Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sara Moslener on How "Purity Work and Rhetoric Has Emerged at Moments When Socially Conservative Evangelicals Seek to Assert and Maintain Their Political Power"

Religion Dispatches interviews Sara J. Moslener about that inspired her to write her new book Virgin Nation: Sexual Purity and American Adolescence (Oxford UP, 2015): when asked what's the most important take-home message of her book, she replies: 

Sexual purity movements, past and present, are not ultimately about promoting a biblical view of sexuality. They are about explaining large-scale culture crises (e.g. Anglo-Saxon decline, the Cold War, changing gender roles and sexual mores) and providing a formula for overcoming those crises. . . . 

Each historical example I analyze demonstrates that purity work and rhetoric has emerged at moments when socially conservative evangelicals seek to assert and maintain their political power. Sexual purity isn’t about what Abby and Brendan do on a Friday night, it’s about constructing a view of the United States as a nation in distress and claiming that evangelical Christianity can not only best explain the crisis, but save us from our demise.

And, of course, as Moslener notes, the overweening concern of these purity-policing movements that are far more about culture crisis and evangelical anxiety about waning influence in American culture is to police the lives of women. It's when women get out of control that we hear the loudest cries that the culture is going to hell in a handbasket and marriage is falling apart.

(Yet another important reminder that the hostility of social and religious conservatives to LGBT rights is rooted in the resistance of these groups to the emergence of women as autonomous players on the stage of human history at this point in time . . . .)

P.S. This Religion Dispatches article is worth reading to see Jim Ken's hilarious "Virginity" illustration, as well.

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