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Scott Croft


help! my parents are duped!

martin luther

A few years ago, I started avidly reading everything published. I had a few favorite writers, including Candace Watters who wrote “Learning from Ruth.” At the time, I was thrilled that anyone was saying anything about the Christian dating environment and telling women it was ok to step up and ask a guy out. So, I “liked” their facebook page . . . and then never unfollowed it. I probably should– since, as you all know, I’ve become a stark-raving liberal feminist universalist errantist . . . apparently. Anyway, about a quarter of the time I read their posts just for shits and giggles– but, most of the time, what they post is either boring or annoying. But, occasionally, like this morning, they’re infuriating.

One of the the things that Boundless does is answer letters from readers, giving them advice about life and such. I’ve covered one such letter before (and by “cover” I really mean “rage-stomped-all-over”). They put up another letter this morning and titled the post “How can I convince my parents to find a new church?” I knew that I was being ridiculous to hope that the letter-writer was worried about his parent’s crazy-conservative/fundamentalist church, but I was intrigued by the title anyway, so I clicked it.


I’m a college student, and the church my parents attend back home is not biblically-based. It has worsened in recent years, allowing female pastors and preaching sermons on how to be a good person rather than explaining Gospel truth. My mother recently told me that the Bible study she is attending taught her that the creation story as given in the Bible isn’t true, but it’s a myth to explain an underlying truth that God is in control.

How do I share truth lovingly with my parents without usurping their authority? I want them to flee from this church and find one that preaches the Gospel, but they don’t want to leave the community behind and have been duped into believing that what the church is teaching is good. My heart breaks over my family. I’m praying for them, which I know is paramount. Is there a good way to lovingly convince them they need to find a new church home?

First of all:





I wouldn’t know what to do if my church was open to thinking of parts of Scripture (such as Genesis 1-11 cough) not as something that has to be literally, factually true, but something that we can read to discover larger, more valuable lessons. Like, oh, I don’t know, highlighting the fact that the Genesis creation narrative is orderly and intentional and completely unlike most other creation myths that involve the world being created by gods who were fighting with each other and went oops we made a planet. Personally, I find that particular truth a lot more valuable than “you must believe that days were 24 hours before there was even a sun that the earth revolved around!”

Also female pastors? Thank you I’ll take that. The church I’m attending on-and-off recently named a female pastor: the woman who was previously in charge of the children’s ministry . . . and is now in charge of the children’s ministry. Yay. Granted, this is a huge step forward. I’ve whined quite a bit about how it’s unfair that most churches have women serving a role that if a man was filling it would be called “pastor of _____,” so the fact that this church actually acknowledged that she was already being a pastor and recognized that she deserved respect and the title is a huge deal, and I’m not begrudging them that. This is, however, in the same church where women aren’t allowed to serve on the elder board, so . . . baby steps, I suppose.

But the biggest problem I have with this letter writer is that this young person believes that his or her parents have been duped and something absolutely must be done about this right now. “Duped,” to me, says a lot about what this person believes about people who could think that woman can and should be pastors and are open to thinking of the Bible in different ways.

And, it stung, even though he or she wasn’t talking about me and doesn’t know I exist, because it’s the reaction I’ve gotten from friends and family. I’ve been duped. I’m only thinking this way because I’m young, and someday I’ll look back on all this feminist ridiculousness and laugh. I’ll come around, once age and maturity have convinced me I need to be a Tea Party Republican Complementarian again. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t want to be publicly associated with me. When I try to talk to some, conversations quickly dive into “you’re denying what the Bible clearly teaches” territory pretty fast. If we’re talking about something political, the “you’re just saying that because you heard some famous liberal person say it” card occasionally gets played. And I just want to start tearing my hair out at that point because under neath it all is “you’re wrong, and I can’t believe how stupid you must be to believe any of this.”

Anyway, the Boundless writer that responded was, once again, Scott Croft (“of “you’re right, you deserve to feel upset because no one’s a virgin anymore” fame). I don’t really have a problem with the advice he gave. A lot of it is probably good advice to follow any time you actually have to confront someone and you expect the conversation to be unpleasant. It was just a little disheartening that he totally agreed with everything the letter writer has a problem with (for example, telling him or her to “focus” on how the “church may not believe the Bible is literally true”).

The only part of the advice I have a serious problem with appears here:

Start with questions. Rather than beginning with a frontal assault of challenge, maybe spend some time asking your parents what they believe about major doctrines of the faith. Once you carefully listen to their answers (without attacking them), you’ll know better what you’re dealing with and may be in a position to ask whether their church believes or teaches the same things.

I’ve written about this attitude before— how evangelicals are trained practically all of their lives not to actually listen to people who don’t agree with you but to listen for the express purpose of finding out “what you’re dealing with” so you’ll know better how to tear their argument to shreds, evangelical-style. The whole point of this paragraph is in the last sentence: you only listen to your parents not to understand their perspective better, or to love them for the human beings they are, but so that you’ll “be in a position” to convince them how they– or in this instance, their church– is really, really wrong.

Scott just assumes that the parents will eventually realize how messed up, and not “biblically-based” their church is. Oh, they’re not going to “run screaming right away,” he says, but they’ll come around– eventually. They’ll see the light, as long as you just keep on praying for them little buddy.

And I’m frustrated, because this letter is just a written-out example of how a lot of conservative evangelical Christians treat people who are more progressive, more liberal– or just people who struggle with doubts and questions. Patience oozes from every word, all the while they’re fighting the urge to roll their eyes so far back into their skull they get stuck there. It’s a frustrating feeling, knowing that you’re not actually being listened to, but that the person you’re talking to is sitting on the edge of their seat just waiting for you to stop talking so they can stab your argument with a brilliant sound bite about what the Bible clearly says.


future husbands: your future wife does not belong to you

virgin with lamp

So, I keep swearing to myself that I won’t keep writing reactionary posts. I do. I really do. I make all these beautiful promises about keeping my head down, not getting involved when someone says something unintelligent . . .

And then this happens.

And, after ranting about it a little bit, and stomping around on twitter (only two tweets for this one! two! I did so good), I decide that hey, this is an issue that actually needs addressing. Because, yes, I’m reacting to something that got published on the internet– but I’m also reacting to the place where these ideas come from. And these ideas come from a very scary, very dark place. A place I lived most of my life in.

So, to get us started, here’s the significant portions of the young man’s letter I’m going to address:

. . . I’ve been checking off the various boxes over the years to become a better mate, yet I cannot seem to find any girls of marriage potential.

I have not been able to find any Christian girls who are virgins. If I successfully get a date, as it moves along I am constantly disappointed to find out they have had sex with numerous men before. Each makes the typical statement that they were mistakes and they’ve asked God for forgiveness and moved on. Unfortunately, as a potential husband, there is no option for me to “move on” beyond the infidelity . . .

My female friends keep telling me, “It’s not that big of a deal, and no girls over 20 are virgins. The fact they’ve had sex doesn’t change much.” But not only do I not believe them, there’s lots of scientific as well as biblical evidence for it being a big deal! And that’s on top of the human feelings of betrayal, shame and dishonor of knowing your girl didn’t love you enough to not sleep with other men, as well as the mental images you’ll have for a lifetime of her being sexually active with her lovers.

Feel free to go vomit into a bucket, or go scream into a pillow. I had to go furiously clean my kitchen after I read this. I’ll wait for you.

Ready? Ok.

Honestly, though, the first thing that clues me in to this young man’s attitude is in the words “checking off the boxes.” He talks about all the things he’s done to ready himself for marriage– getting a job, settling down, all that. Those are all fantastically good things. I encourage anyone who asks that waiting to seriously think about long-term relationships until you’re established can be a very good, healthy thing. Doesn’t make it the right circumstances for everyone, but it can help. So yay. He’s waited until he’s more established to start looking.

But, when I think back to all the men I knew growing up, men who declared they’d follow this same formula, men who ascribed to all those kissed-dating-goodbye ideas, I think I know where this man is coming from. And he’s coming from a place where men are The Supreme Commander over All Things– in the church, in the home, in the workplace. In a word, that’s called patriarchy, which will be important in just a sec.

So, his entire letter is dedicated to asking for some guy on to give him justification. He’s not really interested in advice– he’s interested in having Scott Croft affirm his belief that “finding a virgin” is some sort of biblical mandate, that he’s right in believing that he shouldn’t marry anything ‘less’ than a virgin. That, because he’s a virgin, and he’s “checked off all the right boxes,” that he deserves a virgin. That he deserves to feel “betrayed” and “sinned against” by any unmarried woman having sex with someone who isn’t him.

After he opens with not finding women who meet his standards as a “potential,” he then labels the act of a woman having pre-marital sex as infidelity.


Let’s let that sink in for a moment.

Because, ladies, having sex before you’ve even met your future husband is cheating. And, in this frame of reference, it’s cheating because, guess what– you belong to him already. You’ve belonged to him from the moment you were born (because, of course, any suitable husband will be older than you). Because God made you for each other. God knew who you were going to marry when he formed you in your mother’s womb. Behaving like you’re not already married? Not possible. Because you are, before you’ve even sworn that vow. Your body, your vagina, isn’t yours. It’s his, your future husband’s. Always.

And because your vagina belongs to him, if you let anyone else in there, he deserves to feel betrayed, and shamed, and dishonored by what you’ve done with your body.

I’d like to highlight the words he chose to use– betrayal, shame, and dishonor. That’s the language of patriarchy. He can be betrayed if you’ve broken a vow to him– a vow you’ve never even made. He can feel shamed by you, because he has the right to control what you do before you’ve met him. He can be dishonored by you, because you belong to him. Your honor, your choices, are his. You don’t get to make decisions based on what betrays and dishonors yourself.

And to top it all off, you just don’t love him enough. A man you’ve never met. And he’s going to continuously feel threatened by your previous sexual partners, because he has always owned your body. It’s his possession, and someone else dared to touch it. No, you dared to let someone else touch it.

That being said, I think that even with those who in general agree with the emotional and physical virginity idea thought this letter-writer was an unmitigated ass.

So, moving on to the response, where everyone shouted a great big cry of “here, here!” Because it has its own problems.

This is the second sentence of Scott Croft’s response:

To begin with — especially in light of what I am about to write below — I want to affirm you in your belief that premarital sex is everywhere and always a sin, and that it is a sin not only against God, but against one’s eventual spouse. I deeply wish that more single people — especially those who profess to be Christian — lived out that conviction.

And then he goes to the Bible to back up this point.

Matthew 15:19– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
Mark 7:21– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
I Corinithians 6:18– this explicitly states that sexual immorality is a “sin against your own body.”
1 Timothy 5:2– includes the word “purity” which means “clean,” but it’s a stretch to make that about sex.
Galations 5:19-21– doesn’t say that pre-marital sex is a sin against your spouse.
Song of Solomon 2:7– “don’t awaken love until it pleases.” Ok. Maybe that’s about sex. Maybe.
Hebrews 13:4– is specifically talking about already married people, so, no particular relevance here.

Interesting thing about all those passages– they are references to “sexual immorality,” which is a vague enough term, but we can assume (at least for the moment) that they’re not talking about prostitution or pedophilia, but pre-marital sex. Even if we accept that assumption, none of these passages say pre-marital sex is a sin against your future spouse. None. Not one. One of them even says, quite clearly, that “sexual immorality” (whatever it is) is a sin against your own body.

Scott does go on to say some things that I agree with– that all of these principles affect men and women equally, which doesn’t really get said very often in our patriarchal culture when men own a woman’s vagina. He also goes on to say that issues like pornography are more damaging than pre-marital sex, so kudos to Scott for that.

But then . . .

In other words . . .  you are right to be frustrated at the sexual immorality you see, and it’s quite understandable for you to feel hurt at the notion of marrying a woman who has sinned against you by having sex before her marriage to you.

Heavens. I don’t know how to make this more clear, but there is no evidence, from the Bible, that pre-marital sex is a sin against anyone. If it is a sin, which is not what I’m addressing in this post, it’s only a sin for you, personally. It only becomes something that can be “against” someone when that someone is a man, and he owns your vagina, and because he owns it, deserves to be upset about what happens to it.

Going to use a ridiculous example here, but it’s like my car– if someone came along and took my car for a test drive without my permission, I’d have a right to be pretty dang upset. Because it’s my car. I paid for it so that I would have exclusive rights to it, and no one could use it but me.

But guess what? My vagina isn’t a car. It’s not anybody’s property– not even after I get married. If I decide to commit adultery, it’s not a betrayal because I’ve done something with my husband’s property that I didn’t have the right to do. It’s a betrayal because, as a human being who made a promise to stay faithful to my husband, I would have broken that promise by having an affair. Vow breaking, in my opinion, is a serious issue.

Back to the article– Scott does affirm that just because a man or a woman has pre-marital sex it doesn’t mean they can’t get married. Yay. But then he just goes back to the same tired line– that this man is justified in being upset that a woman who’s had sex has “betrayed him” and “sinned against him.” Scott tells the man to ponder grace and forgivness, after just making that task extraordinarily difficult by saying “y’know what, women who’ve had sex did betray you, and they did sin against you.” He’s said exactly what this man wanted him to say. This man wrote that letter asking for justification in believing that a woman having sex is a betrayal against his ownership– and he got it.

To round this out, I’d just like to remind everyone that Rahab was a זָנָה, which is usually translated as “prostitute.” And she is in the lineage of Jesus Christ.

Edit: I’d also like to note that Scott doesn’t say that it’s only a sin against a man when a woman has sex, and that it’s not equally as much as a sin against a woman when a man has sex. However, the idea in both the letter and the response is based on the patriarchal notion that a woman’s virginity belongs to a man. It’s an “update” to say that a man’s virginity also belongs to a woman, but it’s the same idea. This idea is wrong because it completely ignores concepts like individual autonomy and personal agency. No one’s decisions belongs to anyone else. Male or female.