Friday, July 22, 2011

On Culture and Chastity

Many people claim that chastity is impossible, and that kids will engage in risky behavior no matter what environment they are put into. Therefore, instead of discouraging premature sexual behavior in children, society should instead limit the risks of behavior through birth control and “safe sex.”
This is ridiculous. Chastity is indeed possible. Thousands of priests, nuns, virtuous men and women within and without the confines of marriage, and young people, live chaste lives – and are better and happier people for doing so.
But it is very hard to live a chaste life when society actively discourages it.
Public schools encourage “safe sex” through sexual education. Movies and books promote the joys of risk-free, joyful premarital affairs. Advertisers use barely clad women to promote products. Society’s message to men is to get laid as fast as possible, and to women that they are ugly and useless if they cannot attract a host of ogling males. Unrestrained pursuit of pleasure is consistently preached to young people as the highest good.
Given these promotions of promiscuity in popular culture, of course it is difficult for young people to practice the virtue of chastity! Encouragement of any behavior will lead to increased practice of that behavior.
But imagine a culture that celebrated modesty, that encouraged purity in literature and film, and that celebrated sexuality within the confines of marriage. Imagine a truly Christian culture.    
Would divorce be a common phenomenon if the family as a unit were celebrated instead of denigrated? Would premarital sex be as high if the pleasures of “risk-free sex” were not taught in the schools and encouraged by film?
Would chastity be more widespread in a Christian society?  
(Rhetorical questions aren’t meant to be answered.)
This is not to say that unchastity would not exist in a truly Christian society. Human nature is still fallen, even in a Christian culture. Back-alley abortions, premarital sex, “shotgun weddings,” and divorces would all still exist.
But such behavior would certainly be much less common. A stigma attached to unchaste behavior discourages people from behaving in immoral ways. Rather than glamorize these social evils, discourage them - and people will avoid them.
So what is the remedy for unchastity? In the short term, turn off the television (or at least switch to moral programming), avoid immoral influences, and find good Christian company to interact with.
But complete avoidance of a corrupt culture is counterproductive. Christ came to redeem humanity and culture, not avoid it entirely. Christians are forced to engage the culture they live in if they wish to win souls for Christ.
What can Christians do in the long term to reclaim culture for Christ?
Simple! Replace it with a truly Christian culture.
Enclaves such as strong Christian colleges and Christian communities provide shining examples of Christian culture – a world where respect for others is encouraged, and sexuality is celebrated within the confines of marriage. Imperfect as these places are, they are shining beacons of awesomeness in a world of ignorance and darkness – beacons of virtue that give the lie to the notion that virtue is impossible.
But Christians are not called to build mere islands of sanity in an insane world; we are called by Christ to “light a fire on earth” (Luke 12:49) – the fire of the love of Christ. And this fire should consume the earth.
So Christians must enter industries where culture is formed, and take them back for Christ.
No less so than living a moral life in a world hostile to virtue.  

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