Nathaniel Peters

‘The Meaning of Sex’: why sexual integrity isn’t out-of-date

Nathaniel Peters
By Nathaniel Peters
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June 7, 2012 (thepublicdiscourse.com) - How should we respond to the hookup culture? A number of concerned parents, pastors, and professors from all sides of the religious and political spectrum have expressed concern about the sexual culture that today’s young people inhabit. Some scholars, such as sociologists Mark Regnerus, Jeremy Uecker, and Kathleen Bogle, have published value-neutral analyses that aim to assess current trends and save us from common misperceptions. In empirical terms, they tell us how and why the sexual economy hurts its actors. Others, such as Laura Sessions Stepp and Donna Freitas, have offered more personal—and, for Freitas, spiritual—analyses of problems and possible solutions in modern sexual culture. Interestingly enough, these authors don’t write as traditionalists or social conservatives. They aren’t advocating purity rings or “modest is hottest.” Instead, they seek to help young people make more responsible sexual decisions. Not surprisingly, though, their counsel often aligns with a traditional conception of sexuality and monogamy, even if not perfectly. The science shows that more commitment and fewer sexual partners tend to make people happier.

But what about those who think that morality requires a bit more of us? How can they persuade young people that reserving sexual intimacy for marriage is the right thing to do? In his book On the Meaning of Sex, popular author and political philosopher J. Budziszewski attempts to make such an argument on the basis of human nature and natural law. He begins with an anecdote from teaching. During a classroom discussion of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, one of his students, Harris, said he found the characters disgusting. When pressed, Harris clarified that he had no problem with their sexual habits: “Sex doesn’t always have to mean something,” he insisted. What he found disgusting was their factory production of human beings.

But, Budziszewski argues, holding those two positions is not logically consistent:

It shouldn’t have bothered Harris unless procreation is something that ought to take place in the loving embrace of the parents. . . . Moreover, since Harris was revolted that the aspiration to children could ever be separated from the aspiration to union, it would seem that he recognized that these two meanings aren’t merely sometimes joined together, but that they are joined whenever we have sex. . . . Apparently sex means something to us even if we don’t admit to ourselves that it does.

That last sentence conveys Budziszewski’s goal and style of argumentation: He wants to draw attention to the reader’s gut feelings and instincts that may have been trained away by education or social conditioning. He wants to help them see what they know, even if they don’t know that they know it.

After some well-laid-out arguments about function, purpose, and natural law, Budziszewski argues that our bodies and actions have natural purposes. This means that some actions, such as those necessary for sexual union, mean something, whether we want them to or not. To put it another way, they say something, even if that is not what we want them to say: “A bodily action is like a word; we mean things to each other no less by what we do than by what we say. . . . To crush your windpipe with my thumbs is to say to you, ‘Now die,’ even if I tell you with my mouth, ‘Be alive.’ To join in one flesh is to say, ‘I give myself to you in all that this act means,’ even if I tell you with my mouth, ‘This means nothing.’” What sex means is total gift, a union of selves instantiated through bodily union, and it cannot but help mean that. By acting against this nature, which we cannot change, we do damage to ourselves and others.

Budziszewski further argues that human nature entails complementary differences between men and women. He notes that these differences are similar across cultures, both in terms of what people think they are and what they think about them. “Mark it up as another victory of quantitative social science,” he writes: “We can now confirm by counting that what everyone used to know without counting really is true.” He then explores how the particular characteristics of men and women make them attractive—in short, what we mean when we say that someone is sexy. Budziszewski thinks we mean that we find their manliness or womanliness desirable. Womanliness, for instance, “isn’t something she contrives, but something that glows from her. . . . The most compelling and believable signs of being a nice person to marry, make love with, and have children with are the ones that arise spontaneously. They are an outward glory given by an inward and invisible reality. A beautiful woman cannot help giving off such radiance, because it is an effect of what she really is.” Beauty conveys something deeper and more holistic than raw sexual appeal.

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Similarly, spousal love is not a matter of feelings but an act of the will. Enchantment is a feeling of emotional infatuation, the moment of “wow” when she enters the room. Love, by contrast, is really about charity, which Budziszewski defines as “a permanent commitment of the will to the true good of the other person.” Erotic charity is a mode of charity bound to one person, and sexual intercourse is a particular act of this charity that fuses two selves together in the union of their flesh. Because love is not about enchantment, but charity, it is an act of the will, not a feeling. Therefore, Budziszewski argues, “it is something that one decides to do, and it can be promised.” To the many young people who claim that permanent, exclusive marriage is impossible because you can’t promise feelings, he would say yes—but marriage is not a promise of feelings.

Not surprisingly, Budziszewski calls for embracing sexual purity, which, he makes clear, is a matter of pursuing goods—goods that will be useful and helpful for marriage—not fleeing from them. Its temporary “no’s” enable one to give a full “yes” at the right time. He sees sexual purity as coming in both masculine and feminine flavors: “One awakens the feminine intuition of something that must be guarded; the other, the masculine sense of something that must be mastered.” And he extols the virtues of purity: decorum, “the conduct befitting the dignity of man as a rational being”; modesty, which “expresses respect for the fragility of this dignity . . . [and avoids] provoking appetites that people should be trying to moderate”; and temperance, finding order and the mean in one’s actions.

Throughout the book, Budziszewski resists invoking God or anything beyond rationally accessible premises. More accurately, he hints at such ideas without developing his hints, nor has he explained why every chapter begins with a quotation from John of the Cross. In the conclusion, though, he argues that sex points to and is ultimately about God: “Nature points beyond herself. She has a face, and it looks up. . . . ultimately, human love makes sense only in the light of divine love. The point is not that divine love means something and that human love doesn’t. Human love means so much, because divine love means still more.” In a variation on C.S. Lewis’s argument for the existence of God based on desire, he notes that even when we love well, mortal love is not enough. Since no human longing is made in vain, this unfulfilled natural desire must point toward a supernatural lover.

But taking this argument into religious waters poses the question of which audience Budziszewski hopes to reach. And that poses the larger question of how effective his efforts—not to mention the broader efforts of like-minded religious believers—actually are. If he wants to strengthen the faithful as they navigate young adulthood, he might well succeed. To be sure, far too many young religious men and women have followed the cultural lead and abandoned chastity. If On the Meaning of Sex gave them better reasons for it, that alone would be a great feat. But how is he to persuade students who press with further questions or actively oppose his views on principle? Budziszewski’s occasionally chivalric language might go over well with young Chestertonians, but many young adults would balk at passages like this one:

When we do attempt the journey back to the commonwealth of sense, we will meet trolls and enchanters on the way. They will obstruct passage, demand tribute, and try to lure us into byways and bogs. But why should that discourage us? We are already begrimed and bewitched. The first thing to do is open our eyes, grasp hold of the nearest branches, and pull ourselves out of the ooze. Odd knights we! Having made ourselves muddy and ridiculous, we may as well journey with a smile.

Likewise, the Arthurian metaphor of the Siege Perilous for a woman, her sexuality, or her reproductive organs is not going to fly outside more traditional Christian circles, and even there it might receive tenuous support.

Inquisitive students will desire more proof that sex has to mean what Budziszewski thinks it means—and why it cannot mean what they might want it to mean. His passages about sexual beauty offer an attractive vision of what it means to be human, but can they pierce the carapace of wounded, ironic disdain? He discusses sexual differences with nuance and care, and many young adults would no doubt find resonances of his words in their lives, but, albeit unfairly, a good number will dismiss it as patriarchal and outmoded.

How then can those who agree with Budziszewski try to show young adults a more excellent way? There are few easy answers, but On the Meaning of Sex’s strengths show where to begin: by offering an eloquent, engaging description of the beauty of men, women, and sexuality. Moreover, it seeks to show young people the wisdom of their desires and repugnance. It tries to preserve good intuitions and gently check misunderstandings, to show them what their hearts know, even if unwittingly. It also hands on the wisdom of our forebears with care and winsomeness. Of course, those who believe that chastity leads to flourishing must also demonstrate it with their lives. But arguments are necessary as well, and both the style and the content of On the Meaning of Sex offer a good place to find them.

Nathaniel Peters is a Ph.D. student of theology at Boston College. This article reprinted with permission from thepublicdiscourse.com.

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John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

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Video: Belgian police put a violent end to a legal pro-life rally in Brussels

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry
By John-Henry Westen
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BRUSSELS, March 31, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Belgian police used force against pro-lifers holding a legal, peaceful picket Tuesday in the center of Brussels, near the European Parliament buildings.  The pro-life rally, led by activists from Poland, was surrounded by an angry mob of abortion supporters, but when the police intervened they forcibly removed the pro-life signs, and even a Polish flag, saying they were provoking aggression.

The pro-life rally, which displayed graphic abortion signs, was legally registered, and organized by Fundacja Pro, a very active pro-life group from Poland, along with Michał Marusik, a Polish Member of European Parliament, and the Instigos Institute.

Kaja Godek, one of Poland’s leading pro-life activists, described the scene at the Luxembourg Square in Brussels for LifeSiteNews:

When we display graphic abortion pictures on the streets of Poland, the reaction we get is mostly sympathetic. In Brussels, we met with aggression and a hysterical reaction. Some furious people surrounded us screaming that we were sick and that the photographs of abortion victims were a lie.

Jacek Januszewski, one of the youth participants, told LifeSiteNews, “They screamed vulgarities and obscene insults, specifically directed at the ladies in our group. They threw firecrackers, physically pushed us, and tried to steal our banners.”

Describing the actions of the police, Januszewski said, “They formed a circle around our group, but were facing us, as if we were the source of aggression, not the mob around us.” He continued, “Even after one of the policemen got hit on the back with something thrown at us by the mob, they still acted as if it was us who caused the danger. We were just standing there in shock."

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“At one point a man dressed in civilian clothes approached us all red in the face, pushed us and tried to take our banners by force,” said Januszewski. “When we resisted, he produced a police ID. We asked him what he was doing and what law allowed him to disrupt a legal demonstration like that. He screamed back at us: ‘I am the law in Brussels.’”

Godek commented on the undercover officer too. “The man in civilian clothes kept pointing to one specific banner we were holding, showing the face of Adolf Hitler with a caption ‘Hitler legalized abortion on demand for Poles.’ [The undercover policeman] was all red in the face and kept saying he didn't like it and that it was upsetting everybody. We told him we were being attacked and needed protection. He said that we were the danger, we were provoking violence.”

Watch videos (exchanges between police and protesters are audible and in English):

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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LifeSite Writers 2015
Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve

The eye-opening size and scope of this mission

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By Steve Jalsevac
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LifeSite Support staff

Have you ever wondered who is behind LifeSite, and what our organization does with the money you donate?

Sometimes we find that readers of LifeSite, new readers in particular, understandably do not realize the size and scope of our mission: including not just how many millions of people read LifeSite (6 million people last month alone, for the record), but also the number of people and resources required to keep this unique international news service going every day.

It is quite an eye-opener when we list everything involved. Given the exponential growth of LifeSite over the past few years, it seems time to present an update. This should help you to understand why we must set our quarterly campaign goals at the very least at the levels that we do each time.

Every single member of the LifeSite team is passionately dedicated to our mission. Many have families with children and all depend on prayer (we have a staff prayer conference call every morning at 9:30 a.m.) to do this challenging work. They are also highly principled persons who see this work as being much more of personal mission than a “job”.

They care deeply about the issues that we write about and their impact on the world. At least several were on the “other side” in the past and experienced profound conversions to pro-life, pro-family beliefs.

In addition to the English language LifeSite, we also publish two other versions of LifeSite. There is the Spanish language Notifam and the Portuguese language Notifam.  These two services have been completely re-designed and their readership has dramatically increased in the past several months.

Almost all of our journalists are paid salaries or an hourly rate (part-timers). Nearly half are full-time, and the rest are part-time with widely varying total hours per month. A small number of the part-timers are able to offer their work to LifeSite as a no-charge gift to the pro-life and pro-family cause.

Almost all of the news reporters work from their homes. Our one office is located in Front Royal, Virginia in the Human Life International building. Much of the LifeSite, Canada administration work (payroll, bookkeeping, mail and donation receiving, etc.) is contracted to Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) in Toronto. We are very grateful for CLC’s assistance.

Since the introduction of our dramatically new website last year, we have also been able to add prominent paid bloggers to the LifeSite team. In addition to our own bloggers, other notable pro-life bloggers such as Jill Stanek and Ryan Bomberger permit us to re-publish and often give much wider exposure to posts from their blog sites.

Back in September 1997, it was just John-Henry Westen and myself, the two founding staff of Lifesite. Things have certainly changed since then.

CURRENT NEWS TEAM

North America

1.  John-Henry Westen – Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief, journalist
2.  Steve Jalsevac – Co-founder, managing director, editor, journalist
3.  John Jalsevac – Website development, petitions, journalist
4.  Patrick Craine – Managing editor, journalist, Canadian bureau chief
5.  Ben Johnson – US bureau chief, journalist
6.  Dustin Siggins – Washington DC bureau reporter and media outreach
7.  Kirsten Andersen – Washington DC and region reporter
8.  Lisa Bourne – Journalist
9.  Pete Baklinski – Journalist
10. Ted Baklinski – Journalist
11. Lianne Laurence – Toronto journalist and LSN Canada donor relations
12. Steve Weatherbe – Journalist
13. Drew Belsky – Journalist

International

14. Hilary White (Italy) – Rome and Europe reporter
15. Jeanne Smits (Paris, France) – European reporter
16. Andrew Smith – Australian reporter
17. Michelle Kaufman – New Zealand reporter
18. Matthew Hoffman – Latin American reporter
19. Guilherme Ferreira Araujo – Brazilian editor
20. Gualberto Garcia Jones – Latin America bureau chief
21. Sophia Vazquez Mellado – Spanish language reporter
22. Mei-Li Beane – Spanish Language reporter
23. Natalia Dueholm – Polish correspondent
24. Matthew McCusker – London correspondent

Bloggers

25. Anthony Esolen
26. Matt Fradd
27. Abby Johnson
28. Jonathon van Maren
29. Melanie Pritchard

SUPPORT TEAM

30. Jon Fidero – Development Director
31. Andy Parrish – Marketing, media, public relations
32. Clare Maagad – LSN U.S. Office Manager
33. Meghan Mulherin – Database management, Donor relations coordinator
34. Linda Wilson – Donor relations
35. Tommy Farrell – Donor relations
36. Theresa Jalsevac – Daily news subscriber services, article publishing
37. Jacob Westen – Article publishing

EXTERNAL SERVICES

LifeSite employs the services of a wide variety of companies and individuals for website design and development, video production, graphic design, donation processing, mass emailing of the Daily News, web hosting, payroll, legal work, marketing of LifeSite and much more.

Some of these external costs are in the six-figure level, given the large volume and variety of material that we publish, the cutting edge complexity of the website and the high level of traffic that LifeSite must now be able to handle.

We also have on-going and major electronic equipment costs since we are a digital service requiring high quality, reliable and the most up-to-date digital resources.

Finally, our team, and especially John-Henry, have been required to do a lot more travelling in recent years to cover major stories on site and to attend and be actively involved in very important meetings in several nations.  

The Marches for life in Washington, DC, Ottawa Canada and Rome, Italy have required a team of LSN staff. As well, we are the original organizers of the Rome Life Forum in Vatican City that is now billed as a Voice of the Family (which LifeSite co-founded) event and is co-sponsored by a number of International groups.

I hope this has helped you to much better understand our financial needs and will encourage any who might have been hesitant to donate to re-consider and send a generous gift for the LifeSite mission.

We are amazed that so much has been accomplished over the years, thanks especially to the generosity of those who believe in what we do and have wanted to express their appreciation for this work and what it has meant to them.

Please join our other supporters today with your gift.

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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Courtesy of Stand True Ministries
Bryan Kemper Follow Bryan

10 years ago today, Terri Schiavo died an agonizing death. I was with her family. Where were you?

Bryan Kemper Follow Bryan
By Bryan Kemper
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March 31, 2015 (StandTrue.com) -- For twenty-four years I have been involved with pro-life work in one way or another. Over those twenty-four years I have talked to thousands of people about their involvement, why they got involved, how they got involved and what motivates them to continue. We have talked about what happened in 1973 and where were all the Christians when Roe vs. Wade was passed. We would wonder why Christians would ignore human rights and own slaves in the time of the Dred Scott decision. We would tell stories about the few brave Christians that hid Jews during the Holocaust and proclaim that if it were we in those times we would have been a voice. If we were around in those days we would have risked all to save an innocent life; that is what we said, at least.

Ten years ago a young woman in Florida who was handicapped began an agonizing and painful journey towards death. Her husband, who had once made a vow to love and honor her through good times and bad, murdered her on national television. Her husband, who had already broken his vows to her by living with another woman and fathering children with her, went to court to have his wife starved and dehydrated to death. Terri Schiavo held onto life and fought for 13 days before finally dying on Thursday, March 31, 2005.

When I arrived in Florida one week before her death I expected to see thousands and thousands of Christians in front of the hospice praying, singing and crying out for Terri. I expected to see all those people who said, “I would have been there to stand up if I were around in the times of Roe vs. Wade or during the Holocaust.” I was sadly disappointed.

I walked up and saw maybe 150 people at most — some of them familiar faces from the pro-life movement, some of them just wanting to be on TV. I started to walk around and ask where people were from and most of them were from out of town; it was hard to find anyone from the Tampa area there to stand up for Terri. For years I wondered where the Christians were when Roe vs. Wade was passed, and now I had the answer.

I spent the first day walking around the crowd praying with people, talking about what could be done and simply being there in solidarity with our sister as she was dying. When I arrived the second day I talked to Terri’s sister whom I had met in Washington, DC, in January, when I volunteered my services to the family. I was asked to help guard the family and escort them around as everyone was swarming them.

I spent a lot of time just sitting with them and listening to stories about Terri and her life growing up. Her dad told a story about when Terri ran over a cat and how upset she was over this poor little cat. The friends shared beautiful stories and memories that I will treasure forever.

During this time we also spent a lot of time in prayer, with many different Christian leaders and friends. Everyone would be talking about a possible option and then someone would just stop and say, “Let’s pray.” There was more spontaneous prayer than I had ever seen. I would walk among the people there in support and see small groups up and down the street praying, singing hymns and just reading the Scriptures out loud. There may not have been a large group there, but they were dedicated and focused on prayer.

I spent a lot of time walking the family through the media circus to and from the hospice trying to give them a little privacy. I would walk Terri’s dad through the crowd every night as he thanked all the supporters for being there for Terri.

I talked to many of the behind-the-scenes media people who were obviously shaken by this tragedy. I saw people from all different walks of life and political and religious backgrounds taking a stand. There were many non-Christian people there in support of Terri, and dozens of handicapped people from a group called Not Dead Yet. I even spent time in prayer with the Rev. Jesse Jackson as he came to help the family and speak out for Terri. I never in a million years would have believed that I would sit in a room praying with Randal Terry, Jesse Jackson and Sean Hannity.

Each night at about 11:00 PM I would leave the hospice area and go get something to eat and try to catch up on some computer work and grab a few hours of sleep. I talked to a lot of people at different restaurants that would ask us what was really happening there. One night Terri’s brother, Bobby, came out to eat with us. When he left, the people there asked us questions and wanted to know the truth about the whole situation; they were shocked when they got the true facts about Terri.

On Wednesday night I went to the hotel and was especially saddened as we were reaching 13 days. My friend Will and I sat in the pool at the hotel at 2:00 AM discussing the past week and what else could have been done. I finally got to sleep at about 3:00 AM. Early the next morning, I was awoken by Will telling me that Terri had died.

We quickly packed our bags and went to the car to drive over to the hospice a few blocks away. As I got into the car it really began to hit me what had just happened and I started to cry. I picked up my cell phone and called my wife and children; I just needed to hear their voices and tell them I loved them.

I got to the hospice and stood guard outside the room the family was in to give them some privacy. The room was tucked in behind all the major media trucks and production areas. I watched as many of the media producers and reporters were fighting back tears. I watched reporters hugging the family and giving condolences; they were truly touched by Terri’s family. Many of the media that I had gotten to know expressed their grief to me, some of them on-air personalities who were affected greatly.

After the family was done making their statements for the day, I made my rounds to offer my condolences and say my goodbyes. I told the family about all the Stand True supporters and family that had asked me to send their best wishes and prayers. I thanked them for their strength and resolve in the fight for Terri’s life. I let them know that we at Stand True will never let Terri’s name die and that we will continue the fight for life and others like Terri.

I will never forget and I will never stop telling her story. 

HTTP://WWW.TERRISFIGHT.ORG

Also read Father Frank Pavone’s memory of his time with Terri.

HTTP://WWW.WASHINGTONTIMES.COM/NEWS/2015/MAR/30/FRANK-PAVONE-TERRI-SCHIAVOS-INCONVENIENT-LIFE/

Reprinted with permission from Stand True.

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