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It was Never about Purity: The Republican Party, Evangelical Church, and Brett Kavanaugh

That’s not relevant

Evangelical leader Franklin Graham spoke these words in response to a question about Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged attempted rape of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when they were both high school students in 1982.

Not relevant? Judge Kavanaugh is nominated for a LIFETIME Supreme Court appointment, a position with no accountability once he is confirmed. If he is sworn in to the highest court in the land, his decisions will shape our country for decades. Conservative Republicans desperately want him confirmed because they see him as the key to overturning Roe vs Wade– a move that would legislate and control generations of women’s bodies.

So it’s not relevant that he violated Dr. Ford’s body in 1982, but vitally relevant that he be given the rest of his life to influence laws that would tell women what they can and can’t do with their bodies beginning in 2018? Got it.

Purity Culture and Power

It’s no secret many Evangelical leaders sold their souls to the Republican party for power. Their hypocrisy continues to astound me, and I struggle with anger and disillusionment with the church, especially with leaders like Franklin Graham who profoundly influenced my Christian upbringing.

I came of age in the height of the Purity Movement, the bulk of my abstinence-only education happening in the late 1990s and early 2000s. I signed a purity pledge and slipped a ring on my finger when I was 15 years old, promising in earnest to remain “pure” until my wedding day. On that day, I felt so confident, so sure, that I was doing the right thing, the holy thing, and that God would bless my faithfulness and commitment to purity. My favor with God and my future marriage were on the line, along with every aspect of my future. That purity ring, and all it symbolized, completely controlled my mind and my body.

For years, I received the consistent message that pre-marital sex would leave a permanent stain on my future marriage, and it was my responsibility to keep boys from “stumbling”. Along with my own, their virginity was my responsibility too. I dressed modestly, avoided being alone with boys, and consciously repressed my natural sexual development in pursuit of “purity” and “waiting for God’s best”.

These purity messages came from all levels of authority in my life: my parents, local church leaders, and big-deal spiritual leaders like James Dobson and Franklin Graham. At the time, their message seemed consistent: sexual morality mattered. It was relevant. It mattered in my home, my church, and on the national political stage. Bill Clinton’s infidelity was proof that he was unfit for public office, and identification with Democratic party could not coexist with my Christian faith.

Now, two decades later, those same spiritual leaders whose moral authority left me full of shame and confusion about my body and sexuality, are consistently defending and endorsing men with past sexual immorality that would never be tolerated from Democrats.

It was about Control

It was never about purity. It was never about what was best for me and my spiritual development. It was never about my future marriage. It was about control of my body and the pursuit of political power.

I’ve never been raped or sexually assaulted. And I won’t claim or pretend that my scars from years of Purity Culture’s brainwashing are worse or even close to as painful as those who have been raped or assaulted. But my scars are real, and today, they have a profound impact on my faith, my marriage and my identity.

So, is a decades-old sexual assault committed by a man endorsed by the same leaders who controlled my sexuality for decades…relevant?

It’s relevant.

6 Comments

  1. George Vandenberghe on November 28, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    Read your essay in Huffpost about church gaslighting.
    I am Roman Catholic. My Church has additional issues. However Church problems do not separate us from Jesus. Your fundamental bond to God and Faith is what should (and I infer does) sustain you.

    THe Church is an institution. It is managed by fallible humans. It may stray. It may be lost to Satan.

    Your bond with God and Jesus is incomparably more important. Sustain that and pray, without anxiety for what to do next. You have recognized and hopefully can wall off the gaslighting done by your Church.

  2. Carole Mellin on December 1, 2018 at 12:49 am

    Like the commenter above, I was also raised as a Catholic. But I was not raised in an “authoritarian” home. Instead, I was raised to question everything. Question why, when, how, and who benefits? So, rather than the bible, I’ve studied the HISTORY of the bible. Rather than religion, I studied morality and science. As an example, and not to denigrate your faith, not one person during the time Jesus was alive, ever wrote a word about him. All those “Gospels” are fiction, written decades after his death. Today’s evangelicals are simply afraid of losing their power as information such as this is readily available through the internet. Knowledge is costing them money and power.

  3. CD on December 1, 2018 at 1:49 am

    Hi Elizabeth-
    I read your essay in the Huffington Post and came straight here. I live in Pearland. There’s more than one of us in Houston, how about that!!

    Several of us at our church are interested in teaching a class that works against the damaging messages of purity culture. We are having trouble finding resources, however. We’ve read Sex, God, and the Evangelical Church, but that seems more for the context of therapy. Have you found any curricula/books/resources that have been helpful in this area?

    Glad to have found you! You’re not alone.

  4. Christine on December 1, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    You pose some interesting points. I agree, it is relavant, or would be unless the entire accusation was fabricated. Hopefully those involved are held accountable in a court of law for their actions.

  5. Greg Isaacs on December 4, 2018 at 4:41 am

    as a Christian father raising multiple girls……I hope that they do NOT read these comments like these: “It was never about purity. It was never about what was best for me and my spiritual development. It was never about my future marriage. It was about control of my body and the pursuit of political power.” I have been a part of the church all of my life….I am a Lead Pastor of a church that is quite OPPOSITE of what you have been portraying as the ‘evangelical church’ in your articles & writing….I invite you to come attend & be our guest any time…we are located in Florence, KY. the Open Door Community Church. I pray for the purity of my daughters…..it’s not about ‘control or political power’…..it is about their best, I care deeply for their spiritual development. My wife & I teach our girls the Word of God in life applicable ways. We don’t teach them rules, but relationship with Jesus. I’m sorry that you had a bad experience with the “purity’ movement…BUT PLEASE stop painting every evangelical & evangelical church with the same broad brush because to do so is false characterization & base-assumptions. We personally will continue teach & encourage purity in our household. That is a very NOBLE effort & accomplishment, and there is such sweet grace & mercy to & for those who might compromise in many different situations. Thank-you

  6. Itela on December 4, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful, vulnerable writing. My background is very similar to yours, and after some similar “wandering” I needed to follow Jesus, I have found a wonderful home in the mainline denominations (a local United Church of Christ congregation in our new location) that I heard condemned throughout my conservative upbringing. I am finding the Holy Spirit and the legacy of Jesus alive, well, and active there. I find tremendous spiritual help in being connected to an institutional iteration of the Beloved Community / Body of Christ.

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