A Dad's Review of Passport 2 Purity

[3,100 words, 11 minute read]

The sex talk is one of the most dreaded conversations parents anticipate having with their children. To make things easier, an entire industry exists to help parents with sex education. Dozens of books have been written to help parents navigate this treacherous topic with their progeny. One of the best known among evangelicals is called the Passport 2 Purity Getaway package. It is produced by FamilyLife, a division of Cru (former Campus Crusade for Christ) and consists of a five lecture CD package including a journal and exercises designed as a weekend retreat for a pre-pubescent child and his/her parent(s).

Passport 2 Purity was not my initiative. Our trip came about because Judy had heard from several home-schooling mom friends how they had taken their daughters on a road trip to go through the CDs. She even heard how a mom took a trip with husband and two sons to through the curriculum. So a couple months ago, Judy suggested we take our two older boys on a two-night snowboarding trip to Bear Valley as a cover for doing the weekend getaway program. We would listen to the CDs on the road trip to and from the snow and perhaps one session in the evening.

It sounded like a good plan.

Our boys were excited about going snowboarding but the curriculum decidedly less so. The Passport 2 Purity Getaway curriculum does recommend a 5-6 hour activity such as golfing, going to an amusement park, etc. as part of the weekend activities. We choose two days of skiing as it's hard to justify the expense of going snowboarding for a single day.

Before embarking on Passport 2 Purity, I did had some sex talk experience under my belt. I had two lengthy conversations about sex with my oldest son, Caleb, now fifteen years old. The first was when he turned ten and the other happened shortly after he turned twelve. In the past year, Judy and I also had a series of dating conversations with him, none of which were particularly enjoyable to any party. I also talked with Micah, now twelve, when he was ten years old and then on my initiative, we took the Heart-to-Heart class together. It is not faith-based and yet it is excellent. Most of the values are gospel-compatible. I especially appreciate how they work hard to remove the fear and shame around sexuality.

Bottom line: I found Passport 2 Purity's program comprehensive, beneficial, honoring to parents, and mostly Christ-centered. On the other hand, the material is culturally narrow and depending on your spiritual background, a slight to strong aroma of fear-based legalism. Below are some salient points:

1) High Hokey-ness Quotient: The material was designed for pre-pubescent boys and girls around ten to twelve years of age, depending on their maturity. At ten years of age and like many children of well-educated parents, my boys were intellectually precocious but lacked life experience. By contrast, the curriculum and particularly the object lessons, are drawn from Dennis Rainey's experience teaching a 6th grade Sunday school class. Imagine a Sunday school class targeted at the average 6th grader and you can expect a fairly low level of discourse. And unfortunately, object lessons that aren’t done in-person lack the multi-sensory aspect that appeals to boys.

Because of the narrow target audience, much of the curriculum is cringe-worthy. There are cheesy sound effects, hokey object lessons, and the interviews feel very contrived. In particular, the music is horrible. Some of the songs are tolerable but one in particular is absolutely horrendous. It has a refrain of bad company corrupting good morals and you feel corrupted listening to it. One object lesson explains how the teenage years are full of traps. Yes, this is accompanied by sounds of traps going off and stories about bears and walking on a trail in the dark. Another object lesson is the cliche of staying as far from the edge of the cliff as possible. The cliff is sexual intercourse. Thus, staying away from the cliff means avoiding any hint of sexual immorality.

The message was clear but the rhetoric was intellectually insulting to my boys.

In the end, the problem with the hokey-ness factor is that my boys have inherited from me - by nature and nurture - a highly critical perspective and a sarcastic sense of humor. They eviscerated the material. This is where going through Passport 2 Purity individually with each son might have been more productive, as the group dynamic made it so easy to put down the material. It was non-stop one-liners about how stupid the references were. I would have done exactly the same thing at their age and they did a much better job sitting through it than I would have.

2) Timing and Preparation Matter: We made several crucial mistakes in presenting the curriculum. As discussed above, the first was timing. We presented the curriculum to our boys a couple years (maybe five years in Caleb’s case) too late. The second was preparation. You're supposed to review the material beforehand and spend time writing an invitation letter to your child, gathering the project materials, and listening to the five 60-75 minute sessions.

Judy opened the box the night before we left.

I would HIGHLY ENCOURAGE even just a cursory ten-minute review of the materials - skim the tour guide or listen to an excerpt of the talks. It’s awkward enough to do this with your kids but the extra investment will bear fruit. It will help you to anticipate how your child might respond and allow you to plan some pre-emptive measures like lowering expectations and encouragement to keep critical comments to a minimum.

Like so many things with raising children, the effectiveness of the curriculum cannot be evaluated from the child's experience during the event or even the weeks afterwards. The effectiveness of any sex education can probably only be evaluated after at least ten years or so.

3) Purity vs. Love: I did a cursory word study of biblical occurrences of “purity” and “pure” in the English Standard Version. Most references to “pure” occur in reference to tabernacle instructions (“pure gold”) in Exodus and Leviticus. The commonly cited Psalm 119:9 “How can a young man keep his way pure?” does not refer to some internal state of a person but conduct (“way”). The other references to pure/purity refer to motivations of the heart. It appears to have a much broader range of meaning than sexual purity and is not as concerned about outward behavior as heart motivation. Galatians 5:19 lists sexual immorality with impurity - related yet distinct acts of evil. Purity has an outward manifestation but likely concerns our innermost thoughts.

Genesis 39:8-9 Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?"

Joseph's motivations are crucial but go unmentioned in the session. The curriculum emphasizes purity as an expression of outward behavior - we must flee from temptation because it compromises our individual purity. Yet the above text clearly indicates Joseph's behavior is rooted in respect for God, his master, and the boundaries God has placed between a master and his servant ("nor has kept anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife" - the only thing that exclusively belongs to his master). The clear implication is that purity is more relational than individual. Joseph places greater value on his relationship with God and his master than a brief sexual encounter with his master's wife. Purity is not just an outward personal value; it is an interpersonal one. It is most fully expressed in the context of love and community.

Passport 2 Purity talks about individual physical, spiritual, and emotional consequences of sex but not the communal effects. Sexual sin wreaks havoc on a community. Affairs within church leadership tear the body of Christ apart. If Joseph had slept with Potiphar's wife, it would have damaged Potiphar’s household community. Even the encounter were kept secret, there would be an healthy dynamic between Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Just as Joseph’s siblings did, the other household servants would view Joseph with even greater suspicion and disdain. And Potiphar’s children would be hurt most by this illicit sexual relationship. It’s a Western phenomenon to focus on sin’s individual effects but the Bible, as a collection of Ancient Near Eastern literature, never forgets this. Love and purity are intertwined. Purity, in the broadest terms, is related to righteousness. Righteousness means right standing and justice. And righteousness cannot be discussed apart from relationships with others in community.

4) Law vs. Gospel: The capstone verse of the program, repeated throughout each session, is Colossians 1:18.

Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

It is indeed a great verse about Christ's pre-eminence - how he takes first place in everything. But without even studying the context, it's fairly clear the verse addresses the church not just individuals and does not directly relate to purity in terms of avoidance of sexual immorality. In addition, the rest of the passage connects to purity in specific regard to God's reconciling work of the cross. It’s not our behavior but God who makes us holy, blameless, and above reproach.

I appreciate the attempt to connect a broad verse with the concept of avoidance of sexual immorality. And therein lies the central problem with pre-pubescent sex education. Because of the immaturity of the audience, it’s prohibition not affirmation. It’s all “do not touch” (Colossians 2:20-23) and it’s extremely challenging to handle with nuance because pre-pubescent children simply do not have the emotional and spiritual maturity to understand the depth and complexity of human sexuality and how it interacts with the gospel. In a real sense, the best you can do is instill a healthy fear of sexuality and sexual expression.

Law must precede gospel.

This may explain why conservative Christian culture equates purity with virginity. Purity is a blank slate you’re born with and must be vigilantly guarded from tarnish. That’s a strong emphasis on the outward. I'm not opposed to emphasizing correct behavior in children but it is disingenuous to teach or even imply the greatest gift you can give your future spouse is your virginity. It idolizes marriage, emphasizes an outward, legal understanding of purity, and de-values celibacy. Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of singleness as a viable life path. We can help our children grow in their understanding of sexuality without sensationalizing its negative consequences. Judy and I had harsh punishments for our kids when they crossed the street without looking both ways but we never felt compelled to lie to them about the danger of a car hitting them. By contrast, Christian culture is full of mythologies to make kids fear their sexuality - band aid metaphors (the more times you stick to something, the greater the loss of adhesion), how masturbation grows hair on your palms and condemns you to hell. To be clear, Passport 2 Purity did not teach any of those things and I appreciate this but the perspective felt somewhat skewed towards law.

In defense of the curriculum, there is a section where there's a gospel presentation and altar call which is so explicitly Campus Crusade for Christ as it quotes verbatim from the Four Spiritual Laws. And in the fifth session, Barbara and Dennis Rainey give repeated admonitions for parents not to raise their children in fear. It was so clear from listening to the Raineys discuss their children how much they cared for them - how thoughtful, intentional, and sensitive they were in every aspect of raising them. Dennis had a brief segment explaining how during their teenage years, he thoroughly interviewed every one of his daughter’s dates and made it very clear what they could and couldn’t do with their daughters. His daughters complained yet felt protected. Law precedes gospel and it was evident from the Raineys’ sharing that rules were communicated in the overall context of their unconditional love and affection for their kids.

5) The Long View, Make Up Your Mind, and the Importance of Parents: The Raineys emphasize a long view to parenting. Their grown daughter makes a cameo appearance in a phone interview. During her teenage years, she complained about feeling like a caged bird because of her parents’ restrictiveness. As a married twenty-something today, she looks back on her parents’ protectiveness with gratitude. It offered a perspective that parenting is about the long-term - that initially your children may resist every effort to protect and teach them but you must trust fruit will later emerge from the seed of suffering.

One principle repeated ad nauseum is to make up your mind far in advance of when a potentially compromising situation occurs. It means to have a plan about dating, boundaries, and moral issues before a situation arises where peer pressure doesn’t give any chance to think. The problem with this approach is, just like with pre-marital counseling, you don't feel a need to plan until you are presently confronted with an obstacle or challenge.

Lastly, I appreciate how much Dennis and Barbara value the role of parents. They constantly emphasize how important a role parents have and repeatedly emphasize how the insight and wisdom we’re supposed to possessed. Those words triggered some guilt and insecurity. But they're true, biblical, and a tremendous privilege and responsibility. In the end, I wonder if Christian sex education makes much of a difference in behavioral change (arguably the goal the goal of any fear or law-based curriculum). As studies show, the two main factors correlated with a low rate of teen pregnancy is being raised an intact family and having an emotionally engaged father. This means a child’s family environment is a highly significant variable in how well he grows up and manages his sexuality.

6) Intended for fathers and boys? I scoured the web for insightful reviews written by fathers who had taken their sons through Passport 2 Purity or even moms who had taken their sons. I couldn't find anything. There was a dad who had purchased the curriculum and was excited to go through it with his sons. Nothing subsequent posted. That's foreboding. Mostly though, it was mothers gushing about how life-giving it was for their daughters. They spent weeks planning the getaway and posted selfies and with their daughter wearing the purity ring given as part of the weekend’s closing ceremony. Passport 2 Purity is intended to be a coming of age ritual for pre-teen children but appears particularly effective and appealing for moms and their daughters.

By contrast, it's hard to imagine most boys enjoying the curriculum. Because of this, we need to fully appreciate the double standard in conservative Christianity. It is by design and we need to to be more explicit about gender differences. After all, the purity conversation is mainly directed at girls. It is primarily driven by fear. There's a sense that a girl's loss of virginity in pre-marital sex is the worst possible thing that could happen to her. It would be more truthful to acknowledge that sexual sin has asymmetrical consequences for men and women. Women are far more sexually vulnerable than men because of shame, pregnancy, and sexual assault. A Christian sex education should explain this asymmetry and help boys negotiate the tension from the contradictory imperatives of purity and pursuit.

Most cultures see male promiscuity with the opposite sex as evidence of masculinity. This view must be rebuked by the gospel and yet instructing boys to stay as far as possible from the edge of the cliff is emasculating. The conversation would be more helpful for boys if we talked in terms of purpose and effectiveness. God calls us to obedience to His word and effectiveness in our calling. Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden was passivity and forgetting his calling to keep God’s commands. Thus, harnessing our sexual energy translates to actively pursuing God’s purpose in vocation.

But sexuality is much more than channeling a man’s energy towards work. A friend in Sexaholics Anonymous shared with me one of their mantras: We don’t need sex but we do need intimacy. Tim Keller, contra Sigmund Freud, claims that instead of a desire for one’s father masking a deeper desire for sex, that one’s desire for sex masks a deeper desire for a heavenly father. We, both men and women, most appropriately channel our sexual desire when we pursue intimacy with God the Father.

And a man’s sexuality, like so many aspects of male aggressiveness, can be focused towards good or evil. When that vast reservoir of passion is mismanaged, the result is promiscuity, alienation, addiction, violence, rage, and passivity. When it is managed well, the result is productivity, love, leadership, service, creativity, and intimacy. A great line in Passport 2 Purity says that one of the most courageous things a man do is exercise self-control in his sexuality. I agree and hope to teach my boys that a man's sex drive is a gift of intimacy, passion, and purpose that has been corrupted by sin but is now redeemed in Christ. And yet I would go farther than this quote and say the most courageous thing a man can do is focus the sum of his energy - sexual, mental, emotional, and spiritual - towards intimacy with God and others and towards the unique purpose God has given him.

I took Caleb backpacking when he turned twelve and would not have traded the time we spent trekking around the Desolation Wilderness to sit for hours listening to Passport 2 Purity instead. And yet I am confident in the long run, neither would have mattered that much, positively or negatively. What matters most is Judy and me taking the time to invest time and energy to love and communicate our values to our children and helping them feel important and valued. Ultimately, this is what the Raineys did with their children and they were able to communicate law in the context of the gospel in a way their children were able to receive and experience as God’s graciousness towards them. May God allow you as a parent to do the same.

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  1. تواصل الان مع مركز صيانة فيليبس وتعامل مع اكفا المهندسين واكثرهم خبرة من خلال توكيل صيانة كاريير للاجهزة الكهربائية فقط عند تواصلك مع خدمة العملاء الان تمتع باقوى الخصومات على الصيانة وقطع الغيار

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