Saturday, November 12, 2005

Letter to Christine Whalen

I have recently had some nice correspondence with Catholic social commentator Dr. Christine Whalen who wondered if I had any input for her in terms of ideas for future articles on the Busted Halo site, which promotes Christian sexual ethics for the unmarried. This was my response:


After reading all of your articles I've now synthesized what might be my input.

As someone looking at going into 1. The priesthood but also 2. Orthodox priesthood, which not only allows for but in many ways rewards married status, several things strike me, namely that those who are serious about their faith are often willing to consider options others consider relatively 'extreme'.

One I"d like to touch on is the very conversation I had with some other seminarians here before I stumbled across your writings:

Can we, as Christians, simply make the best of a bad system? I'm always critical of copying secular methods and expecting to 'Christianize' them. As a wise professor of mine in undergraduate said "When culture and religion collide, the majority will always be won by the culture." This is further explicated in the works of the great Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas in his book 'Resident Aliens' who argues that for Christianity to be taken seriously Christians must become comforatable being aliens to the culture at large. They must become comforatable with the idea of being considered by the majority "those peculiar people who don't kill their young and nurture their old beyond their years of productivity."

I think our courtship methodology must be considered a co-worker in this process. Protestant author Joshua Harris in his book "How I Kissed Dating Goodbye" makes a great case for what he calls 'courtship'. Although often scoffed at as undoable, he is not the first author to suggest such a thing. In fact the Catholic Tensely Center has for years advocated a similar view.

One thing is for sure - it's not enough to ask heroic individual efforts from the faithful. If we merely say "date, but don't have sex", then we're wanting to put cake in people's faces and tell them 'but don't eat it please'. Rather, we must as a community be willing to radically revisit the idea of dating. This needs to be backed up by some inter-denominational dialogue, even by Catholics and Orthodox who tend to see themselves as a breed apart. It needs to be supported across the spectrum - official teaching pronouncements from our higher clergy and proponents from pulpits in parishes nationwide, advocating such methods especially in college groups which are notoriously ineffective in providing a substantial counter witness to the culture at large and settling for mere damage control.

This will also require so many of us to revisit our own past. We cannot go into it with a view of "well I'd be a hypocrite", but rather we need to think of it as a possibility to give something we never had to those younger than us. It can't be an ambiguous thing. We must do things the only way authentic Christianity allows - as a body.

Another part of this I believe is asking the question about marriage trends. One of our social authors Frederica Mathews-Green has a really nice article on her website ( ) about early vs late marriages entitled "Let's Have More Teenage Pregnancies". Again, for many of us (the two of us included, assuming you're unmarried) this will entail a critique of our very success. Those of us who have remained pure, or realtively so, must remember that we are a critically small exception to the rule. It's not really natural to be an unmarried 30 year-old and it entails such a large variety of additional pressures. However, if we make the move to younger marriages it would, as Mrs. Green admits, necessitate a massive community effort.

Do we have the strength and fortitude to do something signiifcant? Can we really stand against the Ba'al's of this culture with strength and conviction? Or must we sell out our ideals for occasional personal success stories and trite answers that ignore much of why we're failing in Pure Sexual love and descending into generationaly name calling (you'd think that those under 30 simply share a defective DNA making them inherently more promiscuous than previous generations. I believe it's a way of deflecting failure in our raising).

That's my input for a potential article.


Anonymous michelle said...

As an unmarried-and-chaste women of 31, I have to admit that I reacted to Matthewes-Green's article as something of a slap in the face. Here I am, making all this effort AGAINST the grain of everything society has to teach me-not to mention the, ahem, desires of the flesh- and I don't even get backed up by Christian commentators?

Frustrating, to say the LEAST.

I think those of us in this situation should consider ourselves monastics on the world, at least in that regard...

11:02 AM  
Blogger Roland said...

Remember Michelle, Frederica isn't saying that it's wrong to be 31 and unmarried. Rather I think she would consider what you've done very very admirable. She just doesn't necessarily think that people should be forced unnaturally into that position.

The current situation favors the unscrupulous. That's really her point.

2:18 PM  

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