North Coast Church is the largest EFCA church in California. Its in the San Diego area and out of this church is hemorrhaging some disturbing stories of sexism, sexual predation, abuse, and cult like behavior. This blog which writes about the EFCA is going to begin to look at Larry Osborne’s North Coast Church in close detail. This first post is going to look at the purity culture that exists. For some your daughter’s worth is measured by a stick of used chewing gum.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.“
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”
Matthew 19:14 NLT
Worship at North Coast Church
One of the issues that is most troubling in evangelicalism is what I would call the purity movement. The purity movement harms both women and men in different ways. But of the two I think its most toxic to females. The purity movement is something that I encountered in my time inside evangelicalism. When I was a student leader in Canopus Crusade for Christ in Wisconsin I recall one such event that took place. The wife of one of the Crusade staff took the girls and spoke with them about modesty and how they were to dress. They were told that they are responsible in part for keeping guys sexually pure. When I heard this at the time I thought it was neat. Today when I reflect on it I feel sick. That is not healthy and its toxic. To place that kind of burden on females and sexualize them is troubling. I wrote about the purity culture a couple of years ago in, “From Cru, Sovereign Grace to John MacArthur’s Ministry; Are Women Responsible for Keeping Men Pure?”
This blog which writes about the Evangelical Free Church of America, learned of a disturbing situation in an EFCA Church in Vista, California. Vista is in the San Diego vicinity. Stories of pain and trauma that took place at Larry Osborne’s North Coast Church are pouring out on Instagram account called @northcoastchurchabuse. This blog is going to write about these issues and do a deep dive of North Coast Church. The focus on this post is to look at the purity culture in the high school and youth ministries at North Coast Church. Please read some of the stories below and let’s discuss in further detail in this post both in the comment section. The goal of this post is to allow for a discussion on the purity culture in North Coast Church. Below are some of the stories that are coming out from the church.
I’ll never forget freshman year I decided to get re-baptized. It was at the beach and I didn’t think it would be a big deal to wear a bikini, since ya know it’s the beach. I remember getting there and other girls had bikini tops on and I didn’t think much of it. Now I’m a bigger chested girl so I guess when I wear bikinis it’s considered inappropriate and noticeable . The look the leaders gave me that day will forever be burned into my mind. Mama Kate gave me this look of disgust and signaled for me to cover up, which was unsettling considering there were plenty of other girls wearing bikinis as well. The leader who was going to baptize me looked uncomfortable to even be around me during the baptism and he tried to avoid touching me even when I had to go underwater. I was so embarrassed and tried to cover up as much as possible but the whole time I felt so out of place, I was already having body image issues. but this experience made them worse.
I had been in the same small group since middle school. We had an amazing small group leader that followed us to high school. Like a week before we went to camp we were told she wasn’t going to be our leader anymore. We were all separated and put into random small groups where we weren’t as close with some of the girls. Our leader had come to our pastor and in confidence admitted that she had pre-marital sex. She was banished from the church and from our small group because of one past transgression.
When I was in middle school, my friend molested me and I never told anyone about it until I was almost done with high school. I told my leader at the time about it and she seemed like she was being kind and understanding. That Wednesday at small group my leader asked me about it in front of the girls even though I told her I wanted to stay just between us. They all told me to think that maybe it was something that I did that led them on. Then they tried to tell me that I need to hope that God and my “Future Husband” will forgive me for what happened to me.
I went to NCC for three years. I experienced countless experiences of sexism/homophobia during that time. I started going when I was only 11 so I didn’t recognize at first how abusive and sick this place was. I remember when the last straw was when I was 13. We had just broken off into our sermon for the night but they had separated the boys and the girls. The girls were taught about how valuable our virginity was, and the importance of keeping it “pure” for your future husband. We were compared to pieces of gum, and told “that it would be wrong to offer your husband a chewed up piece of gum.” I was traumatized, I had been raped only a couple of months prior and hadn’t spoken about it to anyone. I felt an overwhelming amount of shame. I thought that this place was my safe space, but I was so wrong.
One time I was going to a church service in an outfit that I thought was modes, considering that my Mom let me walk out of the house in it. When I got there Heather looked me up and down gave me a dirty look and whispered something to her husband right after. I felt so judged and had a feeling she was saying something about me. Sure enough, I was right. A girl came up to me later this evening and told me I should be more considerate of what I wear to church, and that Heather had complained about my outfit to her.
My first year of Indio I wore a crop top with high waisted shorts because it was over a 100 degrees. Not even half an inch of my stomach was shown but an older male leader still came up to me and asked me to change because I was being inconsiderate and a temptation to all the boys at the camp who were porn addicts and that I was the reason why they could go to hell for feeding their addiction and that I was distracting them from building their relationship with God. I went back to my room and cried because I felt so guilty and disgusting when looking back on it I should have told him to kiss my ass.
I went to North Coast from 1st all the way to 12th grade. I experienced the whole leggings conversation. All the crazy sermons which made me question myself a lot and even experienced unwanted attention. This one guy who I went to church with started texting me inappropriate messages and pictures. When I went to talk to my leader she said that it was my fault and I should not be such a temptation to other boys. I finally left my senior year of high school with years of trauma.
When I was in the 9th grade at the 9/10 Ministry I was put in a room of girls for a lesson. The women at the front the stage had a paper heart and said, “This heart is your virginity.” Then she ripped it in half and said, “This is what happens when you have sex.” She taped it back together and ripped it again. She did this a few more times and at the end she said, “Once you have sex you rip your heart and when you tape it together its not the same. No man will want this heart.” Meanwhile the guys were outside playing dodgeball.
Just wanted to say that I remember the Jacob Cutler stuff happening, or at least some of it. I’m not sure of the extent of it. A close friend of mine did try to handle it internally and was met with hostility. They called her Mom and gave her false information and described the situation like she was some kind of temptress. They scolded her on not being a stumbling block and threatened not to let her come back. Seeing the responses of church members on these posts is incredibly disheartening. and would stop me from ever going to North Coast and especially allowing my children near there. This false narrative of women being responsible for sexually abusive men’s actions is down right vile and the church rushing to defend these people without expressing any kind of remorse or intention to investigate the issues internally is a testament of to the true nature of this institution.
In middle school at tnl I remember there was a panel on dating and sex where several male leaders answered questions anonymously written by middle school girls onstage. I very clearly remember someone saying that virginity was like a piece of gum, and if your gum was already chewed on your wedding night your husband wouldn’t want it.
I went to a summer camp in eight grade at North Coast and it was one of the best experiences of my life! But after we’d been there for a few days my small group of girls was approached by a boy’s small group leader for being “too flirty.” They said this was making it hard for the boys to not struggle with temptation. The behaviors they pointed out to us, “stumbling blocks”were really small things like the tone of our voice or whether our heads were tilted when we spoke or not. That was the first time in my life I felt hypersexualized, and it left me over analyzing all of my interactions with men and feeling incredibly uncomfortable /embarrassed around boys regardless of the situation but especially that specific boy’s small group. It just seems glaringly obvious that if the boys were talking about facing temptation from such tiny things. There has to have been an appropriate way to approach it without hypersexualizing 12 and 13 year old girls.
The pastors told girls they shouldn’t wear leggings because they’re a distraction. Leggings are comfier than jeans, go well with cute tops. And are practical even the pastors wife wears them. Don’t shame girls for wearing leggings. They’re worn for comfort not to “tempt” or district anyone.
When I went to Camp Loma I had a counselor tell me I couldn’t wear a pair of tights because I was bigger compared to the other girls even though all of the other camp members and her included were wearing tights, it was a difficult because I struggle with body image enough and we talked about me struggling with it the night before.
How North Coast Church Views Young Females
Those accounts I have listed above are but a sampling of many that took place. If there are others this blog is asking people to enter them into the comment section below. What is most troubling about these posts is how North Coast sexualizes young girls. In the process especially in a critical period of life North Coast Church transformed them to mere sex objects. They are dehumanized and their intrinsic value is stripped from them. Look at the comments and ask yourself how many females were traumatized in their life because of their experience at North Coast Church? This blog would be interested to know did North Coast Church’s purity teachings drive some females into a lifestyle of anorexia or bulimia? Were others driven into anxiety disorders and depression? That is what a patriarchy culture does. And in the entire process men are excused and allowed to do what they want under the mantra that boys will be boys. I would hope in the 21st century that we are better than that.
Here’s a question to ask. When you place virginity on such a high pedestal what does that do for those who have the tragic experience of being raped, molested or abused? It amplifies the pain and adds to the problems. Evangelicals are deeply obsessed with sexual purity in unhealthy ways. I, for the life of me, can not understand why so many evangelical churches become so hung up on this issue. And why the constant analogies to gum? When I went through that Instagram account that had these stories that picture kept coming up from different females. How tragic to be compared to a piece of used gum. For myself I was troubled by reading these stories coming out of this EFCA church, and keep in mind when it comes to North Coast Church this is one aspect to look at. But there is another point to consider in this culture. How is this purity culture which demeans and dehumanizes females any different than what you would find in Sunni Islam in places like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia? Compare what is said in those writings up above to what you can find in Islamic culture here and here. If I were a parent for the sake of your daughter’s mental health and emotional well being I would remove my child from the youth programs at North Coast Church. Your daughter after all is worth much more than a piece of used chewing gum.