It's time for another book review. What do you say?
Some thoughts before we get into this book: Sex education, modesty, abstinence, and how faith plays a role, are some pretty hot topics in the Church right now. They always are, but I'm noticing in recent years more and more the "traditional" practices on teaching these subjects has been challenged. How we as a culture are viewing these topics are changing and we can see this in the Church.
To be completely honest - I agree we (the Church) need to change how we discuss and handle the topics of sex, dating, modesty, marriage, etc. As a product of the "True Love Waits" generation, I remember all of the talks we had in youth group and how it was handled. In keeping with being honest, this was also one of the big struggles I had in ministry. I knew parents wanted me to tackle these subjects with the youth. I was completely comfortable talking about it with the youth and we would talk about relationships and such when it came up in conversations with smaller groups and one on one. However, I never had big sessions for having sex talks and such because I knew my opinions would not have been well accepted. It was one of those "what hill am I going to die on" issues. Should I have died on that hill? Maybe I should have. But I didn't because I felt as though I had other leaders I could talk about my opinions with to find the best way to handle it.
All of this being said, I was excited to hear this book was being released and when I heard about it I immediately went over to NetGalley to request a copy to review. I also realize these are highly sensitive and personal topics. Therefore, it's hard to keep an objective view. As I read, I found it difficult to remain objective about the author's opinions.
I'm hoping my review can remain as such.
I also encourage other people to read this book. Whether you agree with Dianna Anderson or not (I don't always agree as you will see in my review) it's still something I think we should be aware of. 1) It's good for us to read the opinions of people we don't see eye to eye with. Expand your horizons! 2) At least she's starting the conversation and not playing it safe. We need to have these conversations!
While most of the "purity movement" has stemmed from Evangelical circles, it does seep into other denominations and they can feel it's influence. Also, not every congregation who addresses purity does so to the extremes some others do. There's always varying degrees. But we all still need to be having these talks and figuring out just how faith and the Church plays into these conversations.
If you are a teenager reading this book; PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do so with an adult you trust. Preferably someone who shares the same faith. I know talking about these things can be hard and embarrassing, but trust me on this one, life is so much better when you have someone you can talk to about such things and help you to figure them out. I'm not saying they should have all of the answers - but they've been there before and will have insight you don't have.
Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity
Author: Dianna E. Anderson
Publisher: Jericho Books
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Dianna grew up in the "true love waits" generation. She heard all of the talks. Read all of the books. She could quote all of the Bible verses. Then, something in her changed and so did her views on sex, relationships, modesty, and purity. For years, she felt ashamed of her body and sexuality and bought into what, she considers, lies about God's plan for purity. This book shares her stories, opinions, and the thoughts of others as she dives into these issues.
I've never reviewed a non-fiction book on this blog before, so I'm not entirely sure how to go about it. But I'll try. I'll divide my review into what I appreciated about the book, and then my criticisms.
What I Liked/Appreciated
- Dianna's love for the Church and for God's Word is very apparent. She's not a person who has walked away from the Church and now denies everything it has done for her.
- She encourages the reader to not just "take her word for it." She emphasizes that people need to read the Bible for themselves and do their own research instead of just doing and believing whatever someone else tells them to.
- She does not insult the choice to stay abstinent until marriage. She affirms this is a valid choice - as along as you know why you are making said choice and it doesn't come from a place of shame or simply because "that's what I was told to do."
- Sex and relationships need to be respectful and consensual. PERIOD. We are a community of people and all children of God. Our relationships and sex lives need to reflect this.
- Pointing out the Bible isn't as black and white about sex as we like to think it is.
- Challenging gender roles and what we think it means to be men and women of faith. (In chapter six she says, "We are not defined by gender, but rather by the grace and love which we live.")
- Our bodies are not owned by other people. They are OUR bodies.
- Have a plan for the worst case scenario.
- Respect other people no matter what they wear.
- She starts and ends with grace.
What I Did not Like/Agree With
- While there were moments I wanted to stand and applaud what she was saying, there were other moments when I wondered "Are we reading the same Bible?" While, yes, we need to understand the context of the Bible verses we read and get to the heart of what it's saying, we also can't twist it to say whatever we want it to say to prove our point and forget about other passages as well. Most people do this, which is wrong, but we need to stray away from this.
- At one point when Anderson was discussing modesty, she addresses women who are having a hard time breaking away from this mindset. One of her suggestions was for the woman to try a neckline which scared her. Um.... no. If someone isn't comfortable wearing the low cut shirt, they aren't comfortable wearing the low cut shirt! Don't tell them they should try it anyway!
- Many times I felt as though Anderson had a personal vendetta against the purity movement. Which is understandable. However, many times it didn't seem professional and it was just her wanting to argue against Joshua Harris (author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye) and other authors. As understandable as this may be, it's not the best way to bring your point across. This was the biggest turn off for me.
- As the book went on, it all got to be too much. Sometimes I felt as though I was back in the youth room where my youth leaders (as good as their intentions were) shoving purity and modesty down my throat - only this time it was the opposite opinion.
- There were times when she addressed sexuality for other races and people with disabilities. For a majority of her book she had excellent research (even if most of it was pointing out points she didn't like from the same few authors, with other research being from interviews and surveys she conducted). Then, when she addresses the issues of race (particularly black women), I hardly saw any. While, I felt her observations were accurate, I would have liked to see some opinion of women of that particular race and hearing what they really had to say. I was grateful she had only two paragraphs for women with disabilities. Albeit, they were a good two paragraphs, but I would not have appreciated the author, a woman who does not have a disability, putting words into my (a woman with a disability) mouth.
I appreciate what Anderson was trying to do. I'm glad she is opening up conversation and encourages people to challenge "traditional" ways of thinking when it comes to faith, sex, marriage, and modesty. There were some points 100% agreed with. Other times... I really wasn't sure where she was getting her information. I think it would be interesting to see the opinions and thoughts of people who have a history of theology in different denominations, as well as maybe some "experts" of the field. I also liked how she addressed there are different issues depending on your race and if you have a disability or not. But then was very disappointed when she didn't have interviews and opinions from women of said race. She also seemed to be someone with a vendetta, and while it was understandable, I felt it wasn't the best way to prove her point.
I gave the book 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.