Thursday, July 07, 2005

Purity: The Way of the Celibate, by Paula Huston

The link above points to a very interesting, contemporary exploration of chastity, drawing heavily on the thought and experience of St. Augustine. With examples from her own life, the author spends time sorting out romanic love, eros, power, control, self-image, acceptance, etc., from agape. She much ground and makes many interesting points.

What I don't like about statements like this is what they leave out. They never face the fact that raw sexual desire is necessary for the propagation of the human race. If it weren't for raw sexual desire, we wouldn't be here. If everyone were celibate, the human race would cease to exist. And after all, God created sex and sexual desire. The simplistic Augustinian resolution as has been traditionally taught in Catholic schools can't be the last or perfect word. There's got to be a better understanding. Or am I just rebelling against my Catholic upbringing? If we followed the moral teachings that we were taught in Catholic school, none of us would ever get married. We would never have had a lustful thought in our head. We would never have thought about the opposite sex. We would never have even kissed a girl or held a girl's hand. I know someone, about 15 years older than me, who once said that, at his Catholic high school, the Brothers said, that if you kiss a girl, you shouldn't let yourself experience any more pleasure than if you were kissing your sister. Who wants to kiss their sister! In my Catholic grammar school, we were taught that, even in a marriage, it was sinful to have sex merely for the sake of pleasure. For it to be licit, we were taught, the potential for pro-creation must also be present. I doubt there are many people in this world who have had sex purely for the sake of having children. Anyone who thinks they have is fooling themself.

Yet, St. Augustine was a strong advocate of marriage for most people. I'd say that in modern Christian thought there is a massive gap in the understanding of sexuality that needs to be filled by the next great thinker.

Comments, please!


Anonymous ><> Elizabeth <> said...

Josh Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye does explore some of that. Less about the "evils" of sex, since sex is necessary and created by God. Husband and wife are meant to feel desire (that seems to be another topic that is taboo) for each other. What he comments on is people putting God in a box, creating points not to reach and then pushing the limits of that. He mentioned that if sex is the line, what's the difference between a kiss and a heavy make-out session? If kissing is the line, what's the difference between a good-night peck and fifteen minutes of heavy liplocking. Before you're married, your bodies do not belong to each other, so a man should guard the heart of his partner the way a brother would protect a sister, and a woman should guard the purity of her partner the way she would help a brother not to stumble. There WILL be physical attraction; that is undeniable. But in love before marriage, the attraction should be focused more on helping to keep and grow the person. He said to regard that precious period of singleness the way Paul does, as a chance to pray and get closer to God, and if you have found a person, to prepare yourself to be a better husband/wife, edifying to that person. Another thing he mentions is that God naturally designed one physical desire to lead to another. Kissing is meant to lead to heavier kissing, necking, "making out," sex. This is fine in marriage because you belong to each other. But pushing the line before marriage and then telling yourself you have enough self-control to stop just before sex (or wherever you set the boundary) is like getting on the highway in the opposite direction and planning to exit just before the end. And even if you go just a little ways, you're missing the point: You should be running toward God and away from the boundaries.

About attraction - it comes in many forms. I know that with James, the biggest attraction is his heart for God and ministry and people. It was his honesty (and willingness to tell me what I might not like hearing) and commitment to guarding my heart; he counselled me about Donny and the break-up, advising me the way he would advise any sister. He try to comfort me by himself. He saw what my mother saw: that I had my head in the clouds and was starting to let go of life, so he challenged me to go toward God. He asked me questions so that I could think through things myself - was I being wise? Was this behaviour I would consider wise in any of my sisters? And weeks later he still didn't act on self-interest. So at one point we did sit down and talk, and I admitted my feelings, as did he, but we made it a point that we were still praying for each other's hearts and for clarity, partially because of the big age difference, but most of all because we want it to be God-centred. Like my platonic friendships in the past, when the focus is the focus and love is love, does "technical" status matter? I'm happy for the friendship, and either way I'm still dedicated to helping him in his walk, the way a woman is called to be her husband's helpmeet. Objectively I do see his physical attraction, but it's not that big a deal to me. It's not at all the thing I noticed first, and I rarely even see him like that anymore (he is still attractive, but I just don't really think about his physical qualities). But when I do look at him I can say that all these things that I admire about him make him physically more attractive to me.

If you wanted a list of attractive physical qualities in the ideal man, Donny also matches very few of them. But it was his heart in the beginning, his honesty, and his desire to help me out that showed his sincerity. With that, in time he also grew to be more physically attractive to me, but those things weren't what I noticed first, you see?

Paul talked about having purity of mind and spirit, but he also acknowledged desire: if desire would turn into lust and make us prone to sin, better to marry, since not all of us are called to be celibate. That's how I see Augustine's argument for celibacy - because of his own past and his realisation of the way sex becomes an addiction, an idol, he wanted to rid himself of all influence. For a former alcoholic, just a sip is not okay. But he also advocated marriage for most people because the first thing God said to both Adam and Eve was to multiply and be fruitful - Augustine focused on the sin of idolatry - the isolation of sex and the experience from its proper context. The proper context is marriage and creation, enjoying God's gift and acknowledging that it is a gift from the Creator.

I don't think either the author or Augustine were against sex itself.

God bless, hugs and kisses.

Lots of Love,
><> Elizabeth <><

4:43 PM  
Anonymous ><> Elizabeth <> said...

"...advising me the way he would advise any sister. He not try to comfort me by himself." Missing word.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous ><> Elizabeth <> said...

Oops. "did not"

4:45 PM  
Blogger kabloona said...

Thank you very much for your comment, Elizabeth!

11:22 AM  
Blogger kabloona said...

I've just re-read Elizabeth's comment, and now I think I see the light!

6:00 PM  

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