May 8, 2013

Potential pitfalls of teachings of emotional purity, chastity, courtship

Posted in Good reads tagged , , , , , , , at 12:31 am by sanguinemare

I’m not sure what kind of strange movement is going on in “modern Christianity,” but yesterday and today I stumbled upon different sources discussing how the teachings of “emotional purity” and other things have messed up the current generation in how they think of relationships, themselves, and their relationship with God.

One was the whole thing with Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapping, and how she says her Mormon teachings on chastity and purity were what caused her not to run from her captors.  I can’t find the original article I read it from, but here’s another one that addresses the main points.

Today I stumbled upon another article about emotional purity and courtship, and how that teaching has affected someone’s lives, even now after a marriage of 7 years.  I don’t know where they are teaching this stuff, but if this is the psychological fallout, that’s terrible.  Every time I hear of girls (or guys!) feeling worthless because of something like this, and/or allowing terrible things to continue happening to them because of it, I just get really upset.  “Don’t you know your own worth?!” I want to yell.  What makes it worse is that the two situations here are from girls who have been brought up Christian, so should theoretically know what they are worth, and what is important in God’s eyes, and yet that so clearly is not the case.

Clicking around some links from the article, I gather what the 2nd article’s author is talking about is from a fundamentalist Christian teaching based on Bill Gothard and the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) he founded, and more specifically the homeschooling branch called the Advanced Training Institute (ATI).  Here’s the FAQ page about that, and the mission page of the website trying to help people through it.  Some of the doctrine I am getting out of reading some of these the articles/sites is pretty scary.  [edit: ok, now that I’ve read a lot of stories on the site, let me say it’s way more than scary.  GET OUT. NOW. FALSE DOCTRINE AND HUGE POTENTIAL FOR ABUSE]

Given that I am neither Mormon nor Fundamentalist, I don’t want to judge either of these two groups, but I seriously want to say, to all Christians, that you should look to the Bible as your sole source of Truth and what God truly desires of us.  Not any person or leader.  Even in church, think critically and weigh the pastor/priest/leader’s words against what you know of the Word.  Does it match?  Does it make sense in the context it was written?  If not, be careful and do some studying and searching.  Talk with other Christians, maybe even those not in your church, to see whether what you have been taught all this time may not be the real (or full) truth.  Christianity is about a personal relationship with God, not your relationship by proxy through someone else.  So make it a priority to discover who He truly is and what He desires from you.

What I did really like about the article the author posted was her section on faith vs. formula: “I don’t think God likes formulas, because formulas run contrary to faith. Formula says, “I will follow a God that I’ve put neatly in a box, and He will give me the desired results.” Faith says, “I will follow You even when I can’t see where I’m going, even when the world is collapsing around me.” Formula says, “I will not risk. I will be in control of my future.” Faith says “I will risk everything. I will trust Him whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway.” Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). But we are afraid. So we control instead of trust. We don’t take a step unless we can see where we’re going. We build neat little formulas and say “THIS will keep me safe!” Then we blame God when our puny formulas fail.”

This is so true, in so many aspects of our lives as Christians.  We plan and try to do all the “right” things, then cry and complain when they don’t go as we want.  And we expect God to act a certain way, or help us do things a certain way, so when He says “go there” or “do that”, we don’t because we aren’t looking for that and miss it when he answers/directs us.  And then we do things the way it ought to be done, and get angry when it goes wrong because he “never” answers our prayers.  Instead, we should focus on Him and keep our eyes and ears open for what He might have to say, or what he might want us to do.

Here is the follow-up for her article, which I think also has some good points.

If you ever find yourself in any of those situations, or are currently in one of those situations, I pray and hope that you will be able to walk out into the light and freedom and truth that God wants you to experience.  I hope you will not feel worthless because of something that is out of your control, or feel guilty or ashamed and that God or people could never love you because of it.  Christ died for all of us, no matter what sins we have done or gone through, because we ARE worthy in His eyes.  Worthy enough to suffer and die for.

On that note, I found a nice article on that site about forgiveness – what is is, and is not – which I thought might be appropriate to share here for those who need it.

God bless.