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One of my first acts as youth pastor was to lift the ban on dating.

Ending legalism is not the same thing as sanctioning sin, and I have no idea if there was more or less extramarital sex as a result of the dating ban or the purity rings.

The bad news is simple: You were “pure.” It’s not as if sex or drink or drugs represent the demarcation line between righteous and unrighteous.

They are not and were never the “special” sins that created particularly acute separation from God.

When it came to relationships, it would be “courtship” (tersely defined as parental-supervised visits and outings) or nothing. Many parents had entered adulthood wounded by past broken relationships.

They regretted the mistakes of their youth and desperately wanted their kids to avoid similar heartbreak.

But it was incumbent upon me — in the limited time that I had in leadership — to tell the truth, and the truth was that legalism is its own kind of sin.

To create burdens where Christ did not is an act of arrogance. And, sadly, it’s a way of life in all too many Christian churches.

Rather than try to jam Christianity into his evolving worldview, he respects orthodoxy by opting out.It worked like this — sexual sin stained young persons, even if Christ forgave them. A 17-year-old with (God willing) 70 years of life ahead of him would approach me carrying the awful burden of thinking that he had defined his life forever.They would walk into marriage diminished in some crucial ways. He was no longer — and never would be — the person he wanted to be.Also — and this is crucial for understanding purity culture — they fervently believed in a specific earthly reward for their child’s youthful obedience.Courtship represented the best method of ensuring a healthy, sexually vibrant marriage to a faithful spouse.

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