Purity: Teaching six to nine year-olds about sex

Purity. When I think of this word – I conjure up an image of someone who is morally excellent in every way. A pure person is set apart from the dirtier facets of everyday human life. He or she will be well practiced in avoiding anything that could damage their purity and lower them to the human plane. He or she won’t watch those kinds of movies, or listen to that kind of music, or pick up this kind of book, or even glimpse at a magazine cover over there. Ultimately, avoiding both emotional and sexual temptation are the biggest concerns for the pure, because once they lose their perfection – they fall from the grace of the heights they used to inhabit.

Some Christians – growing concerned about purity in their young children have written books aimed for six year-olds to nine year-olds to explain to them the importance of guarding their sexual purity. These books are “The Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God’s Gift of Purity” and “The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Rewards of a Pure Heart“. They’re meant as a hers and his set. Their descriptions are as follow: “A loving king and queen present their daughter with a gift from God – her first kiss – to keep or to give away. The wise girl waits for the man who is worthy of her precious gift. Where is he and how will she ever find him? The surprising answer in this marvelous parable will touch the heart of parent and child alike.The Princess and the Kiss beautifully portrays the ageless message that “love… comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 NIV)” and “This captivating adventure follows a young squire who travels a long, dangerous road beside his brave knight, on a quest for their king. The action builds until the final face-off with the monstrous, evil dragon. Only then does the squire learn of the secret beyond the cave that ends in a joyous celebration for the entire kingdom.Children will gain valuable insight as they learn, along with the young squire, what it means to face the dangers of temptation, and what it takes to guard one’s heart from all that is impure.” Six … sex … I guess it’s never too early to start ruining a kid on the subject.

Some of the reviewers rightly pointed out that in the case of the Princess and the Kiss, the book confused the poor girls that it was meant for – they began to wonder if they should even kiss their parents good night! Perhaps this means that – at least for girls – kissing is viewed as the slippery slope that this song warns about:
[Girl’s name] and [boy’s name] sitting in the tree
K-i-s-s-i-n-g!
First comes love.
Then comes marriage…

Seriously, a lot of Christians raised in Purity Culture teachings really do try to save their very first kiss for their wedding night. Because Bible. Even though I can’t find the verse that says to do as much.

But if you’re going to get Biblical about dating and everything, one should really go all the way. A father should sequester his daughter under his roof and have her escorted about when in public. A suitor should always approach her father first, whether she’s of age – roughly twelve or thirteen, or expired goods at the ripe old age of twenty five or so. He should probably be at least ten years older than her in either case, in order to establish himself economically. Oh, and technically his virginity isn’t as important as hers. The patriarchs had so many wives and concubines that it would have been impossible to demand of him the same standard demanded of her.

At least in the story of the scroll, there are rules for boys (but not girls) to live by:
1) Listen only to words that are pure.
2) Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
3) Keep the unclean far from your lips to guard the wellspring of your life.
4) Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
5) Breathe only that which is pure.

Both books have companion books with life lessons based on their books and feature a special celebration, a ‘Squires of the Lantern Ceremony’ and a ‘Princess Ceremony’ – I don’t know what they’re like, but odds are your little squire and your little princess can promise to obey the way of purity and live it all the days of their life.

I can’t help but think how many hearts are going to be broken by these terrible ideas. So many young men and women fail at their first relationships because of the too-high pressure that’s been riding on them for years – they become impure. Then when the pure meet them – they have little choice but to recognize the impure as potential pollutants in their lives. There’s no grace.

When it comes to purity, sexual abstinence never goes far enough. It’s about guarding emotions, avoiding visual and mental images, purging thoughts and feelings of anything that pollutes our bodies physically, spiritually, emotionally that would prevent God from preparing us for marriage and our future spouses – and six years old is when parents should cultivate their children’s purity – planting the seed that they have to protect something, to guard something and that if they fail to do so, they will become impure, imperfect. Seriously? Why not let a kid be a kid and worry about that when they’re older? There’s no grace – and let’s face it, for those of us who have real lives, we so very infrequently turn out like storybooks.

When it comes to purity, I really think there’s no such thing as a one size fits all teaching for everybody. Not every girl is a princess and even six years-olds know that not every girl in a fairy-tale book is a princess – there are non-princesses that fill up the world, too. And six year old boys know that not every boy could be a squire either – there were peasants too poor or from the wrong kind of blood to be considered a potential for that position. The most important lesson of all is grace – without it, we wouldn’t be forgiven – so too we should forgive others and be forgiving on the subjects of sex and purity – children shouldn’t be prepared for courtship as if Christianity were a mass assembly line. Or taught that failure is tantamount to eternal damnation in the worst possible way. Each person is an individual and what they will need to become fully mature differs for each one of us.

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