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It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex for those who follow the rules. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher reviews the movement carefully, examining its teachings through the lens of Scripture. Compassionate, faithful, and wise, she charts a path forward for evangelicals in the ongoing debates about sexuality--one that rejects legalism and license alike, steering us back instead to the good news of Jesus. It's time to talk back to purity culture--and this book is ready to jump-start the conversation.


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It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex It's time to talk back. The generation born into evangelical purity culture has grown up, and many have started families of their own. But as time goes on, it's becoming more evident that many still struggle with purity culture's complicated legacy--its idolization of virginity, its mixed messages about modesty and lust, and its promise of a healthy marriage and great sex for those who follow the rules. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher reviews the movement carefully, examining its teachings through the lens of Scripture. Compassionate, faithful, and wise, she charts a path forward for evangelicals in the ongoing debates about sexuality--one that rejects legalism and license alike, steering us back instead to the good news of Jesus. It's time to talk back to purity culture--and this book is ready to jump-start the conversation.

30 review for Talking Back to Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Manchester

    This is a sex book. SUMMARY This is not a sex book. Rather, it's a sexuality book. Welcher writes after reading multiple purity culture books from the 90s/early-2000s and interviewing a host of people involved in that movement. In some ways, it reminded me of The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel AssuranceWhy the Marrow Controversy Still Matters where the church has fallen into legalism yet knowing that licentiousness is not the answer either. In so many ways, I am the target This is a sex book. SUMMARY This is not a sex book. Rather, it's a sexuality book. Welcher writes after reading multiple purity culture books from the 90s/early-2000s and interviewing a host of people involved in that movement. In some ways, it reminded me of The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters where the church has fallen into legalism yet knowing that licentiousness is not the answer either. In so many ways, I am the target audience for this book. I grew up deeply within the purity culture movement and it has defined my life to a degree. I've wanted a book like this: one that not only addressed flawed thinking in my mind but also helped me parent in this area better than I was. THE GOOD Welcher demolishes purity culture rhetoric. She also consistently reminds you what the real problem is: "So many of us walked right past the gospel on our way to a purity conference. Our parents and youth leaders were so concerned about our budding sexuality, scrambling for direction and wisdom, that some of us ended up signing abstinence pledges before falling on our knees in repentance. We wore purity rings as badges of honor, forgetting that it is Jesus who cleanses us from all unrighteousness." Her chapters on "Female Responsibilities" and "Male Purity and the Rhetoric of Lust" are her best chapters in my opinion, though every single chapter slaps. I highlighted a good portion of this book. Most will particularly applaud her chapter "Problems with the Promise of Sex" where she takes a look at what the purity culture movement have done to discourage those who are divorced, barren, or same-sex attracted. She writes so carefully, yet boldly, that it's such a winsome chapter. Let me post some of my favorite quotes: "It also reveals an issue with our functional theology: if we truly believe in the Imago Dei—that all people are created in the image of God—then we must recognize that what some brush off as “boys being boys” is actually a perpetuation of abuse that insults the image of God." "The idea that we need to offer non-virgins some sort of symbolic “second virginity” reinforces our misunderstanding of where purity comes from." "How we want our children to live, sexually, is what we really believe about sexual purity." "Jesus himself was single: would we relegate him to the kids’ table, forcing him to sit on a too small plastic chair? Singles do not belong at the margins of our churches. No one does." "I may have been a virgin when I got married, but I was also an adulterer." "Teachings about the moral superiority and responsibility of women place a burden on them that Scripture does not. The rhetoric reduces women to their sexual function, instead of depicting them the way Scripture does, as image bearers of God and coheirs of the kingdom. [...] Such “empowerment” leaves women feeling defeated and guilty, rather than valued by the church and strengthened in Christ." "And in the same way wearing a purity ring does not guarantee virginity, virginity doesn’t guarantee purity." Also, this book doesn't go for the easy answers. There's lament found on these pages. And can I take a moment and praise the last paragraph of every chapter. Welcher is a pro at summarizing her thoughts at the end. They were so good, I noticed how good they consistently were. In my reading experience, that's a rare thing. THE CHALLENGES I should give a trigger warning for those who have been abused, particularly in conjunction with the purity movement. There's a chapter that focuses on abuse and Welcher doesn't shy away. Also, due to my own issues, I didn't find the chapter as comforting as some women might, but Welcher does make mention on male survivors and that helped. Also, Welcher is direct in this book. Loving, but direct. I'm grateful that she speaks very plainly about sex and sexuality, but it's gonna feel awkward for us purity culture kids. :-) The only other challenge I had was regarding parenting advice. Welcher states that she's not a parent at the time of writing this book. However, her work with teaching really shines through where there is little parental experience. It still makes me want a sequel in 15 years if she becomes a parent. (*insert Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship joke here*) CONCLUSION It is my hope that every person/parent reads this book. I know that I'm freaking out since my kids are at "that age" but the gospel encouragement Welcher writes reminds me that purity isn't the goal, Jesus is. It has encouraged me out of the same mindset that formed me. 4.5 stars, rounded down.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Raymond

    Rachel Joy Welcher has written a powerful new book about purity culture; what it is, what it did to a generation, and how to respond to it. Purity culture is a Christian movement that took place beginning in the late 20th Century and has extended into the 21st Century. It was a direct response to the sexual revolution and the AIDS epidemic, its main goal was to promote a form of Christian ethics that taught sex should be saved only for marriage. Purity books, rings, and pledges were all a part Rachel Joy Welcher has written a powerful new book about purity culture; what it is, what it did to a generation, and how to respond to it. Purity culture is a Christian movement that took place beginning in the late 20th Century and has extended into the 21st Century. It was a direct response to the sexual revolution and the AIDS epidemic, its main goal was to promote a form of Christian ethics that taught sex should be saved only for marriage. Purity books, rings, and pledges were all a part of promoting this culture. As time has passed, some Christians have started to reevaluate purity culture’s teachings because many young people who grew up in it, have either developed a sense of shame because of it, or have realized that some of the promises of purity culture were not fulfilled. Welcher addresses all of this and more in her book. The strongest parts of Welcher’s book is when she focuses on the harmful effects purity culture has on women and men. For women, they were taught that they had the power to control male sexual urges and could do it by dressing modestly. In essence, purity culture caused women to think they were responsible for male purity. Women were also blamed for their husband’s indiscretions if he cheated. Men, on the other hand, were taught to control their sexual urges and to basically avoid women so they aren’t tempted. Welcher argues that these teachings were wrong and explains why. Welcher also addresses the flaws in purity culture. Some include that purity culture makes virginity an idol and that purity is seen as a stage in life rather than a lifelong process. Purity makes promises that may not occur such as marriage, sex, and children; some people never get married, remain celibate, or are infertile. Welcher argues that purity culture as it exists does not address those types of people. The author does a good job at explaining how the Church can be there for those who fit in those categories. In sum, the book contains powerful quotes from people Welcher interviewed which I believe helps centers her arguments in each chapter. Each chapter ends with discussion questions and activities, which are great. Her book could definitely lead to fruitful discussions in Bible studies or church book clubs. Overall, Welcher’s book is clear, full of wisdom, and very well written. There were parts where I disagreed with the author but as a whole I think it is a good contribution to the ongoing debate on purity culture. Thanks to NetGalley, InterVarsity Press, and Rachel J. Welcher for a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on November 10, 2020. Review first published on Ballasts for the Mind: https://medium.com/ballasts-for-the-m...

  3. 4 out of 5

    E.M.

    Meticulously researched, saturated with the Scriptures, written with grace & courage, this is a towering achievement, indeed, the definitive work on Purity Culture. Meticulously researched, saturated with the Scriptures, written with grace & courage, this is a towering achievement, indeed, the definitive work on “Purity Culture”.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Panda Incognito

    This book involves so many loaded topics that it is hard for me to know where to begin. Thus, I have immense respect for Rachel Joy Welcher, who took on the challenge of writing it. Throughout this book, she provides an orthodox perspective on purity culture, addressing its unbiblical promises and demands without discarding Scripture in the process. Unlike other books about the purity movement, which focus on religious deconstruction and reject Christianity, this book reevaluates purity culture This book involves so many loaded topics that it is hard for me to know where to begin. Thus, I have immense respect for Rachel Joy Welcher, who took on the challenge of writing it. Throughout this book, she provides an orthodox perspective on purity culture, addressing its unbiblical promises and demands without discarding Scripture in the process. Unlike other books about the purity movement, which focus on religious deconstruction and reject Christianity, this book reevaluates purity culture through an orthodox lens, asking where Christians can go from here. Welcher separates biblical teaching from human-constructed legalism, and encourages her readers to be willing to reevaluate their beliefs. Evaluating the Fallout At the beginning of the book, Welcher provides a history of the movement from the late 1990s to the present, quoting from popular books that shaped many young Christian’s views of sexuality and their faith. In response to these books, she cites published resources and shares personal stories that show the damage and fallout from these beliefs. Some of these stories come from her own life, others are from personal conversations, and still more come from official interviews. In the following chapters, she addresses how purity culture held out heterosexual marriage and children as a guaranteed reward for chaste behavior without acknowledging the realities of long-term singleness, same-sex attraction, divorce, marital frustrations, and infertility. Welcher also provides a complex analysis of how badly Christian culture addressed sexual abuse during this era. Only the worst resources actively blamed victims for inviting their trauma, but others sent mixed messages or avoided the topic. Welcher challenges Christians to keep sexual abuse victims in mind when they talk about sexuality, because even though writers and speakers have often treated abuse experiences as an anomaly, they are heartrendingly common. In my opinion, this is one of the strongest parts of the book, because she addresses the topic in great depth, with reference to a variety of different situations and experiences. There are other topics that she can only address in passing because of the book’s limited scope, but because she previously did academic research on this topic, she was able to address this with the depth and nuance that the topic deserves. Looking to the Future Welcher writes with great humility, leaving room for all the research, analysis, and understanding that is yet to come. She also maintains a gracious tone towards others, and because many books about the church’s failings are abrasive and condemning, I admire her ability to write about so many challenging topics with grace, compassion, and empathy for everyone involved. This book is not just for people who feel victimized by purity culture, but is also for those who promoted it, and those who still hold some of these beliefs. Welcher calls Christians to reevaluate their approach to understanding sexuality, and even though she is not yet a parent, her experience working with youth gives her credibility, especially in the chapter about how parents can pursue ongoing, nuanced conversations about sexuality with their children. She also encourages adult Christians to talk about sexuality with each other, and supports this by providing discussion questions and group activity ideas at the end of each chapter. It never would have occurred to me to view this as a reading group recommendation, but I agree that challenging topics like this should not stay within the realm of private reading, and need to spill over into conversations and relationships within the church. I appreciate the thought, effort, and care that Welcher invested into writing this book, and even though it cannot possibly cover every person’s experience or concern, the discussion questions give readers a chance to build on this in their own conversations. This is a solid, orthodox guide to reevaluating purity culture and seeking a better path forward. I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    The Purity Culture movement dominated discussions in my youth. I became disenchanted years ago not with holding a Christian sex ethic but with the way Purity Culture had shaped faithful obedience into something beyond Scripture. Welcher pulls back the veil on the false promises and points us to a better way.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

    Rachel Joy Welcher writes with grace and humility as she addresses the effects of Christian purity culture and its messages. Several of her points expressed thoughts or conversations I have had in recent years; others revealed false teachings I did not realize I had internalized. In this book, Welcher shines a light on some of the seemingly harmless but actually insidious teachings in the church regarding sexuality, and she does so while holding Jesus up consistently as the one who deserves our Rachel Joy Welcher writes with grace and humility as she addresses the effects of Christian purity culture and its messages. Several of her points expressed thoughts or conversations I have had in recent years; others revealed false teachings I did not realize I had internalized. In this book, Welcher shines a light on some of the seemingly harmless but actually insidious teachings in the church regarding sexuality, and she does so while holding Jesus up consistently as the one who deserves our focus and obedience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Charlton II

    This book will become a voice in the wilderness of our polarizing world. When I first received my copy of Talking Back to Purity Culture in July, I thought this was going to be a book that was just another perspective on the debate of sexuality and the recovery of victims of purity culture. This book turned out to be one of the most balanced and well written books on purity culture. Rachel J Weber does an excellent job at reorienting readers to think about purity as being about Jesus and not This book will become a voice in the wilderness of our polarizing world. When I first received my copy of Talking Back to Purity Culture in July, I thought this was going to be a book that was just another perspective on the debate of sexuality and the recovery of victims of purity culture. This book turned out to be one of the most balanced and well written books on purity culture. Rachel J Weber does an excellent job at reorienting readers to think about purity as being about Jesus and not about abstaining from sex. She also proposes that purity culture has marginalized the sexually abused, the widow, the single, and the “same sex attracted.” Her writing is humorous, poetic, and convicting. She does an incredible job at weaving stories with numerical data. You will be crying, laughing, and pondering all in the same paragraph. I wish I could’ve read more about how purity culture had affected BIPOC, particularly BIPOC who were assimilated into predominately white evangelical spaces. Lastly, I would’ve appreciated more stories from LGBTQ+ Christians and maybe a section on sexuality and intersex. Overall, I recommend this book to every person who reads this review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hayley Chase

    Talking Back to Purity Culture is not a book that claims to know everything, or that it is perfect. It is a book that asks us to look at the facts: what the purity culture was and is, how it impacted a variety of groups within the church, and how it is still impacting so many today. It asks us to look these facts, these people, in the eyes, and acknowledge what has been done to them. What has been done to us. It is not an easy read. Whether Rachel Joy Welcher is discussing the impact of the purity Talking Back to Purity Culture is not a book that claims to know everything, or that it is perfect. It is a book that asks us to look at the facts: what the purity culture was and is, how it impacted a variety of groups within the church, and how it is still impacting so many today. It asks us to look these facts, these people, in the eyes, and acknowledge what has been done to them. What has been done to us. It is not an easy read. Whether Rachel Joy Welcher is discussing the impact of the purity culture upon the sexually abused, the same-sex-attracted, the singles, or the divorced, there is something in nearly every section that will touch your heart (I know that I cried more than once). But Ms. Welcher doesn't leave us simply facing these hurtful truths, with no hope - no light - at the end of the tunnel. "We may feel shattered," she says, "but our worth remains intact." We face these facts and these hurts so that we can begin to heal from them. So that we can move forward. Do better. Step "out of the darkness and into His marvelous light." Leave the shame that was impressed upon so many of us behind. So, while this book doesn't "have all the answers", while there were small bits and fragments that I might not have fully agreed with, it does exactly what it is intended to do: it makes you think. It makes you ask questions. It makes you want to talk with others. It makes you crave community, and desire to seek healing. And it does all of this without ever losing sight of the importance of Biblical purity and the call to holiness. It is an important book - one that I will be using with my women's group to further open these topics up, and - God willing - provide some measure of clarity and community for these young women who have been so wounded and burdened for so long. So, if that is you - if you have been weighed down and seemingly crushed by the guilt and shame that the purity culture inflicted - pick up this book. Even if you don't find the full solution, it just might make you start asking the right questions. And it will gently and lovingly guide you along the way.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lydia Anvar

    What an important read. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher addresses ways that purity culture failed to offer a healthy view of sexuality by favoring hushed conversations and shameful silences over open, biblical dialogue. Welcher spends the first few chapters defining this very problem, noting that oftentimes, youth groups "worshiped the idol of chastity rather than the Lord Jesus Christ '' (9). Church and school leaders used purity rings, True Love Waits conferences, and What an important read. In Talking Back to Purity Culture, Rachel Joy Welcher addresses ways that purity culture failed to offer a healthy view of sexuality by favoring hushed conversations and shameful silences over open, biblical dialogue. Welcher spends the first few chapters defining this very problem, noting that oftentimes, youth groups "worshiped the idol of chastity rather than the Lord Jesus Christ '' (9). Church and school leaders used purity rings, True Love Waits conferences, and Leslie Ludy books to foster a problematic narrative in the minds of young people (especially young women): our worth and purity is found in our virginity rather than in Jesus's work on the cross. She also corrects the false presumption that every single person will one day get married and have sex. Purity culture "...depicts the pursuit of purity as a season in life rather than a lifelong calling" (27) and does not leave room in the narrative for those who feel called to singleness or who are same-sex attracted. As a result, this isolates many people in the church as sex rather than living a life faithful to God is portrayed as the ultimate goal."If we tell Christians to hold on to sexual purity until they get married, we are failing both straight and same-sex attractted Christians" (80). Growing up, I remember feeling that I was born with "the sin of having a female body" (43). I was made to feel that my femininity would cause someone to sin. Not only does Welcher resonate with this sentiment ("purity rhetoric often depicts female beauty as a threat" (61)), but she uses Scripture to counteract it—arguing that "no one gets to blame someone else for their own sin" (45). She goes on to assert that "there is little room for fellowship within the church between men and women when women are more often talked about as potential stumbling blocks than as sisters in Christ" (60). How powerful! However, there is a tension there. While I am not responsible for anyone else's sin, there is a certain wisdom to not running down the street in my underwear. So where is the line? How do I honor and bring glory to God with my female body? This book has stoked some questions that have been quietly simmering in the back of my mind for the last decade. I feel inspired to delve deeper into these issues with my eyes fixed on Jesus. In conclusion, I agree that '"we should start by talking about the value of our siblinghood in Christ and our shared identity as image bearers of God" (153). This means taking instances of abuse seriously and sitting with victims of abuse through their pain--not blaming them or silencing them. May we press on and remember that "the pursuit of sexual purity is not about virginity or reward but about so tethering ourselves to the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God's Word that when the sweet music of sin enters our ears, we are able to keep steering the ship toward God's glory--because God has become a thousand times more captivating" (184). Thank you thank you thank you dear Rachel for writing a book that convicts, encourages, and inspires me to change the narrative of Christian sexuality when I have children of my own ❤️

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joelle

    Rachel makes a beautiful statement in this book, as she quotes a mom talking about how she tries to view all of her kids' conversations, and - I'm paraphrasing - but it's about bringing everything into the light of Jesus. Sin would like us to hide in the darkness, telling us that it is where it is safe, and comfortable. Rachel reminds us that the Light of the World, the Gospel, the Living Word, offers hope, grace, healing, and redemption. In His Light there is no more shame, no matter how hard Rachel makes a beautiful statement in this book, as she quotes a mom talking about how she tries to view all of her kids' conversations, and - I'm paraphrasing - but it's about bringing everything into the light of Jesus. Sin would like us to hide in the darkness, telling us that it is where it is safe, and comfortable. Rachel reminds us that the Light of the World, the Gospel, the Living Word, offers hope, grace, healing, and redemption. In His Light there is no more shame, no matter how hard admitting our sin will be - light is the safest place to be. I will always remember that. That light is safer than darkness. Rachel doesn't slam the church; nor does she nitpick through books and point out the enormous flaws of the various authors. Rather, she loves the church, and she seeks to see the church united and strong in the Word of God, ministering to all the broken saints. She acknowledges that the authors were only human, and that they had good intentions, but they went awry. She frames the issue - purity culture - not as a whole church issue but rather as a subculture issue within the church that has distorted how we interpret the Bible. It is a refreshing take on the movement: one that argues for humility and unity within the Body while still showing the flaws of the subculture, and how to remove them. She is comfortable using words like "sexuality" in their proper context; she is comfortable having frank discussions about masturbation without needing to seek permission. She is right that our children need to be taught that their bodies were created to be good, and ARE good. Our children do not need to be taught shame about their bodies at a young age; they should be taught how to honor God, themselves, and others. She speaks of compassion those who have same sex attractions, a topic that the purity culture movement completely avoided. Or, if it did, treated as "get married and get cured." I happen to be in a situation in my own life where this "solution" has led to devastation and utter family rending. She reminds us that sex is Godly and good, and as such should be MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL; it is not a right for one party only. It is NOT good if one party is suffering intense physical pain. It is also not a right promised to us simply because we exist; we might have to lead celibate lives. We might have issues with sexual intimacy in our married lives. She restores dignity and respect to those who have suffered assault. Purity culture taught these victims that they were the reason for their own trauma; so often they were even blamed for ruining the lives of - in the majority of cases - "good men". For those who weren't directly influenced by purity culture, the wounds were still aggravated by the message like lemon juice. Rachel lovingly explains why, without having to go into titillating details, and sharing private details of those who should be believed simply because they are created in the image of God. Light is healing. Light is restoring. Light is beautiful. And shining light into the deep recesses of the purity subculture will only bring more unity and more of the true message of the Gospel into our current lives, which our new generations so desperately need, as they navigate this world of ever increasing sexual awareness, sexual identity, and the church's place in it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Emilee (emileereadsbooks)

    Thank you to NetGalley and InterVarsity Press for a free digital copy for my review. I have already recommended this book to so many friends as I was reading it because this book does not bash evangelical purity culture, but rather it critiques the places where it missed the mark and/or overlooked people and situations. I love how tender and kind Welcher is while standing firm in her beliefs and her interpretation of scripture. She makes the point several times that as a human she is flawed and Thank you to NetGalley and InterVarsity Press for a free digital copy for my review. I have already recommended this book to so many friends as I was reading it because this book does not bash evangelical purity culture, but rather it critiques the places where it missed the mark and/or overlooked people and situations. I love how tender and kind Welcher is while standing firm in her beliefs and her interpretation of scripture. She makes the point several times that as a human she is flawed and she may not have handled every topic perfectly, but in my opinion she gives such room for grace that she really served her readers well with her words. This is not an easy read. It covers hard topics and makes you examine why you believe the things you do related to sexuality. But I highlighted more of this book then I have perhaps ever highlighted of a book. There are so many good nuggets of truth within these pages. Too many to even choose one to feature here. Every chapter ends with discussion questions and an activity suggestion that Welcher encourages you to complete in a group setting. This would be a great book for a small group to walk through together.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily Enger

    "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is a deeply-researched and thoughtfully-written book that re-examines the popular "purity" movement that overtook Evangelicalism throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Welcher grew up in this movement and began to re-examine it when the perfect Christian family life she expected didn't happen quite like purity culture promised it would. While acknowledging the good intentions behind purity culture, Welcher calls Christians to abandon some of the lies that became "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is a deeply-researched and thoughtfully-written book that re-examines the popular "purity" movement that overtook Evangelicalism throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Welcher grew up in this movement and began to re-examine it when the perfect Christian family life she expected didn't happen quite like purity culture promised it would. While acknowledging the good intentions behind purity culture, Welcher calls Christians to abandon some of the lies that became embedded in its teaching, including women being responsible for men's lust, the promise of the ideal family as a response to one's sexual abstinence, the popularizing of rape-culture language, and more. "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is not a call to abandon the sexual ethics of the Bible, but rather to return to them - because it is the Bible that is infallible, not Christian purity books or movements. I received an Advance Readers Copy of this book by the publisher.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Mayes Allen

    I've been eager to read this book since I first heard Rachel as a guest on the Where Do We Go From Here podcast, and it did not disappoint. Rachel bathes this incredibly complex and controversial topic in grace, acknowledging that the discussion is nuanced while anchoring it in truth. Too many evaluations of purity culture belie the evaluators' bitterness or departure from orthodoxy; this one maintains a gracious tone even while pointing out the many false and misleading teachings within purity I've been eager to read this book since I first heard Rachel as a guest on the Where Do We Go From Here podcast, and it did not disappoint. Rachel bathes this incredibly complex and controversial topic in grace, acknowledging that the discussion is nuanced while anchoring it in truth. Too many evaluations of purity culture belie the evaluators' bitterness or departure from orthodoxy; this one maintains a gracious tone even while pointing out the many false and misleading teachings within purity culture. She casts a vision of biblical sexuality which is both faithful to Scripture and full of love for fallen human beings, just as God intended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Wilkins

    If you grew up around Purity Culture, you are well aware of the problems that have arisen due to it's overbearing, grace-lacking, false promises agenda... Rachel Joy Welcher wisely examines the issues that have come out of it and this book reads as an intelligent discussion more than a "how-to" manual. This book brings up the problems with the false messaging of purity culture and spins it into how to take a God-glorifying approach to sexuality and purity and everything in between. Really well If you grew up around Purity Culture, you are well aware of the problems that have arisen due to it's overbearing, grace-lacking, false promises agenda... Rachel Joy Welcher wisely examines the issues that have come out of it and this book reads as an intelligent discussion more than a "how-to" manual. This book brings up the problems with the false messaging of purity culture and spins it into how to take a God-glorifying approach to sexuality and purity and everything in between. Really well written with lots of activities and discussion questions to go through if you're reading it with others. I'll definitely be recommending this to many people in the days to come!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cristian Moscoso

    Helpful survey of the effects purity culture had on my generation. She is right when she says that the problem with purity culture is not that its too conservative, but it is too worldly. I think this book will be helpful as I raise my children. Just as the prosperity gospel, purity culture is hard to get our of our hearts. Helpful survey of the effects purity culture had on my generation. She is right when she says that the problem with purity culture is not that it’s too conservative, but it is too worldly. I think this book will be helpful as I raise my children. Just as the prosperity gospel, purity culture is hard to get our of our hearts.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Becky Schwarz

    It took me way longer than I meant to, reading the advanced copy of this book, but now that I have I can say without a doubt it is a needed and important work. I am so thankful for the word's of Rachel Joy Welcher and the healing this perspective brought. Whether you lived through these experiences or not, you will benefit from reading this book. "Talking Back to Purity Culture" puts the Gospel back where it should be. As our best and only treasure.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Camden

    4.5 stars. Review coming soon!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Poling

    I appreciate Rachel Joy Welchers desire to be sure that the church has open conversations about these important truths, makes clear decisions about teaching Gods Word over the cultures interpretation of the Bible. She does a great job setting the stage, raising the issues, and informing the readers of concerns, cautions, and she ends the book with her prayerfully approached response to this culture, and shares the concepts and scripture to approach educating the next generation from a biblical I appreciate Rachel Joy Welcher’s desire to be sure that the church has open conversations about these important truths, makes clear decisions about teaching Gods Word over the cultures interpretation of the Bible. She does a great job setting the stage, raising the issues, and informing the readers of concerns, cautions, and she ends the book with her prayerfully approached response to this culture, and shares the concepts and scripture to approach educating the next generation from a biblical worldview. I think this book is a great jumping point for conversations, as a parent of teens, I appreciated the last few chapters that focused on ways to address sexuality and Gods design that might prevent some of the misunderstandings of the rules based expectations. Read the book. The last few chapters were my favorites. I love the discussion questions and activity that every chapter ends with. I love the research and interviews the book is built on, and the foundation of scripture integrated throughout the book. I wonder if her directness, the bold aspects of sexual relationships, experiences, and stories will be too much for some readers, it certainly may make many blush, even more uncomfortable, but while it’s a sensitive topic, she’s approached it well, with her experience and others well represented, and she doesn’t fully give the list of clear do’s and don’ts that some may hope for in a book on the purity culture. To help a review reader gain my perspective. I’m 48, married almost 26 years. I have two teens, ages 15 and 18, and an almost 11 year old. My place and story in the early end of this culture is shared below. I was a teen in the start of this cultural movement, with the True Love Waits events. I was a newlywed and youth leader when the culture expanded to I Kissed Dating Goodbye and I read the book so I could connect, I was an education college faculty member in the era of purity rings, contracts, even bigger cultural impacts than my era. That said, I married my high school sweetheart, after college, and we attended different colleges only seeing one another at holidays, and rare prepaid card calls. We didn’t date the whole way through, giving us space to find our identities outside our relationship, and outside our parents homes. But we waited until we were married to follow Gods design and plan, but we held hands, hugged, kissed, and hotly debated often keeping our physical connection appropriate and honoring to one another and God. So in many ways I experienced this culture, had great friends, leaders, mentors, and family where we had conversations about Gods design for relationships and his design for sexual intimacy. I’m thankful that my training was focused on the Word of God and making my life’s decisions around His truth. And I challenged those single young people who discussed this with me, not to focus on the rules or pledges, but to focus on following and honoring God by their choices. Sin is sin plain and clear. Lying is a sin, having sex before marriage is a sin, in Gods eyes all sin separates us from God. It’s only by His grace, His plan, and the saving work of Jesus dying, rising again, and giving us the Holy Spirit that we can have a relationship with God and bring Him glory by living for Him.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    This is a book that I wish was around decades ago, but am so grateful Rachel Joy Welcher has written it for today. Many of us who grew up in the church were taught about purity in the context of protecting ourselves until marriage, and the subsequent rewards that would follow (amazing sex with spouse, marriage being filled with blessings and children, etc. - things that might happen, but are not promises by any means, and as Rachel has expressed, are easily turned into household idols and This is a book that I wish was around decades ago, but am so grateful Rachel Joy Welcher has written it for today. Many of us who grew up in the church were taught about purity in the context of protecting ourselves until marriage, and the subsequent “rewards” that would follow (amazing sex with spouse, marriage being filled with blessings and children, etc. - things that might happen, but are not promises by any means, and as Rachel has expressed, are easily turned into household idols and believed in as a form of the prosperity gospel). There was and still is a focus within Christians on following rules concerning purity, without emphasizing the biblical “why” behind them and the importance of an intentional, pursued relationship with Jesus. I agree with the author’s take: “Lazy spirituality results when we teach our children that following our rules is all it takes to honor God.” Also, she brings up good points about how surface-level rule-following for personal gain doesn’t have a firm foundation: “...if our motivation for pursuing purity is personal fulfillment-the reward of married sex-then when the wedding never happens, our virginity is stolen from us, our marriage crumbles, our spouse dies, or sex fails to be nirvana, our conclusion will be that sexual purity isn’t worth it.” Rachel references many of the books and messages that were put on pedestals and emphasized during purity conferences/church events in the years when purity rings and signing purity pledges were all the rage in Christian circles. Many of these resources used a lot of scare tactics that were rooted in evoking shame and blame, and did not typically lend themselves to opportunities for real dialogue that would help anyone who had legitimate questions or was struggling in one way or another. I appreciate the way the author discusses the true “why” behind obedience, as well as spends a great deal of time dedicated to how the church also needs to gracefully, lovingly, and biblically respond to sexual assault, survivors, singleness, same-sex attracted believers, and other important topics that, similar to purity culture as a whole, are typically shied away from in many churches or Christian groups. Ultimately: “Your faith is not in vain. Your self-control is not for nothing. Your trust in Jesus is well-placed...Whether you are married, single, same-sex attracted, lonely, infertile, transgender, divorced, asexual, whoever you are-you matter. Your longings matter. And submitting them to God’s precious, holy will matters.” I recommend reading this book and think it will be a great conversational piece for Christians and church groups especially with the questions she poses in each chapter that help challenge our views and point us back to the Bible.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jodi

    I'm 39, so I was the exact target demographic as the purity movement emerged and gained footing. I still struggle to this day with believing that God's love for me is dependent on me, what I do, how I think, etc... Some of it has to do with my personality and family of origin, but purity culture also played a part. I have a "promise ring" in my drawer that my parents gave me when I was a teenager, and I bought into all the rhetoric about chewed up gum, dirty water, marked up paper, and so on. I I'm 39, so I was the exact target demographic as the purity movement emerged and gained footing. I still struggle to this day with believing that God's love for me is dependent on me, what I do, how I think, etc... Some of it has to do with my personality and family of origin, but purity culture also played a part. I have a "promise ring" in my drawer that my parents gave me when I was a teenager, and I bought into all the rhetoric about chewed up gum, dirty water, marked up paper, and so on. I see so many people my age passing this rhetoric on to their children (I heard a mom last week say that they've always taught their children that clothing is the wrapping paper for your spouse to open someday and that they have to remind their 9 yr old daughter to be modest out of respect for her brothers?!). I have always used correct anatomical terms with my children because I'm a nurse and it just makes sense to me, but I've struggled with how to help them understand modesty without introducing shame, a la the mom I described above - I would never say that to my daughter because my sons know that their sister is not an object to lust after! I'm incredibly thankful for this book, as Rachel spends time discussing so many issues I have struggled to understand in recent years, as I have come out of the fog of what turns out was basically fundamentalism. A huge frustration to me is the evangelical idolization of marriage - I have never taught my children that marriage is definitely in their future or something they should expect. I also realize that I married incredibly young, partially motivated by the things I took away from purity culture, and I want to help my children understand that that's not something they need to feel pressured to do. I have a good marriage and a wonderful husband, but many of my friends who married young had many, many painful experiences that might have been avoided if we didn't have the "it's better to marry than to burn" mentality. I also appreciate the things Rachel shared to help cultivate healthy conversations and relationships with children. Overall, this book is worth reading even if you have never even heard of purity culture or experienced any of it, but for those of us who did and now see its flaws, get yourself a copy asap.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katelyn

    If you are someone who read anything by Joshua Harris, the Eldridges or the Ludys (among others) and cringed at any point, were told courtship was best, or felt you did not fit the mold of the ideal Christian woman, I strongly recommend this book to you. I didnt read most of the popular "purity culture" books, but have started to realize over the past few years just how much crap I unconsciously absorbed from the atmosphere of Christian homeschool culture (shout out to my counselor for helping If you are someone who read anything by Joshua Harris, the Eldridges or the Ludys (among others) and cringed at any point, were told courtship was best, or felt you did not fit the mold of the ideal Christian woman, I strongly recommend this book to you. I didn’t read most of the popular "purity culture" books, but have started to realize over the past few years just how much crap I unconsciously absorbed from the atmosphere of Christian homeschool culture (shout out to my counselor for helping to start that process!), and subsequently how that influenced my view of God. Unlike other works that examine “purity culture” from those who left the church, such as Linda Kay Klein’s “Pure,” Rachel Welcher remains part of the evangelical community, calling for reform and reevaluation of evangelical cultural ideas, asking us to take a good hard look at what the Bible says and doesn’t say about marriage, sexuality and dating. It is a thoughtful examination and critique of how so many of the “purity culture” ideologies came to be preached as gospel, and the very real harm they caused many young women (and men too, but disproportionately women). Rachel emphasizes the importance of discussing these things within community, and her book is a great starting point for separating the baby from the bath water. I agreed and disagreed with parts of this book, and loved the conversations and questions that it sparked (even the really difficult ones). In my view, a good book gets people thinking and talking in productive ways, which is exactly what this one does. The discussion questions and activities at the end of each chapter are a great place to start these conversations. Reading and discussing this book with other Christian women across the world in my virtual book club has been a gift. It’s amazing that so many of us have had similar experiences with, thoughts and questions about the extrabiblical ideas that have been part of Christian sub culture for the past three decades. The book is not prescriptive, and Rachel doesn't attempt to give a new "purity culture" to follow, but rather encourages broad conversation about sexuality within Christian communities, pointing back to Jesus and His teachings as we discern a faithful sexual ethic.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Rosie

    This book is a MUST READ for anyone who grew up in purity culture, but really its for anyone who identifies as a Christian. Its the book you didnt know you needed, or maybe you did. The title could potentially be misleading, but I assure you this isnt just another book about someone who has deconstructed their faith in Christ to the point of abandoning truth. Nor is it the same old same old rhetoric that has been found on Christian bookstore shelves. Rather, its a fresh take on the answers that This book is a MUST READ for anyone who grew up in purity culture, but really it’s for anyone who identifies as a Christian. It’s the book you didn’t know you needed, or maybe you did. The title could potentially be misleading, but I assure you this isn’t just another book about someone who has deconstructed their faith in Christ to the point of abandoning truth. Nor is it the same old same old rhetoric that has been found on Christian bookstore shelves. Rather, it’s a fresh take on the answers that are found not in walking away from Christ, but instead examining the damaging problems in purity culture and disentangling those false views from what the Bible actually says. Rachel gently and compassionately addresses hard, important, yet often overlooked in the church topics like abuse, singleness, infertility, etc. It’s a well-researched and well-written book that I wanted to highlight or underline continually, but instead will return to again and again with journal in hand, to continue learning, processing, and healing. I hope this book and its timely message will spread far and wide and the contents will be discussed in depth in homes, families, churches, small groups and friendships across the world.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This book examines and untangles the fruit of the purity culture movement while consistently pointing readers back to the gospel and a biblical understanding of sexuality. Welcher acknowledges the good intentions of 'purity culture' teachings while also critically engaging with the ways that such teachings led to damage, pain, shame and downright bad theology. Incredibly well-written and well-researched. I've already done the work of deconstructing a lot of the shame and pain of purity culture This book examines and untangles the fruit of the purity culture movement while consistently pointing readers back to the gospel and a biblical understanding of sexuality. Welcher acknowledges the good intentions of 'purity culture' teachings while also critically engaging with the ways that such teachings led to damage, pain, shame and downright bad theology. Incredibly well-written and well-researched. I've already done the work of deconstructing a lot of the shame and pain of purity culture in my own life, but Rachel's work helped put even clearer words to some of my own experiences. I think it was very wise of her to use the books and conferences that shaped the movement as her source material to interrogate. I do not agree with all of Welcher's assertions about biblical sexual ethics or her treatment of LGBTQ+ people, but still found tons of valuable insight here. Sex is a GOOD thing that was created by God and we must refuse to either demonize or idolize it. I hope that this book encourages open and honest conversations about sex, sexual sins, and embracing our God-given sexuality. For anyone who grew up immersed in purity culture, this is a must read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Persis

    Rachel Welcher critiques what happens when purity is reduced to sexuality and driven by legalism, disconnected from the gospel. This is a must read for those burned by purity culture and parents who want to guide their kids. It's also for the entire church because much of the harm happens when this topic isn't discussed in light of the whole of scripture, grounded in the gospel, and within the context of Christian community. I hope to elaborate more in this review at some point.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Jackson

    In "Talking Back to Purity Culture," Rachel Joy Welcher provides a healthy critique of a Christian subculture that held influence over an entire generation of young Christians. Through research, interviews, and a high view of Scripture, Welcher examines the ways in which "purity culture" set itself up as a kind of sexual prosperity gospel. While Welcher is honest in her critique, she's equally gracious and loving in imagining a way forward for the Church. "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is a In "Talking Back to Purity Culture," Rachel Joy Welcher provides a healthy critique of a Christian subculture that held influence over an entire generation of young Christians. Through research, interviews, and a high view of Scripture, Welcher examines the ways in which "purity culture" set itself up as a kind of sexual prosperity gospel. While Welcher is honest in her critique, she's equally gracious and loving in imagining a way forward for the Church. "Talking Back to Purity Culture" is a book that every pastor and Christian parent—especially those whose coming-of-age years were influenced by purity culture—will benefit from.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amy Josephson

    Rachel Joy Welcher does a great job at naming the pitfalls of evangelical purity culturethe unnecessary shame, false promises, and idolization of virginity and marriage, while staying true to a Biblical sexual ethic. I highly recommend this book for anyone who grew up in purity culture, for those it hurt, and for anyone who is looking for a way forwardone that calls all followers of Jesus to a faithful Christian sexuality without using shame and false promises as its primary motivators. Rachel Joy Welcher does a great job at naming the pitfalls of evangelical purity culture—the unnecessary shame, false promises, and idolization of virginity and marriage, while staying true to a Biblical sexual ethic. I highly recommend this book for anyone who grew up in purity culture, for those it hurt, and for anyone who is looking for a way forward—one that calls all followers of Jesus to a faithful Christian sexuality without using shame and false promises as its primary motivators.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Malone

    Youre going to want to read this book in one sitting and you probably could - but there is a lot to think about and meditate. I have many sections I plan to go back over and reread for better understanding. Welcher is a great writer who clearly communicates her well researched ideas and personal experiences. Her words have sparked wonderful conversations already! You’re going to want to read this book in one sitting and you probably could - but there is a lot to think about and meditate. I have many sections I plan to go back over and reread for better understanding. Welcher is a great writer who clearly communicates her well researched ideas and personal experiences. Her words have sparked wonderful conversations already!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    What a balanced book! She doesn't at all compromise on God's teachings about sex (including how it's good and that there is such a thing is sexual sin both in and outside of marriage) but she puts the focus where it belongs: on God and the Gospel. I loved this so much!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cat Caird

    Probably one of the best books I've read on the Christian purity culture. It's honest and Rachel continually comes back to scripture, casting our eyes away from Christian subculture on to Jesus. It's fabulous and a must read for all Christians.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ylva

    Rachel Joy Welcher is by far not the first person to criticize how (especially American) churches approach purity, sexuality and relationships. But while the church is being rightfully criticized by many, this is often paired with demands to abandon teachings about purity and Biblical sexuality altogether and replace it with a radically sex-positive, "anything goes" approach. And while I think that we can learn a lot about sexuality from science and should not reject new findings and theories Rachel Joy Welcher is by far not the first person to criticize how (especially American) churches approach purity, sexuality and relationships. But while the church is being rightfully criticized by many, this is often paired with demands to abandon teachings about purity and Biblical sexuality altogether and replace it with a radically sex-positive, "anything goes" approach. And while I think that we can learn a lot about sexuality from science and should not reject new findings and theories just because they are secular, Welcher does an amazing job at showing what shame-free, Christ-focused teaching about sexuality can look like. Some of the aspects that she addresses in this book are how purity teachings can turn into a sexual prosperity gospel as well as promote victim-blaming and treat purity as something purely physical. She illustrates how sexual legalism can lead to problematic attitudes in the church and hinder people to seek help and forgiveness for their sexual sin. Finally, she shows a way forward without leaving the Biblical foundation and how to pass on Christian values without turning them into idols. Her claims about the effects of purity culture are based both on many interviews with people that grew up with it and and an amazing critical discussion of many popular books on purity and sexuality such as And the Bride Wore White or I Kissed Dating Goodbye. She points out both the good things as well as where the authors, even if not intended that way, taught potentially harmful things. The author is also well versed in Scripture and uses it really well to support her suggestions. Another great point is that she refers to criticism of purity cultures by other authors and Christian public figures and critically discusses that as well. At the end of each chapter, there are discussion questions for either individual reflection or a group study. This book is for anyone, parents, teachers, youth leaders, pastors, counselors etc., that wants to teach about purity. Next to Sheila Wray-Gregoire's blog, this is the best resource on Christian sexuality that I have encountered so far. A huge thanks to the publisher for providing a free review copy via Netgalley!

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