In his book Love and Responsibility, Pope John Paul II notes that chastity is a virtue in need of rehabilitation and refers to Max Sheler’s concept of resentment —
“Resentment arises from an erroneous and distorted
sense of values. It is a lack of objectivity in judgment and evaluation,
and it has its origin in weakness of will. The fact is that attaining
or realizing a higher value demands a greater effort of will. So in
order to spare ourselves the effort, to excuse our failure to obtain
this value, we minimize its significance, deny it the respect which it
deserves, even see it as in some way evil, although objectivity requires
us to recognize that it is a good. Resentment possesses, as you can
see, the distinctive characteriatics of the cardinal sin called sloth.
St. Thomas defines sloth (aceida) as ‘a sadness arising from the fact
that the good is difficult. . . Resentment, however, does not stop at
this: it not only distorts the features of the good but devalues that
which rightly deserves respect, so that man need not struggle to raise
himself to the level of the true good, but can ‘light-heartedly’
recognize as good only what suits him. . . “
Lack of objectivity is manifest by an absence of honesty. The resultant virtue is marked by subjectivity with no reference point, like shifting tectonic plates. Stable sacrificial Christian love takes a backseat to shifting self pleasure. Resentment and envy are the natural outcomes. Once resentment takes the place of repentance, hearts become impenetrable vaults. They take over a person’s very nature like a metastasis spreading over a body and block all vestiges of reason and common sense. Judgement is involuntarily impaired. Black and white becomes shades of gray. Subjective judgement takes over with many shades of gray (rationalizations) between promiscuity and chastity – i.e., civil unions. Fornication and adultery become sexual expression with no consequences. A greater effort of will, or self control, is what defines maturity, a higher value of the human spirit. Promiscuity obfuscates that greater will by requiring a person to believe or pretend to believe that self fulfillment is an easy undertaking. Either way, the person is forced to rationalize their fall and/or subsequent behavior. The benign sloth is forced to walk up to the front battle lines and wage war against all that is good. This necessitates denigrating anything to do with chastity before marriage and fidelity after marriage. Hence, disparaging remarks such as “virginity culture” and “rigid fundamentalist.” Words become as swords and arrows, as well as comfort gels to sooth the guilt. These degenerate soldiers invite comrads in arms to jump on their bandwagons. The human mind has a tendency to assign strength and comfort to numbers, a childish assumption.
This requires us to recognize evil and the ability to put it behind us; to discern right from wrong, good from evil. Of course, this is not easy today because we are often . . . standing alone in this battle. It takes courage and faith beyond that which is evident in ourselves, an ability to see the reward waiting beyond the horizon. It mandates an unusual ability to respect our bodies as God’s creation, to raise man to the next level of the truly good.
A phenomenon that I’ve noticed more and more over the last several years is that youth speakers are not addressing pertinent youth-related issues – especially when it comes to virtue. I went to a “student emphasis” revival service at my local Baptist church this week where a national youth speaker was scheduled to speak. I was surprised when I saw the turnout of the students. At least 100, which is a lot in this small town. What an opportunity, I thought, to reach some young people and talk about the issues that were important to them. But to my horror, the sermon topic was “take up your cross and follow me” and the scripture was from Mark 8. Somebody wake me up when it’s over. I have no problem listening to a sermon on the crucifixion and salvation. They are at the heart of my Christian beliefs. I had two main problems this particular night, though. Number one, it was a revival service for people that were already Christians and the sermon given was one of repentance and salvation, which is inappropriate. Number two, not one issue pertaining to young adults was addressed. If you closed your eyes, you could just as well put yourself in a nursing home chapel. I was going through my mind thinking about all of the topics that could have been addressed: Relationships, sex, porn, school, careers, parents, bullying, depression, peer pressure. But why choose a generic cookie-cutter subject and avoid all the meet and potato issues? I’m afraid the answer is political correctness. Yes, the little “let’s keep everybody comfortable” demon is still working his magic in churches today. And I’m afraid it’s one of the main reasons our churches are crumbling and losing youth membership. The hard issues are not being addressed, issues that relate to their lives. Church leaders are reaching for the cheap “one size fits all” generic label, being careful not to “offend” someone. You might be tempted to think this does no harm. The truth was preached. Right? But it does do harm because opportunities like this do not come around every day – especially in small towns in the deep south. You don’t have many chances to speak to a group of young people assembled in these numbers. They are this country’s future. When an opportunity like this is squandered, it is lost forever. That moment in time cannot be reclaimed. Sitting there listening to the eloquent description of St. Mark that can be read in thousands of sermon notes online and in church libraries, I found myself wondering what would happen if I stood up and yelled “does anybody have any question about relationships and sex?” Would they have thrown hymn books at me? Would I have been wrestled to the ground and carried out the door? What would St. Paul have talked to them about? The stock market? I don’t think so.
As Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” God will not hold churches guiltless either, no matter what denomination or name is stamped on the door. Pastors: You can talk about St. Mark and the cross, the four stages of salvation, and the path to repentance any time the church doors open. You are doing a disservice to the next generation when you stand silent on these issues in the face of evil.
I’m not sure who started the current born again virgin phenomena. When I first saw it in print, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. My first questions were: What does virginity have to do with being born again? Are all people who commit to purity again Christians? Do nonvirgins need a particular kind of salvation? Has it got anything to do with Christianity? Why are people using the phrase? How do you justify using it? I think the whole idea is an example of deception taken to another level. It is grammatically misleading at its finest. And it takes oxymoron to a whole new level. The reason it works today is because so many people are . . . morons. They are uneducated, especially when it comes to biblical terminology. The ever changing nature of the contemporary English language also toys with their reason. Add to that the fact that sex has lost almost all spiritual meaning and has more or less become a recreational sport. Mix in greed and excess — and deception becomes quite easy. A pretty face makes it almost . . . believable. Who will ever know, especially in a world where there are no scarlet letters?
One example that comes to mind is “born again virgin” Sean Lowe on ABC’s The Bachelor. All of the commentaries I’ve read describe him as someone who is saving sex “from now on” for marriage. Isn’t it amazing how three little words “from now on” can put an entirely different spin on an otherwise generic statement? Those words effectively cancel out the very definition of virginity. Could it be a reflection of America’s downward spiral into moral depravity? I think so. It’s also a reflection of how far ad agencies will go to market what passes as entertainment today. Hijacking a word seems innocuous enough on the surface. But dig beneath the surface and you’ll find everything but Christian intentions. The high tech world has honed language manipulation to a fine art – firewalls, icons, interfaces, tweets, etc. If it makes money, they’ll put any word on it. Have we reached the point where we see ourselves as having restart buttons? Are our bodies just machines that can be rebooted when things go wrong? Can all memories be immediately erased? Of course, all who have bought into the value system of modernity and intelligent robots will tell you it’s possible. When the robot gets a little rusty, you just pop in a performance enhancing pill. A little old? Just get an upgrade. Wrong sex? Just change your wardrobe and choose any bathroom you want.
To combat this trend, do we need to refer to ourselves as “authentic virgins”? Can you foresee a world where every virtue will be called into question? What about every object and event in the known universe? Do we need a new grammatical category for secondary nouns? What about virtual honesty? Most of the time kindness? If it’s convenient honor? Before lunch patience? Where do you stop? What about prelicked postage stamps? Once used water? New again toothbrushes? Almost new bandaids? Without standards, a house of mirrors will seem like jump rope.
I have no problem with anybody being born again in any situation. And singles with pasts who do become Christians should strive for celibacy until marriage. But no matter how much spin is put on it or how many words are hijacked, they are not virgins again. Born again and salvation cannot be used as descriptives for virginity itself. There is nothing in the Bible that links the two. It’s interesting that virginity has been placed on the same level as salvation. Is the Christian community doing an adequate job of explaining what purity is? That it involves more than just the physical body? Maybe not. Should we let the secular world define Christian virtues? Certainly not.
I realize there are Christian singles using this phrase, even those who are waiting, who do not even consider virginity part of the definition of chastity. They just commit to a period of waiting before marriage and fidelity within marriage. In other words, they define chastity in real time only with no consideration of the past. It might make someone uncomfortable or eliminate them in a tight dating scene. Being a virgin might give somebody else an advantage. Can’t have that in a politically correct “shared sacrifice” world, can we?. When it comes to a past of premarital sex though, no amount of forgiveness can undo the emotional consequences and miraculously send a person back in time to a state of virginity. Einstein may like that idea. But it is not reality. And certainly not biblical. Of course, it may help nativity scenes make a comeback because there would be a politically correct . . . born again virgin Mary.