Conservative Colloquium

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Posts Tagged ‘attraction’

1 Cor 7, Being Single, and Discerning One’s Vocation

Posted by Tony Listi on November 7, 2010

I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another…. Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife? Only, let every one lead the life which the Lord has assigned to him, and in which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches…. Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord. If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry — it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. (1 Cor 7:7, 16-17, 25-40)

Chapter 7 of St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians has a consoling and refocusing effect for those who take Paul’s words seriously and are single (not dating) in today’s perverse society, which seems to look down upon people who are single as inferior.

Many people often assume there is something wrong with themselves or others if they are not dating someone or haven’t dated in awhile. Sure, maybe they just haven’t found the right person. But who knows, maybe there is something “wrong.” It is just a fact that some are not as attractive as others to the opposite sex according to various criteria. But when the modern American asks, “What quality could possibly be superior to attractiveness to the opposite sex?” St. Paul answers, “Undivided devotion to the Lord” (7:35). We should not judge people based on how attractive we or others do or do not find them but rather on their devotion to the Lord.

But what about when one finds “undivided devotion to the Lord” itself to be attractive?

A nice saying that reflects this wise disposition and that I’ve seen on various Facebook profiles of young Christians (always women, I think) is something along the lines of “My beloved should be so deeply immersed in God that I have to draw closer to Him to find him/her” or rather “I want to be so immersed in God that he/she will have to draw closer to Him to find me.” But the Catholic/St. Paul commentary on this half-baked insight would be this: “Sometimes it’s best for the beloved to remain apart from you (and you from the beloved) so that one or both of you can remain so immersed or become more immersed in God and His holiness.”

There is no point in dating or marrying away from God; in fact, it’s positively harmful and sinful. I don’t think people realize how often that happens or how easily it can happen, even to the most devout men and women. This serious danger should inform the discernment of our vocations, of God’s will, of His gift and assignment to us. 

But supposing one is in fact called to marriage, one should make choices about dating and marriage primarily by how they will affect one’s spiritual life, for nothing else is more important. We should carefully and seriously discern how certain relationships with others will affect us and our relationship with God (and how it will affect the other person and their relationship with God), keeping in mind St. Paul’s warnings of the dangers inherent in erotic love and married life.

Yes, even St. Paul acknowledges that spouses can be God’s means and instruments for each other’s sanctification and salvation (7:16). But we should not think that marriage is necessarily the ideal context for such ministry. We certainly shouldn’t date or marry merely for the purpose of such ministry. Moreover, supposing the man and woman are spiritual equals, even at a very high level of holiness, we should not presume greater love and holiness will result from their combination in marriage rather than from them being single. The example of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi comes to mind.

With all this in mind, one might even say that celibacy should be the default assumption for the Christian rather than marriage. The burden of proof rests upon marriage, not celibacy. The only danger with such an assumption, as St. Paul recognizes, is that the temptation to lust is generally very strong, and so many might perish reaching for a standard that they are too weak to achieve. Still, all things are possible through the Lord who gives us strength and forgives us of all our sins each time we confess them and truly repent.

Judging by the current state of American culture, St. Paul’s words are not taken seriously enough, even in Christian circles that are supposedly fond of the Bible. There has never been a better time for us to reflect on his words and how they apply to our own lives.

Click HERE to learn more about the Historical and Scriptural evidence for celibacy, esp. for clergy.

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Posted in American Culture, Biblical Exegesis, Catholicism, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 98 Comments »

Flawed Premises of the Homosexual Agenda

Posted by Tony Listi on April 18, 2009

This past summer I had a discussion with a friend of mine, a fellow D.C. intern, on the topic of gay relationships. It was the most enlightening and surreal experience that I have had in quite a while. Bits and pieces of it have been replaying over and over again in my head, and I can’t help but write about it. Only now have I gotten around to publishing it.

Though I’ve heard or participated in quite a few debates on this topic, this discussion in particular seemed to crystallize in my mind the false premises that underlie the push for so-called “gay rights”:

1. Biological urges, feelings, and attractions dictate and/or are equivalent to morality.

This was the most important and disturbing tidbit that I learned (or re-learned). When talking with people of the opposing point of view, the conservative soon gets the impression that the opposition recognizes no morality whatsoever. Talk of “imposing morality” on people and how we can’t know “whose morality” is correct inevitably arises. And when this happens, conservatives can’t help but label liberals as moral relativists because moral relativism is exactly what they are espousing.

But this is actually mere posturing of an impossible neutrality. Liberals often pretend that life in a moral vaccuum, a moral neutrality, is possible and desirable. They do this for for a moment or two, or rather, for as long as it takes to stonewall and deny the Christian view of sexuality (or of morality in general) without examining and critiquing the view in itself.

But liberals cannot logically even begin to chastise conservatives for anything if they really believe that there is no morality or that even if there is that we can’t know it. If liberals think conservatives are wrong about something, they must be appealing to some code of morality, however perverse and incorrect, which they think they know with sufficient certainty.

So one has to dig down deeper, past the contradictory rhetoric, to understand what the liberal is really trying to say. “It is wrong to discriminate against someone for something they are born with, something they can’t help or change. No one chooses to be gay.” Here we go! Finally, the liberal firmly plants her feet and takes a moral stand. The moral relativism of just a few minutes ago magically vanishes from ear and memory. A real discussion can finally begin.

This is where I ask my friend, “Are sexual acts chosen?” It is crucial to establish that people freely choose to engage in sexual relations of any kind, that human beings are not mere animals that cannot control themselves. In this way, one makes a fundamental distinction between a person’s freely chosen behavior and a person’s urges, feelings, desires, and attractions.

The situation was all the more ironic to me because I am a man and my friend is a woman. Surely, a woman would not say that human beings are unable to control their sexual desires. To say such a thing is to give license to the rapist, the supreme violator of sexual morality (even the liberal does not condone rape). If the homosexual cannot control his or her own sexual urges, neither can the rapist or the pedophile. We must be fair and equal and consistent, right?  Thankfully, my friend embraced some notion of individual responsibility.

Now a radical liberal may deny that we have free will at all and thus once again undermine any notion of morality (to be a wrong act, it must be freely chosen); you are back to where you started and unlikely to make progress. Thankfully, my friend did not go down this path.

So if all sexual acts are freely chosen, then all homosexual behavior is freely chosen. At this point in the discussion, the conversation should have focused specifically on the nature of homosexual acts. But my friend temporarily would not retreat from talk of feelings and attraction. “It is not right to force someone to deny who they are, to deny they’re feelings for other people.” So I couldn’t help but ask point blank the fundamental question, “Do biological urges determine morality?”

She said yes, more or less. I was shocked. Did she realize what she was saying? So sexual acts are freely chosen AND sexual morality is determined by our urges? This was more radical than saying people can’t control themselves. Her logic had managed to vindicate the rapist and the pedophile anyway. According to her logic, it would be immoral not to act on one’s sexual urges when they arise.

2. Sex is a necessity.

“So you want homosexuals to just deny their urges and never have sex?!” my friend asks. Oh no! Never have anal or oral sex at all?! What a cruel, unfulfilling fate! I guess people who don’t have sex at all aren’t fully human in some way? If conservative Christian morality deprives homosexuals of this “necessity,” we are apparently uncompassionate. As if our morality were depriving them of food and water! But my friend insisted that sex is a necessity.

This second premise is actually a logical continuation or corollary of the first. Morality is a necessity, so if biological urges, especially sexual libido, determine morality, then sex is a necessity too. And strictly speaking then, it is a necessity every time one feels the urge!

I guess the left would argue, more or less explicitly, that anal and oral sex with someone of the same sex are necessary for “individual self-fulfillment,” for reasons of “authenticity.” But this kind of talk merely turns the individual ego into the arbiter of morality, thus destroying any notion of morality. For what is morality if not independent of individual egos and wills? It is nothing, nonexistent then.

3. There is no ideal family structure.

What exactly do we mean by “ideal”? Ideal for who? For adults? For children?

Family and its structure is most relevant and important for children. Adults have acquired knowledge and skills that naturally make them independent of their parents; adults start their own families by having their own children. Children on the other hand are weak, dependent, and immature both intellectually and biologically. Therefore, any discussion of family and its structure must primarily revolve around what is ideal for children, not the fulfillment of adults.

Empirically, there is no doubt that the family structure of two biological parents is ideal for children in comparison to all other conceivable variations. We do not need to rely merely on Scripture to tell us this ideal when social science (reasoned observation) can tell us this too.

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Government and Politics, Homosexuality, Moral Philosophy, Social Science and Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »