Posts Tagged ‘culture’
…was actually the headline over a column in the New York Times yesterday. No, really. They dared print something that states that social conservatives might, after all, not be completely wrong about a contentious issue. Columnist Ross Douthat works off of a ‘results’ premise – i.e., the Sexual Revolution has resulted in unhappier women, etc. – so the column is still largely in moral relativity land, but, hey, it acknowledges some key facts about the inherent miseries of promiscuity. That’s progress.
I’m going to steer you there through the article that brought it to my attention, because I think it’s a good place to start: Cynicism, Vain Hopes, and Realistic Optimism about Pre-Marital Sex, by Julie Ponzi.
Both posts stress making a distinction between sex that is truly pre-marital (a man and woman on a path to marriage) and sex that is divorced from any idea of marriage. From a Christian perspective, that misses a crucial point or two, but, again, to notice that there is a difference between falling to temptation within the context of commitment, and just having sex to be having sex, well, this, too, is helpful.
While we’re on the subject, I’d like to recommend a book I just read, called Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, by Trevin Wax. The chapter on sexuality I think has some really good ideas and information, and includes a clear call for church communities to be promoting chastity. Wax makes a clear distinction between abstinence and chastity, and even argues that all too many abstinence programs contribute to a warped view of sex by keeping the focus self-centered. (If teens are avoiding sex because of the dangers of sex outside of marriage, they are still thinking of sex only in terms of their own well-being, which isn’t getting them set up for good relationships.) Chastity, on the other hand, embraces a number of positives. Wax also asks that Christians and churches do more to publicly celebrate married love. One small way, for instance, would be to celebrate those couples in the congregation with decades-long marriages. It’s a thought.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, responding to someone trotting out the old “abortion is pro-family because it can cut down on single motherhood” argument, says (writing at The Corner, at National Review Online):
No, we don’t need to embrace single motherhood or embrace murder to cut down on it. We need to teach self-respect and acknowledge that feminism and the sexual revolution led to a whole lot of insanity. We need to culturally reboot. I think we see people slowly realizing this.
There’s no pill to fix it. But then the magic Pill has been part of the problem, so that’s just as well. Quick fixes rarely are the panaceas they’re embraced as.
The Knights of Columbus have long been dedicated to building a culture of life. They also have a Fathers For Good program that should help with that. (Fathers For Good is for daddies, not priests, by the way.)
hat tip: Joe Healy
Nor can such absolutists blind themselves to the traps set by the current discourse, steeped as it is in consequentialist parameters. In any discussion over embryonic stem-cell research, for example, one will inevitably hear an informed and articulate pro-lifer mention the lack of cures that such research has yet yielded. But what defense will remain if, tomorrow, embryonic stem-cell research were to produce a bevy of cures for terminal diseases? Even if the pro-research consequentialist were to accept the above premise, and change his position based on the supposed futility of this research, the victory is a pyrrhic one. For the rules of engagement have shifted onto a pragmatic playing-field, where any moral standard now lies susceptible to a more pressing need. When we compromise even the slightest on intrinsic evils, entertaining effects and trying to use them in our favor, we can hardly be surprised when recourse to first principles no longer carries weight in the great conversations of our day.
In a time when the distinction between can and should has become increasingly blurred, and when fundamental moral norms are under unprecedented attack, the principle of intrinsic evil requires and deserves a staunch defense. The threat of utilitarianism is hardly new; after all, it was the calculating Caiaphas who asserted it was better for one man to die than the whole nation to perish. In the face of public demand for expediency and results—with little or no regard for what seem to be ethical niceties—the pressure of pragmatism can test the purest of consciences. At times the price for holding fast to these absolutes can be very high indeed. But ours is not to count the cost. For these moral norms are not our own; rather, they point always beyond us to a law that we did not invent, a law that we cannot change.
An objective morality naturally bespeaks an objective truth, and in an age of ascendant relativism such allegiance should stand as a sign of contradiction. It ought to lead others to ask a question, or at least a different question: not Does it work?, but Is it right? Without a steadfast adherence to the primacy of that latter question, there is no limit on the brute horrors that wait to be unleashed. The past century is nothing if not a stark lesson in how easily utilitarian calculations can, in the name of some greater good, strike at the very roots of human dignity. Such a conviction as to intrinsic wrongs formed a first line of defense in Mockaitis’ pursuit of justice. For the rest of us, it forms a last line of defense against the triumph of moral anarchy.
Read the whole article: Today’s Practical Problem (First Things, May 8, 2009).
hat tip: The Anchoress
It’s not all bleak out there, by any means. Denny Hartford has been spending time with some remarkable young people.
Vital Signs Ministries has a list of books it bills The Pro-Life Indispensables. Over at his book blog, Denny Hartford (the director of Vital Signs Ministries), also recommends Check with Chip on Stem Cell Research, by Chip Maxwell, Executive Director of the Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research.
Over at Lutherans for Life’s “Teaching for Life” page, there’s a link to a pdf listing children’s books and movies and other resources on a variety of pro-life topics. The resource list was compiled by Diane Albers, a kindergarten teacher and the President of Lutherans For Life of Missouri.
At Mommy Life, Barbara Curtis has recommendations for children’s books about disabilities. That post is part of a series, which also includes Down syndrome books for parents and Children’s books on Down syndrome.
I recently got the How Now Shall We Live? Devotional, by Charles Colson with Anne Morse (Tyndale House Publishers, 2004). I (ahem) have been reading it more like a book of short essays and history lessons than a devotional (the devotions are adapted from BreakPoint commentaries), and so I can tell you that there are a number of first-rate pro-life articles in it.
What would you add?
Added: This sounds wonderful and a lot of fun: Clare at A Maiden’s Wreath recommends Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping, by Miriam Lukken.
Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote wise words about the need for joy, and Wittingshire shares some of them.
Anthony Esolen discusses how, so often, ”compassion” has led to murder. A snippet:
Flannery O’Connor once said that without faith we would govern by compassion, and that compassion leads to the gas chamber. We’d do well to ask why that is so, and what it might have to do with the insights of Lewis and Tolkien. That is, we should investigate the motives of those who want to see the world, and man in it, as thoroughly secular, free of the holy.
It is always so with man. I cannot think of a single degradation of our culture that has not come into the room dabbing at its eyes with a handkerchief, pleading for mercy, or pleading for the opportunity to bring mercy — why, joy itself! — to poor unfortunate others. Sharkey shows up at the Shire to help.
Via Mommy Life, actor Gary Graham has finally admitted to himself that abortion is murder, and he’s speaking out against it and against the culture that spawns it. He uses some language that I don’t usually allow under my roof, but, wow, he does get his points across. Good for him.
He admits to having paid for three abortions in his younger days. God grant him mercy, now that he’s repented.
At Books & Culture, Agnes R. Howard reviews Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population, by Matthew Connelly, and Conceiving Parenthood: American Protestantism and the Spirit of Reproduction by Amy Laura Hall. Howard finds quite a bit of fault with Conceiving Parenthood, but also some valuable contributions to the discussion of how we got to a culture that’s steeped in a ”quality control” mindset when it comes to children.
In the sidebar, there was an ad for a book called Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen. (George has been fighting this battle longer than some of us. See, for instance, Infants & Civil Rights, from 2000, in favor of the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.)
Earlier on this blog, a commenter recommended the book Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, by Charles Chaput. Uncommon Knowledge interviewed Chaput in September about the book and related matters.
I haven’t seen any of the above books yet. If you’ve reviewed them, or would like to comment on them, please drop a note/link in the comments box here. Also, if you’ve done reviews or have recommendations on other books that would likely be of interest to other pro-lifers, drop a note in the comments. Comments with multiple links tend to get shunted to the spam queue, so please feel free to make multiple comments, if you’re providing links.