Virgin Tales and the Romance Prosperity Gospel

Khrystian kicks up her heels — or at least one — with her military captain husband Chad in ‘Virgin Tales.

A new evangelical “documentary” movie’s trailer starts out typical. Young women pledge to stay virgins until marriage. An evangelical song plays. Younger girls dance in lacy white.

Then we see a woman kneeling for her fatherly/priestly blessing. Later we hear another woman say, “I’ve just always known that I wanted to be a wife and a mother. I would hate to go off and spend thousands of dollars on an education that I wouldn’t use.”

Wait — wasn’t this presentation about staying pure before marriage?

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For some Christians, those beliefs are one and the same. But are biblical commands to walk by the Spirit in light of the Gospel, treat spiritual family with purity, and repent of sexual sins, no longer enough? Do we also need (Talmud-like?) rules about not even kissing before marriage, human fathers acting as family “priests,” and women refusing to attend college?

Even in mainstream Christianity we may promise: Sacrifice yourself, sow your seed, and God will always reward you with a great marriage — effectively, a Romance Prosperity Gospel.

Further concerns:

  • Why do many abstinence promotions focus only on women’s purity? Why do others emphasize fathers helping daughters, an emphasis simply foreign to Scripture?
  • Why make “documentaries” to push beliefs that are at best extra-biblical? (See also: Divided, which accuses youth ministry of not simply being a bad idea but of ruining families and churches.)
  • How does showcasing one’s virginity — encouraging others to think about a particular woman having or not having sex! — fit with biblical truths about humility and modesty?

We must stay active in non-Christian cultures opposing idolatrous versions of “marriage.” But let’s be sure we aren’t making extra-biblical marriage methods into new idols within evangelical cultures — idols that may do just as much to exalt ourselves and distract from the Christ whom marriage should exalt.

As much as we oppose marriage redefinition, let’s also make time to refute other sins such as family worship, virgin veneration, and Romance Prosperity Gospels.

About E. Stephen Burnett

E. Stephen Burnett is a journalist, aspiring novelist, and editor and webslinger at Speculative Faith. His mission: to explore and enjoy epic stories that reflect the truths and beauties of the first and greatest Epic Story, God’s Word. He also writes for a dynamic news franchise in Austin, Texas and delves into Christ-and-culture doctrine at Christ and Pop Culture. He also enjoys nonfiction, soundtrack music, and spending life with his wife, Lacy, in their Texas headquarters.

  • Kristin

    Thanks for this post. I think you make some great points about this disturbing trend.

    I’d point out though that the Wilsons did not make the documentary, nor was this documentary made to “push beliefs” – at least not those of the Wilsons. It’s really not an “insiders evangelical” film like Divided. This documentary explores their practices, but the filmmaker states on the film’s website, under “Director’s Statement” that “My world—my philosophy, religion and attitude towards sexuality—is completely different than the Wilsons’, and it would be against my nature to adopt the family’s ideas, sympathize with them or trivialize them.”

    It may have not been the wisest choice for this family to agree to participate in the film though – especially given your point about it being biblically problematic to showcase one’s virginity.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Kristin, thanks for your clarification about the Wilsons not being the documentary maker. (They founded the father/daughter “purity ball” concept.) It is intriguing that more homeschooling/neo-patriarchy advocates are considering it appropriate to showcase their beliefs in mass-media venues. See also: the Duggars.

    Inarguably, what non-Christians end up seeing from such efforts is plenty of manmade “family values,” along with Biblical family values, and less of Christ.

    Whether media stars do proclaim Him, and have this cut from the final product, is another issue. Either way, it’s at best unwise to originate beliefs such as “women shouldn’t attend college” or “fathers are family priests” and say “this is Biblical.”

  • Frank Turk

    To be fair, she obviously won’t use her education because she’s an idiot — not because a wife and mother can’t use a college education.

  • GinaRD

    That’s not very kind. And hardly fair, especially considering that we see less than two minutes’ worth of footage of her.

    Though a celibate single Christian myself, I don’t like or agree with the system she’s been brought up in. But calling her an idiot isn’t exactly Christlike.

  • Frank Turk

    Well, since you put it that way, is it especially clever to say that as a wife and mother she’ll have wasted a college education? Or is that not especially clever?

    I’m a committed Christian, a husband, and a father to a daughter. It seems to me that if I raised my daughter to think that the only place you can use an education is in the (all-male?) workplace, I would be teaching her to be the perfect opposite of a well-prepared wife and mother. You can choose the one-word description of such a person, and I’ll be pleased to accept that as a correction.

  • GinaRD

    Uninformed? Misled? Naive? Mistaken?

  • Frank Turk

    Noted. Corrected. Thanks!

  • Brett

    “You can choose the one-word description of such a person, and I’ll be pleased to accept that as a correction.”

    How about “neighbor?”

  • http://goodokbad.com/ Seth T. Hahne

    That’s not actually very descriptive, since it applies to everybody. I get the rhetorical trick you’re trying to employ but it seems a little too jukey. And if we go further with your juke, the entire language falls apart.

    He’s not uniformed, he’s my neighbour. She’s not worn-out, she’s my neighbour. He’s not heartbroken, he’s my neighbour. She’s not eloquent, she’s my neighbour. He’s not promiscuous, he’s my neighbour. She’s not infidelitous, she’s my neighbour. He’s not racist, he’s my neighbour.

  • Brett

    I grant it’s unwieldy, but I have a hard time finding the warrant to draw the line on neighbor qualification. And even if it’s unwieldy once the hairs are being subdivided, I think in the case at hand (in which Mr. Turk before editing himself at GinaRD’s suggestion called the young woman in the movie an “idiot”), it’s an appropriate alternative.

  • http://goodokbad.com/ Seth T. Hahne

    I like the reminder that in whatever we say in regard to other people we need to recall that we’re speaking of our neighbours whom we are to love.

  • Brett

    Agreed, and echoed.

  • Frank Turk

    I find it funny how people who demand the “neighbor” label (and its cognates) are rather ruthless about their demand even after the correction has been offered, accepted, amended, and received with joy.

    I stand by my original word, but have corrected it for the sake of this space — and gladly. But: if it’s going to be a competation to see how many times I can be made to say “so sorry,” forget it.

    Peace.

  • Brett

    You invited suggestions. I offered, but something about the time-frame of posting delayed my suggestion until well after the original post was edited. My apologies if the manner of suggestion made it seem as though it was some kind of “demand.”

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    I would simply apply the label “un-biblical” or even “anti-biblical,” first not to the young woman, but to those who have imparted this notion to her. Yes, it’s her responsibility to compare these beliefs to Scripture as the actual authority, but first let’s challenge these movements and their leaders who call the “father as priest” doctrine “Biblical.” Using the label “anti-Biblical” here should be more shocking than “idiot.”

    Intriguing that at least Catholics keep their men-as-priests beliefs attached to the church; some evangelicals revive this concept and bring it right into the home. And while Catholics may venerate and iconicize one female virgin, evangelicals are slowly beginning to venerate and iconicize hundreds.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    And yet sometimes your neighbor must be told, in love, “That teaching is nowhere in Scripture! It’s idiotic! If you keep going that way, it will hurt you! So stop in the name of love.” (Insert the-bridge-is-out evangelism example.) There may be a time for those kinds of warnings about some of this particular teaching, but right now so few are raising the alarm.

  • Brett

    “It’s idiotic!”

    That sentence kind of dampens the “in the name of love,” doesn’t it? And in my experience — on both the receiving and giving end of it or comments like it — it tends to harden the hearts and ears of the other party.

  • Guest

    Potentially true. Yet surely the rest of the warning would seem just as caustic to the same set of ears. I’m not sure removing “it’s idiotic” would also soften the other blows, and yet the other things are exactly what must be said.

    Insert I-wish-they-would-emasculate-themselves reference.

    However, I just now realize that Paul used that phrase against the more-overt false teachers who weren’t “in the room” at the time. His method was to come alongside the Galatians, not call them idiotic, but to ally with them against the false teachers and teachings. “I am perplexed about you,” he said. But conversely, he would have called the false teaching something very close to “idiotic.” Note I said “the false teaching,” not necessarily the teaching’s believers. Gullible Galatians then and now buy into false teaching for a variety of reasons, surely not always out of malicious motive.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Potentially true. Yet surely the rest of the warning would seem just as caustic to the same set of ears. I’m not sure removing “it’s idiotic” would also soften the other blows, and yet the other things are exactly what must be said.

    Insert I-wish-they-would-emasculate-themselves reference.

    However, I just now realize that Paul used that phrase against the more-overt false teachers who weren’t “in the room” at the time. His method was to come alongside the Galatians, not call them idiotic, but to ally with them against the false teachers and teachings. “I am perplexed about you,” he said. But conversely, he would have called the false teaching something very close to “idiotic.” Note I said “the false teaching,” not necessarily the teaching’s believers. Gullible Galatians then and now buy into false teaching for a variety of reasons, surely not always out of malicious motives.

  • rstarke

    Irony – reading this makes this lady want to cuss like a truck driver and hit things. Stomach turning on so many levels. That phrase (Romance Prosperity Gospel) is dead on.

  • rstarke

    ….or it will reveal that they really are what they are being warned of – stiff-necked fools.

  • GinaRD

    Yes, certainly. Just for clarity’s sake, my objection is to name-calling (which, as Mr. Turk points out, he has apologized for and corrected), not to warning of dangerous and unscriptural teachings.

  • Esther O’Reilly

    Matt Chandler cracks me up on this. “I’m content God, now WHERE IS HE??”

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Definitely a giveaway of prosperity teaching. Okay God, I’ve planted my seed, and I’ve even tried to act completely disinterested in the reward I’m after, and even better, I’ve done some spiritual Keswick-style sacrificing, so now You’ll fulfill your part of the deal and give me investment returns, right?

  • Esther O’Reilly

    I think you mean “uninterested,” not “disinterested,” but I get your meaning.

  • E. Stephen Burnett

    Could go either way. Christians have often advocated a kind of “disinterested duty” approach to faith and God’s gifts, when in fact Christ overtly promotes the rewards He offers in His kingdom (chief of all, Himself).


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