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Rings show promise to remain chaste
In Christian circles, promise rings mark pledge to abstain from premarital sex

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A promise ring symbolizes the idea that “true love waits,” a phrase that denotes an individual’s or a couple’s commitment to remain sexually pure before marriage. In contemporary Christian life, the ring is often presented by a parent to a teen-age child who has made a promise of chastity.

Christian promise rings are traditionally worn by young women and men to represent a commitment of chastity until marriage, and many Belmont students choose to wear them to demonstrate their own promises to remain pure.

Also known as chastity and purity rings, Christian promise rings are usually seen as the physical representation of a Christian’s vow to remain pure in mind, body and spirit until making a life-long commitment to his or her husband or wife.

Dr. Todd Lake, vice president for spiritual development at Belmont, explained that abstaining from sexual activity until marriage should be highly valued in the Christian faith.

“God has created us to have the highest level of intimacy with the people with whom we’ll spend the rest of our lives,” he explained. “We do a disservice to ourselves if we let our bodies get ahead of where our minds and our wills are, where our spirit is.”

Recipients of Christian promise rings often receive their rings from family members, friends or church organizations, with others choosing to buy rings for themselves.

Sophomore Joy Kayser received her Christian promise ring at age 13 as a gift from her father, who established a family tradition of letting each of his three daughters choose their own ring.

“It was kind of like a fun thing that we got to do with our dad, to go shopping and pick out a piece of jewelry that we liked,” she said.

Kayser explained that the tradition of buying the ring and making the commitment to save sex for marriage was never forced upon her or her sisters, despite being encouraged by her father to do so.

“It was something that we wanted to do, and they gave it to us as a commitment to make to ourselves and to God and to our future husbands,” she said. Kayser insisted that if she had chosen not to make the commitment to chastity at that time, her parents “probably would have asked some questions, but they would have been completely okay with it.”

“God has created us to have the highest level of intimacy with the people with whom we’ll spend the rest of our lives. We do a disservice to ourselves if we let our bodies get ahead of where our minds and our wills are, where our spirit is.”

Despite the perception that most wearers of Christian promise rings are females, many males choose to wear the physical representations of their purity until marriage, as well.

Junior Jon Young is evidence of this. Young received his Christian promise ring from his parents at age 13, but says he actually made the personal commitment to save sex for marriage at age 16.

He explained that he made this decision for himself when he “realized that part of this commitment was showing trust and a commitment to her, whoever my wife will be, even before we get married.”

Young said that saving sex for marriage and choosing to wear a physical symbol of that commitment will show his future wife that she can trust him, as doing this demonstrates that he “loves her more than even [his] own desires.”

While Young wears his ring every day, he nevertheless acknowledges that being a male who wears a chastity ring may carry a social stigma.

“Society says to do one thing and [wearing a Christian promise ring] directly contradicts what society says to do for [men],” he said. “But this ring is statement for my love for my wife, and it also shows women that I have a greater respect for them.”

But debate is widespread among wearers of Christian promise rings over what physical behavior is permissible when one commits to remain “chaste” until marriage.

Young feels that while intercourse, oral sex and other explicit and implicit sexual touching is inappropriate for someone who has made such a commitment, making out and necking should be considered permissible.

Sophomore Melissa Robinson personally disagrees. Robinson, who received her first Christian promise ring from her grandmother at age 14 and her second from her mother upon her grandmother’s death, draws the line at kissing.

“I’ll do a kiss, but I’m not going to go any further than that,” she said. “My body is God’s temple, and I’m not going to abuse it, or let it be abused.”

Christian promise rings are available in a number of styles and can be purchased everywhere from Christian bookstores to online suppliers. Some students wear rings from a specific company or group, such as True Love Waits, a Christian organization sponsored specifically by Lifeway Christian Resources.

Others, such as Kayser and Robinson, chose more generic rings to which they attached their own personal meaning.

Robinson wears a simple silver ring with a black stone, which her mother brought back from a mission trip in Alaska. The ring Joy chose when shopping with her father is a white gold band with her birthstone.

While chastity rings are predominantly a Christian practice, some choose to wear them for non-religious reasons.

Robinson experienced this personally when a close friend was raped and consequentially decided to wear a chastity ring. The sexually traumatizing experience made Robison’s friend, who was also an Atheist, conclude that sex was “precious enough to her that she wants to keep her first voluntary time for the one she marries.”

Some Christians who have been through the experience of wearing a Christian promise ring argue that it is difficult to make a truly educated decision on whether to save sex for marriage until one has faced real sexual temptation.

“It was easier to say I was saving it back before I was having sexual encounters,” said sophomore Harold Simmons.

When Simmons was 13, he took a two-month sex education course on the importance of abstinence and how it relates to Christian principals. While he took an oath of purity and received a purity ring at the time, he now feels that understanding the reality of such a commitment is impossible without first facing temptation.

“I think the only way you can tell if [making the commitment] is effective is if you can tell through sexual encounters, but it depends on the person really,” he said.

Simmons acknowledged, though, that some Christians are ready to make the commitment to save sex for marriage at a young age and encouraged those who are ready to do so.

The idea of Christian promise rings is not without opposition, however, even at a Christian university like Belmont.

Sophomore Justin Wilson doubts that all young people who wear promise rings do so for pure reasons.

“I’ve known several girls who wear them to make themselves look good,” he said. According to Wilson, some young Christians wear chastity rings to “make themselves look like they haven’t had sex and to make their parents happy.”

Sophomore Jeff Jenkins feels that if people need a constant, physical reminder of their promise to remain pure, they probably aren’t truly committed in the first place.

“Why do you need the physical reminder of a promise that you made to yourself?” he questioned. “That just means that you’re almost planning on failing. It’s like if the ring weren’t there to remind you, you would slip. You’re planning on slipping, and if it weren’t for that promise ring you would slip.”

Despite the doubt surrounding Christian promise rings, even Simmons, who has struggled with the effectiveness of his own purity ring and no longer wears one, believes that Christian promise rings can have positive effects on young Christians.

“I think the ring itself was a good constant reminder,” he said. “Even though at that point in time I wasn’t necessarily sexually active, anytime I would face a sexual encounter the ring would be a reminder of what I had learned.”

February 28, 2008

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