Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Passion and... er... well...

Preface: No, I'm not dead and I'm not scared about posting either. I'm just really, really busy. I'm working on a novel so that's where most of my writing time goes. But I feel guilty that I haven't been posting so I'm going to try harder. :) Hopefully, I'll have more book reviews up soon.

As some of you know, I’ve discussed Elizabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity before in many posts, somewhat in depth in these: here and here I've been thinking about it again over the past few months and I realized that it’s honestly not a great example of purity. The story of Jim and Elizabeth’s romance is a decent love story (aside from Jim’s cold feet and stringing Elizabeth along for six years :-/) and I appreciate Elizabeth’s frank discussion of their temptations and her openness with the struggles of waiting. However, in Passion and Purity, Elizabeth and Jim are constantly focusing on the physical aspects of their relationship (or future relationship). Well, actually, it’s mostly Jim. One only has to turn a few pages to find excerpts from letters to where Jim declares that he has a “wetted appetite for her body.”1 Now I have mixed feelings here… on one hand, it is a love letter but on another, Jim just sounds like a perverted creep. And then again, this is hardly something I would include in a discussion of purity! If you’re trying to be pure, you don’t talk about such things! Why? Because focusing on it isn’t going to help at all. Jim and Elizabeth weren’t messing around but they were talking about physical stuff and discussing it and thinking about it so much that they ended up focusing more and more upon physical intimacy. For the reader, this is terribly awkward, not to mention confusing.

In a similar fashion, I Kissed Dating Goodbye and even worse, Boy Meets Girl contain rather detailed descriptions of intimate encounters. I don’t really feel like quoting them, because I don’t want to re-read them! Seriously Josh Harris, did you have to use such descriptive language? I remember trying to read And the Bride Wore White as a teenager and I couldn’t even finish it because the book was so graphic. Did I really need to know that Dannah Gresh? All of these authors included things that can only be labeled as “TMI” and now that I’m an adult, I’m confused as to why they thought this was a good idea. Just what purpose do these discussions serve? If you’re trying to preach purity, why do you need to be so graphic? Why focus so much on the one thing you’re trying to ignore? It’s like that scene in Inception where Arthur says to Saito: “Okay, this is me, planting an idea in your mind. I say: don't think about elephants. What are you thinking about?” And the response is, “Elephants.”2 In fact, none of these authors have a good grasp of psychology because Ironic Process Theory states that the more you try to suppress a thought, the more it will surface in your mind. The more these authors talk about “forbidden subjects” the more the reader will think about forbidden subjects. Oh, and let me get one thing straight here, I have no problem with healthy, helpful discussions or advice for intimate relationships. Some people need that and I don’t think we should avoid the subject. However, I do have a problem with books that are supposed to promote purity dropping graphic descriptions into your mind with no warning. And if you are 12-18, it is doubly jarring and opens up a whole new discussion. My mom let me read Passion and Purity when I was 14, and I don't fault her at all, because she trusted Elizabeth Elliot. I don't think Elliot was worthy of that trust. Many parents are encouraged to trust these authors but knowing the facts, what parent would want to give their 12-18 year old these books?     

In all honesty, I think all of these books fall into the trap of puritanism and a lot of Christians fall into it as well. “…Puritanism is the most leering and prurient of world views. Far from wanting to keep sex in the private sphere, the puritans can't wait to drag it out in public. Puritans are the least buttoned-up people in the world. They can't wait to pin a scarlet A for adultery on someone's clothing, or hold a public humiliation ritual.”3 Yes, exactly. I couldn’t have said it better myself.


1. Elizabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity, 1984.
2. Christopher Nolan, Inception, 2010.

3: BBC News Magazine. “A Point of View: Sex and the French.” 17 January 2014.