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The evangelical purity movement of the 90s and early 2000s is a hot topic among Christians today. More and more women (and men) raised in purity culture are sharing their stories of trauma, dysfunction, and abuse. Born in 1992, I grew up during the shimmery golden age of the evangelical purity movement. Purity culture is a strange beast. Initially intent on constructing a helpful sexual ethic for Christians, it instead produced oddities like purity balls, where girls accepted “True Love Waits” rings and promised their fathers they’d remain virgins until marriage. Purity culture also set impossible standards for evangelical girls, planting the seed of self-hate when we didn’t measure up. Many of us came to regard our bodies with suspicion and even to outright rejec... Read more
Many Christians believe that strict gender roles—men lead and women submit—are God-ordained. They attempt to find support for this claim in Genesis, pointing to “creation order.” Some argue that because God made Adam before Eve, Adam occupies a special position and wields authority over her. Historically, many have suggested that Eve’s creation from a “rib” makes her Adam’s inferior. You may hear the term “helpmate” to describe Eve’s supposedly submissive orientation toward Adam. Some in Christian history have extrapolated from “creation order” that women do not bear the image of God. It’s rare today to claim this belief outright, but it persists in the idea that Eve was created for Adam—and therefor... Read more
Editor's note: This is one of our Top 20 CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy!  Not too long ago, a Christian men’s group was established in my community. Its stated goal was to help men become “better men.” They planned to achieve this goal by providing men with opportunities for outdoor adventures and thought-provoking conversation. As the group was launching, I began to think more about masculinity and specifically what makes “a better man.” I wondered: what about all of the men who don’t get hyped at the prospect of camping, axe-throwing, or playing paintball? It seemed to me that if outdoor adventure is fundamental to becoming “better men,” those of us who enjoy cooking and volunteering in the church nursery miss the mark. Then,... Read more
Editor's note: This is one of our Top 20 CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy!  I was raised in Christian purity culture. I proudly wore my “True Love Waits” ring. I read Joshua Harris’s Christian cult classic, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. And today, I’m a psychologist and a vocal critic of purity culture. The evangelical purity movement—born in the 1990s and still alive today—uses false promises, misinformation, and shame to persuade people to abstain from sex. When I was nearing thirty and in a committed relationship (with my now-husband), I questioned why I should wait. Purity culture had failed me: God hadn’t brought me a prince at an early age as I had been promised. I was beginning to realize that purity culture encourages Christians to... Read more
Two weeks ago, I learned that my beloved young church—planted in 2016—is dissolving. After a spirited three year-run, our pastor ran out of emotional gas and our church ran out of money and denominational support. Looking back, the signs were clear: consistent calls for more volunteers; repeated appeals for increased giving; and lots of prolonged meetings about church vision. I received an email the Monday after the decision was made, summing up our dilemma: Our pastor couldn’t work three jobs anymore. We had money to fund just six months of church operations, and no sign that our income would magically increase. Caught in a tough corner, the leadership team made the impossible decision to close our doors. It’s a jolting end to a very sweet season for me. I feel l... Read more
When women come forward about abuse—sexual, religious, emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc.—reactions often vary widely. Some people cheer on the survivors. Some people question why the victims didn’t come forward earlier. Some people worry that people have been falsely accused. Two years ago, I posted my own story of sexual and religious abuse on YouTube. Knowing that people often respond defensively, I worried: In telling my story, who would be impacted and how? What if telling my story caused harm instead of good? I wasn’t concerned about my abusers. But I agonized over how my truth could affect the lives of those close to my abusers, people I still care about. People who had something to lose. What if they were hurt? I thought about the wives of my ab... Read more
On Saturday, May 4, prominent Christian feminist and celebrated author Rachel Held Evans (37) died unexpectedly of complications from the flu. Rachel was a courageous voice for those of us who have felt unheard and unseen in the church. Like Halley’s comet, she burst across an empty, dark sky to cast her light on the anguish felt by women and those at the margins of the faith. Boldly, she named many demons: loneliness and isolation, misogyny, racism, despair, bigotry, profiteering, hypocrisy, obstruction of women’s gifts, misplaced priorities, and baseless hierarchies. Because of these failures, souls were distanced from authentic union with God and one another. Grieved, Rachel worked for change. Her first and perhaps strongest prophetic mission was to challenge a patriarchal... Read more
One of the main speakers at a conference I recently attended was a preacher from a complementarian church plant. In his sermon, he delivered a powerful call to social justice. Still, I couldn’t stomach the uneasy feeling that the message was tainted by his theology of gender. Questions ran through my head as he spoke: How did he view the women whom his social justice programs intended to help? Were there young women in his congregation longing but unable to answer God’s call to leadership? Why had he been invited to speak on social justice when he sustains and promotes an oppressive, unjust theology? Furious, I challenged the preacher after the service. For fifteen minutes, the conversation went round in circles. We achieved little with our anger, only fueling each other... Read more
I grew up in a small, middle-class, mostly mono-cultural community of white Mennonites. In school, I almost always found it easy to achieve success. I generally had access to good schools and attentive teachers, and my parents spent quite a bit of time educating me informally at home. I set high standards for myself and had high expectations of others. I truly believed that others could do better if they applied themselves. When they failed, I blamed them for not trying harder or using the resources available to them. I didn’t understand how being a white person from a middle-class community and supportive family contributed to my educational success or how structural inequality and unjust social conditions made it harder for certain people and groups to succeed. I didn’t real... Read more
Editor's note: This is one of our top 20 CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy!  “Reclaiming my time.” The world stood in disbelief last year when seasoned California congresswoman Maxine Waters (affectionately known as “Aunty Maxine”) refused to allow a man to co-opt her allotted time during a routine House Financial Services Committee hearing. Mouths hung open and there was a sense of corporate finger snapping as Aunty Maxine ignored the man’s delaying tactics and pressed him for answers. On that day, she immortalized the phrase "reclaiming my time." It was bold and unprecedented, a necessary moment. The treasury secretary was deliberately trying to avoid a congresswoman’s questions by allowing the time to run out. On the surface, hi... Read more

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