Our culture is so very broken. We’ve lost all sight of truth (or that there even is truth to be had), and have instead embraced the weakness of relativism. With relativism, no one is right or wrong — whatever you think is right is right for you, and whatever I think is right is right for me. There is no moral right or wrong based on anything higher than our own minds. This has led to entire generations of people who have no moral grounding on which to based decisions or to live their lives. We aren’t supposed to judge anyone or anything, ever. (And this gets thrown around as some sort of Christian idea, which is untrue.) As a result, we have people cheering on as a mentally ill man bypasses all therapy and phychological evaluations and is “helped” by “doctors” to mutilate the body that God has given him. We have people who call themselves Christian who also celebrate the idea that marriage will be redefined. We have an entire generation with a “so what?” attidude about promiscuity, thanks to organizations like Planned Parenthood telling them that it’s no big deal to give yourself to anyone that comes along in the name of having a good time.
Despite the cultrue following this recipe for happiness given to them by relativistic teachers and professors over the last 40 years, there is palpable pain among those who follow it. Whatever you might think of the musical quality of the song, Miley Cirus’ “Wrecking Ball” is one that has made me weep for her (and all the young women who are living simliar lifestyles). The lyrics are full of such anguish, and are a direct answer to the kind of advice children have been given over the last few decades: have fun, be safe, do whatever. Live for the now! Don’t grow up! Sow your wild oats! The video (which I will not link to — you know how to use Google) is full of pain and regret, but at the same time seems to be saying, “I can be sexy enough! See how sexy I can be?” while, at the same time, Miley degrades herself further. When throwing yourself at someone and giving everything of yourself at the drop of a hat doesn’t work, just do it more! Obviously, you weren’t trying hard enough or giving enough.
But this is not what we are made for; we are made for love. And not just love from another human being, but for Love Himself: God.
When I see articles from women who are buying into the culture’s message, I see a lot of underlying pain. Serial monogamy is the symptom, but it’s the Real Thing that both men and women are searching for. Everyone longs to be loved for the person he or she is. We all want to be accepted. No one wants to be told they’re not good enough. No one wants to be made to feel as if he’s unloveable.
What’s really fascinating to me is the prevailing wisdom that to gain true happiness, you must throw off the chains of restrictive religions (especially Catholicism, that behind-the-times institution) and be free! No rules, no one telling you what to do — this is the key to real happiness.
But do you see happiness? Is there happiness in the feminism on college campuses? Is there happiness in the party scene, binge-drinking and waking up with whomever you met at the club last night? Is there happiness in all the stuff that we’re accumulating? Did getting that new Apple Watch do it for you? Did the new pair of shoes do it? How about the new purse? The new car? Do we feel the love and acceptance we crave by sleeping with someone new every weekend? By living with someone who isn’t committed enough to say he (or she) will stay forever?
As I said, I see our dominant culture in the West treat the Church as antiquated, out-of-touch, out-of-date, restrictive, hateful … but does this stand up to what it actually is? And what about all those rules we are supposed to follow? If the Church loved us and anted us to be happy, some of those rules would be dropped, right?
The thing about the Catholic Church is that it’s a family: God’s family. He adopts us at our Baptisms, claims us as His own children. For most of us, that’s done when we are children — our parents make the promise of living a good Christian life on our behalf, and then the Church expects them to teach us how to live a Christian life. Even in faith traditions that don’t have infant Baptism, children are raised in the faith and taught how to live a good Christian life. And, as with any family, there are rules to follow.
As a cradle Catholic, I can only attest to the rules our Church has established. And, lest’s face it, when you read about people protesting against some rule of morality or other, it’s usually Catholic morality that’s being railed against. For example, the rule against contraception is an unpopular one (and one that many Catholics ignore, with little idea what a serious sin it actually is to do so). The Church gives many reasons for instructing us to eschew artificial birth control, and in 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in order to explain the ancient teaching of the Church for a more modern people. (It’s quite short, actually, and if you haven’t read it, I do suggest it.) The pope warned against a general lowering of morality and of a lessening of respect for women in general in his encyclical — I think you’d be hard-pressed to disagree with these predictions today. But even science is discovering that the Pill — the contraception of choice for millions of women — does actual harm to women. There are now ties between the Pill and blood clots, breast, liver, and cervical cancer, and even the shrinking of a woman’s brain. Science shows that it interrupts a woman’s sense of smell in such a way that she chooses partners who are not as fitting for her (even biologically) as men she might have chosen without artificial hormones coursing through her body. The Pill lowers a woman’s libido, which has inspired scientists to develop another daily pill for women to take to counteract the low libido. When did women become such guinea pigs?
The Church has rules about sexual intercourse, too. The sexual act should be saved for marriage, as it can (and freuqntly enough, does) result in a new human being, who is best off with married and monogamous parents. Sex is so sacred and powerful that it’s not to be used lightly. Science has shown that hormones released during sexual intercourse form a powerful bond between the two people who perform the act. Each time a new person is taken as a partner, the former bond must be broken, and a new bond created. But this become smore and more difficult to do. The Church is definitely not anti-sex, but is, instead, very pro-sex.
The Catholic Church even has rules about what we do with our sexuality. Since sex is so powerful, it’s important for us to use it (and our bodies) wisely. We’re called to use our sexual gifts for the purposes they were made. If wouldn’t use your good Kitchenaid stainless stell skillet as a hammer, would you? I mean, it would get the job done, but it would also, in the process, destroy the pan for it’s original purpose. You wouldn’t take your fancy car with the leather seats to pick up mulch for the garden, would you? Again, you could probaby fit plenty of mulch in the back of the car, but it’s not what that car was made for. That’s why God made pickup trucks! So why do we insist on using our bodies in ways they were not designed to be used? The Church’s rules about our sexuality are very centered on the natural use of our bodies, just as the rules against filling ourselves with artificial hormones for the purposes of suppressing a function of our body is for our natural health and well-being.
The Church is a family, and every good family has rules. The rules are there for our safety, both physically and spiritually. No good parent will tell their children that anything they want to do is fine. Children want to do things that are dangerous all the time, and frequently they cannot see what’s bad about it in the moment. That’s when the parents, with far more years of experience and knowledge and wisdom, have to step in and say, “No!” For Christians, the Church is that parent — many early Christians called her our mother — and as a parent, the Church must tell us “no” when we are about to do something dangerous for our souls.
But where does this leave us in terms of acceptance and love? I’ll discuss that in more depth tomorrow.