Thursday, February 28, 2013

Disagreement Does Not Equal Hatred

There is an idiotic assumption that has taken deep root in our society that disagreement is synonymous with hatred. According to this notion, if I disagree with someone on political policy or matters of faith, that signifies that I hate that person, so therefore my opinion is not worthy of a hearing.
Accordingly, opponents of same-sex marriage are treated as though they hate all homosexuals and seek their destruction. Proponents of birth control mandates argue that opposition to their policies is part of a "war on women." Opponents of social welfare programs are accused of starving the poor. Foes of atheism are treated as opponents of reason and the forward march of civilization itself.
This "disagreement equals hatred" notion is complete and utter nonsense. Disagreement over the best way to love homosexuals or how to best take care of the poor or on the truth the Catholic faith or any other subject, by itself, does not constitute hatred. Hatred implies a deliberate desire to cause harm to another. The mere holding of unpopular ideas does not constitute hatred. 
The implication of "disagreement equals hatred," of course, is that holding certain ideas is tantamount to a direct attack on another. This creates a sort of groupthink where dissent against the prevailing intellectual currents is treated as hatred and is deemed worthy of being stamped out.
If mere disagreement equaled hatred, anyone who disagreed with anyone would be guilty of hatred. A mother could be said to “hate” her child for not giving her son cookies. Intellectual argument would be rendered impossible, and the world would be one giant cesspool of hatred.
The "disagreement equals hatred" claim becomes even more transparently foolish when one takes into account the fact that members of the “victim classes” often oppose policies meant to “help” them (E.g., women who oppose abortion and birth control). 
Claiming that one “hates” someone because he disagrees with a particular policy or faith is incredibly destructive. At best, adopting this tactic is an instinctive suspension of reason in the service of ideology. At worst, it is a cynical and deliberate method of dodging debate and attacking intellectual opponents.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Abortion and Guilty Consciences

In my college days, I led a group that prayed at abortion clinics. We were frequently yelled at by clinic-goers and passers-by who were enraged by our very presence. One of the more frequent complaints we heard was that we were there to make the women feel bad about themselves.
This, of course, was untrue – we were there primarily to pray and assist the women, if they would allow us to. We were there to save lives and to heal souls. How well we succeeded – let God be our judge.
But in a sense, the passers-by were right. Our presence certainly did make some women entering the clinic "feel bad" about what they were about to do. And that is a very good thing. 
For our presence was a reminder to women entering the clinic that they were preparing to kill their children. Our presence reminded them that they were doing something very wrong, and that there were alternatives to ending the lives of their children. Perhaps this guilt even stopped one of them from entering the clinic, and a child was born that would not have lived otherwise.
It is a false kindness which demands that one cease making a person “feel bad about themselves" when that person is doing something wrong. “Feeling bad” in the case of abortion, is a symptom of guilt induced by wrongdoing. And guilt over wrongdoing is salutary; guilt keeps people from committing theft, murder, lying, and other sundry evils, and reminds people that they can repent of those evils.  
If we served as a guilty conscience for those who opposed us, good! Would that we could have done more to stop women from killing their children.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Fallacious “Christians Already Killed Marriage” Argument

Imagine a historic house infested with termites and in danger of collapse. How would you fix it? Would you exterminate the termites infesting the wood, and replace boards as necessary? Or would you burn the house down and completely rebuild it in a completely different style?
Most people would choose to kill the termites that infest the wood, and replace the boards as best they could. But the situation described is analogous to the state of marriage in the First World, and activists have chosen (metaphorically speaking) to stockpile matches and gasoline.
Activists seeking to expand marriage to include same-sex unions snidely claim that “heterosexual Christians have already killed marriage” – and they are absolutely correct (if slightly hyperbolic) in claiming that many Christians already treat marriage as a joke. Rampant divorce, adultery, extramarital sex – these are symptomatic of a radically deformed view of marriage, ever-present even among Christians.
But the way to combat the evils afflicting marriage is to concentrate on reducing those evils by encouraging fidelity. Instead, activists have taken the opposite tack, supporting the full-scale destruction of “restrictions” on marriage and celebrating those very cultural influences which mock and undercut marriage. They use the resulting damage done to the institution of marriage by their efforts as an excuse to fundamentally change marriage by expanding it. 
Changing marriage necessitates a radically different view of marriage than the traditional view; the new view of marriage fundamentally alters its essence. Marriage becomes a contract between any two partners in a “special” relationship based in a fuzzy notion of “love,” not the foundation of the family and the social order. This leads to radical changes in the nature of marriage; the same arguments for same-sex marriage could be marshaled for allowing incestuous marriage.
Advocates of a more inclusive definition of “marriage” don’t want to save marriage. They want marriage reduced to a shell of itself; where only the word marriage and its framework remains, while its essence is changed into something unrecognizable. 
Of course, problems don't go away when you embrace them as solutions.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Is the Pope “Quitting Twitter?”

Media outlets are reporting that the Pope is “quitting Twitter.” This may be true in the most technical of senses, but the wording "quitting Twitter" is highly misleading.
The Twitter account of @Pontifex was designed to be used by Popes. Pope Benedict XVI is abdicating on February 28 – meaning that he will no longer be Pope after that date. 
Once Pope Benedict XVI formally abdicates, he (among many other more important matters) will forfeit the right to use the Papal Twitter account. As no one would be Pope until the conclusion of the conclave to elect a new Pope, it would make absolutely no sense for the Papal account to be active after February 28. 
Pope Benedict XVI is leaving to his eventual successor the decision of whether or not to use the Papal Twitter account. And it would be very foolish, at least from a PR standpoint, for the Pope to establish an Twitter account, only to have it permanently shut down a few months later. (Admittedly, the leaders of the Church are not particularly prudent when it comes to public relations.)  
So is Benedict XVI leaving Twitter? Probably. But is the Papal Twitter account gone forever? Not likely. 

Thinking Creatively in Fighting for Morals

Catholics, knowing that certain actions are morally wrong, usually argue against such actions primarily from a moral standpoint. Such concern for morality is laudable; however, an overemphasis on strictly moral arguments can prove to be counterproductive. 
For it is very difficult to argue that certain actions are morally wrong to people who reject absolute truth. Try arguing that 2+2=4 with a person who rejects the very notion of addition. Obviously, there is a need to inculcate a notion of absolute truth in a society which has rejected the concept. In the meantime, there is also a need to find alternate methods/arguments to combat moral problems.
And one method, quite simply, is to shine a bright light on the inner workings of immoral actions. Morally wrong actions or decisions, at their core, are disgusting on simple reflection. For example, contraception is also the practice of sticking rubber onto the most intimate places on the body or ingesting chemicals to "safely" engage in intimate acts and shut down natural biological functions.  
Contraception is morally wrong – but that fact stops few from engaging in it. Many things are morally wrong (stealing, lying, etc.); that doesn’t stop people from doing them. Contraception's innate ickiness - few consider that element.
Emphasizing the innate nastiness of certain moral evils would go a long way towards the eradication (or at least the decrease) of those evils. Pornography is perhaps the most obvious instance where this strategy could be utilized. At least from an argumentative standpoint, the problem with porn isn’t that it is morally wrong, per se. The problem with porn is that it is an admission of cowardice and failure on the part of the user.
The solitary porn addict essentially admits that he or she isn’t man or woman enough for a real relationship. The male porn addict has only the cold computer screen to give him temporary relief from his sexual desires. The female porn addict admits that the only way she can attract those she desires is in her fantasies. Solitary porn is an admission of failure – the failure to be alluring, the failure to attract.
Couples that use porn to “spice up their sex lives” are no better. Essentially, they are saying by their porn usage that they take their cues from others to enjoy sex, without discovering the joys of the act on their own. It’s like a twisted and more harmful version of adopting mannerisms and speech from movies; imagine a woman whose small talk consisted solely of Star Wars quotes.
Yes, morality should be inculcated. But due to our fallen human nature, humans are rarely influenced solely by moral concerns; few humans are reachable solely through reason. Christians seeking a moral society should appeal to the heart and to the head; to the gag reflex and to the conscience. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Five Levels of Internet Trolling

I got into an incredibly unproductive argument with someone I had no idea existed this morning over Twitter. I will spare you the back and forth, but the gist of the conversation is shown by this Tweet.
Getting in arguments with people you barely know is rarely productive, especially if your conversation begins with an aggressive challenge. The 140 character limit of Twitter does not lend itself well to coherent, constructive argument. It does lend itself to quick, snappy fights, however. 
My "conversation" this morning got me thinking as to the types of Internet trolling - namely, the practice of posting inflammatory or unhelpful messages. There are several levels of trolling, each necessitating different responses.
Level 0 – This is a conversation between two people with opposing views, who discuss issues calmly, rationally, and without rancor. This isn’t trolling – this is what debate should be.
Level 1 – This is the most minor form of trolling. At this level, an individual jumps in on a conversation by making an aggressive point. E.g. "Such and such politician/pope did this foolish thing, which invalidates your point!" I, admittedly, have been guilty of this level of trolling on occasion. 
Level 2 – At this level, at least one party resorts to mockery to avoid argument. Conversations at this level and above rarely become productive, and should be avoided whenever possible. The tweet linked above is a perfect example of this level.
Level 3 – At this level, at least one party turns to personal insult. E.g.: “You’re fat,” “You’re ugly,” “You’re stupid,” “Your parents must have been drunk when they spawned you,” etc.
Level 4 – At this level, any hope of productive conversation is over; heated/discussion/mockery turns to threats of violence. E.g.: "I'm going to kill you." 
Level 5 – Red alert! At this level, conversation turns to action – harassment, prank calls, stalking, etc. Sometimes, this even requires police intervention to resolve. This thankfully only happens in a rare number of cases.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Exiling Wrestling from the Olympics

The powers-that-be in charge of the Olympics are recommending that wrestling be dropped from the 2020 Summer OlympicsNot golf, or synchronized swimming, or rhythmic gymnastics, or table tennis. Wrestling – one of the original Olympic sports.
I must admit that I’m incredibly biased on this topic, since I wrestled for 10 years. But I am hardly the only person to agree that this is an incredibly dumb decision. The United States and Iran actually have found common ground, decrying the decision and seeking the return of wrestling to its rightful place.
Many have speculated as to the reasons why the bigwigs running the Olympics have targeted wrestling for destruction. The International Olympic Committee, which is in charge of determining what is and isn't part of the Olympics, is well known for its corruption. Others note that international wrestling has foolish rules, and that its organizers are bad leaders. True enough.
But I can’t help but wonder whether there is something more to the removal of wrestling then the incompetence of its defenders. For modern culture is growing soft and feminized, and any instance of men being men – even in sports – is rapidly coming under attack.
Wrestling is one-on-one combat with another man (yes, I know there is women’s wrestling). Wrestling is the pinnacle of struggle, where one man seeks to overcome another in physical combat. 
I can’t quite shake that nagging feeling that wrestling was too manly for a culture which seeks to undercut manhood at every turn.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Official Awesomeness Rankings of All 50 States

I have composed a highly subjective list of the respective awesomeness of all 50 states, based entirely on my own experiences and preconceptions. (Note: The District of Columbia is not included; if it did, it would be near the bottom of this list.) If you don’t like the list, or feel your state has been shortchanged, feel free to make your own. Or look at my disclaimer at the bottom.

Special thanks to those who helped me compile the list. And now, without further ado...

  1)   Virginia – In the spirit of narcissism, I would like to boast that this is my adopted home, and one which I will never leave, God willing. Temperate weather, history galore, my alma mater, good friends – Virginia is the pinnacle of American statehood.
  2)   Texas – Suffice it to say I never met a Texan I didn’t like – even if they are absurdly supportive of their homeland. Arrogant, but awesome area of the country. The state even has a WILSON COUNTY!
  3)   Colorado – Two words: Denver Broncos. Also, it is a very pretty, mountainous, rectangular state, and part of my family still lives out there.
  4)   Montana – Glacier National Park is beautiful – as is the rest of the state. Lovely area of the country.
  5)   Wyoming – I like rectangles (see #3). Plus, Yellowstone and Grand Teton are incredible.
  6)   Florida – Our family vacationed down here during the summer months – very hot. (We grew saner when we got older.) I have many pleasant memories of this place. 
  7)   North Carolina – There is a Wilson County here – BONUS AWESOMENESS! Also, this state has a cool nickname (Tar Heels), and serves to protect Virginia against South Carolina’s insufferable arrogance.
  8)   Georgia – Like North Carolina, Georgia also serves to protect the rest of the states from South Carolina’s arrogance. Plus, practically unenforced high speed limits and comparatively inexpensive gasoline are cool.
  9)   Michigan – My sister graces the state with her presence – which overcomes the disadvantage of the cold. Plus, for some bizarre reason I like the split in the state between Upper Michigan and Lower Michigan.
  10)   New Mexico – Carlsbad Caverns is still my favorite National Park. Beautiful area of the country.
  11)   Arizona – They really need to name it Aridzona – it is HOT! It got up to 110 in a dry heat when we were visiting a mission Church there. Aside from that, the Grand Canyon rocks. Pretty country = good rankings.
  12)   Kansas – Kansas has many nice people (and one insane exile, but I digress…) Also, can you say Wilson County?????
  13)   Kentucky – Mammoth Cave was cool. Also, a land of bourbon. Good stuff.
  14)   South Dakota – Very pretty area of the country. Plus it has faces of famous people, etched in solid rock.
  15)   Tennessee – Wilson County Bonus Alert! Although I do remember throwing up somewhere in the car in the hills of the backwoods of Tennessee. Not fun. Oh well. I’ll bet Davy Crockett had similar things happen to him here…
  16)   Minnesota – Cold. Little else to say, although one of my best friends is from here, which gives it slight awesomeness cred…
  17)   Mississippi – This will be higher than it should be, simply because the spelling is irresistible. Plus it has a big river named after it. All hail big rivers.
  18)   Missouri – Cool arch. Jumping-off point for the Oregon Trail. Evil baseball team. 2 out of 3 ain’t bad…
  19)   Oklahoma – This state serves as Texas’s frying pan – a point in its favor. I have little else to say about it, for good or for ill.
  20)   North Dakota – Cold, but has oil and is booming.
  21)   Nebraska – Lots of corn when we drove through. I like corn.
  22)   Ohio – Despite the fact that this is one of the most important and populated states of the Union, I have no memory of this place. But there is family here. 
  23) Louisiana – Mardi Gras! Mosquitos! Other random stereotypes!
  24)   Idaho – I’m sure it’s a lovely state. Didn’t spend much time there, though, I have little intelligent to say about the state.
  25)  Alabama – No complaints about the state. Nothing really to say about it, though, except to mention the mild lunacy of the Alabama-Auburn rivalry.
  26)  New Hampshire – Dartmouth is cool. The state is cold. That’s about it. Being in New England knocks it down a peg.
  27)   Indiana – Is it a bad thing if you draw a total blank on a state?
  28)   Maine – Cold. Largely uninteresting. Moose. 1 out of 3 ain’t good.
  29)   Wisconsin – CHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESE! Unfortunately, I don’t like cheese. Or the Packers. Or the cold. 
  30)   Pennsylvania – Never really found too much of interest there, and got really bored driving multiple hours through here. Plus, Pennsylvania is right next to New Jersey. Bad neighbors make for bad ratings…
  31)   Nevada – Las Vegas and desert. Great, if that’s your thing. It’s not mine.
  32)   Utah – It’s a Mormon paradise. Never been a believer in false faiths, sorry, even if the state has some very pretty areas…
  33)   Arkansas – This state spawned our nation’s most loathsome president. The ick factor is high here.
  34)  Alaska – I have never graced the state with my presence. Hence an admittedly undeservedly low ranking for what from all accounts is a gorgeous state.
  35)   Massachusetts – Politically, the state is insane. Multiple friends boosts this ranking to far more than it deserves. Boston is cool, though. 
  36)   Iowa – The fact that politicians go here every four years to kickstart their campaigns does not help this state’s awesomeness cred.
  37)   West Virginia – A state which my sister fled kicking and screaming deserves to be low on any list of awesomeness. Perhaps this lack of awesomeness is due to the fact that they chose to flee, kicking and screaming from the wonderful, glorious, epic state of Virginia…
  38)   California – My brother goes to school here, and the state is indeed beautiful. Unfortunately, the state has a well-deserved penchant for sundry forms of idiocy, and also Hollywood. I’ve met many good Californians; they almost all left the state when they got the chance. Wish I could put this state higher, but just can't.
  39)   Illinois – Not a Chicago fan. Also, our current President’s “home” state. Uncool.
  40)   South Carolina – A state of total narcissism. I still haven’t forgiven the fact they kicked off the Civil War because they lost an election.
  41)   Vermont – Combining nutty politicians with near-total irrelevance and frigid weather. Go away.
  42)   Rhode Island – Boring, small, painful politics – what’s not to dislike?
  43)  Connecticut – See #42, slightly magnified. Add the one college that rejected me factor, and Grr…
  44)   Washington – On the Left Coast, with only a Space Needle to enliven it. Also very rainy, and I am NOT the "Singing in the Rain" type.
  45)   Oregon – On the Left Coast, and assisted suicide is not cool.
  46)   New York – Proximity to New Jersey is enough to drop this already awful state. Freezing, crazy politics, and the uncool arrogance of New York City types does the rest.
  47)   Delaware – The excessive tolls on I-95 are my deepest memory of the state. Not a good sign.
  48)   Hawaii – I have never been here, and our current president was born here. Two major strikes against it. Plus, how can a bunch of islands 2,000 miles from the continent of North America be considered a state, anyway?
  49)  New Jersey – I fled my home state kicking and screaming. All Jersey jokes are deserved. I will not say any more, for fear of dredging up unpleasant memories of that ugly asphalt jungle...
  50)   Maryland – An evil state, full of confusing roads, weird politics, and many unpleasant memories.  I have sworn to burn the state down one day. (Yes, I would notify my friends who live there first before striking the match.)

       Disclaimer: For those of you who object to any of these rankings...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Dangers of Dehumanization

Today is Valentine’s Day - a fact which has probably made abundantly clear to you. Normally, I would do my part to celebrate the occasion by tormenting you, faithful readers, with one of my poems, preferably with an appropriate Valentine’s Day theme. But I will spare you this travesty (and you should in return reward me with your undying gratitude).
Since this is Valentine’s Day, naturally this post will have an obligatory reference to love, suitable for the occasion. But my namesake, St. Paul, described love better than I ever could in a beautiful and famous passage in Corinthians 13. I could not hope to improve on his description, and will not attempt to do so.
Instead, I will examine love by considering an impulse contrary to love: dehumanization. Love, simply stated, is the desire for the good of another, or an action undertaken for the good of another. Dehumanization is the opposite impulse: a thought or action leading one to demean another person.
Dehumanization is a surprisingly common temptation. It is easy to view others as objects for one’s own gratification – to treat others as constructs, rather than real people. We may not personally believe in solipsism, but we often act like solipsists when it comes to our treatment others. We are the only ones who matter; others exist to serve us.
It is especially easy to dehumanize those we argue with – those defending just causes are perfectly capable of succumbing to this temptation. “Pro-life” activists can be tempted to forget the humanity of abortion advocates whom they spar with. Those who defend true marriage can be tempted to scorn their foes as hopeless and irredeemable sodomites. To my shame, I have become angry with my political opponents and responded to them with subtle personal shots. But those we argue with are people, created in the same image and likeness of God as we are, who demand our respect, if not our agreement.
The temptation to dehumanize others is not limited to our enemies. We can just as easily dehumanize those whom we claim to love. The lover who uses his or her significant other or spouse for physical or emotional gratification, the son or daughter who leeches off his parents – these are very real instances of dehumanization.
This form of dehumanization is more subtle and therefore more pervasive than the more hostile kind. After all, it is easy to recognize when we are treating our foes like dirt, and adjust accordingly. But dehumanization of friends and family often masquerades as love, and is all the more destructive because of this fact.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Our Lady of Lourdes and Christ's Love of the Lowly

Today (February 11) is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. On this day, Mary first appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a poor but pious peasant girl, in a grotto in France.
Our Lady appeared many more times to St. Bernadette, asking her to pray and do penance. A miraculous healing spring arose in the place where St. Bernadette was commanded to dig by Our Lady. Mary also confirmed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to St. Bernadette at Lourdes.
No one could have predicted that Mary would appear to a poor peasant girl in the middle of nowhere. But God loves the poor, and chooses them frequently to fulfill his designs. After all, He chose Mary, a poor Jewish girl, to become His mother.
To the secular world, this emphasis on the poor and lowly is utter foolishness. From those accustomed to viewing reality from the prisms of power and evolutionary struggle, supporting the poor is counterproductive at best. (And considering the Pope's announcement of his abdication today, the focus on the “hierarchy” of the Church might seem appropriate on this day of all days.)
But on deeper reflection, this solicitude of Our Lord and Our Lady for the poor and weak makes perfect sense. For the “handmaid of the Lord” was raised from poverty to become the Queen of Heaven and Earth. Her son, the omnipotent God, was born in a stable, became a preacher with “nowhere to lay his head,” (Matt 8:20) and was stripped even of His garments before He died.
Is it any wonder why Jesus and His mother love the poor and lowly? They lived and worked among the least of God's children, during their time on earth.
Truly, God and Our Lady have a special love for those whom they grew up around. Mary herself declared in her great Magnificat: "He hast cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has raised up the lowly." (Luke 1:52)

The beautiful stained glass window in this post was made by Stained Glass Inc. More artwork can be found at

Farewell, Benedict XVI!

In a stunning decision that surprised even his closest colleagues, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he is preparing to abdicate the Papacy at the end of February.
Benedict cited ill health as the reason for his abdication, eloquently stating: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. Here is a link to his statement.
It takes great humility to resign from one of the most powerful offices in the world – especially when this is the first time such a resignation has taken place in nearly 600 years. 
He was a less dynamic man than his predecessor, Pope John XXIII. But his quiet and steady guidance of the Church will be deeply missed. He was forward thinking enough to embrace modern methods of evangelization, encouraging social media and embracing Twitter, but cognizant enough of the tradition of the Church to grant a motu proprio for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (popularly known as the Latin Mass). He was renowned as a brilliant theologian, yet his encyclicals discoursed simply and profoundly on the virtues of charity and hope.
Truly, Benedict was and is a sign of contradiction for our troubled time. Unthinkingly despised by many, he embodied the gentle but uncompromising wisdom of His Divine Master.
I only saw Pope Benedict XVI personally twice, and then only briefly. But I will miss his leadership and his wisdom greatly, and all Catholics everywhere owe him a debt of incalculable gratitude.
God bless you in the final days of your Papacy, Holy Father. May God bless the Catholic Church with another leader who will follow you in wisdom and holiness.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Pope and His Trolls

Pope Benedict XVI is on Twitter! (So am I, by the way – shameless plug.) He doesn’t tweet much, preferring to instruct his flock without fanfare. His tweets (as you would expect from a holy man) are full of insight into the human condition, and a source of wisdom in a forum all too often lacking in that particular virtue. 
But the negative responses the Pope's tweets provoke are nothing short of astonishing. Every single tweet of his is met with volleys of obscene responses. Trolls vent their hatred of the Pope at every turn, sprinkling their "dialogue" with four-letter words and profanity.

The curious thing is that his trolls have nothing new to say. They rant about the Church’s stance on homosexuality, about how the Pope was supposedly a Hitler Youth, about how priests molested victims twenty years ago - all charges which have been leveled at the Church for years from more respectable corners. The only creativity his Twitter foes display is in their manifold misspellings.
The Pope must be doing something right if his foes display such uncreative and unthinking loathing. It as if his opponents actively seek to surrender their humanity by wasting their existence gibbering at a holy man.  
But although the Pope's trolls actively dehumanize themselves by taking refuge in profanity, such an obscene, foolish, and foul-mouthed set of opponents reflects well on the Catholic Church. For men and women who spend their days wallowing in the filth of their own obscenity and shrieking at the light are the most revealing of opponents; their unhinged railing at a Church they despise is a mark of the Church's goodness. Chesterton eloquently described this unwitting witness, calling it the “halo of hatred around the Church of God.” 

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Universality of Chastity

Catholics are placing a great deal of emphasis on the issue of “same-sex marriage.” The reason for this is simple: the very concept of chastity is under assault today, and same-sex marriage is the aspect of Christian morality undergoing the greatest assault.
But it is foolish to concentrate solely on chastity for homosexuals as the source and summit of Christian sexual morality, or to pretend that chastity for homosexuals is the only worthwhile application of chastity. Chastity is a universal virtue, and the confusion regarding marriage is in large part because of the abject failure of many "good Christians" to practice the virtue.
There are many heterosexual Christians who treat relationships as a means to engage in physical pleasure, sex as a toy, and who blithely engage in adultery and extramarital relations. Because of this, “the sanctity of marriage” has become a joke in the secular mindset. 
If those who are supposed to uphold Christian ideals mock them in practice, why would those who do not believe those ideals and those who undergo greater temptations practice those ideals which "good Christians" reject?
Every Christian are called to practice the virtue of chastity – to use the great gift of our sexuality to honor God and our neighbor. This call to chastity has different obligations for those in specific states of life. Those who are single are called those of the opposite sex in thought, word, and deed. Those who are dating are also called to respect their significant others, discerning whether their relationships are to lead to the great good of marriage. Those who are engaged are called to prepare themselves for marriage and for union with their spouse. Those who are married are called to fidelity with one another, to devote themselves totally and completely to one another in all ways, including the most intimate.
Everyone is called to chastity, and those who successfully live out their calling of chastity are better and happier people for doing so. 
Which is precisely why so many of us, even Christians, shun chastity and other virtues. We run from joy as fast as possible; we fear the true peace that happiness might bring and the temporary sensory privations that virtue might entail, and seek the cold comfort of mediocrity that immorality provides. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why Abstinence-Only Education “Doesn’t Work”

Everyone (except MTV television executives) views teenage pregnancy out of wedlock as something to be avoided. But there is widespread disagreement on the best method of combating teen pregnancy.
Abstinence is the only 100% effective method of preventing pregnancy and STDs, assuming it is faithfully practiced. It also comes free of the emotional and moral consequences of teenage premarital sex. Because of this, cultural conservatives often argue that abstinence should be taught to students in the classroom.
Others claim that hormonal urges dictate that teenagers will have sex anyway, and that promoting abstinence merely delays the inevitable and needlessly fills teenagers with guilt. Besides, since the magic pill known as hormonal contraception infallibly protects against pregnancy, and since sex is merely a pleasurable biological spasm, abstinence deprives teenagers of free fun. 
The opponents of teenage abstinence cite a host of “scientific studies” to claim that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. And a dutiful media touts these studies as proof that abstinence-only education is a bad idea.
Strange as it may seem, the results of these studies are fairly obvious to any impartial observer. Abstinence-only classroom education – at least as it is currently understood and practiced – is at best a valiant but doomed attempt to combat a very real problem.
“Abstinence-only” education doesn’t work because it is countermanded at every turn by a culture which celebrates permissiveness. For the classroom is not the only or even the most important place where children learn about relationships. There are four major sources of this education: upbringing, peers, education, and culture.
Since the natural impulse of fallen humanity is to engage in promiscuity, all of these elements must support morality for “abstinence-only education” to “work” effectively. If children receive no education from their parents about relationships or choose friends who encourage casual relationships, abstinence-only education will do little except temporarily scare and annoy students. If education encourages students to engage in “safe sex,” then students will act accordingly. And considering the prevalence of broken families and latchkey children in American society, such education is often difficult to come by. 
But even if teenagers are raised with a good moral code, choose good friends, and receive “abstinence-only education,” there is a fourth element present in modern society that militates against the other three. This element is culture, which is ever-present. Those who shun popular culture find themselves unable to communicate with their peers (which is part of the reason I spend so much time mocking modern excuses for Christian art).
American culture is adamantly opposed to abstinence. Movies, music, television, even advertisements – all of these use copious amounts of sex (and violence) to get their message across. Those who embrace chastity are mocked as either strange or unable to get dates.
A culture which celebrates promiscuity stands in direct opposition to abstinence education. In a culture where movies, TV, music, and magazines constantly inundate teenagers with the notion that extramarital sex is consequence-free and fun, of course abstinence-only education doesn’t work! It is the equivalent of setting up anti-drug programs next to posters advertising the location of drug dealers.
Society (thankfully) can do little to change two sources of relationship education. Parents can’t be changed, except in the rare, unfortunate, and highly undesirable instances of death or extreme abuse. Teenagers freely choose which friends they associate with. However, society can choose how it chooses to educate its children, and can choose what forms of culture it embraces.
Schools which promote “abstinence-only education” (and I shudder to think of what that actually entails in our silly modern age) fight tooth and nail against a culture which mocks and militates against abstinence. Even scientific studies criticizing abstinence-only education reference this fact. One report says: “Like it or not, sexual activity is a reality for teens in America, and it is hard to imagine a schoolbased intervention which will magically undo the media pressures (emphasis mine) and natural hormonal urges that young people experience.” 
The problem with abstinence-only education isn’t that it “doesn’t work,” per se. The problem is that in today’s society, such an education doesn’t exist, except among those few who shun modern culture. Children are reared in a culture which says that abstinence is impossible and undesirable and mocks those who value purity. A quote from Chesterton comes to mind: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”
So is this true with Christian morality – and its societal applications. Abstinence-only education is not lacking (at least not from a logical standpoint); but it requires the inculcation of the virtue of self-control which modernity utterly rejects. It has been found difficult and left untried.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why Compromise Is Impossible

Many people wonder why America is so polarized and why there is perpetual gridlock in Washington. I am surprised that America hasn’t descended into civil war yet.
For political polarization is a given in any civilized society – there will always be conflict between multiple competing factions in any political system. But the widespread acceptance of moral relativism has widened the divide between the two dominant political factions in America today.
One of two “major” political movements in America argues that their opponents are murderers who assist in the murder of children in shootings by advocating the right to bear arms, destroyers of the earth by pushing environmental destruction, and heartless Scrooges who starve children by not supporting anti-poverty social programs.
The other “major” political movement argues that their opponents are murderers who advocate the murder of children for the sake of personal convenience, the destruction of the family through the redefinition of marriage, and the encouragement of permanent dependency and laziness by providing endless handouts and disincentivizing work.
And then there are iconoclastic bomb throwers yelling “a pox on both your houses” and condemning both factions as corrupt and evil.
It is very difficult for any man, even a politician, to compromise with those he considers murderers. The only saving grace, at least from the standpoint of political violence, is that most of our politicians don’t care enough about abortion or marriage or gun control to do anything about them around the edges, or to really fight for them. Politicians (thank God) are still politicians, more concerned about maintaining their own power than about their ideals.
But the era of polarization will mean that more hardline politicians will be elected. God help America when the politicians that represent Americans actually start believing the rhetoric their constituents embody. For then there truly will be conflict.
America already was racked with a Civil War over the issue of slavery (or, more accurately, states’ rights, which were prompted by slavery). How will America be punished for its embrace of child murder?

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Partial Reprieve of the HHS Mandate

It appears that part of the infamous HHS mandate (which I wrote about back in July) is being rolled back by the Obama administration - or, more accurately, there is a proposal in the works to slightly relax the rule. Many non-profit organizations will be exempted from being forced to provide birth control for their employees, according to a proposed revision of the mandate.
I, for one, am shocked that the Obama administration would grant even a partial reprieve on the matter of contraception. I thought that his administration would push the HHS mandate through without regard for the consequences. Considering Obama’s fervent embrace of the Culture of Death, his administration’s decision is nothing short of miraculous.
It is likely Obama, a skilled politician, saw the blitzkrieg of lawsuits being launched against the mandate, and chose to cut his losses and retain what elements of the mandate he could. This recent decision is a partial reprieve at best, and not a permanent victory. For-profit organizations such as Hobby Lobby and non-profit organizations without a religious affiliation (such as the Susan B. Anthony List) are still not exempted from the mandate.
While the defenders of religious liberty may have won a partial victory in this first battle, there is more and worse to come. Those who seek the elimination of religious liberty are growing bolder in a secularizing world, and will have to contend with new threats to freedom (such as forced Church approval of same-sex marriage) in a world which values “old” rights such as religious liberty less and less.
Let us give thanks to God for this partial victory, but be ever more vigilant, and fight ever harder for a full repeal to this unjust mandate. Wars are not won in one battle; the fight for religious freedom has barely begun.