What do I think of Rebecca Lemke’s book published by Anatole Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Let’s set aside some things we can agree on as Christians right at the start.
Purity is a good thing. We should all strive to be pure. Sex is a sacred thing. It should be saved for marriage. It is a beautiful gift of God. We should all wants to be pure and to save sex for marriage as God designed it.
Okay. That’s good. So what’s the problem?
Because Jesus would have agreed with the Pharisees that keeping the Law is a good thing, but He would not agree with how they saw the Law. He would not have agreed to added on rules. The Law was not meant to be a burden to the people.
Sometimes purity can become that.
Note that this is not saying purity is a burden in the sense of “I have to wait until marriage to have sex?!” This is instead saying that we are going to put a bunch of other rules around ourselves to make sure we are staying pure. To an extent, this is fine. It would be foolish to throw caution to the wind and say “I’m going to do whatever I want around the opposite sex because I am committed to purity.” We should be aware of temptation and our weakness to it. As a married man, I recently told a female neighbor that I could not take her to the gym because I would not drive alone with a woman who was not my wife or a close family member.
Lemke grew up in the Purity Culture. I can’t say that I did. Part of that could be that I grew up a man and was not aware of the way that women had to live their lives. Too many women are told that men are visual and they must not be stumbling blocks to men. This much is of course true. There is nothing wrong with dressing modestly. The problem is when it becomes such a rule as if “This skirt must go this high.” Sometimes a bra strap might be seen coming out on a girl’s top or she could show some cleavage. We could think of the way the Muslim culture treats women. We really don’t want to be seen that way.
There’s also the idea of how you need to avoid physical affection of any kind and heck, even having a crush can be a problem because you’re giving your heart to someone else. As a man nearly married for seven years, I had a number of crushes before I met my Allie and now my heart is for her and her alone. She’s not getting less of me because there was supposedly something left behind with another just because of a crush.
If you remember the book I Kissed Dating Good-Bye, this book is largely a response to that. I never did read it, but I saw a number of people who either loved it or hated it. Interestingly, recently the author has realized he spoke without knowledge and is even breaking from ministry to go to seminary, something he didn’t think too highly of.
In all of this, the number one goal is that we must avoid sex before marriage. Now, of course, we should, but we don’t want to be extreme. It’s not the case that just because a girl and a boy are talking in the parking lot together, that they’re going to immediately jump into his car and drive to his place for an afternoon of hot passionate sex. On a TV show, you can see a man and a woman meeting together and it’s automatically “Yep. We know what’s going to happen.” The man and the woman are both automatically fully in the mood every time. Often the message is that men are just great big walking hormones and the woman must learn how to protect herself around them and how to not arouse the beast because he can’t control himself.
I spoke about physical affection earlier. This is something that’s often seen as the first kiss at the altar movement. One can see why it is a touching thought, but I do not think it works well. This is a whole time of dating and engagement where you’re told physical affection is a big no-no, and then all of a sudden you’re supposed to pass from a kiss to full sex.
There are a number of women who have a hard time with this switch. (Many times, the guys don’t. We learn very quickly that this is something we can enjoy.) A woman has had her sexuality treated as something dirty and then when she is with her husband for the first time on her wedding night, it magically becomes pure and pristine and all her thinking switches instantly.
Sorry. Doesn’t happen, and there are many marriages that have struggled because of this and some have even apostasized.
Part of it is also we give a very negative message about sex with lip service paid to the joy of sex. I remember being in Bible College and hearing a sermon at my church during a Silver Ring Thing ceremony. The associate pastor got up to tell the teenagers about the importance of waiting until marriage. He said that if you have sex before marriage, it will be for selfish reasons. Okay. I can agree with that. He then went on to why they shouldn’t.
“Think of the shame and guilt you’ll feel. Think about what you’ll have to tell your spouse on your wedding night. You could get an STD. You could get pregnant.”
And I was thinking “Pastor. Maybe it’s just me, but those sound like selfish reasons too.”
There was never anything about why this is wrong. It was all about how you’d feel. No worldview of sex. No talk about the role of sex. There was I think one sentence dedicated to the joy of sex. That was it. As I was sitting back there listening, I was getting bored, and as I’ve said before, if you can talk about sex and a college guy is in the audience and getting bored, you’re doing it wrong.
Lemke’s book is one big on grace and forgiveness, and yet there’s no real hostility towards the Purity Culture movement. She understands these people mean well, and she applauds that. One can think of zeal but not in accordance with knowledge.
Lemke also deals with the idea of damaged goods and such. This is common in our culture where if a woman has sex before marriage, it is as if her value is automatically lowered. This can be especially hard if it is the result of abuse the woman had no control over. A woman who has sinned by having sex before marriage even if her fault is not irredeemable. She can work and still have a good and godly marriage.
If there were some things I’d like to change, she does talk about having a husband and why the wedding night was so hard. I found myself wondering how it is growing up in the culture she eventually came to have a husband. That would have been good to have explained.
She did write about the joy of sex in the end, but I would have liked to have seen more. We should have it in our culture that instead of secular TV shows having some supposed idea of sex that lures people in, they need to be looking at Christian marriages and know there is great sex going on behind the scenes and wanting to have that one day. One of the greatest honors I have had in my life was a friend getting married and getting in touch with me and saying that he wanted what I had and seeking my advice. Doing marriage well takes work and it’s good when others recognize it is being done.
Lemke’s book is an easy and quick read. It is one that I can recommend. We need purity, but we don’t need to be so extreme we make our own existence a burden.