In 2017, author and former youth pastor Joshua Harris launched a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary with an unusual premise: he would travel across the country listening to people tell him how his book ruined their lives. Twenty years earlier, then-21-year-old Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye (1997), an evangelical missive promoting traditional gender roles, courtship with the intention of marriage, and an intense, almost obsessive devotion to sexual purity. The book became immensely popular, arriving as it did at the height of the True Love Waits movement and the accompanying push for abstinence-only sex education programs in many public-school districts. I Kissed Dating Goodbye—and the scores of other similar books promoting sexual purity and a conservative Christian approach to gender and sexuality that it spawned—shaped an entire generation of evangelical Christian teenagers' and young adults' worldviews. These guidebooks promote patriarchal values in updated, "hip" guises, hoping to reproduce conservative evangelical views of gender and sexuality in the next generation. In Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (2020), historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez argues that white American evangelicals from the 1970s onward should be understood primarily as a group united as much by common cultural touchstones and political affiliations as by shared theology. The election of Donald Trump, she avers, is the culmination of evangelicals' embrace of "militant masculinity, an ideology that enshrined patriarchal authority and condones the callous display of power, at home and abroad." As cultural touchstones, evangelical purity manuals helped to normalize and justify this combination of Christian faith and patriarchal masculinity. An examination of evangelical purity manuals of the late 1990s and early 2000s reveals how these books combined traditional Christian literary techniques such as testimony and parable with popular culture and dominant patriarchal values to reinforce the kind of hegemonic masculinity that made Trump appealing as an icon of conservative Christianity.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/12050