DC Talk might be the most successful evangelical Christian group ever. Their 1995 album Jesus Freak sold two million copies in the US alone. And, if I might have a Christian rock hipster moment here, I liked them before they were famous.
Still, I was recently reminded (by an amusing list called “Top 10 Christian songs that also work as parodies of Christian songs“) of DC Talk’s all-time low point, “I Don’t Want It”.
Yo, s-e-x is a test when I’m pressed
So back up off with less of that zest
Impress this brotha with a life of virtue
The innocence that’s spent is gonna hurt you
Safe is the way they say to play, then again safe ain’t safe at all today
So, just wait for the mate that’s straight from God
and don’t have sex ’til you tie the knot
(This rap was so good they included it in the song twice)
Everyone [here meaning “all the people I grew up with”] knows [here meaning “was indoctrinated to believe”] that your ‘purity’ is the most precious gift you can give your spouse. Because they care so much about their fans, DC Talk wrote a song to help them stay pure: playing “I Don’t Want It” to a potential suitor is a foolproof way to ensure you don’t get laid.
God, this song was so embarrassing. I was eight when this album, Free At Last, came out. I was in Year 4; kids at my school got sex education when they were in Years 5 and 6. I didn’t know much about sex but I’d heard playground whisperings and I was curious as hell. So this song was both weirdly titillating (in a pre-pubescent sort of way) and utterly cringeworthy. It’s a bit over four minutes long, but the CD came with a sensor that could tell when a parent was listening and make the song fifteen times longer.
I remember telling a friend at school about this song I had that WAS ABOUT SEX!!!! I don’t think that’s necessarily the effect DC Talk intended, but when information about sex was at a premium, “I Don’t Want It” appealed to my prurient interest.
Particularly amusing (with hindsight) is the song’s breakdown (at 2:50) which goes:
I don’t. WANT. IT.
I don’t. WANT. IT.
I don’t WANT IT
your SEX for NOW
Whatever musical genius was hired to mix this track, they decided to pan every other word hard left and right, so if you listen with just the left headphone (or you turn your stereo’s balance control hard left) you hear:
YOUR SEX FOR NOW.
This, of course, was the era of True Love Waits and the Purity Ring. The lyrics to this song hint at the message that I received loud and clear in my teens: If you’re not pure, you will spoil your chances of future happiness. Not only will you cause short term pain, but your future marriage will not be the pure and holy thing God intended. By having sex now, you’re cheating on your future spouse AND ruining your own chances of happiness.
For many people, this will deprive them of the opportunity to enjoy mutually fulfilling sexual relationships. For others, it’s much worse. According to RAINN, someone is sexually assaulted in America every two minutes, and 44% of those are under 18. Imagine what the purity culture message does to someone who’s been raped.
I still know a lot of evangelicals. They’ll say here that I’m twisting their words. They would tell a rape victim that it wasn’t their fault, that Jesus will wash everything white as snow and make everything brand new. For the victim, they have only good news.Perhaps. Of course, they might also say that it is sin that takes out of the hedge of God’s protection. So even though the rapist is undoubtedly to blame for the rape, if the victim hadn’t sinned, this wouldn’t have happened to them.
Even if they don’t say that, it’s still quite likely that a teenage rape victim in a youth group will then attend dozens of youth rallies where the preachers will say again and again how vital purity is, how much better your marriage will be if you wait, how many blessings there are for those who remain virgins until their wedding night. At the very least, there are mixed messages.
And then the kicker: if you look at someone with lust in your heart, that is the same as committing adultery, according to Matthew 5:28. Just hitting puberty? Good news: You now face ten years of crushing guilt, followed by a hasty marriage because it is better to marry than to burn with lust.
If you want to wait until you’re married to have sex, great. But when people say that’s what they want, I’m always skeptical. I suspect you’ve been fed propaganda about damaging effects of sexual relationships. This propaganda is robbing you of the possibility of some of the greatest mutually pleasurable experiences humans can have. It’s stopping you from experiencing something that feels physically incredible and experiencing a connection with another human.
“I Don’t Want It” is the kind of propaganda I’m talking about. When DC Talk sang “The innocence that’s spent is gonna hurt you”, that was a lie, and I’m sure it influenced kids to miss out.
The lie that ‘spent innocence’ can hurt you can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy, though. One of my best Christian friends was, by our absurdly conservative standards, slutty. And she felt shitty about herself. Last time we went out for drinks, she told me that every guy she’d kissed was a bit more baggage she was carrying around with her. There’s no reason it needed to be that way. She hadn’t done anything wrong. If she wanted to kiss boys, or more (and clearly she did), she should have enjoyed it. Instead, she was wracked by guilt. She’d been told, by songs like this, that she was sinning, and this would come between her and God, and one day between her and her husband.
She’d been told the way she acted was sin. So she felt like a sinner.
By the way, DC Talk also did the original version of ‘Nu Thang‘. That, in turn, led to this video, which sums up Christian rock: