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Of Wind, Culture and Paper Airplanes

This is my first post for The American Catholic and I’d like to start with an excerpt from my book entitled Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens; it’s a book about Catholic Faith and Reason in the language of analytical problem solving and decision making, but a bit more in-depth than something like Pascal’s Wager. In the book I relate some aspects of the Catholic faith (and reason) with my experience working for a global 500 company as Solution Development Manager (or Technical Product Manager and occasional complex problem solver).

Once such experience was when a consultant for our company spoke at one of our group meetings about wind, culture, and paper airplanes. Corporate culture might refer to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact with each other as well as with clients, vendors, consultants, etc. Culture can be subconscious, not clearly defined, and develops gradually over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.

Imagine a paper airplane as a metaphor for an idea, methodology or policy ready to be launched within a company. Imagine the culture of the company as the wind. If there is no wind at all the plane will go anywhere you like with some effort, but there is almost always some wind. If the wind is strong to your back when you launch the plane it has no difficulty going a very long way with very little effort. A plane thrown across the wind may start out in the right direction, but eventually turn and go wherever the wind goes. Launch the same plane into a strong wind to your face and the result is disastrous.

The same goes with how Catholic teaching is viewed in the wind of a given culture. Some things fly rather well. The Church teaches that racism is wrong, that we should help those less fortunate than us, that it’s wrong to beat up homeless people for fun, and I’m sure most would agree with these kinds of teachings. Some things don’t fly so well, like the Doctrine of Just War, teaching on the death penalty and whether or not it’s okay to water-board a terrorist. But most dissent from Catholic teaching involves something to do with human sexuality. Abortion, homosexuality, contraception, women’s ordination, fornication, marriage, divorce and remarriage all have an aspect of sexuality to them.

The term “dissenting issues” is an overgeneralization and like with any good problem solving or decision making technique, overgeneralizations must first be separated and clarified before any clear discussion or action can be taken. Once more specific matters are listed, like those mentioned in the previous paragraph, they can be prioritized by considering the current and future impact of each one. It can be difficult to measure or quantify such things, but we can consider how many unjust wars we are currently involved with or about to jump into, how many people are executed each year and how many people are tortured or likely to be tortured in the future by the government.

Now contrast this with all the effects of the dissenting sexual issues. What are the current and future impacts of all the unwanted pregnancies and the resulting increase in poverty and single parent homes? How about the number of unborn children being killed and that will be killed in the future? Think of the impact from broken homes due to divorce? Ignorance and dissent about the true purpose of sex also brings us pornography, sexual addictions, molestation, sexually-transmitted diseases and marriage confusion. The amount of emotional pain due to fornication is probably not considered by most as something that will impact the rest of the culture in any significant way, but think of the huge number of people bonding and breaking up with different sexual partners over and over again and how this impacts their character? How then, does their character impact everyone else around them?

“Thinking means connecting things…”1 Many, if not most, of the ills in our society can be traced back to sexual confusion or dissent. A game of theological “connect the dots” can help illustrate the connections between God, people, sex, and sin. We can start with the base premise that the devil hates God and if we are all made in the image and likeness of God, we can reasonably conclude that the devil must hate us.

A book called Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West does a good job of explaining how people are created in the image and likeness of God. God is pure spirit and our souls are pure spirit. God has both a will and an intellect, as do we. The Holy Trinity is another way that is not so intuitive, but is the most profound. One way to think of God or the Trinity is as an eternal exchange of love. From the perfect and eternal exchange of love between the Father and the Son proceeds a third person called the Holy Spirit. How can that possibly be like us? In the union of Holy Matrimony, the love between a man and a woman generates a third person called a baby. The purpose of sexual desire is not only propagation, but also the very power to love as God loves.2

Now back to connecting the dots. If the devil hates us because we are like God and we are most “God-like” and mirror the Trinity in the covenant union of male and female, then the devil must hate that about us more than anything else. If this is true then it makes sense that a focus of attack on humanity would involve destroying families via the distortion of sex.3

You may know the acronym WWJD (What would Jesus do?) Stop and think for a moment about WWDD (What would the devil do?) In our culture, what would be the best way to tempt and ultimately destroy the lives of so-called “good people”? What would have the highest probability of success? Should you tempt them to beat up homeless people? You’d likely be wasting your time. How about something sexual? How about sexual temptation mixed in with some sexual confusion? Did God really say that’s a sin? (see Gen 3:1) What’s the harm? It’s only natural. Does male and female really mean anything? Temptation coupled with confusion could do it and do it well!

It’s not that I particularly enjoy writing about these topics. Who wants the wind in their face when it can be at your back? It’s that dissenting issues ought to be written about. No doubt it would be less contentious to write about how racism is wrong, but remember that a given teaching irrespective of a given culture is not true because the Church teaches it…the Church teaches it because it’s true.

 

  1. G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p. 31.
  2. Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners (West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004), pp. 27-29.
  3. Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, p. 12.

On Not Having Sex At Harvard

From the New York Times:

There was a time when not having sex consumed a very small part of Janie Fredell’s life, but that, of course, was back in Colorado Springs. It seemed to Fredell that almost no one had sex in Colorado Springs. Her hometown was extremely conservative, and as a good Catholic girl, she was annoyed by all the fundamentalist Christians who would get in her face and demand, as she put it to me recently, “You have to think all of these things that we think.” They seemed not to know that she thought many of those things already. At her public high school, everyone, “literally everyone,” wore chastity rings, Fredell recalled, but she thought the practice ridiculous. Why was it necessary, she wondered, to signify you’re not doing something that nobody is doing?

And then Fredell arrived at Harvard.

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Dads Need To Make a Comeback

As my daughters get closer and closer to the age of temptation and exploitation- I am ready now to stand up to the dominant culture of casual sex- I don’t know when it was that Dads abandoned their daughters to the so-called sexual revolution- but I’m the Dad now and the girls-as-sex-objects mainstream culture is the Enemy- I’m not abandoning my girls -not now, not ever.

I will be posting more such helpful videos which I am using in my high school religion classes- we must get the word out through the teen ranks. Our young people are being tossed to the wolves into a mass media culture that celebrates porn/womanizers/pimps as comic figures/cougars and other soul-numbing influences. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen the damage done from the Playboy to Penthouse to Hustler to Anything Goes Internet Porn downward spiral.  I am looking to start a movement of Dads to begin protesting outside the ubiquitous strip clubs- to claim some public space where real men educate the public about the real dignity of women. If we don’t want our daughters to grow up to be  perceived as mere sex objects, then we need to evangelize the Culture.

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Christopher West's Defenders

Christopher West came in for some criticism recently, much of it deserved, for his appearance on Nightline. In one sense, I sympathize with the critics. I have heard West speak, and found the simplification (bordering on sensationalization) of certain aspects of Theology of the Body somewhat off-putting. In a perfect world, people would read the writings of John Paull II and others to acquire a sophisticated, nuanced grasp of the subject matter. Nevertheless, that is not the world in which we live. That being the case I think, on balance, West’s work is valuable, difficult, and necessary.

And so I was somewhat surprised to see Dr. Schindler take the recent brouhaha as an opportunity to rather harshly criticize all of West’s work. The tension between academics and popularizers is nothing new (even writers as brilliant as C.S. Lewis and Chesterton had and have their academic detractors); but one would hope for a more restrained and sympathetic treatment given the difficulty of presenting the Catholic understanding of sexuality in the modern United States. I think the following defenses by Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. Michael Waldstein help provide a better context for understanding West and his work:

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As Long as Nobody Gets Hurt

“I think it’s okay as long as nobody gets hurt.”

That has become the rallying cry of our times, the gloss over all deeds, the excuse for practically any sin. It is the banner of the sexual revolution, the fallback position of those confronted by the “narrow-minded” religious in society. After all, who does it really hurt if teenagers have pre-marital sex, as long as they play it safe? Who does it hurt if two consenting adults decide to have a one-night stand? Who does it hurt if two men or two women decide to sleep together? More importantly, how could one possibly claim anyone is harmed if someone masturbates?

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Sex, the Fall, and the Resurrection

My inspiration for starting this post and continue the topic through several other posts is the “Day without a Gay” protest, which is supposed to inspire homosexuals and those in support of homosexual marriage to take the day off and perhaps commit to volunteer work (to take a little bit of the sting out of the strike).  Whenever issues like this come up (as they do at least annually here at the University of Wyoming with the Matthew Shepard Symposium), I find myself reflecting on human sexuality, the importance it plays in our lives, and the great detriment its misuse has caused, both to the nation and to myself personally.

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