Sunday Rumpus Interview with Erika Rae


Donna Johnson interviews Erika Rae, author of Devangelical, in Rumpus:

Rumpus: I find it interesting that modern Evangelicals discuss “how far to go.” The religious milieu I came from, the Holiness tent revival movement, said don’t do it, period. Cut off your hands, tongue, and any other offending member…but don’t do it. What was never mentioned was that everyone was doing it, especially the preachers. Your church was more modern in its approach. As you put it in the book, you were trying to be “hot for God, not for each other,” and even go so far as to suggest that one of the church youth group’s main functions was to provide an alternative to sex. How did that work out for you?

Rae: Our denomination had branched off the Holiness movement, too, but was definitely a bit more integrated into modern culture than what I remember reading about your group in your book, Holy Ghost Girl. (It still blows me away how you managed to actually leave that!) One guest preacher we had at our university actually made cards up for us, color-coded for each base level (and a few in between) like a Homeland Security warning system. Hand-holding was next to green on one end of the spectrum, and intercourse was next to red on the other. “Heavy petting” was somewhere in the yellow-orange level and oral sex was right next to intercourse, of course, and was a bright blood orange. There were then dotted lines between the major color changes to show you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, which color progressions were like a middle finger in God’s face. Those cards were very helpful, of course. I am just sure college students were pulling them out while parked in the backs of their old beaters overlooking the city and checking them for reference.

The church I grew up in attempted to prolong these desires until marriage by refocusing our attention onto a radical relationship with Jesus, our “groom.” Other churches encourage teenage girls to pledge their purity to God and to their daddies. But while people may be able to resist inserting plug into socket, there are plenty of loopholes.