Parnassus Books is thrilled to welcome Linda Kay Klein for a discussion and signing of Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young Women and How I Broke Free.
In the 1990s, a “purity industry” emerged out of the white evangelical Christian culture. Purity rings, purity pledges, and purity balls came with a dangerous message: girls are potential sexual “stumbling blocks” for boys and men, and any expression of a girl’s sexuality could reflect the corruption of her character. This message traumatized many girls—resulting in anxiety, fear, and experiences that mimicked the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder—and trapped them in a cycle of shame. This is the sex education Linda Kay Klein grew up with.
Pure is an eye-opening first look at the problematic effects the Evangelical Christian Church’s purity culture has had on young women.
Pure follows Linda Kay Klein’s journey to heal from sexual and gender-based shame after having grown up in the American Evangelical Christian Church. Throughout her youth, she was taught to be submissive, repress her sexuality, and avoid becoming a “stumbling block” for men—that is, tempting them in any sexual way. The church emphasized a girl’s sexuality as the most important mark of her spiritual standing with God.
The importance of staying pure was ingrained in Linda—so deeply, that she took pregnancy tests even though she was a virgin, broke up with her boyfriend because she believed it would please God, and suffered from intense abdominal pain rather than ask for help to prove she was a woman of the spirit, not of the flesh, which nearly caused her death to Crohn’s Disease. Stemming from the church’s teachings, the troubling effects of these heavy anxieties took a toll on her.
Exhausted by the shame and scrutiny she’d felt her whole life, Klein eventually began to rethink her approach to her faith. She asked young women she knew from home if they were coping with the same shame-induced issues she was. What started as a handful of intimate conversations developed into a 12- year quest that took her across the country and into the lives of scores of women and others raised in similar religious communities—a journey that brought survivors and others together, facilitated her own healing, and led her to progressive churches that are seeking new ways to reconcile sexuality and spirituality.
Through frank, sometimes funny, and often disturbing personal stories and conversations Linda has with women and others raised in the evangelical Christian church, unsettling trends begin to surface and an epidemic is revealed: religious purity culture’s sexual shaming can yield lifelong negative effects. Pure is a resilient call to action and a beacon of hope for all who have experienced religiously-rooted shame.
Linda Kay Klein earned a Masters degree from New York University focused on American evangelical Christian gender and sexuality messaging for girls. She has spent over a decade working at the cross section of faith, gender, and social change. Linda is also founder of Break Free Together. A Midwesterner at heart, she now lives in New York City with her family.