The Jeff and Jeremy Show — on virginity

IHeartVirginsSorry to be absent from the blog so much. I am still on the road for a few more days. However, let me quickly point you toward an interesting call and response over at Beliefnet between Jeff Sharlet of The Revealer and that guy we used to know — young master Jeremy Lott (away writing his book on why hypocrisy beats the alternatives).

Jeremy has a very GetReligion-friendly lead on his piece:

It’s funny how religious stories sneak up on most American journalists. One minute, churchgoers will be going about their business and the next they’ll discover that their worship/Sunday School curriculum/whatever is part of some New Hot Trend, even though they’ve been doing — or not doing it — it for years.

So it is with the “new” virginity movement among evangelical Christians. In a recent issue of Rolling Stone, reporter Jeff Sharlet writes that he’s found “the new organizing principle of the Christian right”: chastity. In an explanation that sounds like it was copied out of a catalog for the Society for Creative Anachronism, he writes that this strange new virginity is “built on the notion that virgins are among God’s last loyal defenders, knights and ladies of a forgotten kingdom.”

But the emphasis on virginity for evangelicals is neither new nor terribly political.

As you would expect, Jeff — a friend of the task of this blog, coming from a very different point of view — disagrees.

So the way to catch up on their discussion is to start with the Rolling Stone piece by clicking here and then move on to the Sharlet side of the debate by clicking here. You may also flash back to an old Lott entry at this blog.

My own take is that the new virginity movement is, as usual, a late response by the evangelical subculture to trends in (a) mass media and (b) the realities in its own niche in the culture.

Once, cultural conservatives tried to abstain from entertainment media, to one degree or another. Then along came The Sound of Music and the next thing you knew — in terms of generational change — you had people who think of themselves as evangelicals wired to the gills and consuming exactly the same media as everyone else. Yes, this is a news story.

I am not saying, of course, that “the devil (media) made them do it.” I am saying that these changes are in some way signs of changing patterns in American homes. And then the divorce rate started to rise and, after a decade or two, finally, so-called conservative churches started worrying about this and trying to do something. This reality may affect politics (arguments over sex education programs), but the more important stories are back in the homes and the pews.

Churches on the left may not talk about these issues at all, since the baptism of the sexual revolution is part of the evolving creed at many of their altars. And what about the Catholics and, let me tweak my own flock, the Orthodox? Mostly silence, with few leaders attempting to address the trends and the harsh realities.

Anyway, back to my next speaking engagement. Please check out the Lott and Sharlet pieces. Much to think about there, as they dissect that interesting ghost (to freely mix a metaphor).

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.


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