The God of Awkward Virgins
Watching clips from the new TLC series The Virgin Diaries, which debuted Sunday, is a bit like seeing Borat, The Yes Men, or another feature-length "you've been had" films. The show profiles virgins in their late 20s and 30s, most of whom are choosing to save sex—and their first kiss, in one case—for marriage. Debuting as a one-hour special this Sunday, it is casting for future episodes and has already prompted criticism for exploiting its subjects. The subjects kiss awkwardly at the altar, choreograph their first night while swinging and riding teeter-totters at a park, sing songs about abstinence, and discuss "reclaimed virginity" during a backrub chain in one woman's bedroom. Only the virgin by circumstance is shown in adult settings, like a dinner out with friends.
The trailers don't specify why the subjects are still virgins, but it's fair to assume that at least a few of them are waiting because they are Christians. So, if nothing else, The Virgin Diaries is a chance to bravely acknowledge our common ground with the socially awkward and other fellow believers who prove hard to love.
But there are other, subtler ways a show like this challenges us. Even the brief clips in the trailers get into your head as pictures of people who probably got here because they entrusted their bodies to God (at least in some cases). And what kind of God does that conjure in your mind? Be honest.
If you were to work backward from depictions like that to the being who created such people and whose instructions have supposedly shaped their lives, you'd probably think of someone with a flaky scalp, ill-fitting suits that could nonetheless serve as a tourniquet on wayward desire, and a voice not many wavelengths off from a fingernail on a chalkboard. Someone more interested in your adherence to (often petty) rules than your well being and joy.
A god like that is not someone you invite into your life. He's not someone to whom you cede control in the midst of crisis and success. That's someone you force yourself to talk to and then retreat from as soon as possible—which may partly explain why 80 percent of unmarried Christians have had sex, as Relevant magazine reported in September.
Is that a true portrait of God, or one of the caricatures author Matt Mikalatos calls an "imaginary Jesus"?
The biblical God is one who provides food for all creatures, from the biggest fish to the smallest mite. Who put many-colored beauty and diverse fragrance into even the most fleeting flowers. Who comforted a eunuch turned back from Jerusalem after a 1,000-mile journey with the words of Isaiah, which explicitly promises eunuchs "a name better than that of sons and daughters … an everlasting name" (NASB). Who gave up comfort, wealth, and intimacy to take up an itinerant life before experiencing a brutal death that cut him off from even his most beloved—all so that he could pardon even his murderers, should they repent and be reconciled to him.