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The Image of God and Sexuality

Shawna R. B. Atteberry

There is a very disturbing activity going on to encourage abstinence among Christian teenagers and children. It started with "Purity Balls "a memorable ceremony for daughters to pledge commitments to purity and their fathers to pledge commitments to protect their girls." (see Father-Daughter Purity Balls [external link]). I could not find a pledge the daughters make, but here is the pledge the fathers make:

I, [daughter’s name]’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity. I will be pure in my own life as a man, husband and father. I will be a man of integrity and accountability as I lead, guide and pray over my daughter and as the high priest in my home. This covering will be used by God to influence generations to come.

This year the same organization put on an Integrity Ball [external link] for mothers and sons. There was no mention of the mothers making a pledge to their sons, but here is the pledge the sons take:

I, _________________________, choose before God to remain pure in my lifestyle, as I grow toward the goal of manhood, and until such a time that I marry. I will be a young man of integrity and accountability as I strive to be an example to those around me. I will be bold and courageous, no matter what. Today, I choose to seek after the high calling of God in every area of my life.

During the Purity Balls girls and teenagers are told to keep themselves pure for their future husbands, and as seen in the pledge, fathers pledge to "cover" their daughters and protect their virginity. During the Integrity Balls boys are told that every girl they will date is someone else’s daughter and potentially someone else’s future wife. Would these young men want another man messing around with their future wife? Boys pledge to take charge of their lives and body; fathers pledge that they will protect their daughter’s virginity.

Exactly how does Generations of Light (the organization behind the balls) view women? It certainly seems that they view women as objects to be managed by men: first by fathers then by husbands. This is a serious problem not only socially but biblically. Rather than placing women under the management and control of men as objects to be protected, children and teenagers should be taught that they are created in the image of God, and for that reason alone they need to respect each other. Boys should have been told that every girl they date is made in the image of God, and he needs to respect her and treat her accordingly. Girls need to hear the same thing. Christian teenagers also need to realize that first and foremost they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They might date, and they might break up. They will eventually get married, but through all those transient relationships, they are still brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another issue that this approach avoids, but which needs to be addressed, is that girls and women have sexual drives and needs as well as boys and men. The hidden assumption is that men are aggressively sexual and women are to be passive resistors of temptation. But that is a horrible patriarchal myth that needs to end! Both men and women have sex drives, and both men and women have access to the fruit of self-control that the Spirit gives us. We should be teaching our teenagers how to cultivate self-control and set boundaries that will help them keep any pledges they make. It goes without saying that girls should be making their own pledges to take control of their lives and bodies as do the boys. And mothers have as much "authority" and responsibility to be "pure in my own life" and as much need to make commitments to their daughters and sons as the fathers.

When men and women view each other as made in the image of God, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can respect each other and cultivate the self-control that is necessary to resist sexual (and all other) temptations. When a woman is a person in her own right and a man respects that, then they can set biblical guidelines and boundaries to their relationships.

-Shawna R. B. Atteberry, Copyright © 2013, Shawna R. B. Atteberry - All Rights Reserved
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