Institutions are a part of the fabric of our human cultures. Institutions provide direction and security to our
The relationship between an institution and institutional facts is not always clear. Sometimes, institutional facts may exist without any formal institution to enforce it, For instance, in stores, it is taken for granted that people line up and are served in the order they arrive: first come, first serve. The main means of enforcement is the idea that other people will be angered by cutting in line and not any recognized authority. This is more than simply a common routine or habit of everyone precisely because any other practices that directly violates the first come, first serve principle. In fact, when governments have tried to reverse the “first come, first serve” principle when it comes to merging traffic, trying to encourage “zipper merging” rather than everyone waiting their turn to get through, many people get angry and resist this sense of unfairness. There is a way that has been done, and it should continue to be done that way.
There are other times where an institution actively enforces the institutional fact. Much of the time, the institutions educate others as to the accepted practice(s) and the reasons for such. Ethics training offer a way of directing people towards avoiding certain, unethical behaviors and prescribing appropriate ways to engage in one’s business; these training events are often times joined with further explanations as to the importance of one’s ethical conduct. For instances, therapists and counselors are training to minimize contact with their clients after therapy has completed because of the potential problems that can arise when
Sometimes, however, an institution will enforce an institutional fact without offering an institutional reason. Walking through places with high security, such as government buildings, airports, etc., there will be a plethora of doors that are marked “Authorized personnel only.” Delimitation of boundaries represent a clear institutional fact but no attempt to offer an institutional reason is
It is where institutional facts do seem to interfere with people’s interests where institutional reasons begin to be offered. You may feel inclined to do one thing, but
Sometimes, these institutional reasons will change over the course of time. For instance, the original reason certain behaviors became regularized and then institutionalized may different from later institutional reasons. For instance, the right to bear arms as part of the Second Amendment in the United States was put originally crafted to allow for the operation of militias in case of a need to defend the people from other threats, including the federal government. However, the reason offered for the Second Amendment has morphed into a matter of personal freedoms (with only occasional reference to concerns about national defense).
Such change of reasons can be quite significant. Reasons function to provide a broad base for directing behavior; the can enforce certain institutional facts, but they also direct behavior in other ways. For instance, the reason of personal freedom is used to support the right to bear arms, but can also be used to support other behaviors, such as the freedom to marry who one wishes. When reasons are accepted, they do not remain restricted to simply the original
So, with this analysis on offer, I use it to assess the problems that emerged in the “purity culture” of American evangelical Christianity. As the sexual liberation movement emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, the institutional fact/regulation of marriage and sex came under serious challenge. More and more people felt free to cast off sexual inhibitions; they thought government and society had no legitimacy to regulate people’s sexual lives.
In walks in the Moral Majority of the 1980s, focused on trying to take American back from what they
Firstly, the Bible was decreasingly taken as authoritative; reference to Scripture would not have the persuasive appeal as it would have had in the past. For some Christians, they recognized this lack of persuasive appeal to others. But many conservative Christians ignored this, however, and continued to operate as if the Bible was a lawbook for society.
Secondly, even for those people where the Bible was authoritative, it isn’t as exactly clear on certain sexual matters such as premarital sex; the Biblical documents certainly imply sex is reserved for married persons, but it is never
The net effect of this is that it attempts to ground the traditional view of sex and marriage on very different grounds than the Biblical texts provide. As I mentioned two posts ago, the Biblical basis for regulation of sexual behavior was grounded in avoiding being like the nations in their sexual practices, which commonly lead to exploitative and unjust behavior. One’s sexual behavior was tightly connected to the way one reflected God’s holiness (as in
Instead, the “purity culture” reinforced a heightened sense of physical purity while also directing people to determine their behavior for the sake of their future spouse. The end consequence: 1) one’s relationship to God was regulated by a rule like obedience to abstaining from sex rather than the type of person one becoming and 2) the impacts of sex with another person wasn’t important if they weren’t your spouse. In other words, the evangelical “purity culture” created a legalistic mindset towards God that did not spend much time teaching people how to treat others with respect.
This stems from an attempt to try to rationalize the traditional sexual ethic with reasons that are not apparent within the Scriptural witnesses. However, the more Scriptural rationale for direct sexual behavior isn’t as readily usable for the interests of the Moral Majority and the culture it spawned in evangelical churches. The (hyper)literalist hermeneutics of this brand of Christianity that mined the Scriptures for readily usable theological and ethical rules were not going to pay as much attention to the underlying reasons that the Scriptures do point towards. Secondly, as the Scriptural witnesses have a much broader concern than simply saying “Don’t have sex before marriage,” the more faithful reasons would not be as readily useful for the attempts to try to stop the spread of influence of the sexual liberation culture.
At the end of the day, as the “purity culture” was birthed more out of an attempt to fight and overtake the oppositional culture, it increasingly overlooked and devalued the other (unintended) consequences of its pedagogy. By attempting to preserve and retake the institutions that it felt comfortable and safe with, evangelical Christianity worked against itself in the long run; both through its response
Although, this is not necessarily a harbinger of death for evangelicalism into the future. While the name “evangelical” may forever