As a supplement to Yr Editrix’s Sunday column on the “counseling” recommended by the Duggar family’s homeschooling guru, we thought we’d take a look back at some other homeschooling wisdom regarding sex education for good little Christian children. Throughout all of it runs this weird notion of “purity”: sex is dirty and nasty and sinful except when it’s done by a man and a woman joined together by God, in which case it is a wonderful blessed thing that results in lots of Christian babies. No wonder fundamentalists are all obsessed with who’s putting their naughtybits where. And so we get creepy stuff like “purity balls,” where teen girls go to a prom with their dads and promise to stay virgins until they’re married, and they get all dressed up like Purity Tarts, and there is nothing creepy about it at all.
Christianist life is just one glorious medley of patriarchal authority and mixed messages, and so we’d like to review a few lessons gleaned from the pages of one of the more insane fundamentalist sex ed books out there, Sex, Love, & Romance: Sex Education from the Bible (1989), from the those fun-loving scamps at A Beka Book, the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College, the little college that’s so strictly fundamentalist that they might consider Bob Jones University a nest of liberal backsliders. The book was written by a paragon of moral instruction named — we are not making this up — Pastor Hugh F. Pyle. You there, in the back, stop snickering. We should note that while the Duggar children got their brains warped by a different curriculum — materials from Bill Gothard’s “Advanced Training Institute” (ATI), whose many weirdnesses are documented at Recovering Grace — this little book by Hugh Pyle comes from a similar stew of patriarchal, shame-based purity nonsense.
The premise of Sex, Love & Romance is quite simple: the only book you really need to understand is the Bible, but since you were fool enough to go looking for a book about Christian sex ed, here’s a bunch of sex lessons from the Good Book, and they are mostly about NO SEX. Says Pyle in his foreword:
It has been my conviction that if a child is brought up on the Bible, and, if he consistently reads the Word of God as a young person, he will have all the sex education he needs. Why not let God teach our children about sex? Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the warnings of Scripture about impurity and loose living will do much to prevent the sincere young person from playing with forbidden fruit.
This is a book that aims to lecture the wickedness out of young people; it proudly announces that it contains no “how-to” or “human anatomy” lessons such as might be found in other books. Rather,
This book is for teens who are beginning to form their moral values and who need to know what is right and what is wrong in the area of sexual relationships and what the consequences of their actions will be.
Hugh Pyle seems vaguely disgusted by the fact that he even has to write about sex at all — shouldn’t you little pervs just go read the Bible? Ultimately, you’ll figure it all out on your wedding night:
Sex is holy and beautiful because God invented it. God wrote everything that we need to know about it, and, regarding the details of married love, you can wait until later to find out about that. The Word of God has much to say about sex and gives the finest sex education in the world.
“Male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27). In the arrangement of God it takes two people — male and female — for a new life to be produced. They come together in the intimacy of marriage, just as the Creator planned it, and the result is a precious little new boy or girl in the home. This is what it means when “Adam knew his wife.”
Just don’t expect any details from Hugh Pyle, because he has some sinning to prevent, and even a description of what happens between married people might be too much for the young reader to be exposed to. It’s beautiful, but best not to think about at all.
Needless to say, Hugh Pyle is against dancing, since it’s suggestive of the practices of “Pagan natives around heathen campfires,” and the modern rock music incites young folk to “dance in such a lewd and provocative manner that the flesh (sex lust) is aroused. They sway and writhe in front of each other in lustful movements.” In fact, were it up to Pyle, high schools would sponsor a nice sit-down dinner with no dancing instead of a prom, so as to prevent all the lust that is generated by dancing, not to mention the drinking and carrying on that so often follows.
Just as the obscene “counseling” materials from ATI blame sexual abuse on such pernicious influences as child victims’ being seen naked in the bath, Hugh Pyle warns that God is not at all happy with nakedness:
God has a lot to say about nakedness. In Leviticus 18, the whole chapter deals with nakedness. He emphasizes again and again the danger of being careless about covering up. He plainly declares that we are not to uncover the nakedness of “any that is near of kin.”
Nothing but evil and ruination can come from immodesty, and Pyle also warns his young readers that women who dress too provocatively will not only “bring shame and criticism to the Christian cause,” they may also be the cause of their own sexual assault — for this one, he doesn’t even bother with a Bible verse, but instead just goes with good old Florida preacher common sense:
They may also cause men to lust after them with evil thoughts. Many a woman or girl who has been assaulted [raped] or beaten and abused by some evil man has at least been partly to blame if she was dressed in such an immodest way as to cause temptation.
And where is the warning to boys not to let themselves be overcome by lust? Hahaha, you are very naïve if you think Pyle included anything like that!
And when it comes to the worstest sins of all, fornication and homosexuality, Pyle has a simple solution: Don’t even talk about it, and it simply won’t happen:
Fornication is not to be even once mentioned among the saints of God. For what people talk about, they think about, and what they think about, they are more easily tempted to do. In other words, no Christian should ever get involved in sex lust or sexual involvement before marriage, and it should not even be discussed…
Fornication is not to be once named (or considered) among God`s children. It is filthy and along with it goes other kinds of filthiness (Eph. 5:3-5). People who look at that which is filthy, tell dirty jokes, or listen to filthy music will soon be filthy and will be engaged in the terrible sin of fornication.
“No whoremonger nor unclean person has any inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.” People who do such things testify that they are in darkness, but Christians are the children of light. We are not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, and it is a shame to even speak of the things that are done by such people (Eph. 5:5-12). There are some things that we should not even discuss with others.
Not surprisingly, there’s nothing in Sex, Love and Romance about child sexual abuse or how to counsel its victims, because it’s just not anything that Christians need to think about. In fact, says Pyle, the quest for purity is largely a matter of policing one’s own thoughts:
God knows our thoughts. We must guard our thoughts if we would remain sexually pure. What do you think about when your mind is in neutral? If a person truly repents of sin, that person will have to forsake evil thoughts to receive God’s blessing every day. […]
So do not let your thoughts dwell on that which will create lust. Lust is the slimy serpent that will lead down the path of sin and death.
Read good books. Pray about all things, particularly as you begin your day. Make much of your Bible, and dwell upon its wonderful promises. Listen to wholesome and good music, and discipline those pleasure hours.
So to keep those slimy serpents away, you only need to read the Bible, pray, and make sure you only think of good wholesome things. And if you do fall prey to lust, remember that you’re forgiven, and you’ll probably be cured by being sent to help a friend of the family remodel their house, Amen.