Nadia Bolz-Weber is a popular progressive Lutheran minister and bestselling author. She is known for her vulnerability, irreverent attitude, tattooed appearance, and LGBTQ affirming stance. Bolz-Weber is a former pastor of the Denver congregation, House for All Sinners and Saints. At the 2018 Makers Conference, Bolz-Weber shared her dream of creating an art project in which women would mail in their purity rings to be melted into a sculpture of a vagina. That dream has now become a reality as she shares on her website how people can “cast their purity rings into the fire”.
“Beginning November 12th, until January 14th, you are invited to send in your purity rings to be melted down and recast into a vagina. This sculpture will be unveiled at the 2019 Makers Conference. You will receive a certificate of impurity, signed by me, as well as a SHAMELESS, impurity ring.”
The “certificate of impurity” states:
“___ vows to live a shameless, open and free life, with love for themselves and their body, knowing that they are already holy.”
— Nadia Bolz-Weber (@Sarcasticluther) November 26, 2018
Nadia told the Huffington Post that purity rings along with the Christian “purity culture” of the late ’90s and early 2000s shamed girls into disconnecting from their bodies. Her vagina statue project is part of a promotion for her book Shameless, which she says is about a “reclamation” of women’s bodies. The Huffington Post further describes the purity culture of the ’90s:
“Thousands of teens signed the “True Love Waits” pledge of abstinence, which was supported by the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest evangelical denomination. I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a wildly popular 1997 book, encouraged Christian teens to abstain even from dating. (Its author, Josh Harris, recently stopped publication of the book and apologized for the harm it caused.)”
The Huffington Post is correct in reporting that Joshua Harris apologized for any harm I Kissed Dating Goodbye caused but they fail to mention the complex dialogue Harris has around the topic of sex, dating, and marriage. Harris revisits the topic of his book in a new film called I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye. While Harris admits the book he wrote as an inexperienced 21-year-old was well-intentioned but flawed, he hasn’t renounced his views on waiting for marriage to have sex or being wise in dating relationships.
Nadia Bolz-Weber will find an audience of people frustrated and even hurt by proponents of the purity movement. That alone doesn’t mean the central messages of the movement were wrong. As a Christian who was a teen in the ’90s, I myself am a product of that movement. I didn’t have pastors or my parents forcing me to follow a set of rules or trying to “control my body”. I saw the dysfunction in relationships among my friends and society in general which left me wanting something different. I was intrigued by the concept of courting in I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the scriptures found in the Holy Bible that urged me to wait until marriage to have sex. I followed that advice and I’m grateful I did. Choosing to wait gave me the necessary time to get to know who I was and set standards for the type of marriage partner I wanted. I reflect back often on my youth with deep gratitude for the resources and mentors that taught me I was valuable, worthy of respect and strong enough to establish healthy boundaries in relationships.
I recognize my positive story doesn’t invalidate the painful stories from people who’ve suffered at the hands of legalistic teachers. The I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye documentary addresses the way in which Harris’s teachings and other leaders in the abstinence movement added “extra-biblical” rules to pursuing purity. The idea that there’s a “money-back guarantee” promising a perfect marriage if you do everything right is totally false. Furthermore, messages that label girls who’ve had sex before marriage as trampled flowers or used containers aren’t helpful or kind.
Yet in spite of the failings of the messengers in these movements, the message of abstinence itself is a needed one. Choosing abstinence has benefits such as: avoiding STD/STI’s, 100% effectiveness in preventing unplanned pregnancy, allows time for reflection and self-love and gives individuals space to mature emotionally and mentally among other benefits. Statistics show that choosing to marry and waiting to have kids after marriage are both major factors in reducing poverty. As a black woman, I’ve especially been grateful for black celebrity couples such as Devon Franklin and Meagan Good who publicly discuss their commitment to wait on social media and in their book, The Wait.
Ultimately as Christians, we look to God for guidance. We don’t wait till marriage to have sex or use wisdom in dating just because Joshua Harris says so. We shouldn’t throw caution to the wind and be “free” because we think its cool Bolz-Weber is giving out certificates of impurity. As believers, we pursue purity and holiness because Christ says so in His word found in 1 Peter 1:16 “Be ye holy, as I am holy”. Popular books and teachers will come and go but the word of God endures forever.