounded in the gospel, and within the context of Christian community. I hope to elaborate more in this review at some point. Upon a reread, I still highly recommend the book. It would be helpful for pre and postmarital counseling, for singles, those dealing with infertility, and the same-sex attracted. IOW, the entire church so that we would be embodied image bearers who find our purity based on Christ.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Shelbi Starr

    This book was incredible! It brought me healing I didn’t know I needed. Rachel does a beautiful job addressing the damage done by purity culture in the Church and how we can move forward in hope and healing. Highly recommend to parents (especially of teens), anyone leading ministry, anyone struggling with sexual purity and why it matters, and anyone who grew up during the era of evangelical purity culture.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Charlton II

    This book will become a voice in the wilderness of our polarizing world. When I first received my copy of Talking Back to Purity Culture in July, I thought this was going to be a book that was just another perspective on the debate of sexuality and the recovery of victims of purity culture. This book turned out to be one of the most balanced and well written books on purity culture. Rachel J Weber does an excellent job at reorienting readers to think about purity as being about Jesus and not abo This book will become a voice in the wilderness of our polarizing world. When I first received my copy of Talking Back to Purity Culture in July, I thought this was going to be a book that was just another perspective on the debate of sexuality and the recovery of victims of purity culture. This book turned out to be one of the most balanced and well written books on purity culture. Rachel J Weber does an excellent job at reorienting readers to think about purity as being about Jesus and not about abstaining from sex. She also proposes that purity culture has marginalized the sexually abused, the widow, the single, and the “same sex attracted.” Her writing is humorous, poetic, and convicting. She does an incredible job at weaving stories with numerical data. You will be crying, laughing, and pondering all in the same paragraph. I wish I could’ve read more about how purity culture had affected BIPOC, particularly BIPOC who were assimilated into predominately white evangelical spaces. Lastly, I would’ve appreciated more stories from LGBTQ+ Christians and maybe a section on sexuality and intersex. Overall, I recommend this book to every person who reads this review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mandy Keel

    This book was so so good and well-balanced. I grew up in purity culture, read all the books, signed the pledges, wore the purity ring, didn't kiss my husband til our wedding day, and even exchanged our purity rings as part of our wedding ceremony (that part makes me cringe a bit now). My identity was strongly tied up in my purity/virginity. I won't get into details, but sex was a struggle for us. This book was well balanced in addressing the problems within purity culture and the issues it can c This book was so so good and well-balanced. I grew up in purity culture, read all the books, signed the pledges, wore the purity ring, didn't kiss my husband til our wedding day, and even exchanged our purity rings as part of our wedding ceremony (that part makes me cringe a bit now). My identity was strongly tied up in my purity/virginity. I won't get into details, but sex was a struggle for us. This book was well balanced in addressing the problems within purity culture and the issues it can cause. So many times I just wanted to scream in agreement as I was reading this book. I won't say everything purity culture taught was bad; I am very thankful my husband and I saved sex for marriage. But I won't lie and say purity culture didn't do damage. I highly recommend this book to those raised in purity culture.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Haley Austin

    I underlined so much in this book. I really appreciated the way Welcher addressed a lot of frustrations I have with purity culture, but constantly pointed to Christ and a biblical understanding of sex.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Chase

    Talking Back to Purity Culture is not a book that claims to know everything, or that it is perfect. It is a book that asks us to look at the facts: what the purity culture was and is, how it impacted a variety of groups within the church, and how it is still impacting so many today. It asks us to look these facts, these people, in the eyes, and acknowledge what has been done to them. What has been done to us. It is not an easy read. Whether Rachel Joy Welcher is discussing the impact of the purity Talking Back to Purity Culture is not a book that claims to know everything, or that it is perfect. It is a book that asks us to look at the facts: what the purity culture was and is, how it impacted a variety of groups within the church, and how it is still impacting so many today. It asks us to look these facts, these people, in the eyes, and acknowledge what has been done to them. What has been done to us. It is not an easy read. Whether Rachel Joy Welcher is discussing the impact of the purity culture upon the sexually abused, the same-sex-attracted, the singles, or the divorced, there is something in nearly every section that will touch your heart (I know that I cried more than once). But Ms. Welcher doesn't leave us simply facing these hurtful truths, with no hope - no light - at the end of the tunnel. "We may feel shattered," she says, "but our worth remains intact." We face these facts and these hurts so that we can begin to heal from them. So that we can move forward. Do better. Step "out of the darkness and into His marvelous light." Leave the shame that was impressed upon so many of us behind. So, while this book doesn't "have all the answers", while there were small bits and fragments that I might not have fully agreed with, it does exactly what it is intended to do: it makes you think. It makes you ask questions. It makes you want to talk with others. It makes you crave community, and desire to seek healing. And it does all of this without ever losing sight of the importance of Biblical purity and the call to holiness. It is an important book - one that I will be using with my women's group to further open these topics up, and - God willing - provide some measure of clarity and community for these young women who have been so wounded and burdened for so long. So, if that is you - if you have been weighed down and seemingly crushed by the guilt and shame that the purity culture inflicted - pick up this book. Even if you don't find the full solution, it just might make you start asking the right questions. And it will gently and lovingly guide you along the way.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    This book was fantastic. Over the years, I have come to realize there are many problems with purity culture. However, having grown up at the height of the purity culture movement, I feel like I lack the language to discuss sexuality with my children in a biblical and helpful way. This book was a refreshing return to the truth of the Bible. It equipped me to talk with my children about bodies and sexuality in a way that points us to God and his beautiful plan for all of creation. I highly recomme This book was fantastic. Over the years, I have come to realize there are many problems with purity culture. However, having grown up at the height of the purity culture movement, I feel like I lack the language to discuss sexuality with my children in a biblical and helpful way. This book was a refreshing return to the truth of the Bible. It equipped me to talk with my children about bodies and sexuality in a way that points us to God and his beautiful plan for all of creation. I highly recommend this book for both adults and teenagers who want to rethink what they have been taught about sexuality.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    I'm 39, so I was the exact target demographic as the purity movement emerged and gained footing. I still struggle to this day with believing that God's love for me is dependent on me, what I do, how I think, etc... Some of it has to do with my personality and family of origin, but purity culture also played a part. I have a "promise ring" in my drawer that my parents gave me when I was a teenager, and I bought into all the rhetoric about chewed up gum, dirty water, marked up paper, and so on. I I'm 39, so I was the exact target demographic as the purity movement emerged and gained footing. I still struggle to this day with believing that God's love for me is dependent on me, what I do, how I think, etc... Some of it has to do with my personality and family of origin, but purity culture also played a part. I have a "promise ring" in my drawer that my parents gave me when I was a teenager, and I bought into all the rhetoric about chewed up gum, dirty water, marked up paper, and so on. I see so many people my age passing this rhetoric on to their children (I heard a mom last week say that they've always taught their children that clothing is the wrapping paper for your spouse to open someday and that they have to remind their 9 yr old daughter to be modest out of respect for her brothers?!). I have always used correct anatomical terms with my children because I'm a nurse and it just makes sense to me, but I've struggled with how to help them understand modesty without introducing shame, a la the mom I described above - I would never say that to my daughter because my sons know that their sister is not an object to lust after! I'm incredibly thankful for this book, as Rachel spends time discussing so many issues I have struggled to understand in recent years, as I have come out of the fog of what turns out was basically fundamentalism. A huge frustration to me is the evangelical idolization of marriage - I have never taught my children that marriage is definitely in their future or something they should expect. I also realize that I married incredibly young, partially motivated by the things I took away from purity culture, and I want to help my children understand that that's not something they need to feel pressured to do. I have a good marriage and a wonderful husband, but many of my friends who married young had many, many painful experiences that might have been avoided if we didn't have the "it's better to marry than to burn" mentality. I also appreciate the things Rachel shared to help cultivate healthy conversations and relationships with children. Overall, this book is worth reading even if you have never even heard of purity culture or experienced any of it, but for those of us who did and now see its flaws, get yourself a copy asap.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Grace T

    I would like to preface my thoughts with a few notes: first, I wouldn't say that growing up I was immersed in the full-fledged "purity culture" as Welcher described it, with the books and conferences and rings etc., although a number of the principles she described were familiar and are held as guidelines in my family and I have read one or two of the books she mentioned. Also, there are some issues I do not agree with her on, e.g. our standings on divorce and remarriage. But that aside, this wa I would like to preface my thoughts with a few notes: first, I wouldn't say that growing up I was immersed in the full-fledged "purity culture" as Welcher described it, with the books and conferences and rings etc., although a number of the principles she described were familiar and are held as guidelines in my family and I have read one or two of the books she mentioned. Also, there are some issues I do not agree with her on, e.g. our standings on divorce and remarriage. But that aside, this was a very well-written book that took a balanced stance on the matter--recognising that the desire and motive behind the rise of a "purity culture" are important ones, while showing where that movement as such fell short and has harmed people in its wake. In some parts, Welcher spoke to singleness struggles that I've grappled with and although her Scripturally grounded encouragements themselves were not new to me now, if I'd read them in high school or even early in college, they would have been. I don't know how much of this was around even five to seven years ago, but I am glad that it seems to be more and more available, and resources like this are definitely what I would want to share with my peers )or even with my own children someday if God should allow that). Welcher encourages that this book be read and discussed with a group, and I can see why. The overarching message was one of hope that does not shy away from truth even when it is hard. Constantly Welcher returns to God's actual design for purity, for sex, for sexuality, and there is so much more hope when the focus is on God and His person and His desire for us as His children to reflect Him in everything we do, His empowerment to do so, and His forgiveness when we fail and repent and turn to Him again. On His holy love. And we may set boundaries, and behave in certain ways, and so on--but those are means, not the end, and they should not be the only means. God Himself, His Word, a loving and yielded relationship with Him, relationships with His imperfect people who are in His image--these are larger. Living in obedience will not be easy in this or any other area, but it matters, because of Who we are living for.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Anvar

    What an important read. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher addresses ways that purity culture failed to offer a healthy view of sexuality by favoring hushed conversations and shameful silences over open, biblical dialogue. Welcher spends the first few chapters defining this very problem, noting that oftentimes, youth groups "worshiped the idol of chastity rather than the Lord Jesus Christ '' (9). Church and school leaders used purity rings, True Love Waits conferences, and Les What an important read. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher addresses ways that purity culture failed to offer a healthy view of sexuality by favoring hushed conversations and shameful silences over open, biblical dialogue. Welcher spends the first few chapters defining this very problem, noting that oftentimes, youth groups "worshiped the idol of chastity rather than the Lord Jesus Christ '' (9). Church and school leaders used purity rings, True Love Waits conferences, and Leslie Ludy books to foster a problematic narrative in the minds of young people (especially young women): our worth and purity is found in our virginity rather than in Jesus's work on the cross. She also corrects the false presumption that every single person will one day get married and have sex. Purity culture "...depicts the pursuit of purity as a season in life rather than a lifelong calling" (27) and does not leave room in the narrative for those who feel called to singleness or who are same-sex attracted. As a result, this isolates many people in the church as sex rather than living a life faithful to God is portrayed as the ultimate goal."If we tell Christians to hold on to sexual purity until they get married, we are failing both straight and same-sex attractted Christians" (80). Growing up, I remember feeling that I was born with "the sin of having a female body" (43). I was made to feel that my femininity would cause someone to sin. Not only does Welcher resonate with this sentiment ("purity rhetoric often depicts female beauty as a threat" (61)), but she uses Scripture to counteract it—arguing that "no one gets to blame someone else for their own sin" (45). She goes on to assert that "there is little room for fellowship within the church between men and women when women are more often talked about as potential stumbling blocks than as sisters in Christ" (60). How powerful! However, there is a tension there. While I am not responsible for anyone else's sin, there is a certain wisdom to not running down the street in my underwear. So where is the line? How do I honor and bring glory to God with my female body? This book has stoked some questions that have been quietly simmering in the back of my mind for the last decade. I feel inspired to delve deeper into these issues with my eyes fixed on Jesus. In conclusion, I agree that '"we should start by talking about the value of our siblinghood in Christ and our shared identity as image bearers of God" (153). This means taking instances of abuse seriously and sitting with victims of abuse through their pain--not blaming them or silencing them. May we press on and remember that "the pursuit of sexual purity is not about virginity or reward but about so tethering ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God's Word that when the sweet music of sin enters our ears, we are able to keep steering the ship toward God's glory--because God has become a thousand times more captivating" (184). Thank you thank you thank you dear Rachel for writing a book that convicts, encourages, and inspires me to change the narrative of Christian sexuality when I have children of my own ❤️

  26. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    I do actually recommend this book because it provides an apt and useful critique of purity culture and can help readers make sense of the shame they may have been bestowed growing up with these messages. However, I fundamentally disagree with the author that there should be any purity culture “going forward.” She seems to suggest that we should simply revise purity culture a bit to alleviate some shame, but this would not dismantle the rhetorical situations that have been cultivated within the c I do actually recommend this book because it provides an apt and useful critique of purity culture and can help readers make sense of the shame they may have been bestowed growing up with these messages. However, I fundamentally disagree with the author that there should be any purity culture “going forward.” She seems to suggest that we should simply revise purity culture a bit to alleviate some shame, but this would not dismantle the rhetorical situations that have been cultivated within the church. This book is a good first step. If you choose to read this book, I urge you to consider: Welcher suggests that the solution to shame from purity culture, as well as to our other problematic messages regarding sexuality, will be solved by “conversation in community” (part of the title of Chapter 1). Do you agree that this will solve the harms and shaming messages form purity culture? If so, why, and how do we go about implementing this? If not, why not, and what other solutions might we implement instead? Furthermore, because purity culture is widespread, what methods beyond individual conversation may be required?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emilee (emileereadsbooks)

    Thank you to NetGalley and InterVarsity Press for a free digital copy for my review. I have already recommended this book to so many friends as I was reading it because this book does not bash evangelical purity culture, but rather it critiques the places where it missed the mark and/or overlooked people and situations. I love how tender and kind Welcher is while standing firm in her beliefs and her interpretation of scripture. She makes the point several times that as a human she is flawed and sh Thank you to NetGalley and InterVarsity Press for a free digital copy for my review. I have already recommended this book to so many friends as I was reading it because this book does not bash evangelical purity culture, but rather it critiques the places where it missed the mark and/or overlooked people and situations. I love how tender and kind Welcher is while standing firm in her beliefs and her interpretation of scripture. She makes the point several times that as a human she is flawed and she may not have handled every topic perfectly, but in my opinion she gives such room for grace that she really served her readers well with her words. This is not an easy read. It covers hard topics and makes you examine why you believe the things you do related to sexuality. But I highlighted more of this book then I have perhaps ever highlighted of a book. There are so many good nuggets of truth within these pages. Too many to even choose one to feature here. Every chapter ends with discussion questions and an activity suggestion that Welcher encourages you to complete in a group setting. This would be a great book for a small group to walk through together.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Enger

    "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is a deeply-researched and thoughtfully-written book that re-examines the popular "purity" movement that overtook Evangelicalism throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Welcher grew up in this movement and began to re-examine it when the perfect Christian family life she expected didn't happen quite like purity culture promised it would. While acknowledging the good intentions behind purity culture, Welcher calls Christians to abandon some of the lies that became e "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is a deeply-researched and thoughtfully-written book that re-examines the popular "purity" movement that overtook Evangelicalism throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Welcher grew up in this movement and began to re-examine it when the perfect Christian family life she expected didn't happen quite like purity culture promised it would. While acknowledging the good intentions behind purity culture, Welcher calls Christians to abandon some of the lies that became embedded in its teaching, including women being responsible for men's lust, the promise of the ideal family as a response to one's sexual abstinence, the popularizing of rape-culture language, and more. "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is not a call to abandon the sexual ethics of the Bible, but rather to return to them - because it is the Bible that is infallible, not Christian purity books or movements. I received an Advance Readers Copy of this book by the publisher.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Mayes Allen

    I've been eager to read this book since I first heard Rachel as a guest on the Where Do We Go From Here podcast, and it did not disappoint. Rachel bathes this incredibly complex and controversial topic in grace, acknowledging that the discussion is nuanced while anchoring it in truth. Too many evaluations of purity culture belie the evaluators' bitterness or departure from orthodoxy; this one maintains a gracious tone even while pointing out the many false and misleading teachings within purity I've been eager to read this book since I first heard Rachel as a guest on the Where Do We Go From Here podcast, and it did not disappoint. Rachel bathes this incredibly complex and controversial topic in grace, acknowledging that the discussion is nuanced while anchoring it in truth. Too many evaluations of purity culture belie the evaluators' bitterness or departure from orthodoxy; this one maintains a gracious tone even while pointing out the many false and misleading teachings within purity culture. She casts a vision of biblical sexuality which is both faithful to Scripture and full of love for fallen human beings, just as God intended.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kailin Richardson

    I appreciate this book most for how well-researched it is; and also for clearly telling me all the things I didn't register I was taught. Didn't need the memories of Elisabeth Elliot and Dannah Gresh books dug up, but at least it was productive. There are areas where even more nuance was probably necessary, but she covers what she set out to do for the audience she wanted to address. I read it in a couple sittings. She does call the reader "beloved" a lottt of times. That was my least favorite par I appreciate this book most for how well-researched it is; and also for clearly telling me all the things I didn't register I was taught. Didn't need the memories of Elisabeth Elliot and Dannah Gresh books dug up, but at least it was productive. There are areas where even more nuance was probably necessary, but she covers what she set out to do for the audience she wanted to address. I read it in a couple sittings. She does call the reader "beloved" a lottt of times. That was my least favorite part.

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