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Objectionable or exceptional - you choose

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By Melanie Pritchard

Note: Melanie Pritchard is a renowned Catholic chastity speaker. A few years ago she nearly died in childbirth, but underwent a miraculous recovery. Read about her near-death experience here.

August 27, 2012 (MelaniePritchard.org) - One evening in my college dorm room, I saw myself in a mirror and didn’t like the reflection looking back at me. I began college a strong Catholic young woman and four short months later I was looking in a mirror not able to recognize myself. The decisions I made in college were drastically different from those I made in high school. I began wearing revealing clothes, going to parties, dating guys who had nothing to offer me but good looks, and listening to music, reading magazines, watching TV shows and movies that didn’t correspond with my dignity. I didn’t realize that all these little decisions would add up to this moment looking in a mirror hating who I had become, not realizing how I even got there.

I called a mentor and friend and revealed to her my inner longing to find joy again, to find me again. She asked me a question that opened my eyes to what was going on in the culture. She said, “Whose plan are you following for your life?” It was a soul awakening moment because naively I did not realize there were people in our culture who had plans and agenda’s for my life, for my relationships, and for my sexuality.  I remember feeling like a fool not recognizing that there are groups of people who don’t have my best interest in mind whether it is for their selfish, social, or financial gain. After much thought, I made a list of all the things I was allowing to influence me…guys, friends, movies, magazines, music, etc. Then I began to think about the source of those things. I thought, “Who wrote those Cosmo and Glamour articles my friends and I read as if they were the gospel of fashion and relationship success? Who were those musicians singing the songs we danced and listened to? What were their lives like? Were they happily married? Were they joyful and content? Did they come from good families? Did they practice a faith? Who has formed them?”

That was the day I decided that I would no longer let some unknown person sitting in a cubicle in New York writing some article they had to get in on a deadline tell me what was in. I was no longer going to let them tell me how to dress, function in a relationship, or teach me about sex. It was then that I took a look at the culture and saw three plans people are choosing to follow in their relationships, for their sexuality, and in their lives.

Plan 1: People who choose to live morally objectionable lives. They set their own standards. They have several sexual partners, they cheat, hook-up, are addicted to and promote pornography, pre-marital sex, alcohol and drugs. They view sex as just a pleasurable act that should have no boundaries. They are selfish, careless and use people and things for their own fleeting pleasure. They have abandoned God in order to do whatever they want. They object to the idea that there is any real truth. Some might call them moral relativist. They reject the idea of sin and often talk about no rules, no morality, no Heaven and no Hell. It’s a really easy plan to accomplish because it takes no act of virtue, discipline, sacrifice, or act of faith.

Plan 2: People who choose to live “seemingly” morally acceptable lives. They set their own standards and fit God into their life plan when they see fit. They are fine with just being average in their faith and values. They may not have sex before marriage, but they will do everything but that. They wear a cross as jewelry while wearing booty shorts and revealing cleavage shirts. They party hard on Saturday night but do their best to be a regular Mass go-er on Sundays. They live with one foot in the world and one foot in Church, often seeing how far they can push the limits. They desire to have values, but aren’t willing to commit fully to making good choices. They want to go to Heaven, but are willing to settle for Purgatory in order to satisfy their earthly desires. They may try to master some virtues but give up on the ones that are too hard. They can sacrifice, be disciplined, and act in faithful ways, but choose to only when it fits them best. It is a hard and confusing plan to follow because they are living between two opposite worlds often feeling a tug-of-war in their hearts.

Plan 3: People who choose to live morally exceptional lives. These are the people who know they are weak and broken and need God’s strength in order to live exceptionally. They follow God’s standards and believe He is the Way, The Truth and The Life and that He created them in His image and likeness. They believe God created them uniquely masculine or feminine and designed their sexuality for the specific purpose of bonding two people together and allowing them to co-create with God. They believe they and others have value and worth. They believe that choices have consequences and they seek to form their minds to make decisions pleasing to the Lord. They choose to have sex within marriage alone as their sexuality is a gift to be given to one person. They find their worth in God and not in fleeting things. They do what they ought instead of doing what they want, not because it confines them, but because it is what frees them. They seek to serve and be Christ-like and their ultimate goal is to get themselves and others to Heaven. They pray daily, are in relationship with God, they sacrifice on a regular basis, and they seek the Sacraments to help them stay strong. They believe that God allows them to love as He loves which is always exceptional, and His grace is what allows them to live up to His standards. They know they can’t do it on their own. They wake up daily trying to live to their fullest potential knowing they may fail but knowing there is always tomorrow to try again. This is the hardest plan to follow, but the one that brings the most joy and peace.

Reading through the “Plans” you may be asking yourself which one you follow, but I must warn you, one of them is a figment of the follower’s imagination. Revelations 3:15-16 tells us “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”  “Plan 2: ‘Seemingly’ Morally Acceptable” doesn’t really exist because either a person is in a relationship with God allowing Him to set the standard so they can move toward exceptional love or they are in a relationship with sin choosing a morally objectionable life. Sadly the plan I see many follow is a “seemingly morally acceptable” one where they are always in great danger of falling more and more into sin, sadness, and loneliness instead of a life of grace, joy and freedom.

If I were to ask people if they want to live a morally exceptional life, I feel their response will be one underlined in fear. They might say, “I don’t want to be a saint; saints are exceptional!” When what they are really saying is, “I don’t believe in myself enough to live to my full potential.” These were my own thoughts as a freshman in college when I chose to believe I was living a morally acceptable life, only to find myself…lost, doubting my own potential for greatness. Those of us who have believed it possible to live a “morally acceptable” life can tell you it is a constant tug-of-war, sliding into objectionable decisions (sin), but desiring to be exceptional (in relationship with God).

There isn’t a famous athlete or musician in this world who would walk on a field or stage and say, “Today I am NOT going to play to my full potential. I’m NOT going to go out there and give it my best. Today I will settle for third.” No, instead they say, “Today I am going to try to be exceptional. I will try my hardest.”

We have it in us to play, sing, dance, study in exceptional ways, but why is it some of us cringe at the idea of being morally exceptional. We choose passions where we have to make healthy choices, be disciplined in our regiments, and sacrifice, but when it comes to our morality, we don’t know if we are capable.

And, maybe that is just it. When it comes to morality, it is harder, and we just aren’t capable…on our own.

Every day we walk out the door of our homes in a battle: A battle to protect our purity, dignity, chastity and virtue. Peers, billboards, magazines, music, TV shows, movies, books, boyfriends, girlfriends will tempt us, bombard us, and pressure us to make dangerous decisions that may negatively affect our lives. We are in a battlefield. Where is our armor?

Our armor is the sacraments and the Holy Spirit! In addition, making a habit of all the four Cardinal Virtues of prudence (wisdom), justice, fortitude (courage), and temperance (self control) strengthens our armor and prepares us to combat a culture that is getting ever more morally objectionable. A culture which is willing to settle for mediocrity instead of exceptionality! We weren’t created for mediocrity. As Pope Benedict said to a group of young people, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!”

And, those who choose, regardless of how many times they fail, to be morally exceptional, are the game changers! We can change the world with our yes to the Lord, with our yes to being loved rightly, and with our yes to the sacraments. We will change the world by rejecting conformity and inviting Christ in to transform us. We will change the world with our joy.

And, when people ask us whose plan we are following, we can say, “The Maker and Creator Himself. The One who wrote the original plan. The plan that lets you look in a mirror and like what you see. The plan that brings you joy and secures your spot in Heaven for all eternity.”

Remember, God doesn’t need you to change to come to him. If you are far from God or living your faith with one foot in the world and one foot in Church, go to God without changing. If change needs to be made, Christ will inspire it within you. We can’t be morally exceptional on our own; it takes God’s grace. The Holy Spirit is our strength. We must live our lives with intention and choose to live to our fullest and greatest potential, seeking to be exceptional knowing it is God that makes us perfect through His Son.

“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” –John 10:10

Reprinted with permission from MelaniePritchard.org


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

‘It’s a miracle’: Newborn girl survives two days after being abandoned in a field

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

The survival of a baby who was abandoned by her mother and left in a field for two days has been described as "a miracle" by the doctor attending the newborn girl.

"She had been left alone naked, and weighed less than a kilogram, in part because she was so severely dehydrated," said Doctor Barbara Chomik at the hospital in the northern Polish city of Elblag, according to a report from Central European News.

"It is a miracle that she survived under those conditions for so long. It is simply a miracle," Dr. Chomik said.

The report said that the child's mother, Jolanta Czarnecka, 30, of Ilawa in northeastern Poland, had concealed her pregnancy from friends and fellow workers, and had given birth in a field during a lunch break, then returned to work.

When blood was noticed on her clothing, the woman at first claimed she had accidentally given birth in the toilet and the baby had gone down the drain.

However, when investigation found no evidence supporting her claims, Czarnecka admitted to having given birth to the child in a nearby field and leaving her there.

When searchers found the child, two days after her birth, the little girl was dehydrated and covered with insects.

Czarnecka is facing charges of attempted murder for allegedly abandoning her child.

Czarnecka, who has entered a not guilty plea to the charges against her, could be sentenced to five years in prison if she is convicted.


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Because nothing says love quite like a whip and restraints, right? Shutterstock
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

To the Christians who think 50 Shades is all sorts of awesome: Please, stop and THINK

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By Jonathon van Maren

It’s pretty depressing when you realize that, in 2014, many people seem to think that destruction of human dignity is a small price to pay for an orgasm.

I suppose when I write a column about a book that just sold its 100 millionth copy I shouldn’t be surprised when I get a bit of a kickback. But I have to say—I wasn’t expecting hundreds of commenters, many saying they were Christian, to come out loudly defending the porn novel 50 Shades of Grey, often tastelessly interspersed with details from their own sex lives.

People squawked that we “shouldn’t judge” those who practice bondage, domination, sadism and masochism (BDSM), and informed me that “no one gets hurt” and that it “isn’t abuse” and said that it was “just fantasy” (as if we have a separate brain and body for fantasy).

Meanwhile, not a single commenter addressed one of the main arguments I laid out—that with boys watching violent porn and girls being socialized to accept violence and torture inside of a sexual relationship, we have created a toxic situation in which people very much are being hurt.

In response to the defenders of this trash, let me make just a few points.

  1. Not all consent is equal.

People keep trumpeting this stupid idea that just because someone consents to something or allows something to happen, it isn’t abusive.

But if someone consents to being beaten up, punched, slapped, whipped, called disgusting and degrading names, and have other things done to them that I will choose not to describe here, does that make it any less abusive? It makes it legal (perhaps, but it certainly doesn’t make it any less disgusting or violent.

Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey? If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

Anyone who works with victims of domestic and sexual assault will tell you that just because someone permits something to happen or doesn’t extricate themselves from a situation doesn’t mean it isn’t, in fact, abuse. Only when it comes to sex are people starting to make this argument, so that they can cling to their fetishes and justify their turn-ons. Those women who defend the book because they think it spiced up their sex life are being incredibly selfish and negligent, refusing to think about how this book could affect other women in different situations, as well as young and impressionable girls.

In the words of renowned porn researcher and sociologist Dr. Gail Dines:

In his book on batterers, Lundy Bancroft provides a list of potentially dangerous signs to watch out for from boyfriends. Needless to say, Christian [Grey of 50 Shades of Grey] is the poster boy of the list, not only with his jealous, controlling, stalking, sexually sadistic behavior, but his hypersensitivity to what he perceives as any slight against him, his whirlwind romancing of a younger, less powerful woman, and his Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings. Any one of these is potentially dangerous, but a man who exhibits them all is lethal.

The most likely real-world ending of Fifty Shades of Grey is fifty shades of black and blue. The awful truth in the real world is that women who partner with a Christian Grey often end up hightailing it to a battered women's shelter with traumatized kids in tow. The less fortunate end up in graveyards.

  1. 50 Shades of Grey normalizes intimate partner violence…

…and sickeningly, even portrays it as romantic and erotic. Amy Bonomi, Lauren Altenburger, and Nicole Walton published an article on the impact of 50 Shades last year in the Journal of Women’s Health. Their conclusions are intuitive and horrifying:

While intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 25% of women and impairs health, current societal conditions—including the normalization of abuse in popular culture such as novels, film, and music—create the context to support such violence.

Emotional abuse is present in nearly every interaction, including: stalking (Christian deliberately follows Anastasia and appears in unusual places, uses a phone and computer to track Anastasia’s whereabouts, and delivers expensive gifts); intimidation (Christian uses intimidating verbal and nonverbal behaviors, such as routinely commanding Anastasia to eat and threatening to punish her); and isolation (Christian limits Anastasia’s social contact). Sexual violence is pervasive—including using alcohol to compromise Anastasia’s consent, as well as intimidation (Christian initiates sexual encounters when genuinely angry, dismisses Anastasia’s requests for boundaries, and threatens her). Anastasia experiences reactions typical of abused women, including: constant perceived threat (“my stomach churns from his threats”); altered identity (describes herself as a “pale, haunted ghost”); and stressful managing (engages in behaviors to “keep the peace,” such as withholding information about her social whereabouts to avoid Christian’s anger). Anastasia becomes disempowered and entrapped in the relationship as her behaviors become mechanized in response to Christian’s abuse.

Our analysis identified patterns in Fifty Shades that reflect pervasive intimate partner violence—one of the biggest problems of our time. Further, our analysis adds to a growing body of literature noting dangerous violence standards being perpetuated in popular culture.

  1. Really? Sadism?

I notice that commenters rarely break down what the acronym “BDSM” actually stands for: bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism. If they did, they could no longer make the repulsive claim that “love” or “intimacy” have anything to do with it.

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The definition of sadism is “enjoyment that someone gets from being violent or cruel or from causing pain, especially sexual enjoyment from hurting or punishing someone…a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by the infliction of physical or mental pain on others.”

As one of my colleagues noted, we used to send sadists to a therapist or to prison, not to the bedroom. And 100 million copies of this porn novel have been unleashed on our society informing people that getting off on hurting someone is romantic and erotic. It is a brutal irony that people who scream about water-boarding terrorists are watching and experimenting with sexual practices far more brutal. As one porn researcher noted, some online BDSM porn promotes practices and behaviors that would be considered unlawful under the Geneva Convention if they were taking place in a wartime context.

It seems the Sexual Revolutionaries have gone from promoting “safe sex” to “safe words”—just in case the pain gets too rough. And none of them seem to be volunteering information on just how a woman is supposed to employ a safe word with a gag or bondage headgear on.

But who cares, right? Just one more casualty on our culture’s new Sexual Frontier.

  1. “It’s just fiction and fantasy and has no effect on the real world!”

That’s total garbage and they know it. I’ve met multiple girls who were abused like this inside of relationships. Hotels are offering “50 Shades of Grey” packages replete with the helicopter and private suites for the proceedings. According to the New York Post, sales of rope exploded tenfold after the release of the book. Babeland reported that visits to the bondage section of their website spiked 81%, with an almost 30% increase in the sale of things like riding crops and handcuffs.

I could go on, but I won’t. As Babeland co-founder Claire Cavanah noted, “It’s like a juggernaut. You’d be surprised to see how very ordinary these people are who are coming in. The book is just an explosion of permission for them to try something new in the bedroom.”

  1. What does this book and the BDSM movement say about the value of women and girls?

I’d like the defenders of this book to try stop thinking with their nether-regions for just a moment and ask themselves a few simple questions: What does sadism and sexual torture (consensual or not) say to our culture about the value of girls? What does it say to boys about how they should treat girls? The youth of today are inundated with porn and sexually violent material—is nobody—nobody—at all worried about the impact this has on them? On the girls who are being abused by boys who think this is normal behavior—and think it is normal themselves?

Dr. Gail Dines relates that when speaking to groups of women who loved the book, they all grow deathly silent when she asks them two simple questions: Would you want your daughter to be in a relationship with Christian Grey? Would you want your son to turn into Christian Grey?

If the answer is yes to either of those, someone should call social services.

__

This book and the sadism it promotes are an assault on human dignity, and most of all an assault on the worth and value of girls and women. Please consider the impact you will have on your daughters and the vulnerable and confused people around you when you read and promote this book. Anastasia Steele is, thankfully, a fictional character. But real girls are facing these expectations and demands from a culture that elevates a sexual sadist to the level of a romantic hero. Ask yourselves if you want their “love” and “intimacy” to include sadism and domination, or real respect.

Because you can’t have both.

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Ryan T. Anderson

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New York Times reporter: ‘Anti-LGBT’ people ‘deserve’ incivility

Ryan T. Anderson
By Ryan Anderson

As I recounted Monday at The Daily Signal, The New York Times reporter Josh Barro thinks some people are “unworthy of respect.” Yesterday Barro doubled-down and tweeted back at me that “some people are deserving of incivility.” He argued that I am such a person because of my views about marriage policy. You can see the entire exchange on my twitter page.

What Josh Barro says or does doesn’t really affect me. I’m not a victim, and I’ll keep doing what I do. But incivility, accepted and entrenched, is toxic to a political community. Indeed, civility is essential for political life in a pluralistic society.

It also has deep roots.

The Hebrew Bible tells us that all people are made in the image and likeness of God and have a profound and inherent dignity. Sound philosophy comes to a similar conclusion: as rational beings capable of freedom and love, all human beings have intrinsic and inestimable worth. And so we should always treat people with respect and dignity—we should honor their basic humanity. We should always engage with civility—even when we sharply disagree with them. Faith and reason, the natural law and the divine law, both point to the same conclusion.

Just as I think the best of theology and philosophy point to the conclusion that we should always treat people with respect, so I think they show that marriage is the union of a man and a woman—and that redefining marriage will undermine the political common good.

The work that I’ve done for the past few years for The Heritage Foundation has been at the service of explaining why I think this to be the case. Bookish by nature, I thought the best contribution I could make to public life was to help us think about marriage. So while my early work after college was in philosophy and bioethics, and my graduate coursework was in the history of political philosophy, I put my dissertation about economic and social justice on hold so I could devote myself to this debate at this crucial time.

Along with my co-authors, a classmate of mine from Princeton and a professor of ours there, we set out to write a book making what we considered the best philosophical argument for what marriage is and why it matters. Our book seemed to help the Supreme Court think about the issue, as Justice Samuel Alito cited it twice. The reason I’ve written various and sundry policy papers for Heritage, and traveled across the country speaking on college campuses, and appeared on numerous news shows (including, of course, Piers Morgan) is that I know the only way forward in our national debate about marriage is to make the arguments in as reasonable and civil a spirit as possible.

Some people, like Barro, want to do everything they can to shut down this discussion. They want to demonize those who hold contrary viewpoints. They want to equate us with racists and claim we are unworthy of respect and ought to be treated with incivility. This is how bullies behave. In all of recorded history, ours is the first time where we can have open and honest conversations about same-sex attraction and marriage. This discussion is just beginning. It is nowhere near being over.

All our fellow citizens, including those identifying as LGBT, should enjoy the full panoply of civil rights—the free exercise of religion, freedoms of speech and press, the right to own property and enter into contracts, the right to vote and have a fair trial, and every other freedom to live as they choose, consistent with the common good.

Government redefinition of marriage, however, is not a civil right—nor will redefining marriage serve the common good. Indeed, redefining marriage will have negative consequences.

We make our arguments, in many fora, as transparently as possible. We welcome counterarguments. And we strive to treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve as we carry on this conversation.

One of the most unfortunate parts of my exchange with Barro last night was his reaction toward those who identify as LGBT and aspire to lives of chastity. They freely choose to live by their conviction that sex is reserved for the marital bond of a husband and wife. Some of them also seek professional help in dealing with and perhaps even diminishing (not repressing) their same-sex sexual desires.

I have written in their defense and against government coercion that would prevent them from receiving the help they desire, as New Jersey and California have done. Barro describes my support for their freedom as “sowing misery…doing a bad thing to people…making the world worse.”

There really is anti-LGBT bigotry in the world. But Barro does a disservice to his cause when he lumps in reasonable debates about marriage policy and the pastoral care that some same-sex attracted persons voluntarily seek out as, in his words, “anti-LGBT.” If we can’t draw a line between real bigotry and reasonable disagreement, we’re not helping anyone.

This debate isn’t about restricting anyone’s personal freedom. However it goes, people will remain free to live their romantic lives as they choose. So too people who experience same-sex attraction but aspire to chastity should be free to lead their lives in line with their beliefs, and to seek out the help they desire. We can have a civil conversation about which course of action is best—but let’s leave aside the extremism.

Barro asks, “Why shouldn’t I call you names?” My answer is simple: you should not practice the disdain and contempt you claim to abhor.

All my life, I’ve been educated at left-leaning institutions. Most of my friends disagree with me about these issues. But they’re still friends. And their feedback has made me a better person.

My final tweet to Barro is where I still remain committed: “people on all sides of LGBT debates and marriage debates need to find a way to discuss these issues without demonizing anyone.”

Reprinted with permission from the Daily Signal, where you can find Ryan Anderson's Twitter exchange with Barro.


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