Liberal Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber unveiled a sculpture of a vulva made entirely of old purity rings to protest evangelical purity culture and presented it to pro-abortion second-wave feminist Gloria Steinem.
Bolz-Weber, the founding pastor of Denver's House for All Sinners and Saints, showed off the sculpture — which was made by melting down the old jewelry — during the 2019 Makers Conference last week.
"Every single thing and person that seemed so powerful and inescapable, I name them and then I just go 'footnote,'" Bolz-Weber told conference attendees. "I mean, seriously, Pontious Pilate? He's a footnote. Your bully from middle school? Footnote. Your depression? Footnote. Your s----y boss? Footnote. All of those things are very real, and the harm that they have on us and the world is also real."
"But to me, the whole point of having faith is it allows us to believe in a bigger story than the one we tell ourselves. Those purity rings are a footnote," she declared, unveiling the sculpture.
"The [rings] we couldn't melt down spell out the word 'freedom' and were woven into this heart," Bolz-Weber said, gesturing toward the sculpture.
"Isn't it amazing?" she said while presenting the sculpture to Steinem amid audience applause.
In some evangelical Christian circles, purity rings, also known as "promise" or "chastity" rings, were given to young girls as symbols of a promise they made to abstain from sexual activity until marriage.
The controversial pastor, who has defended the use of so-called "ethically sourced p*rn," first announced her art project at the 2018 Makers Conference, where she explained she wants to "take down" the "church's teachings around sex" and evangelical purity culture.
"This thing about women that the church has tried to hide and control and that is a canvas on which other people can write their own righteousness ― it's actually ours," Bolz-Weber told HuffPost. "This part of me is mine and I get to determine what is good for it and if it's beautiful and how I use it in the world."
She then put out a call on Twitter, asking any women who no longer use their purity rings to donate them to her for use in the sculpture. In exchange for donating their ring, the pastor said she would give each person a copy of her new book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, in which she argues that Church teaching on sexuality has caused harm to many people.
According to a video posted on the Makers Conference website, the response was "overwhelming," with hundreds of women sending in their rings. One female welder agreed to make the sculpture after five men refused, claims the video.
The purity movement of the 1990s and 2000s was spurred in part by Joshua Harris' 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, which sold more than 1.2 million copies. The book, aimed at teenagers and young adults, argued against physical intimacy outside of marriage and said romantic relationships should exist only as a means of preparing for marriage.
Two decades after his book was published, Harris posted a statement of apology on his personal website: "While I stand by my book's call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past 20 years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided."
Declaring his book would be discontinued, Harris explained that while it promotes some good and biblical ideas, it also presents a narrow and unhelpful view of sexuality, relationships, and dating.
"I didn't leave room for the idea that dating could be a healthy way of learning what you're looking for in a long-term relationship, that it could be a part of growing personally," he admitted.
"I gave the impression that there was one formula that you could follow, and if you followed that, you'd be happily married, God would bless you, and you'd have a great sex life and marriage. Obviously, the real world doesn't work that way."
"Fear is never a good motive," he said, adding, "Fear of messing up, fear of getting your heart broken, fear of hurting somebody else, fear of sex."
Tim Challies, an author and pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, recently urged the Church to find ways to address sex and purity in a "healthier" and "more biblical" way.
"The dating and courtship movements represented a weird phase in evangelicalism and, as they finally fade, I think we are in a position to speak in much healthier and much more biblical ways about sexuality, about purity, about marriage, and about relationships," he said. "This time, let's try to do so with wisdom, balance, and discernment instead of those radical extremes that simply lead to more error."