Bolz-Weber is attacking the Bible’s teachings on human sexuality. And the response from the White Horse Inn? An attack on the efforts of some in the church to promote those biblical teachings to women in the church. Not having a daughter, I don’t have a lot of knowledge about those who promote purity rings. I do know they are all sinners, just like the rest of us.
Let me from the start confess to not being very original.
I borrowed the concept of the title of this piece from a recent column from Douglas Wilson–though I use it differently. We’ll return to it in a little bit after I work through a couple of things.
The first is the White Horse Inn, out of California, which self-identifies as being “for a modern reformation.” It recently ran an article by two women–one of them its digital editor, The Sacred Vagina? Nadia Bolz-Weber and Sexual Purity. Bolz-Weber is the Lutheran minister who recently sculpted a bunch of molten purity rings into a golden vagina and presented it to Gloria Steinem.
Let me quote from Bolz-Weber’s speech then quote some of the White Horse Inn’s article:
Bolz-Weber: So much of religion and spirituality feels like it’s all a program to make ourselves into something less janky and like more pure–like it’s all designed to sand down our edges, to make us more smooth. And really be it evangelical purity culture–was anybody raised in evangelic– does anybody have a purity ring? … I basically want to instigate an art project in which girls–women actually–mail me their purity rings to be melted into a sculpture of a vagina.
White Horse Inn: What should grab our attention isn’t the display of female anatomy, but the way she is addressing a very real brokenness in the Christian community.
Bolz-Weber: Does anybody have a purity ring? Anybody made to–raise them high. You know what this is? It’s where conservative churches have girls pledge to not have sex till they’re married. And then, they put a little ring on, a purity ring. And I–yesterday, I finished the revisions on my latest book, which is basically a book long take-down piece of the church’s teachings around sex.
White Horse Inn: While I disagree with Bolz-Weber on a number of theological and biblical points (her ideas about sin being prominent among them), I do share her concern about purity culture.
Bolz-Weber: The church wants to control and decide what is powerful, spiritual, and transcendent. Sex can be all those things, too. That’s threatening if the church wants to be the exclusive answer to our existential loneliness.
White Horse Inn: The leaders of the purity movement rightly take these admonitions seriously, and their motives are good. The problem is not with sexual purity per se, but in the manner and emphasis of the movement’s message, the brunt of which tends to fall disproportionately on young women—“Don’t go out alone at night,” “Dress modestly,” “Don’t be a stumbling block,” etc.