Sara Moslener sheds light on the contemporary purity movement by examining how earlier movements established the rhetorical and moral frameworks utilized by two of today's leading purity organizations, True Loves Waits and Silver Ring Thing. Her investigation reveals that purity work over the last two centuries has developed in concert with widespread fears of changing traditional gender roles and sexual norms, national decline, and global apocalypse. In Virgin Nation Moslener highlights various points in U.S. history when evangelical beliefs and values have seemed to provide viable explanations for and solutions to widespread cultural crises, resulting in the growth of their cultural and political influence. By asserting a causal relationship between sexual immorality, national decline, and apocalyptic anticipation, leaders have shaped a purity rhetoric that positions Protestant evangelicalism as the salvation of American civilization. Nineteenth-century purity reformers, Moslener shows, utilized a nationalist discourse that drew upon racialized and sexualized fears of national decline and pointed to sexual immorality as the cause of Anglo-Saxon decline, and national decay.
In the early to mid-twentieth century, fundamentalist leaders such as Billy Graham and Carl F.H. Henry sought to establish an intellectually sound millennialist theology that linked sexual immorality, national vulnerability, and the expectation of imminent nuclear apocalypse. Then with the resurgence of Christian fundamentalism in the 1970s, formerly apolitical social conservatives found themselves swayed by the nationalist and prophetic ideologies of the Moral Majority, which also linked sexual immorality to national decline and pending apocalypse. However, millennialist theologies, relevant at the height of the cold war, had mostly disappeared from political discourse by the 1970s when the Red Scare began to fade from popular consciousness. For contemporary purity advocates, says Moslener, the main obstacle to moral and national restoration is sexual immorality, a cultural blight traceable to the excesses of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Today the movement positions the adolescents who embody sexual purity as an embattled sexual minority poised to save America from the repercussions of its own moral turpitude, with or without government assistance.
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