Purity is a very important word and concept among certain christianist organizations, including the Southern Baptist Convention.
"True Love Waits, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, has released a gender-appropriate flipbook called Complete: A Life of Purity.
"The release coincides with Valentine's Day, a time in which a large number of True Love Waits abstinence-until-marriage commitment ceremonies are held in churches and other places around the world."
Purity, among these christianists, is defined for young people almost exclusively in terms of abstaining from sexual activity, specifically from sexual intercourse, until they are bound in holy matrimony.
Abstinence is the word christianist youth are to carry with them and live by in a culture saturated with sex, sex, sex, and more sex. 'Tis a problem.
Unfortunately, by tying the word, "purity" exclusively to abstinence from sex implies that sex (outside of marriage, at least) is bad, evil even, and if engaged in, marks one as impure, tainted, spoiled.
From a Christian theological point of view, that creates problems. So far as I recall, Jesus never spoke about pre-marital sex. In fact, he spoke of sex not at all, unless you refer to his reiteration of the Mosaic law having to do with divorce, or include a couple of suspect passages from the Gospel of John, which scholars today treat as a theological tract and not an historical account. But even in those two suspect passages - the woman taken in adultery and the Samaritan woman at the well - Jesus is forgiving and loving and non-condemning.
In fact, the Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels was more concerned about other human predelictions such as pride, and avarice and greed and hate; these were what makes one "impure," (although he didn't use that word) but these are the things that make it difficult for a person to experience the kingdom of God.
The people who are involved in the abstinence programs may be well-meaning and truly concerned about the young people in their care. Sexual diseases are a problem. Unwanted pregnancies are another problem. Emotional scars from unhappy sexual experiences at a young age can create yet another problem.
But these abstinence-only approaches are fraught with their own problems. True Love Waits creates two classes of people: those who remain virgins and thus, "pure," and those who are scarred forever by their inability to refrain from sex until marriage. The pure and the unpure.
Not only is that ridiculous on the face of it, but it is hurtful in the extreme. Non-virgins are losers, bad, unable to keep their commitment, failures.
Worse is the fact that abstinence-only programs have been shown over and over again to be ineffective. In September of last year, ScienceDaily reported on studies "that reveal ... abstinence-only-until marriage sex education programs fail to change sexual behavior in teenagers, provide inaccurate information about condoms, and violate human rights principles."
Studies show that "Teens who take virginity pledges are just as likely to have sex as teens who don't make such promises -- and they're less likely to practice safe sex to prevent disease of pregnancy..."
"Abstinence-only programs violate young people's right to accurate information..." Religious groups aren't too worried about that, because their first and major concern is to keep the kids "pure."
Unfortunately, as one researcher said with regard to federally-funded abstinence-only programs, they have failed in their "primary goal of helping young people delay initiation of sex, and actually, withhold... life-saving information from young people."
One might hope that religious groups like the Southern Baptist Convention would take these studies seriously, realize that young people will have sex in spite of their pledges to the contrary, and develop a program to assist young people to be sexually responsible.
That's not going to happen, of course, because they ignore the truth. I guess from the Southern Baptist point of view, it's better to be pure and dead than to be sexually "tainted" and alive.
You can read about the LifeWay program here.
The ScienceDaily report is here.
Another interesting report here. A report on teens who make virginity pledges here.
The video below is a fun spoof - young people making a pledge not to have sex with .... well, you're gonna have to watch it.