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‘The Meaning of Sex’: why sexual integrity isn’t out-of-date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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Fr. Mark Hodges

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NY court lets woman refuse vaccine made with aborted baby tissue

Fr. Mark Hodges
By Fr. Mark Hodges

NEW YORK, September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – An Orthodox Christian woman has won the right to refuse a vaccine developed using aborted babies' tissue, based on her religious beliefs.

The vaccine is for measles/mumps/rubella and is required by New York City law for all schoolchildren. It was developed from fetal tissue procured from abortions, hence the moral dilemma for practicing Christians.

The woman, who remains anonymous, said her Christian beliefs against abortion compel her to have nothing to do with vaccines made using aborted fetal tissue.

"Abortion is clearly a mortal sin and is [an] abhorrent act to any Christian," the New York mom said in her petition for exemption, according to the New York Post. "The vaccine manufacturers' use of aborted fetal cells in its products and research means that I cannot associate with them or support them financially (by buying their products), for such support would make me complicit to their sin."

New York State Department of Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia concluded in the woman's favor, explaining, "The weight of the evidence supports petitioner's contentions that her opposition to the MMR vaccine stems from sincerely held religious beliefs."

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Christianity has always opposed abortion, from the time of the New Testament.  The Bible teaches that from conception, the womb holds a human person, calling pregnancy "to be with child" (Isaiah 7:14). Many biblical individuals are explicitly described as called or known from the womb, such as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-5), Isaiah (Isaiah 44:2;  49:1), Job (Job 10:8-12), Paul (Gal. 1:15), and John the Baptist (Lk. 1:15). The New Testament also condemns abortifacients (Galatians 5:20;  Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, 22:15).

Other early Church documents condemning abortion include the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, the Apocalypse of Peter, St. Athenagoras's writings, the letters of St. Clement of Alexandria, the Apostolic Constitutions, Tertullian, Hippolytus's Apostolic Traditions. Additionally, every early Church council says likewise. 

Every ancient Christian leader unequivocally wrote that abortion, without exception, is against Christian belief and practice. Those who wrote extensively on the topic include St. Basil the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine, St. John the Faster, and the sixth worldwide Great Ecumenical Council (691).

This conviction continues to the present day. The Congress of the Greek Archdiocese of North and South America stated, "The Orthodox Church has a definite, formal, and intended attitude toward abortion. It condemns all procedures purporting to abort the embryo or fetus, whether by surgical or medical means. The Orthodox Church brands abortion as murder, that is, the premeditated termination of the life of a human being.  Decisions of the Supreme Court and state legislatures by which abortion is allowed, with or without restrictions, should be viewed by practicing Christians as an affront to their beliefs in the sanctity of life."

Thus, New York admitted that the woman's beliefs were in line with her religion.  Nevertheless, pro-abortionists say the First Amendment's assurance of the free exercise of religion should not include parents choosing whether to vaccinate their children.

Pro-abortionists sharply criticized the decision. "If we allow people to opt-out of vaccination, it puts other people's children at risk," says Sharon Levin of the pro-abortion National Women's Law Center.  "I think this decision is just one can in a crate of a can of worms that have been opened since the Hobby Lobby decision."

Levin was referring to Hobby Lobby's legal attempt to opt out of Obamacare's mandatory abortion/sterilization/contraception coverage, which violated the family-owned and operated corporation's religious convictions.

Yahoo Health writer Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy reports that undercover Planned Parenthood videos "have pushed questions regarding fetal tissue-based biomedical research to the forefront."

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Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore / Flickr
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‘It’s absurd’: Rand Paul blasts Kim Davis’ jailing over gay ‘marriage’

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By Ben Johnson

ASHLAND, KY, September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) - Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis has been arrested and taken to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples this afternoon. After repeatedly refusing to give such a license to gays and lesbians, a federal judge found her in contempt of court and sentenced her to jail time rather than assessing a fine. 

As she was escorted out of the courtroom to jail, homosexuals began chanting, "Love won! Love won!" 

As the scene played out, her U.S. senator, Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul, said the decision was unwarranted, violated religious liberty, and would further polarize the country on the issue of same-sex "marriage."

"I think it's absurd to put someone in jail for exercising their religious liberty," Sen. Paul, R-KY, told CNN. "If you want to convince people that same-sex 'marriage' is something that's acceptable I would say try to persuade people" instead of using state force.

He also warned such heavy-handed tactics would backfire on LGBT activists. "If we're going to use the federal government, and we're going to get involved in every state and locality, you know what's going to happen? It's going to harden people's resolve on this issue," Paul added. "There's going to be no open-mindedness on this."

"I think it's a real mistake to be doing this," he said.

He said if state force continued to be exerted against Christian believers, "I think what's going to happen as a result of this is states and localities are just going to opt out of the marriage business completely."  

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning - a George W. Bush appointee and the son of former moderate Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky - had ordered Davis to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples but was repeatedly rebuffed.

"The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order," Judge Bunning said in issuing the arrest order. "If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that's what potentially causes problems."

Bunning ordered Davis imprisoned, rather than imposing a fine, because he said her fellow believers would take up a collection and pay her fine. 

Similar tactics were applied when Christians who refused to participate in same-sex "marriages" tried to raise funds via crowdfunding platforms.

Paul's rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination - Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Marco Rubio - have also voiced their support for the now-incarcerated Davis. 

"We should seek a balance between government's responsibility to abide by the laws of our republic and allowing people to stand by their religious convictions," Rubio said yesterday. "There should be a way to protect the religious freedom and conscience rights of individuals working in the office."

But her opponents say they demand nothing unreasonable of her. ACLU attorney Heather Weaver said, "Its not making someone a martyr to ask someone to do their job and follow the law."

Republican presidential candidates Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, and Carly Fiorina have agreed that clerks who have deeply held religious beliefs must enforce the law. Christie underscored his resistance to finding any accommodation for public officials.

The prospect of jail does not frighten Davis, a born again Christian, who says iron bars cannot separate her from the Savior Who dwells in her heart, nor does prison compare to the punishment that she believes awaits should she participate in legitimizing sin.

"I've weighed the cost and I'm prepared to go to jail," Davis told Fox News yesterday. "This is a Heaven-or-Hell issue for me and for every other Christian that believes. This is a fight worth fighting."

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Hundreds of thousands of people join the 'Manif pour tous' march in Paris supporting natural family in 2014.
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Alarmed report details Sexual Left’s agenda to defeat surging European family movement

Gabriele Kuby
By Gabriele Kuby

September 3, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- The world-wide operating Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) is the intellectual activist centre of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) which presently governs Germany in a coalition with the Christian Democratic Party under Chancellor Angela Merkel. As their publications and conferences reflect, the FES pushes for same-sex “marriage,“ reproductive rights, biotechnology, sexual diversity, gender equality, and sexual education. It also publishes reports with the intention of “naming and shaming” individuals, organizations, parties, and networks which work on behalf of life and the family.

The FES’s latest publication takes an international approach, describing anti-gender activists and actions in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Titled Gender as Symbolic Glue: The position and role of conservative and far-right parties in the anti-gender mobilizations in Europethe report was published by something called the Foundation for European Progressive Studies – “with the financial support of the European Parliament” and the Budapest branch of the FES.

The authors are alarmed over the growing resistance to ‘gender politics’ seen at the grass-roots level (e.g. La Manif pour tous movement in France and Demo für alle in Germany) and expressed in referendums held in several countries across Europe. In addition, they cite the opposition of political parties at the local and European levels, and the ‘anti-gender’ declarations of Bishop’s Conferences. What is seen as a dangerous development by the sexual left is really a testimony to the success of the pro-life and pro-family movement in Europe. The authors say:

Anti-gender movements want to claim that gender equality is an ‘ideology’, and introduce the misleading terms ‘gender ideology’ or ‘gender theory’ which distort the achievements of gender equality … This phenomenon has negative consequences for the legislation on gender equality.

The Symbolic Glue report then provides “policy recommendations for the progressive side to stand up against fundamentalist political activism.”

The individual country reports on the “reactionary backlash” against gender politics in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia give a good overview of the situation in each country and the positions of the conservative and right-wing parties. In contrast to previous publications from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, which tried to defame and stigmatize conservative individuals as right-wing radicals, bigots, and family-fundamentalists, the Symbolic Glue report largely refrains from such slanderous language. In fact, the authors sound worried that conservative activists are acquiring dominance in public debates, and are influencing party politics and legislation by: 

  • coining the terms “gender-ideology” and “genderism”;
  • giving “scientific” evidence against “gender ideology”;
  • mobilizing at the grass-roots level through “fear-managing language”;
  • making use of “authoritarian themes” such as the polemic against the French schoolbook Tous à poil (All naked);
  • creating “moral panic” that “allows socialist officials to be accused of … jeopardising the future of society”;
  • re-articulating “parent-power” or parental involvement in “promoting the parents as actors of the restoration of authority and traditional values at school”;
  • the “gradual subordination of educational institutions to Christian conservative worldview, carried out by local authorities in cooperation with the Catholic Church and religion-based organisations”;
  • utilizing “hate-speech towards Gender Studies” (as an academic subject) and relying on “freedom fighter rhetoric”;
  • pointing to the EU as a “cultural coloniser”;
  • leading successful constitutional referendums for defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Symbolic Glue also analyses the deficiencies of the sexual left. It is difficult to say whether this self-critical stance is a tactical device to arouse sympathy and motivate people to engage in the anti-anti-gender battle, or whether it is really dawning on the authors that anti-gender movements can have “grave consequences not only to women’s and LGBT rights but to the emancipatory promise of the Left altogether.”

The sexual left, according to the authors’ own evaluation, seems to be missing ‘symbolic glue’. They see:

  • “difficulties of building an ideological response to conservatives”;
  • “lack of public campaign against the anti-gender discourse”;
  • “the inability to articulate a progressive agenda in the concrete experience of “ordinary people”;
  • the counter-reactions of leftist parties to the anti-gender mobilisation being “one step behind those of extra-parliamentary forces”.

The ultimate intention of the authors is to cure “progressives” of these deficiencies. But it is good that they also let conservatives know how they want to achieve this. 

Indeed, it is difficult to convince “ordinary people” of the notion of gender theory, and that the traditional identity of man and woman are restrictions on human freedom that must be overcome by voluntarily choosing one’s gender identity according to one’s feelings. Since the authors supply no definition for the concept of gender identity, we have to refer to the Preamble of The Yogyakarta Principlessince it is one of the rare places where a definition is given:

‘Gender identity’ … [refers] to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.

The solution to the incompatibility of gender theory with common sense – rooted in nature – is apparently to drop the concept of gender entirely. "Using the concept of gender as a technical category in the long run can be more self-destructive than useful while encountering this new political challenge." The progressives intend to move away from a “framework of identity politics” and reclaim the “real leftist values, using the language of solidarity” by “creating a counter-language, which reflects the emotional-fear language of the rightists.” Furthermore, “Instead of putting the emphasis on ‘human nature’ or ‘traditional values’, progressive actors have to take advantage of other aspects of ‘common sense’:  us/them distribution of power and wealth. Defining political antagonism is a pathway to hegemony.” The authors recognize that the opposition is composed of hard to control grass-roots movements and, therefore, advise progressive actors and left-wing parties to “strongly connect to grassroots [sic] organisations, local and individual initiatives.”

Furthermore, the public is to be provided “with concrete information about gender studies and policies through academic conferences, articles and statements from gender experts.” But in addition to conferences and a public dialogue between feminists and Catholics in order to “ridicule the anti-gender campaign”, an “e-learning course on … gender equality”, developed in Slovakia, is recommended as “best practice”, targeting administration staff, students, and the general public.

The authors of the Symbolic Glue report also sound somewhat startled to see a “paradigm change in science as we know it.” They describe the science they know as the “post-modern turn of modernity … where science became a moral and normative category acknowledging the positionality of the knower. This approach also questions the subject-object division and brings in new symbols, new myths and redefinitions.”

It is worth noting that with the exception of Andrea Petö who wrote the Epilogue, the report’s authors are all young women who belong to the “millennial” generation born around 1980. Several of them are in the process of obtaining a Ph.D., so their academic formation took place during the last ten years. This is precisely the period during which “gender studies” was established as an academic subject at the universities. (In German-speaking countries there are more than 200 professors for “gender” or “queer studies”, nearly all of them women.) “Gender studies” was and is a wide open door for female careers and a booming market for jobs.

These young women only know a “science” which is subordinated to the aim of effecting a political change in society – and academics is seen as an instrument for serving the cause of feminist and LGBT-interests. This so-called “science” has completely severed the academic commitment to the search for truth – which is – or was – the moving force behind the unfolding of European culture.

In general, Gender as symbolic glue, which was published by a foundation with a certain scientific claim, does not show the slightest intention of dealing with arguments on their merit; it just wants to pillory the enemy. Twenty-three individuals – perceived as enemies of the sexual left – are presented in an “Index” at the end of the book. (Wasn’t there an aversion to Catholic “indices” among enlightened liberals?)

In the end, the report says more about the weaknesses of the gender identity movement than about its opponents. The young authors must feel that their ‘intellectual house’ is built on sand, otherwise they wouldn’t express such worried dismay over the opposition they are facing. After all, international institutions like the UN and the EU – with their sub-agencies like the Fundamental Rights Agency and European Institute for Gender Equality – and national governments, with the superpower U.S. leading the way, as well as global corporations like Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook, and global NGOs like IPPF and ILGA, to name but a few, all with billions of dollars at their disposal, are on the side of the gender identity activists in this cultural war.

So why are these young women worried about the opposition of twenty-three people and a few comparatively tiny organisations with extremely small budgets? The answer is simple: Because they feel that the truth is on their side.

Gabriele Kuby is a sociologist, international speaker, and author of Die Gender-Revolution – Relativismus in Aktion, 2006, and Die globale sexuelle Revolution – Zerstörung der Freiheit im Namen der Freiheit, 2012. Both books have been translated into several languages and are referred to in the Symbolic Glue report. Die globale sexuelle Revolution will be published in the U.S. by Angelico Press in the fall of 2015.

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