The Neighborhood Liturgies


Purity Culture Sex Club

“There’s a pledge card in your seats that I want you to fill out and give to your Youth Pastor. It’s between you and God but we want you to pledge to date Jesus for one year.” - Ron Luce

We piled our youth group into a small fleet of minivans and drove across the state. I wasn’t a Christian, but my family just started going to a small church. My parents thought it was fitting to let us go across the state with a few acquaintances and our Youth Pastor to our first youth event. After a couple hour car ride, we were ready to “Acquire the Fire” at the Breslin Center in Lansing Michigan. It was culture shock to say the least.

We walked through the doors to a world of human videos, gender segregated seating and a worship set facilitated by Rock ‘n’ Roll Worship Circus. I was a laid-back teen so after getting some footing things smoothed out. We went back to the hotel and were back at it the next day. This is when the tone shifted from a celebration to an emotional manipulation commercial. We went from rock music and shouting to calculated discussions on being militant for Christ, pre-marital sex, masturbation and dating Jesus.

Christian evangelistic militarism is a problem but, let’s focus on the pre-marital sex and masturbation. As a teen without any religious conviction I had already decided personally I didn’t want to have sex until I was married. It was a personal decision I held to that was not influenced by faith. Some don’t make that same decision and I respect that. You won’t find judgement from me and my advice is to not let others try and shame you either. Masturbation and dating Jesus was an awkward combo that really messed with my head.

I was inquiring into Christ at the time. There was no commitment there yet. Hearing that Ron Luce wanted me to date Jesus and that others in my new circle of friends were signing the pledge form made me very uncomfortable. I felt like I was being pressured to sign something as if dating Jesus would prevent both masturbation and pre-marital sex. Their thought process was that a committed relationship would constitute you cheating on Christ physically if you did those things. It was a weak argument with high pressure sales.

After that experience this deep shame that I hadn’t felt before sunk into my heart. A deep shame that what I had discovered at age 12 turned out to be taboo, a sin. A deep shame that I had never until that moment felt conflicted about having to release awkward sexual tension. A deep shame that I realized the sexuality and bodies of others. A deep shame that what I assumed were perfectly natural things could never be discussed in the open again.

My youth group became forced friends in a short period of time whereas my school friends were built over a decade. My school friends and I talked openly about our sexuality. Immaturely yes but, openly for sure. My church friends would turn you in if you even talked the weather with someone for too long. This internal conflict pushed an adolescent sexuality into the shadows. It became more confusing and over time it led to struggles with pornography.

After a couple of years I met other guys who were trying to beat pornography and the activities that usually take place with it. I’m just going to say it to cut the tension: people watch porn to help masturbate. I’m pretty sure we’re all adults reading this so let’s acknowledge that this is what people do. It was a group of guys who all felt called to be ministers so it was imperative we beat porn and not our meat. Our prospective careers depended on it.

We all had the XXX Church free software downloaded on our computers and had code words for accountability check-ins. We were talking so openly again which was refreshing but it was so bleak since it was done so with circumventing language. It was all self-loathing and fear. Fear we would be disqualified and fear that we’d be a slave to the flesh. It was all suppressed sexual emotion so the conversation often turned to the “when I’m married” talk.

“When I’m married porn will go away”

“When I’m married my smoking hot wife is going to get a sexual maniac”

“When I’m married I’ll just ask my wife to do it and I’ll never be tempted again”

These suppressed emotions and tensions were projected onto these hypothetical non-consenting women. While we were teens, we were objectifying adult women by watching them engage in pornography without their consent. As young adults “seriously” dating we were objectifying our partners as they started to become the models of the hypothetical spouses. Having to survive in a sex negative culture made us less protective of others well-being than the intended result of the original repression. Our circle became a pseudo-sex club for guys who never had sex. It was pitiful to say the least.

I became comfortable with myself after breaking out of that sex negative culture and the porn did go away. It was a personal choice. Someone finally explained to me that masturbation and sexual tension are normal. I was lucky enough to have a former pastor take me aside and talk about emotional consent being just as important as physical consent. He didn’t know what feelings I had on the topic or what was going on behind the scenes, but his openness was liberating. I want to share this liberation with you.

Ultimately if you’re an adult then what happens in your bedroom is nobody else’s business. I believe that the flaw of purity culture is found in the desire to suppress yourself by hating yourself. I was often fed a bad take on Mark 9:43-48. Feeling like I had to hate my physical hands, feet and eyes. That to cut off these limbs and prevent my eyes from seeing would help me not give in to the sexual lust of the world. Over time and after a realignment of perspective I realize this passage doesn’t even have anything to do with sex. My hand causes me to sin when I consciously use it to not lift others, my feet sin when I walk away from those in times of trouble and my eyes sin when I gaze upon those in need without compassion and choose passivity over charity. These are the sins that render these parts useless, dead and ready for the worms.

If you feel the need then go ahead and masturbate. Don’t objectify people with it. You’re not dirty for it. It’s normal and natural. Some people say pornography consumed as an adult is consented for your use by the performers. I prefer my one partner and don’t need to add those people into it. You might want to. I only urge you to research the effects of pornography on the brain and if you’re a man then the links to erectile dysfunction and impotency that come with excessive masturbation. You don’t have to date Jesus. Jesus is the lover of your soul but not the person you’re going to bed with. Don’t remove your hands, feet or eyes because of these things instead embrace them and do good in the world. Even after all this you still choose to refrain then know it’s your choice alone. If others try to use religion to force you into a certain behavior or else face shame and punishment, then walk away. It’s not a healthy place. Your sexuality is between you and God. Work it out there and be encouraged that God is generous and kind.

Charles PorterComment