Monday, 27 February 2012

Temples of the Holy Ghost

It occurred to me this weekend that we get all those chastity lectures in the wrong circumstances. As training for the battle, they fall rather short. Can you imagine if soldiers did all their training in classrooms and auditoriums instead of ever playing war games, climbing over walls and running through the gas hut? How useless they would be!

And yet when we are up against one of the most powerful forces in the universe--sexual attraction--we get a few goodhearted lectures in broad daylight and then sent out to cope without any supervision. Really, we should recreate battlefield conditions for chastity training: dark, drink, hours of conversation with the best looking man/girl around, a sofa.

"McAmbrose! What do you say?"

"I have to go home now, SIR!"

"I can't hear you, McAmbrose!"


My guess is that many of my readers are really solid on chastity theory but just not as brilliant in the field. But I am not blaming you but chastity lecturers, who lack imagination and talk too much.

One of the mistakes of chastity lecturers is to assume that girls and women don't want to engage in sexual activity, but are interested only in getting attention, and all they need is enough self-esteem to tell the monsters pawing at them to leave them alone. Now, my guess is that this may true for the under-16 set, particularly the under-14 set, but it is not so true for the over-16 set, whose crafty little bodies have but one thought and one thought alone, which is to reproduce.

The brains in the crafty little bodies may think they are up to something completely different from reproduction, but they are not in charge. The hormones are in charge. The sneaky bodies control the hormones, and this is one reason why Old Time Religion doesn't seem to like bodies and wants to fast them into submission. Look at poor old Saint Augustine wondering why his body will not do what his brain wants, but quite the other way around.

So it really is quite foolish to pretend that girls and women over 15 or 16 have only lustful boys to battle when, in fact, their principal enemies are themselves. Usually Single women do not want to reproduce, but that is what their bodies are after, and so the bodies scheme against the brains, and ordinarily chaste, continent women discover that the unthinkable has suddenly become thinkable. "Good heavens," they think, startled by the onslaught of sweet, sweet dopamine, "Were Moses, St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Maria Goretti, St. Edith Stein and Blessed John Paul II wrong all along?"

"McAmbrose! What did Saint Maria Goretti say about mortal sin?"

"SIR! She said it was better to die than to commit a mortal sin, SIR!"

"McAmbrose! I am not convinced by your tone. Which pontiff ruled that prolongued premarital kissing was itself a serious sin?"

"Alexander VII, SIR!"

"WHOOOO did you say?"

"Alexander SEVENTH, SIR!"

"Get out of that car and give me 100 push-ups."

The best safeguard of chastity is humility, I heard somewhere or other, which is why it is better to face up to the fact that, although one has managed to look like an angel of purity and innocence, one is actually a normal fallen human being. Obviously you can't go around telling men that, since it spooks the little darlings*, but you have to tell yourself that and take all due precautions.

Take, for example, my new sisterhood, married ladies. You would think that married ladies, having our own nice (we hope) men at home, would simply become non-combatants in the battle against the world, the flesh and the devil, and never again reflect upon the fact that men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. But this is not so. Years ago, whenever I made visits to a married friend, she always asked me searching questions about her ex-boyfriend and eventually told me about her crush on a sportscaster. These confidences were in hushed, excited tones, as if my pal had been storing them up until she could tell a woman who would not say, "But you're married!". Quite obviously she could not simply call up her ex-boyfriend and suggest coffee, or figure out a way to meet the sportscaster. Ah ha ha ha. No.

The spirit of "But you're married!" helps keep married women in line, but perhaps this is a subject for another post. It is my Single reader I am thinking of today, particularly the kind who has always grieved for Single friends who have inexplicably fallen off the chastity bandwagon but is now herself assailed with temptations that, having shown up in person, don't FEEL like temptations but The Right Thing To Do. And so I channel to Saint Paul, the ultimate chastity speaker, who got right to the heart of things:

19. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

20. For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.

(1 Corinthians 19-20, KJV)

In other words, Saint Paul doesn't give a tinker's damn if temptations feel like the right thing to do. First of all, feelings are not facts. And second, you have no right to do them. Your body, including your sweet, sweet dopamine, does not belong to you but to God. Now get off that sofa, soldier, and give me 100.

*Especially the ones who have virgin-whore complexes. Oooh la la!


Sarah said...

I really enjoyed this post. What we're given to avoid sexual sin just isn't enough. Also, I am really tired of having the superficial guilt and shame because /women just don't do that!!/ stacked up on the normal shame of sin when I'm weak in chastity.

Bijou said...

This is a good post. The theory-vs.-practice issue is challenging. I've slipped up on boundaries in the past despite having thought my theory was rock-solid. Now that I've recently met a CB who seems to be very N and interested in me, I'm a little nervous that I could mess up again.

Not to get ahead of myself, but I know that if I were to go out with this guy a few times, spend time getting to know each other better, and then start liking him more, and THEN he tries to kiss me (which is a maybe that he would try, but knowing guys, Catholic or not, it could happen), I am supposed to do what? Trust and plan that in that moment I will have the restraint to avoid it (for example by substituting a hug), or only smooch for a second? I don't feel sure that I can do that. So should I not date until I do think I have more restraint? (For the record I'm 29, and it seems like a tall order.) I respect and appreciate this person and how he has treated me so far, so I'm going to try really hard to put him and that respect ahead of anything else I might be feeling at any time.

Still, to be honest, if the situation comes up, I'm going to want to kiss this guy back, and probably more than a quick peck. So I don't know what to tell myself now or in that moment, if it even happens. Seraphic I might be remembering this wrong, but I thought your stance on affection-related advice used to be more liberal? Or am I mistaken? You weren't kidding when you said it was difficult.

Seraphic said...

Bijou, my stance on affection-related advice...I don't think I had one before I got married because, in general, I dislike jawing about chastity. And I wouldn't be doing it now if I hadn't got soooo many letters from NCGs who "made mistakes."

It would be silly not to go out to supper or to a film with some guy because you're worried about how much restraint you have--unless you're married to someone else, of course. (If there's any doubt there whatsoever, then you certainly can't hang out with the man at all.)

If someone kisses you, it is perfectly possible to smooch for only a second and then tear yourself away. I feel sure you can do that. Anyone can do that. It's called free will. As intoxicating as it is, you have to tell the dopamine right up and at once that you are the boss of you. (Again, it's a shame we don't get supervised training for this in the field.)

Really, you have to draw a line to yourself and tell yourself that you're going to stick to it, and think about how to help yourself stick to it. You can avoid having long conversations in cars, for example.

And if you end up having The Talk with your NCB, you can stress that you expect him to stick to the line, too. NCBs still seem to assume that it's the NCG's job to police the line, and even that it's her fault if she agrees to cross it, which is seriously unfair, especially today.

Once upon a time, there was a widely held opinion that Nice Girls didn't do this and Nice Girls didn't do that, so it was easier for girls to say "No" when their dopamine levels wanted them to say "Yes."

These days, however, the zeitgeist of the world is that Nice Girls Can (and maybe Should) Do Everything (as long as they are contracepted up to the eyeballs), which makes it a lot harder on girls to say "No."

Meanwhile, I mean what I say. We can talk such a good game, and read our "Theology of the Body" books, and be sad when our friends who were complaining about how their boyfriends were pressuring them suddenly stop talking about it, but unless we can say "No" when we want to say "Yes", then what was the point?

We need to have humility but we also have to have courage too. On the one hand, we have to recognize that sexual attraction is a very powerful force. But on the other hand, we have to determine that we are in charge of our bodies, not the other way around, and that we can and will have properly ordered relationships with men.