“The new sexual revolution is here.”
So says the Pure Love Club on the home page of its on-line outpost, pureloveclub.com.
Considering the source, you might expect that this “revolution” is nothing at all like the first one. Maybe even turns that one on its ear. Were you to think that, you would be right.
“We’re responding to our Holy Father’s call to use every means of modern media to spread the Gospel,” club founder Jason Evert explains. “We want to go out into the deep and spread a big net.”
Since the site opened in July, it has recorded tens of thousands of page views. The Web presence grew naturally out of the talks and seminars promoting the joys of chastity given by Jason and his wife, Crystalina. The club is an offshoot of Catholic Answers in El Cajon, Calif., which also distributes Evert’s popular book If You Really Loved Me: 100 Questions on Dating, Relationships and Sexual Purity.
During the last few years, the Everts, both in their 20s, have spoken to more than 100,000 teens in Catholic, Christian and public schools as well as colleges with their popular chastity seminar, “Romance Without Regret.”
“Our goal is to get this in front of as many kids as possible,” Evert says. “We believe that, if they hear the truth, they’re going to respond courageously.”
Evert tells of a high-school student who approached him after a talk, saying she and her boyfriend had only gotten three out of 25 questions right at the Web site’s “love test.” She said she knew she had serious work to do in order to keep the relationship from becoming a source of pain in her life.
“It’s an eye-opener for teens who are in unhealthy relationships and an encouragement for those who are in good ones,” Evert says of the test.
Another young lady walked up following a talk and slapped a half-used package of birth-control pills into Crystalina’s hand. “Thank you,” the teen-ager said. “I won’t need to be using these anymore.”
A third had been giving herself away physically in order to “get my boyfriend back.” Despondent over the lack of results from that strategy, she had begun thinking about suicide. Evert tells how, after taking in a Pure Love talk, she wrote the couple: “Thanks for helping save my life.”
Nor are all the “conversions” coming from the girls’ side of the room. Evert has heard from many boys who have likewise made decisions for chastity after attending a Pure Love event.
He’s quick to credit an unseen force behind the apostolate’s success.
“I sent letters to more than 100 convents, asking the nuns to pray for these teens we were speaking to,” he says. “That’s where the conversions are coming from.”
Evert launched the Pure Love Club five years ago from his base at Catholic Answers, where he’s a full-time apologist. Maybe it was the practice he got doing general apologetics, but, whatever the impetus, he’s become known for his direct yet charitable responses to the questions kids ask.
His streetwise way with words was enough to inspire An Nguyen, director of youth ministry at Our Lady of Joy Church in Carefree, Ariz., to form her own Pure Love Club.
“The way he answers the questions isn’t just to offer a general answer,” Nguyen says. “He gets to the heart of it and why the Catholic Church teaches it. He does it in a way that doesn’t water down the teachings of the Catholic faith. The way he answers really grabs teens and makes it pertinent to them.”
The Web site’s Q&A section acted as the focal point of the first meeting in August of Our Lady of Joy’s Pure Love Club. Nguyen used the question “When should I begin dating?” to spur the teens’ discussion.
Dominican Father Vincent Serpa isn’t surprised the Web site has helped the Pure Love Club establish itself as a leading light.
“More and more people connect through the Internet,” the priest says. “While it can be a terrible temptation for so many people, particularly for men, it can also be a great opportunity for coming closer to God and allowing the Lord’s grace to flood the person.”
Pureloveclub.com might be the driving force behind the local Pure Love Clubs that have begun popping up in high schools, colleges and church youth groups, but it’s usually a personal appearance by Jason and Crystalina that sparks the flame.
After the Everts spoke to teens at St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon in 2002, parent Keith Michael Esshaki immediately formed a Pure Love Club for youth there.
“Jason does a great job speaking to young people about God’s design for love,” says Esshaki, father of a 14-year-old and 12-year-old twins. “It helped me as an adult and as a married person. He mentioned things like, if you look at any girl, you should see in her the Blessed Mother. I thought, ‘How come nobody told me this as a teen-ager?’ If teens hear this message, they’ll start looking at each other from a different perspective.”
Today Esshaki averages 50 junior- and senior-high students who meet for two hours of weekly support to hear chastity talks, pray a scriptural rosary and play sports.
He plans to expand the Pure Love Club at St. Peter’s to four groups, including one for parents. “The least charity God expects of me as a parent is to tell the truth about God’s design of love for my children,” Esshaki says.
Evert is also reaching out to secular audiences. A companion site, http://www.pureloveclub.net is in, the works. “It’s all based on the demands of authentic human love,” he says, and on “teaching kids the difference between love and lust.” Never mind that it’s something of a coup in and of itself to get secular school groups excited about Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body.
A Catholic vision of chastity: Thanks in no small part to the Pure Love Club, it’s not just for Catholics anymore.
Joseph Pronechen writes from