let’s talk about chastity, let’s talk about you and me

Like many of my Baha’i friends who aren’t yet married, I wonder about what it takes to create a successful marriage. I wonder whether I’m strong enough, spiritual enough, or lucky enough to be able to make a “fortress for well-being” with another person and to make it last. I wonder why so many marriages end up in divorce, and fear the possibility of having to tread down that painful path. Marriage doesn’t sound like something I should have so many worries about—so why do I worry?

Recently posted on one of my many subscribed mailing lists was a quite thought-provoking article about Baha’i marriage which, if it didn’t answer all of my questions, at least showed me a new way I could look at them. It’s called Creating a New Bahá’í Marriage Culture, written by Raelee Peirce, a Bahá’í who works as a Parent Coach in North Carolina. The article explores how parents can help give their children a positive view of marriage and relationships. A short excerpt follows to give you a taste of it:

A list of “Do-Nots” is not a great way to inspire or create acceptance of this law. Instead, we should be emphasizing the joy of sex and what a fantastic gift it is within the marriage relationship when our children are young. We need to share with our preschoolers the idea of marriage and we need to discuss the concept of finding a husband or wife when our children are in grade school rather than entertaining the idea of boyfriends and girlfriends. We need to create a family culture that does not include our children or youth engaging in frivolous boy-girl relationships. For example, when a six-year-old talks about “liking” another of the opposite sex, one should not consider it cute and exclaim to others that Jamal has a little girlfriend. As a Bahá’í parent we need to say, “Jamal, it’s wonderful that you like Emma; it’s great to have lots of friends. One day when you are much older you will find a girl to be your wife and have a beautiful Bahá’í family!”

Read the article. What do you think? Does it make sense to talk to our children about marriage and relationships from an early age? What about the idea of having boyfriends and girlfriends—where does that fit in? What about the lessons we learn from popular Western culture (consciously or not)—shouldn’t everyone have as many boyfriends or girlfriends as possible to ‘try things out’ before settling on Mr. or Mrs. Right?

[Update- Sep.23, 2006]: If reading that article piqued your curiosity, then check out a related article on dating within religious communities on another Baha’i blog, Correlating.

Please leave comments on this post—it’d be nice to read people’s reactions to this article. If you have personal comments you’d like to leave for me, feel free to e-mail me!

Also, speaking of chastity, Mees has something to say on the matter.

photo by boliyou (creative commons)

6 thoughts on “let’s talk about chastity, let’s talk about you and me

  1. Here is a subject which always interests me…not just the chastity part, but the marriage part. As you may know, Dan, I have a book coming out on the subject, from Baha’i Publishing, available currently online for pre-order from most booksellers (here in Canada, Chapters/Indigo carries it). The title is “Partners in Spirit: What Couples Say About Marriages That Work” and the book comprises a lot of stories from people who have been married a long time and who are happy in these marriages. They are mostly Baha’is, although from a diversity of backgrounds, and there is a chapter which deals with Sexuality and Chastity. Have a look at the book when it comes out, and let feel free to offer a review. I hope it’s useful to you and to others both contemplating marriage and within them.

    Thanks for your blog. I enjoy it.

    Heather Cardin, Gatineau, QC

  2. “Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse.” – Shoghi Effendi

    This type of mentality has and continues to inflict immeasurable psychological damage on the emotional life of individuals, particularly youth. It’s archaic and rooted in blind self-immolating puritanism, predicated on a destructive conception of human sexuality that is completely contrary to the deliverances and discoveries of the psycho-biological sciences.

    It’s this type of medievalism that has prevented me from committing to the Bahai Faith. As the author of the article remarks, many youth choose to resolve the cognitive dissonance that arises from the conflict between satiating a natural bodily appetite and adhering to Bahai standards of human sexual conduct by leaving the Faith, so as to avoid living as hypocrites.

    In light of the fact that I regard my sexuality as an essential aspect of my identity, I find that to be an honest and sincere decision.

  3. hi anonymous,

    thanks for leaving your comment about the article. I, too, am learning to regard my sexuality as an essential aspect of my identity as a human being and a creation of God. As we are created in God’s image, we are enabled to reflect His Name, the Creator; we do so in many ways, one of which is our ability to procreate, and to create lasting, stable marriages as “fortresses for well-being” (source).

    Baha’is believe that humanity was created to “carry forward an ever-advancing civilisation” (source); in my own understanding, the expression of sexuality within the covenant (pact) of marriage makes a significant contribution to strengthening the foundations of civilisation. Again, in my understanding, sex is a deeply spiritual act whose purpose, apart from physical pleasure and procreation, is to strengthen the bonds and increase unity between two souls.

    Although you mention that abstaining from sex outside of marriage can cause psychological damage to the individual, I suspect said damage is dwarfed by the systemic emotional and psychological damage caused by the casual use and abuse of this powerful unifying force to wantonly make and break unions between ‘experimenting’ individuals. The increasingly neurotic attitude towards relationships evidenced by the men and women of the Western world should be enough to strongly argue this point.

    If you’d like to carry on a discussion on this point, please feel free to email me directly using the email button at the top of this page.

  4. hey,
    i think we all need to ‘investigate’ truth for ourselves and as parents we should encourage and guide, but not so much force our kids to be who we want them to be. the use of meditation and prayer will have their effects and will eventually guide them.

    but then again im just a 17years old that obviously doesnt understand much about parenthood.

    chastity is very important to me and i can assure you that it has not damaged me psychologicaly. instead i think it takes alot of strength and determination to be chaste in all aspects but we’re here to learn and im having fun with it. That’s why I’m Baha’i. it gives you standards and a goal that is so praiseworthy, but seems s unattainable. but it’s awesome. simply awesome. can’t wait to get married. haha i could talk on forever but i feel i’d be better not to turn this comment into a novel…

  5. I like people notice all the details and minutiae of everyday little thing could find something attractive and imperceptible to most. Super!

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