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Why are Some Christians Obsessed with Purity?

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Sorry about the title, but I just don't know how else to word this.

I know strict Christians who are waiting until marriage, and while I applaud them (and I'm waiting also.) for not giving into temptation, I can't help but feel like some of people I've encountered were obsessed with not having sex. 

While I don't believe our Ummah talks enough about sexuality in general, Baptist/Pentacostal/whatever denomination Christians are obsessed with their purity rings and declaring not having sex to anyone who is willing to listen. (It's as if they wish to just ignore sexuality completely.)

Honestly, I don't see people of my Ummah have creepy "purity balls" (there was the weirdest documentary on this. If I find it, I'll post it.) or shame others for having premarital sex. Muslims don't try to force their decision to remain abstinent down people's throats. Sexuality is generally considered none of anyone's business. 

I'm sorry, but many of the Christian faith (those who are waiting) have a holier-than-thou attitude that is very off-putting when talking about sex in general. I've encountered several people waiting until marriage and they all gave me the same weird vibe. All they talk about is how "true love waits" (which I also believe in, but I'm not the one shoving it down people's throats.) and show off their purity rings that they bought for however many dollars. 

Its the same thing with Christians on missionaries to try to convert people. You don't see people of our Ummah doing that, as there is no compulsion in religion.

 It wasn't my intention at all to start a Christian-bashing thread, but these are my frustrations and observations. 

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You are not the only one a bit " creeped out" by this. Plenty of observant Christians are ,too.

This sort of thing seems to be in the realm of very conservative fundamentalist( often non-denominational) groups. It is not very widespread even in America, but it has made a lot of press.

I can understand the need to " push back" against what they see as a dysfunctional society, but many of the activities seem prideful and over-the-top.

Some of the " Purity Ball" rituals have undertones of incest. 

 

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11 minutes ago, E.L King said:

What so you mean shame others for pre-marital intercourse? In Islam we have a punishment for that as outlined by the Holy Qur'an if proven in a Shari'a court which is flogging.

What I mean is, Muslims are taught to never shame others for their sins. As in, making the person feel inadequate or stupid for not controlling him/herself. As in, "Look at me! I'm so great and pure (for waiting) and you're such a lowly, disgusting sinner!" type of behavior.

It's one thing to inform others of why Zina is not allowed, but shaming people in Islam, is not recommended. We don't know the tests he/she is going through. We can only tell the person to repent and encourage them to give up their sinful lifestyle. But never shame them. 

Shaming someone is different than telling the person that he/she is in the wrong. To shame someone means to become arrogant and haughty in the process. 

I'm not talking about punishments outlined. That's a separate issue. 

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I'll give you an example of why this stuff can be carried too far. 

One  woman wrote a post in a Christian woman's forum that  my daughter read a few weeks ago...this woman said she had been proud to have been part of the purity movement and stay a " pure virgin" until marriage. (She wasn't Catholic. She wasn't going to become a nun or anything...not that that is the definition of " purity"...so, of course, marriage was a probability  for her.)

She did get married. She did have sex with her husband on her wedding night. Then she felt she was " impure" after that. This is not a teaching of her particular church, she just psychologically associated virginity with purity. She couldn't shake that feeling even months after the wedding. It was messing up their intimacy, as you can imagine.

My daughter was brought up with similar  values but felt she was just as "pure "the day after her wedding as the day before. She told me she thought this bride's  kind of attitude was "nuts". My daughter thinks that the virginity pledge is the only thing these women  felt they had that differentiated them from "the crowd". They liked to fly it like a flag and beat other people over the head with it. Their identity was too tied into it. After marriage, they were "just like everybody else" and that was a crash for them.

Go figure.

Edited by LeftCoastMom

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Shaming may be a means in some circles, but not others. There are billboard ads for churches that declare "Sinners Welcome" in big font. Mosques wouldn't do this ever, which is a positive thing. 

Should a university ad say "Failures Welcome", or a gym say "Obese Welcome"? It just doesn't work. 

Muslims follow a middle path. We delineate personal shame and public exposure and humiliation very well, better than others. We don't have confessionalism in our faith. We don't dismiss neither do we lay on too thick. We don't have that colonial type interventionism or overreach in our blood.

We're just right.

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The difference ultimately stems from theology. Christianity classically, moreso than Islam, elevates the spirit and demotes the material. The early Church saw sex as a product of the Fall of Adam, and therefore not of heaven, and so it was seen as lowly and shameful. Some denominations prohibited the use of any form of birth control, and only paired sex with reproduction. Priests and nuns didn't marry, divorce was prohibited, and polygamy was prohibited. Not long ago, the white wedding dress symbolized virginity, and the role of the bridesmaid was to attest in the bride's virginity.

On the other hand, our Prophet married, was polygamous, encouraged regular sex between partners, permitted divorce, discussed sexual ethics openly, and according to Shiism, allowed temporary marriage too. Virginity was not nearly as important as chastity.

Modern Muslim Victorian-esque prudishness is more a product of colonialism than Islam.

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30 minutes ago, E.L King said:

What so you mean shame others for pre-marital intercourse? In Islam we have a punishment for that as outlined by the Holy Qur'an if proven in a Shari'a court which is flogging.

"If proven" is the operative word here.

Not for them, though, it's often " I assume you are ..."

Two different approaches completely.

3 minutes ago, magma said:

Shaming may be a means in some circles, but not others. There are billboard ads for churches that declare "Sinners Welcome" in big font. 

Actually, Christians would equate this with a hospital sign :

" Sick people welcome." 

That works well and is in line with Jesus' statements of being sent to the people who need him.

 We are all sinners.

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Like others have said, these people conflagrate the state of being a 'virgin' with being pure and holy. And they use this fact to differentiate themselves from other people. 

Also, like what Br. Qaim has said, this practice of equating virginity with purity and holiness has deep roots in the Christian religion.

In Islam, we have a different paradigm when looking at virginity. We, as muslims, equate purity and holiness with obedience to Allah(s.w.a)(God), not with a physical state, i.e. whether someone has had sexual intercourse or not. 

This thing about the 'purity ring' and all that also seems to me to be a way for people to show off in front of others. If someone really wanted to stay 'pure' for their husband, which is a noble act by the way in itself and many muslim women also do this, and they were really doing this for Allah(s.w.a), and for their husband, then they would feel no need to show off to other people or wear a ring which everyone can see. 

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1 hour ago, LeftCoastMom said:

Some of the " Purity Ball" rituals have undertones of incest. 

I always felt that there was an undertone of something with purity balls, now I think you hit the nail on the head for me. The purity balls also seem to me as an ex-Christian, to have a Protestant character to them. Their definition of purity is drastically different from the Catholic \Orthodox crowd.

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1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

The difference ultimately stems from theology. Christianity classically, moreso than Islam, elevates the spirit and demotes the material. The early Church saw sex as a product of the Fall of Adam, and therefore not of heaven, and so it was seen as lowly and shameful. Some denominations prohibited the use of any form of birth control, and only paired sex with reproduction. Priests and nuns didn't marry, divorce was prohibited, and polygamy was prohibited. Not long ago, the white wedding dress symbolized virginity, and the role of the bridesmaid was to attest in the bride's virginity.

 

The " white wedding dress" probably came in with Queen Victoria ,who supposedly didn't color hers to save money. It became associated with virginity and all that later. Before then brides wore their best dresses in any color. Blue was favored during the American Revolution,for example, and there are old rhymes referring to the meanings of the colors a bride might want to wear.  Among the poorer populations,this tradition held. Most of the older women in my community were married in their best Sunday going -to -Mass dresses. No money was wasted for  a white gown. There are lots of origin theories on the reasons for the modern wedding attendants. 

Some of the Church Fathers had issues with sex, but The Church eventually rejected anything too gnostic.

Marriage is a sacrament, same as the priesthood.

In spite of some of the Fathers, it was clear most Christians were going to live their lives within marriage. In the West, priests were commonly married until the Second Lateran Council in 1139. ( We laity like to remind the clergy of this and suggest it is time to reverse that ruling...it is simply a discipline,not an article of faith ...and the Pope or a Council can change it) . In the East, the priests have always been married and are to this day.

In the marriage preparation classes required of engaged Catholics nowadays, the clergy and married couples who run it absolutely present married sexuality as a great blessing and joy. 

Edited by LeftCoastMom

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34 minutes ago, Gaius I. Caesar said:

I always felt that there was an undertone of something with purity balls, now I think you hit the nail on the head for me. The purity balls also seem to me as an ex-Christian, to have a Protestant character to them. Their definition of purity is drastically different from the Catholic \Orthodox crowd.

Lo. Thanks. We Catholics do have issues with some of our old Church Fathers, to be honest. But their ideas had not been written in theological stone, so a much healthier attitude has taken over now. Married sex is celebrated as a blessing to the couple, but it still has to be open to the possibility of conception if the couple is capable ( something that modern Catholics ...97% of Catholic respondents admit to using some form of artificial birth control and the priests are refusing to enforce the  papal ruling...are quietly rejecting ). 

As far as I know, mainstream Protestant teachings are similar to modern Catholics.

But the  first time my husband saw a description of a Purity Ball ( they may not all be the same, to be fair) he was appalled. 

Edited by LeftCoastMom

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1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

Virginity was not nearly as important as chastity.

This is an important concept. In Christianity as well.

If any of you read the medieval Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath " prefers the married chastity ".

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1 hour ago, Qa'im said:

The difference ultimately stems from theology. Christianity classically, moreso than Islam, elevates the spirit and demotes the material. The early Church saw sex as a product of the Fall of Adam, and therefore not of heaven, and so it was seen as lowly and shameful. Some denominations prohibited the use of any form of birth control, and only paired sex with reproduction. Priests and nuns didn't marry, divorce was prohibited, and polygamy was prohibited. Not long ago, the white wedding dress symbolized virginity, and the role of the bridesmaid was to attest in the bride's virginity.

On the other hand, our Prophet married, was polygamous, encouraged regular sex between partners, permitted divorce, discussed sexual ethics openly, and according to Shiism, allowed temporary marriage too. Virginity was not nearly as important as chastity.

Modern Muslim Victorian-esque prudishness is more a product of colonialism than Islam.

 I think it depends on what communities of muslims and christians we are referring to.  In my experience ive found both muslims and christians who are intensly opposed to pre marital sex. Its probably more of a cultural thing as well.  When you have brides who cant get married because they arent virgins, but this happens on both sides.

For the OP, i would just say, you have to find people who are just more accepting of you if you have had pre marital sex.

To be open about things, i had not waited until marriage, and i found opposition from people of both Islam and Christianity. But I also found acceptance from people of both Islam and Christianity as well.  Its just a matter of who youre speaking to, what church or mosque youre at, and what the culture is like in that area.

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40 minutes ago, iCambrian said:

For the OP, i would just say, you have to find people who are just more accepting of you if you have had pre marital sex.

 

I'm trying to find people who are more accepting of me. 

I have not had premarital sex, and have no desire to. 

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46 minutes ago, iCambrian said:

 I think it depends on what communities of muslims and christians we are referring to.  In my experience ive found both muslims and christians who are intensly opposed to pre marital sex. Its probably more of a cultural thing as well.  When you have brides who cant get married because they arent virgins, but this happens on both sides.

For the OP, i would just say, you have to find people who are just more accepting of you if you have had pre marital sex.

To be open about things, i had not waited until marriage, and i found opposition from people of both Islam and Christianity. But I also found acceptance from people of both Islam and Christianity as well.  Its just a matter of who youre speaking to, what church or mosque youre at, and what the culture is like in that area.

I agree, I am only highlighting certain theological attitudes towards sex. Modern attitudes towards sex in the Muslim world are actually more Christian than traditional. As you noted, virginity is pretty much at the top of the list nowadays, whilst virginity in our pre-modern books was not put on a spiritual pedestal. The short chapter on marrying virgins in Wasa'il ash-Shi`a deals entirely with how virgin females are simply "desirable" to males in a worldly sense, rather than seeing them as purer or better in the faith. I didn't see any taboos attached to marrying non-virgins in our history, while marrying divorcees today is a no-no. Prolonged virginity is actually a negative thing, and our books have traditionally promoted early marriage, temporary marriage, foreplay - all of which are pretty much discouraged or not talked about in modern Muslim communities. Our fiqh books go into explicit detail about sex (it was openly discussed without shame), and the focus is mainly pleasing the woman, rather than shaming her (like in modern pornography). Having no concept of celibacy is a stark difference as well. Yes chastity is traditionally promoted, but it's not hard to stay chaste when you marry early, are allowed to divorce, are allowed to be polygamous, are allowed to keep concubines, etc.

20th century Muslim marriages are very Victorian - marriage is later, virginity is vital, monogamy and permanence are expected, engagements are practiced (which don't traditionally exist), weddings are lavish, proposals are decked out, and sex is a taboo topic for discussion (leading to a lot of "accidental" pregnancies in the first year of marriage). Pre-modern Islamic marriages were not nearly as nuclear and formal. My own great grandfather married nine times in his life, and kept four wives at the same time - just imagine that happening at the local mosque today.

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42 minutes ago, iCambrian said:

To be open about things, i had not waited until marriage, and i found opposition from people of both Islam and Christianity. But I also found acceptance from people of both Islam and Christianity as well.  Its just a matter of who youre speaking to, what church or mosque youre at, and what the culture is like in that area.

 I appreciate your decision to be open about your experiences within the Muslim and Christian community. Like you said, a person's reaction depends on who you are speaking to.

For instance, I have a non-practicing Muslim friend who completed disrespected my decision to wait until marriage, and thought I was crazy. She said "Islandsandmirrors, no man ever wants to get married now. Guys want to get their crap together and no one is thinking about marriage." (I wasn't thinking about getting married at the time either, but I hadn't completely ruled it out if the right person would come along.)

I have a man right now whom I will be married to in the near future inshallah. So I think it shows that no matter who you are, you can still find someone who is compatible with you and has your values. 

Another friend who has not waited herself has been very respectful towards my decision to wait and she respects my choices and never tries to mold me into the person she wants me to be. 

So I totally agree with what you're saying. It really does depend on the community and the people around you.

 

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Obviously these Christians shouldn't be obsessed with not having sex. Islam teaches us to never be proud of a good deed or by abstaining from a sin, but rather be thankful to Allah.

However, I rather Christians be obsessed with not having sex than being obsessed having sex with multiple patners before marriage. Something is better than nothing. 

Edited by ali_fatheroforphans

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In Sweden we do have Christians that believe sex before marriage is a sin, but I believe this is a much smaller minority here than in USA. Within our Muslim community view on sex is much more restricted. 

Sweden is not a society obsessed by sexual purity. We are more focused on trying to prevent opression of personal sexual freedom and forced mariages. Sexuality here is a personal matter, not for the state to interfear with, unless illegal like prostitution and pedophili is in our country.

 

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If you studied Islamic Law, you would know that someone who is an adulterer or a fornicator is not treated like everyone else. There is no "equality" as some might percieve.

For example, one cannot pray behind him, one cannot take his word as testimony in many if not all court cases, one cannot take his word for the sighting of the moon, he isn't counted as a witness in divorce cases.

This is all because he loses his adalah. And it's not just for fornication, this goes for all sins. All sins are like this 

And if he is a mutajahir in his fornication/adultery, one is allowed to tell others "this guy is a fornicator".

Edited by E.L King

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17 minutes ago, E.L King said:

If you studied Islamic Law, you would know that someone who is an adulterer or a fornicator is not treated like everyone else. There is no "equality" as some might percieve.

For example, one cannot pray behind him, one cannot take his word as testimony in many if not all court cases, one cannot take his word for the sighting of the moon, he isn't counted as a witness in divorce cases.

This is all because he loses his adalah. And it's not just for fornication, this goes for all sins. All sins are like this 

And if he is a mutajahir in his fornication/adultery, one is allowed to tell others "this guy is a fornicator".

Under Swedish law, sex outside marriage is not a criminal act, and today it is generally regarded as a natural human behavior, so this will have no influence on his/her value as witness in a Swedish court.

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23 minutes ago, andres said:

Under Swedish law, sex outside marriage is not a criminal act, and today it is generally regarded as a natural human behavior, so this will have no influence on his/her value as witness in a Swedish court.

I was speaking about an Islamic Court.

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