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Elisabeth Elliot: A Second Look at Passion and Purity
Petronella posted a topic in MissionariesEvangelical superstars Elisabeth and Jim Elliot were brought up in the Renee Bach thread (“Missionary with Bogus Medical Practice...”). I was intrigued by the discussion there and felt it worthy of its own thread. Elisabeth Elliot’s book Passion and Purity was a HUGE evangelical hit. I read it in the early nineties, and was enchanted by it. She had other books, most notably the story of her husband’s martyrdom when they were missionaries in Ecuador in the fifties. Passion and Purity was the story of their courtship, and touted as a model for Christian women everywhere. At the time I read it, I loved it for a few reasons: 1) I was “waiting until marriage” and reading about a relationship where the man believed in that too was comforting. Being praised for what made me feel like an outsider felt great. 2) Their high-stress, stretched out courtship read like a romance novel. Y’know—it looks like it’s not going to work out but you know that somehow it will, because the genre (or, in Elliot’s case, the known history of their marriage) assures you it will. Drama! 3) It was full of tips and instructions for being worthy of being romantically loved. I loved me some tips and instructions. How I feel about it now: 1) I did in fact wait until marriage, as did my husband, and we’re very happy with our decision 20+ years later. I think it’s great to read stories affirming all kinds of relationship paths, including “waiting” paths (when it’s the true choice of the individuals involved, not forced by overinvolved parents or communities). 2) Their tortured romanced. Ugh. It makes me wince now. It’s an unjoyful slog. This article on Medium retells the facts of the story in a way that shows just how negative and exhausting it was: https://medium.com/interfaith-now/the-purity-hoax-c9b1c4934325 The quotes and summaries all together imply that Jim may well have been gay and struggling against that. If not gay, he was certainly struggling against the whole concept of sex. It’s not romantic at all. It’s awful. 3) I’ve come to hate tips ‘n’ tricks for attracting a relationship, whether they come from evangelical publishing (no sex!!) or Cosmo (all the sex!!). Relationships are about individuals coming together. Being yourself and finding a match who actually suits you is far more important than fulfilling any generic pronouncement of what an author has decided is “attractive.” Any other FJers have any experiences with Elisabeth Elliot’s books and story?