There are a lot of Christian young women who walk around thinking that because they are virgins they will offer their future husbands the ultimate gift of all.
Several religions across history and geography place a premium on chastity. Chastity, simply, is abstaining from sexual relations as a result of one’s religious beliefs.
Since I am a Christian, I can talk more comfortably about chastity in the Christian faith. This is the problem I want to address: that the Church in Ghana has for a long time poorly handled the conversation on chastity.
By the Church, I mean the body of all those who identify as Christians: leaders, pastors, members, counsellors, ushers, cleaners. The result of the church poorly handling the conversation about chastity is that her duty of safeguarding the holistic physical and spiritual growth of her members has been compromised.
The Ghana church’s poorly handling of this conversation on chastity stems from two assumptions about chastity which have unfortunately seeped into the mind-sets of church members, and of course, everyone else who cares enough to listen. The first assumption is the equation of purity to virginity.
For decades, the conversation about chastity and purity has been dispensed at the gates of virginity. Church members are advised to safeguard their virginities- specifically, the biological structure that makes a person a virgin. Some churches even initiate the chastity oaths system where young people take swear in the presence of their pastors (and sometimes the entire church) to wait until marriage before they have sex.
One may wonder what exactly my problem is with the church equating chastity to virginity.
My problem is that virginity is a subset of chastity. What does God intend by commanding that those who call on His name flee sexual immorality? Surely His intension is not that we keep our virginities untouched just for keeping it sake, but because He desires purity.
Purity is the reason for chastity, and virginity is one of the ways of being chaste, not the only way. When the church rolls up the concept of purity and chastity into the narrow unit of virginity, it neglects the foundation of God’s command about abstaining from sexual immorality. The foundation is purity; it is for Christians to remember that their bodies are temples of God, and until marriage it is reserved for God alone.
If the preoccupation is on virginity, the church should not be surprised that unmarried young people who desire to fulfil the commandment on virginity (not purity) will have oral, and even anal sex on a regular basis, because they do not consider that as a loss of their virginity.
A second assumption that the church has made which is wreaking so much havoc is the portrayal of chastity as a purely female pursuit. From pulpits and family devotions, from schools to family parties, females are advised to be sure to keep their virginities. Chastity in church is made to look like only women are expected to remain virgins. The advice is always to daughters and sisters and young women. What is even more disturbing is that more men talk about the need for girls to remain chaste than women do! And if ever such men are asked, some of them, like the one I spoke to recently, will tell you that “my sweetest sister, female virginity is much more celebrated in the Bible than male virginity”.
Celebrated?! I can just picture a bunch of first century Christians sitting round a fire celebrating their daughter’s virginity while ignoring their randy son’s lascivious lifestyle. Implicit in such thinking is that males are not expected to be virgins, and therefore pure.
I find it incongruous with God’s character that he will set such different standards of purity for men, and women. When it comes to purity and fleeing sexual immorality, there is no such thing as women only should remain chaste. No such thing.
Apart from these assumptions, there is the other narrative about a woman’s dignity being her virginity. Pastors say it, fathers say it, mothers say it, newly-wed Christian sisters say it. If my virginity, which is narrowly viewed as a flap of tissue, is the entirety of my dignity, then who is Christ to me? Who then, is Christ to me? I am not saying chastity and virginity is unimportant; the bible makes us know that it is. But virginity is not a person’s dignity.
There are a lot of Christian young women who walk around thinking that because they are virgins they will offer their future husbands the ultimate gift of all. As a result, they are not improving themselves; they are not growing in ways that will bless their husbands, their societies, their churches and their very selves.
Were I a man, I’d marry someone who wasn’t a virgin than I would a foolish woman. If virginity is a person’s dignity and her acceptance by God, Rahab would have never been mentioned in the bible. And every time a woman was mentioned, it would have gone like and this is “Martha, the dignified virgin”.
The conversation on virginity must be reviewed if we want to make a difference. We should ask ourselves:
1. How are we conveying the message on the essence of virginity?
2. Is the way we convey this message biased and influenced by societal perceptions of sexuality?
3. Is our approach helping with the church’s holistic endeavour to preserve a people who are pure, just as Christ is pure?
4. Is our approach biblical?
5. And finally, is our message one that young, unmarried people of today will find rational and credible?
By Dede Wiliams