Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fairer sex
There is no love without vulnerability*

Baptist pastor Bob Bixby today takes a page from George Gilder's book to note the unexpected fallout of the sexual revolution.

He writes in an online article, "Women who sought so long to be freed from men are now finding that there are no men from whom to be liberated!"

While I think Bixby's level of cynicism about his own sex is over the top, his observations echo a bitter comment made to me last week by a man in Sydney, that the same women who, in their thirties, complain that there are "no good men" spent their twenties corrupting men. It's no wonder, he said, that men are reluctant to settle down after having been made to feel disposable by women who wanted them sexually but insisted on delaying marriage and kids.

The Catholic young-adult community in Australia seems particularly hard hit by women's buying into the feminist ideal of "freedom," which requires them to refuse to marry until they have proven they are emotionally and economically able to survive without a spouse. I met a number of faithful, intelligent Catholic men during my short time there who, while not as openly resentful as the one who complained of being corrupted, seemed more ready to settle down than many of their female counterparts. I think the Germaine Greer influence must still be strong there, which perhaps also explains why women there took so readily to "Sex and the City."

Having now traveled literally around the world to see the supposedly liberating effects of a de-Christianized sexual culture, I am still waiting to find women who genuinely seem happy in their supposed freedom. Instead, they are experiencing the spiritually stifling effects of "a freedom without responsibilities"—what Pope John Paul II aptly termed "utilitarianism ... the opposite of love."

Attempting to bond sexually without the protection of marital commitment—which, for all its faults, remains far more secure than relationships lacking such vows—leaves them without a net. In order to survive an environment where there are so many opportunities for them to use or be used, they necessarily become hardened, and so are less able to let love in.

By contrast, I often meet young women, particularly in their late teens and early twenties, who are not only countering the culture in striving to live chastely, but are downright joyful about it. I was reminded of this when meeting 20-year-old Ruth Russell and some of her contemporaries in Sydney last week. They know that the road they have chosen is not easy, but they have seen the damage that "going with the flow" does to their peers. It helps that they actively seek like-minded fellowship, encouraging one another and evangelizing those around them with their witness at least as much as their words.

These chaste twentysomethings have an advantage in that they are children of the children of the JP2 generation, so they tend to get reinforcement from their families. However, the generation of women who came just before them—those in their thirties and older—were catechized by the culture, not the Church—or, rather, their churches and families caved to the culture. They were sold a bill of goods by their feminist forebears and have nothing spiritually meaningful to show for it. It is those women in particular who are the so-called lost generation I had in mind in writing my book.

I don't think it's at all too late for my thirty-plus generation, or their male counterparts who have lived "the life," to share the joy of our younger brethren. But to get there, we all need to seriously think about how our actions have affected those around us, and resolve to treat others as we would be treated ourselves. That means being willing to admit that we cannot control how the person we would like to love will respond to us. It means being soft-hearted instead of hard-bitten. It means being willing to begin to love, chastely, at the risk of not receiving love in return.

*Edited and amended since original post—timestamp shows when last edited. Last added the paragraph beginning, "Attempting to bond sexually ..."