Saturday, April 30, 2005

Pure Love Club Extremist

I've just accidentally stumbled across a site dedicated to pure sexual living. It's a Catholic site I think (from the way it says certain things, like praying in front of "the Blessed Sacrament").

You know, the sexual mores of our society really get under my skin. Even the best of us seem to have some baggage no matter how hard we try. Unfortunately, as much as we preach chastity outside of marriage we don't really believe it with our whole hearts.

"But but but but...."

No I'm serious. You can see it in our priorities. Are we really willing to promote and facilitate clean living? Is it really a priority that we conciously keep in mind when setting our priorities? Does our counciling advice take chastity and sexual needs of young people into account? I would say absolutely not. Let me give some examples of why I have come to my conclusion:

1. We don't take firm stances on dating. "Dating" as currently practiced is simply not compatible with chastity. Can you really tell me that 15 year olds are in this business to find "the one"? Can young people full of raging hormones really control themselves if they're left alone for hours and hours? Please... There isn't a single norm in our current practice that is conducive to avoiding sex. Is this extremist?

Well actually, for hundreds and thousands of years in societies all over the globe most people basically agreed with me. Unfortunately there are so many factors that now mitigate against this path. Families are no longer involved much in match-making or even match-approving. When they are we tend to look at them more as an interference. Yet some of this is justified - most of our elders were themselves not chaste, so it does young folks little good to look to them for an example. Perhaps our grandparents would be a better litmus test, but they're usually passed off as old prudes rather than wise serpents (think of the divorce rates of the 70-something vis-a-vis the 40-somethings and 30-something and tell me who a sane person would take advice from).

2. It says volumes that the majority of our chastity speakers in youth groups and retreats etc are recovering penitants and not life-long successes. Nothing against penitants mind you, but it seems that we're trying to reach young people more with the message of "you can be fixed" rather than "you don't have to break".

3. Think of the priority message implicite in statements given, often by well-intentioned parents, to their collegiate and post-graduate kids: "You're young. Get your professional life stable and your education finished and then you can start looking into marriage." Hmmm. In fact HMMM. Yeah, although you've been in heat for half your life, just ignore that for a while so that you can get Mo' Money. This is a simple denial of the way things work. Incidentally, married students at all levels of education do better statistically, both short and long term, than do single students. It's certainly true here at the seminary. Why is this? I would posit that they're mentally healthier, which in turn makes them spiritually healthier. Their priorities are eucharistic in nature rather than individualistic in nature. That makes a world of difference. In fact, having to work through some tough times can be good for a young couple if their hearts are in the right place. It bonds them together in struggle.

4. This point is an extention of #4, it's considered normative to get married around 30. Does anyone really think that more than 5% of the population can wait that long without exploring their sexuality with another person? Forget about it.

5. When we do speak of virginity etc, we tend to speak only in terms of crossing the magical boundary of intercourse. There's no thought given at all to the potential for completely abstinent living until wedlock. Let's face it, who likes baggage?

6. As a corollary of #5, we're very jealous creatures. Sure, we don't like to admit this as a factor in the breakdown of relationships, but certainly it is. Think about it, why does a new car cost more than a barely-used, even test-driven car? It's because there's a mystical bond between uniqueness and value. If your spouse can legitimately tell you that not only are they a virgin, but their lips haven't even been touched by another, it would take an extremely cold person not to be moved beyond belief. I certainly would be.

As for me there can be no compromise. It would be functionally impossible for me to marry anyone who'd had sex before we met. Now this isn't a judgement on anyone else or a plea for others to adopt my relatively puritannical attitude on this point, but while I do think while there's a lot to be said for not judging, there's also a lot to be said for being equally yoked. A system for recognizing the benefits of virtue if you will.

Perhaps such a system isn't terribly Christian of me, but I would contest the point. Simply put, we must reward virtue when we can. Virtue is a gift from the Lord and reflects how healthy our relationship is with Him, which in turn can be an excellent barometer for how well we could relate with another person.

It could be that my attitude on this puts me outside of the Christian pale, but I don't think so. We're so quick to accuse people of being "judgemental" that we forget how seriously our Church Fathers took virtue as part of the Christian vocation and expectation. If anything we are startled when we hear that in parts of the early church there was a group of voluntary virgins that were lauded by the community. Sex was virtually always linked to procreation and the cementing of marital bonds. Divorce was strongly and roundly condemned for the tragedy it is. Part of being Christian is behaving Christian, it's as simple as that. Without a transformation of our life, our witness is in vain.

Also, as a side-note, I've always found it riotously funny when people who take serious religious offense at my positions on virginity find physical attractiveness to be a fine and proper thing to demand in a spouse. No judgement or unfair yoking involved there!

Now I'm not speaking here of monastic vocations. In fact, in some ways the monastic vocation can become a bit of a cop out for those outside of it. Its existence leads people to think that if you're really serious about all this virtue crap you can always go to a monastary to abstain and pray, leaving we regular folk here to break our fasts, fornicate, one-up each other, and back-bite.

I guess that I am an extremist on this kind of thing, but luckily I have been blessed with equally extremist friends. I only hope that a similarly extremist person can one day be the husbands of my sisters and cousins. You see I wouldn't be so militant if I didn't think sex was a Ba'al of our society. I've never met anyone who's sexually active who would give it up for a better prayer life or a better relationship with God. If anything, the juxtiposing of identities in this regard only leads people to try and justify themselves and their actions. That sort of thing tells me alot about which spirits are controlling our actions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was with you all the way until the part where you turned into Angel Clare. :)

I agree with the rest of the post, however.

Diane from Pontificator's Forum,
Catholic mom of two preteen boys

11:15 PM  
Blogger Roland said...

Can't say I know what Angel Clare is or when I strayed into it.

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ray,

I was looking at your site and found this posting to be very interesting. I do have a question though, since we are all fallen creatures and sin what about a situation where in a potential marriage one (or Both) of the people committed a sexual sin and since repented example someone who led a sexually permissive lifestyle prior to accepting Christ? Also another comment is that sexual sin is just one of the many ways we as human beings are messed up. There are pleanty of nonsexual sins such as gossip, slander, lying, stealing, hatred etc. It is important to remember that the Christian walk is not a litmus test of pure and impure. We are all impure to some degree. If I can live a sexually pure life but hate my neighbour, I'm just as bad as the girl at the bar who sleeps with anything that moves. Tell me what you think.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Roland said...


Obviously I don't disagree with anything you said.

That being said, there is a reason that the rules exist, namely to help redeem this world. Ultimately that will be impossible by our efforts alone, but when we "sanctify" something we bring it out of the realm of the profane. As such, we are attaching a holiness to it that it does not normally warrant. Sex certainly falls under this category. In short, just because we're "all sinners" doesn't mean that we should minimize sin when we see it.

Secondly, I target sex for these reasons

A) It is the particular Ba'al that this culture seems most intent on serving. Also I believe that it is this idolatry that underlies many of the problems we're currently facing in families, relationships generally, physical health, unwanted pregnancy, and in resource focus.

B) This goes along with the "particular Ba'al" bit, and that is that promiscuous sex is the Ba'al nobody wants to name.

Look, for instance, at your list -gossip, lying, slander, stealing, and hatred. Does anyone really pretend not to think these things are sins? I've rarely met them. POSSIBLY gossip, and that's only for really non-introspective individuals. On the other hand, if you bring up the way people live their sexual lives you will find a vast array of people, in the church even, who simply don't think it's sinful.

Lastly you're right about "hating your neighbor." From my perspective I can't think of much more hateful things that could happen to me than to know that my wife slept with someone else, or that my sisters were the objects of lustful passions for others. So, I don't consider rigorous sexual ethics to be disconnected from the command to love your neighbor. We shouldn't use that phrase "love your neighbor" until we know what that means - it doesn't mean "be a nice person". It's more complex.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in college, I was involved in Campus Crusade and Intervarsity. I knew a lot of evangelicals who got married right out of college (the way everyone used to). Some of their marriages have even lasted!

It is hard to be sexually abstinent in this society. The older you get, the harder it gets. Besides the constantly reinforced message that abstinent people are freaks ("The 40 Year Old Virgin", anyone?), there are hormones to consider; and you are around plenty of people your age who are married and hence getting it on.

I am all for some kind of matchmaking long as it's not the "meet your spouse on your wedding day" type nonsense. It's just that the odds are against finding someone abstinent and likeminded.

On another note, I have a Christian friend who is worried that she will be regarded as 'damaged goods' and undateable by Christians because she was raped. That does seem to be the flip side of demanding sexual abstinence. Is there a way to practice this with nuance?

Just my thoughts.

11:36 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home