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Book Scene: Book tackles churches' sexual dysfunction head-on

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churchtoo

If I were to tell you that “every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted” (Rainn.Org), you probably would question if that was really true. It means that by the time you’re done reading this review, three people will have just been victimized.

I wish I had made up that statistic, but sadly it’s the truth. We all know someone who has experienced this, whether we are aware of it or not. Sexual assault has dug its ugly claws into our society and it has affected us all. In order for this statistic to change, we must have hard and uncomfortable conversations about it.

That is why when I heard about “#ChurchToo” I knew I had to read it. Emily Joy Allison shares her experience with purity culture in the church world and how it enables abusive behavior. I am thankful for her bravery in speaking out about the dangerous mentalities that purity culture creates, and why churches needs to wake up to how harmful this teaching is. As a follower of Christ who has experienced the purity culture movement, I know how hurtful it can be. This book will challenge what you know as a Christian, and if you allow it to it will bring freedom from teaching that is outdated.

You may be thinking that you were raised in the purity culture and would never support a teaching like that. A church would speak out against it, after all. You are right in thinking that isn’t an ideal that a church would officially support, but the consequences tied to the teachings can lead there. And that is where the problem lies. Purity culture is full of victim blaming, shaming people, dismissing the wrong consequences, fear, creating toxic habits, and raising individuals who don’t understand consent. Not all churches endorse this, but there are quite a few that do.

The church world has fallen short when it comes to how sexuality is spoken of and taught about. As believers in God, our churches should be safe places to take refuge. We should be the people the victimized can confide in with their pain. We should be the ones who fight for injustice and stand up for what is right. After all, God is love and the church is called to love. And so begs the question: Was purity culture born from love or fear? Is it rooted in control and force? These are not easy questions, but they must be asked.

As you read this book, I hope you will commit to being open to listening, to being empathetic and to being willing to change. I am asking you to be brave and look at your biases. I am asking you to look at who you believe God to be and ask him what he thinks of purity culture. We can do better, and it starts with one person at a time. We are either a part of the solution, or a part of the problem. I hope that we choose to fight for what is right and we choose love over fear.

• “#ChurchToo: How Purity Culture Upholds Abuse and How to Find Healing” by Emily Joy Allison was published by Broadleaf Books on March 9. It retails for $16.99.

• Krystal Griswold works for Inklings bookshop. She and other Inklings staffers review books each week in Thursday’s SCENE.