In observing American fundamentalism for more than a decade there is one common thread that runs through the movement. It is the romanticized idea of purity, particularly sexual and doctrinal. While the idea is ostensibly innocuous, in practice it can be insidious and always threatens to politically spin out of control.
The idea of applying purity to human beings -- who are impure by definition -- creates an impossible standard that can't be met. The result is that millions of people are haunted by perceived moral failure and tortured by unnecessary guilt. Instead of producing healthy spiritual lives, this concept can create neurotic people with various complexes, who view themselves as worthless sinners. Such a damaging belief system may have a corrosive affect on self-esteem and creates needless internal conflicts.
The pursuit of unattainable perfection has led to a cottage industry of so-called "experts" who allegedly can help one achieve the unachievable. The proliferation of products and websites profiting from "purity" is problematic. There is no shortage of charlatans to fight "The War on Pleasure" and strictly forbid any form of fun for a fee. In some cases, the rules are so stringent that masturbation is considered a menace.
"God designed sex to be profound, which masturbation is not; it is shallow," wrote Dr. Harry W. Schaumburg on the website Restoring Sexual Purity. "God made sex to be fruitful, but masturbation treats sex like a commodity rather than a capacity for producing life. God made sex to be selflessly God-centered, not self-centered and self-satisfying."
Ultimately, religions and cults that focus on purity have an ulterior motive, which is to maintain control over the lives of its followers. If pleasure is policed, then faith-based father figures can ration it. By squeezing out the "impure" competition, such groups create a monopoly over one's mind.
The idea of protecting the potential sinner from "falling" is as elusive a goal of purity itself. No matter how cloistered, people will seek to explore their humanity, which includes enjoyment and fulfillment. Some fundamentalists hate secular society because temptations -- epitomized by the concept of demons -- are often stronger than their faith.
Instead of learning the healthy practice of moderation, many of these individuals embark on the pathological path of prohibition. Indoctrinated with a "just say no" ethos, the repression builds up until the fantasies become overwhelming fetishes that spiral out of control.
Unable to extinguish the fire internally, some of these individuals work though external means -- namely politics -- to eliminate temptations. This is why they have feverishly fought to close down adult bookstores and nude beaches. Such nosy behavior mirrors that of the teetotalers who fought to enact the disaster known as prohibition. Those who cling to this philosophy subconsciously want to ban from society what they cannot banish in themselves.
The quest for "purity" takes its most perverse form in the hands of Christian Reconstructionists. They believe that in order for Christ to return, they have to purify the world by instituting theocracy. This vision often includes executing gay people and adulterers.
The equivalent of such repression is already carried out in many Islamic countries. In Malaysia, which is considered a relatively moderate nation, a Muslim woman was recently sentenced to be whipped for the "crime" of enjoying a beer. God forbid Allah Time had to compete with Miller Time for personal satisfaction.
Of course, the puritanical enforcement of behavior rarely extends to those on the top of the moral hierarchy. In his chilling book, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power", Jeff Sharlet writes in alarming detail about members of Congress who believe they are above the law because they are ordained by God as leaders. This must-read book gets into the heads of the hypocrites and allows one to grasp how they justify their tawdry affairs, while passing laws to penalize the very behavior that they had embraced on the sly.
The quest for purity is a sign of sickness and insecurity. It comes from individuals with serious hang-ups who want other people to be as miserable as they are. In order to make the world antiseptic, these zealots often become virtually anti-everyone and everything. It is with great irony that the more a person or nation obsesses about moral cleanliness the filthier, more violent and corrupt they usually become.
In chasing a concept that is elusive, many fundamentalists have become more elitist and exclusive, while intellectually reclusive. This helps explains the perpetual anger, bitterness and frustration that defines populist and political social conservatism.
Hi Wayne...I like your blog. Thought you might appreciate mine, especially a bit I wrote on masturbation and the Jehovah's Witnesses.....Thanks! Scott http://www.freeminds.org/blogs/a-gay-exit-from-the-truth/index.php
posted by scott, at
8/25/2009 8:18 PM
Hey Scott...I masturbated a whole lot in High School and I turned into a heterosexual.
posted by JayJay, at
8/25/2009 10:44 PM
Interesting perspective Wayne on how some people attempt to work toward purity. Thoughtful and well written. I am no Bible thumper but I do believe that from my study of Scripture..no one can become pure and holy in this life by their best efforts. However, if one places their faith in Jesus Christ the Scripture says that God imputes (gives) to this person the perfection of Christ (The Bible states that Jesus was the only sinless person to walk the face of the earth). When a person receives the perfection of Christ then God sees this person as holy and perfect (though from a human perspective the person still lives in a siful body). What is excitng about the Christian life is that God gives the new believer the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit inside a person that helps a person become more and more Christ-like (which is perfect). No one will ever become perfect this side of heaven. However, the Holy Spirit will help a person move in the direction of being holy. Wayne is right. All human manipulations will never make someone holy and pure. Only the Lord can help a person clean up his or her act.
posted by Monica, at
8/25/2009 10:54 PM
You can work toward purity all you want, Monica. But simply because you may labour under the delusion that you are straight with a same-sex attraction, niether you nor your fundamentalist friends have the right to deny a whole group their civil rights.
I wonder about all this fanatical insistence on "purity" like the "purity balls", Silver Ring Thing", etc. Like Wayne, I think it has more to do with control tha anything else. Oh, by the way, those who pledge "purity" are no less likely to have sex than those who do not.
I hate to burst your bubble, but not everyone is Christian nor do they want to live according to what Christianity THINKS is appropriate.
I was an unhappy Christian for most of my life. Only when I became Pagan and realised I am fine just as I am did I marry a wonderful woman and start to LIVE my life.
posted by Merlyn, at
8/26/2009 1:22 AM
The obsession with 'purity' is typical of those who feel dirty and corrupted themselves. As Wayne said, by trying to purge it in others, they will somehow cleanse themselves of it; but this is like drinking salt water. It only gets more fanantical and sometimes even deadly. Hitler, who was the victim of an extremely abusive alcoholic father, and *possibly*, according to some scholars, had syphilis. Was obsessed with 'purifying' the German blood from the 'impurities' of racial 'mongrelism', Jews, gypsies, mentally ill or challenged people, homosexuals and on and on. Nazi rhetoric constantly referred to these 'undesirables' as vermin, syphilitic, cancerous etc. You get the picture. And if these right wing religious fanatic nutjobs had or get enough power, I don't doubt for one minute that they would eventually institute their own brand of "Nuremberg Racial Laws", which were all about 'purity' and another holocaust would ensue. Only this time it would probably be lgbt people who are the first ones into the cattle cars.
posted by gary, at
8/26/2009 9:39 AM
The fundamentalists are the ones who need to be put on the defense. And that is what is taking place globally. IE: The taliban has to explain itself just as Monica has to explain her tiny little concepts that she insists will work for the entire world population. If only the religious fundies would realize that it is their own journey they should be focused on instead of everyone else they do not even know then perhaps they would not be manipulated by the self appointed moral hierarchy otherwise known as major religious institutions. Keep your religion to yourself and if you are unable to do that, then choke on it. There is nothing more damaging then people who apply their own brand of force to endoctrinate others. Again i say, they are now on the defense. This is a sign that secularism is winning at classifying wacky nutjobs for the flipped out wingnuts they are. Now we must clean out the political parties that have these same controlling evil forces hiding within them.
posted by ewe, at
8/26/2009 1:03 PM
Monica as long as people aren't hurting others, anything they do is good, right, and pure - including gay sex and masturbation.
You want to live an empty, loveless life of denial, knock yourself out, but stop trying to infect others with your disease.
posted by Priya Lynn, at
8/26/2009 4:40 PM
An excellent point, Priya Lynn. As we say in Wicaa: 'If it harms none, do as ye will." I really find it annoying that participants in the "ex-gay" movement find it necessary to bother others with their insistance that everyone who is LGBT should change. It's a simple fact that "one size does not fit all". It is so sad that with all the studies on sexuality some people STILL cannot accept that a given proportion of the population will be drawn to their own gender. It is no better and no worse being LGBT than it is straight. Get over it.
posted by Merlyn, at
8/26/2009 10:23 PM
Monica: you are off girl. Get a grip. Come back to reality. It is the reason you are visiting this site in the first place anyway. Stop being unconscious. I think there are some people on here who actually care about you but you can be so terribly annoying. If you cannot accept the fact you are homosexual then, talk about THAT.
posted by ewe, at
8/26/2009 11:50 PM
I find it strange that religious cultists who post here, a gay blogsite no less, trying to shove religion down our threats aren't doing or saying anything about their fellow religious hypocrites and bigots such as Sanford, Ensign, Vitter, Fossella, Gingrich and their entire party, the ones who are wired to vote down equality legislation, some of the most unchristian, unchristlike behavior in modern history.
Monica, get your own house in order first before casting the first stone. You don't need to be religious to lead a clean, moral life, in fact, I've seen little of that on the far right. I'm an atheist, I use common sense and respect for others to live my life. I don't commit crimes of moral turpitude, I don't cheat on my partner, I pay my taxes and abide by the law. That's all one needs. Religion had no part in how I arrived at this point in my life. You don't have to be religious to be moral or good for that matter and sexual orientation is not immoral either, straight or gay. Your Jesus Christ didn't mention or condemn "homosexuality" once last time I read the new testament, the "christian" part of the bible. I suggest you read it again.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
8/27/2009 8:42 AM
My apologies, I meant to said..."trying to shove religion down our throats", not threats in my last post.
posted by Robert, NYC., at
8/27/2009 8:43 AM
The most hilarious thing is those people most obsessed with controlling everyones sex lives turns out to be the biggest hoes you've ever seen.
And what's exciting about my non-"christian" life is that nobody gives me anything imaginary.
posted by Scott, at
8/27/2009 7:18 PM
And for the most part, the whole "ex-gay" thing is a job....and a smarmy one at that.
Who else but conniving queens goes around accepting donations because they SAY they stopped sucking dick?
Nobody cares about this subject either way, though. What I want to know is : can I look forward to the pleasure of running into Wayne Besen at the Equality March on DC, or is he going to pull a Barney Frank?
posted by Joey7777, at
8/29/2009 5:28 AM
Joey7777, some people DO care that GLBTQ people who are self-hating enough or who have been forced to undergo this quack therapy are being harmed.
JayJay, no one gives an airborne copulation what you did or did not do in high school. And if you are SO heterosexual, what are you doing on a GLBTQ board? Get real, girlfriend.
posted by Merlyn, at
9/08/2009 9:09 AM