Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TOB Tuesd- um Wednesdays! TOB and Same-sex 'Marriage' or Would you serve 10W30 or 10W40 With Veal?

So last week, I addressed Theology of the Body and marriage. As an addendum, I guess, I feel it is important to talk about Same-sex 'marriage' in regard to TOB. To be succinct as possible, it simply cannot and does not exist.
According to God's plan for marriage in the bible, it must have four elements.

Marriage must be free, total, faithful and fruitful.

If you think about it, same-sex 'marriage' is not free since it is based on a compulsion toward distorted sexual desires. It is not total in that one is really not giving anything of himself, sexually speaking, to the other person. It obviously is not fruitful, as a same-sex couple cannot produce offspring. I know that technology has provided an illusion of this, but biologically, as our bodies are designed, it is impossible. And although these relationships may be faithful with regard to fidelity, since they are based on selfish and distorted sexual desires, the role of the other partner could be filled by anyone. Without the possibility of children there is nothing to tie the two together by singular roles within the family.

I know that some people will say that it is about the love that the two people share and not just about intercourse. As I mentioned in my marriage post, the major difference between friendship and marriage, is the marital union of the bodies into 'one flesh'. It is sexuality. And the meaning and purpose of sex is to point us toward our spiritual union with God. It is to be an unselfish exchange of total persons in a life-giving union. By that definition, the only true definition, members of the same sex cannot even truly have intercourse. When those desires are turned toward nothing more than physical satisfaction, they become by nature, selfish and twisted in on oneself. This is the case with addiction to pornography and masturbation. So by that definition, when two people of the same gender have 'sex' it is really no more than mutual masturbation.

I am sure that these statements are going to cause some controversy, and possibly lose me some friends, but in the end, I can only express what I know as truth. And I know there are many arguments that people will make for same-sex 'marriage' but those do not change the reality that marriage began as a religious institution that the state decided to recognize (and charge licensure fees for). That does not, inherently, give 'the state' the right to re-define the reality of what a marriage is. (Perhaps they got cocky when the re-defined murder as 'choice').
More importantly to me, marriage, by my faith, is not just a legal contract, it is a covenant, a sacrament, a sacred calling, a vocation. People will say I don't have the right to 'impose my will' upon others, and thanks to the system we live under that is correct and a wonderful thing. That does not mean that I cannot voice my dissent when somebody tries to twist something that is important to me into what it is not because they think they have a right to it.

Again, many will disagree with me, and legislatures will do what they will do (generally what is politically expedient to bring in money or save their jobs) but no matter what the state says marriage is, it does not change the reality. In the end, it is one woman and one man, brought together to share in God's miracle of creation. What I've written here are my beliefs based on what I have learned marriage is. I have friends that will agree, and I have friends that will disagree. When it comes down to it, we all have one voice. I hope we can express ourselves civilly, and if we disagree, we can at least learn about the views on the other side.

I don't want people to think that I am unfeeling about those with same-sex attraction, by the way. I cannot imagine the struggle they go through each day if they are fighting those desires and I do not envy their call either. We are all called to chastity, even within marriage (chastity- a call toward purity of heart) but for those with same-sex attraction, the call to chastity is a call to celibacy. In it, there is opportunity to give the gift of oneself in other ways, but it has to be a very difficult call. Most of the people with these desires have been told by our new modern society that it is okay to act upon them and that it is okay to use their sexuality this way. These people probably do not agonize over a desire to live chastely. It is their choice and some may say it is not loving of me to point out that it is the wrong choice. But if your neighbor was doing something against the body's original design, such as, drinking motor oil, wouldn't it be the loving thing for you to inform him that 10W30 is not good for the digestive tract? I know the analogy is a bit different as there are certain and immediate consequences to drinking motor oil, but in the end, it is basically just stating that someone is not using their body as it was intended. And if your neighbor, after you tell him, continues chugging 10W30, then you love him anyway and help him when he gets sick.

Thank you for reading this far.

God bless,


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

TOB Tuesday! or 'Mawwiage is what bwings us togethaaah today.'

So a little while ago, in my post about Theology of the Body, I mentioned that I would be taking some time to address TOB as it relates to some specific subjects and church teaching. In an effort to actually do this, I have decided to institute, 'TOB Tuesdays' (although I'm sure that I will most likely be posting them in the wee, small, hours of Wednesdays). In this, the first 'TOB Tuesday, I have decided to tackle a topic that I covered fairly well in my initial post, but that needs a little more fleshing out.


When we think about marriage, what images pop into our heads? Some people reflect on their wedding day. Others think of some sort of pent up resentment that they are holding toward their spouse. Some people think it's just a piece of paper. I have heard it referred to as 'living together with a lawyer'. And the great Groucho Marx once quipped, "Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?"

When I said I was getting married, I had a friend suggest to me, "Why do you wanna do that? After marriage it's just kids, and then all that's left is death!"

So marriage has not gotten a good rap through the years. Do phrases like, "the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and then the suffering." or "the old ball and chain" ring a bell?

They do not evoke the beautiful, 'happily ever after' image at all. It is like you are willingly giving up every bit of yourself, tying yourself to another person forever and in the bargain, you get to raise a bunch of kids! It will comfort you to know that according to Theology of the Body, marriage is nothing like that! Well, except for the willingly giving up every bit of yourself, tying yourself to your spouse forever, and raising a bunch of kids part.

You see, in the Bible, marriage is a pretty important thing. The Bible begins with a wedding (Adam and Eve), then Jesus performs his first miracle, beginning His public ministry, at the wedding feast at Cana, and the Bible ends with the wedding feast of the Lamb in revelation, where the Lamb and His church join together in full communion for eternity.

These three events actually map out God's plan for marriage quite well. But first, we need to address exactly what it is that makes a marriage different from all of the other relationships in our lives. After all, married people share each other's dreams and hopes, they love each other and want what's best for the other person. All of these are qualities of friendship, and very important to marriage, but not really exclusive to it. All of the things I just listed, I have shared with friends and family for my whole life. I can express all of my hopes, dreams and fears to any number of friends, including my wife, but there is only one of these people I give myself to totally, and that is my wife. And what is it that I share with my wife that I cannot share with any of these other people I love so much? It is simple. It is my sexuality. That is what makes marriage different from all of our other relationships, and that is what constitutes giving ourselves totally to another.

Without sexuality and sexual desire, there would be no marriage. When God created Adam, he was alone, there was no other creature like him, and it made no sense to him. His body was inscrutable on its own. It was only when he saw Eve that Adam finally felt the joy of being who he was. The joy of being a man, made in God's image, for the purpose of unity! Adam and Eve were the original image of God's plan for marriage and sexuality. They were able to see each other as total beings, body, spirit, flesh and divinity all together, given as a gift to the other. This union, this 'giving of the total gift' of oneself, was designed, by its very nature to be fruitful. A husband and wife give themselves to each other in such a powerful exchange of love, that sometimes, 40 weeks later, you have to give it a name! The Lord also designed Adam and Eve for freedom, because He knows that love cannot be demanded. Adam and Eve were so free in fact, that they were able to go against God's wishes, which led to the temptation and the fall of man. The fall led to one of the other failings in Adam and Eve's marriage, and that was faithfulness. While they were free to disobey God's instruction, they were supposed to be faithful to Him and each other. Where was Adam when Eve was being tempted by the serpent? Shouldn't he have been protecting her? And then when they got caught, he threw her under the bus immediately:

"The woman whom you put here with me- she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate it." (Gen. 3:12)

 They were not faithful to God, or each other. So in Adam and Eve, we see the first marriage and the original intent for its foundation, (even though it was torn asunder by temptation and man not trusting God's plan). Husband and wife, FREE to make a TOTAL gift of themselves and be FAITHFUL to a FRUITFUL union between the man, the woman, and God.

Jesus was also an image of marriage for us. But wait, Jesus was not married. How could He be an example of marriage to us? In Jesus and His relationship with His Church, we see a perfect example of what marriage is supposed to be. Throughout the gospels, Jesus refers to Himself as 'the bridegroom' and His life is a perfect sacrifice for His bride, the Church. St. Paul clarifies this relationship for us in his often misunderstood letter to the Ephesians. He starts by saying that wives and husbands should be subordinate to each other out of reverence for Christ, and then he opens the floodgates of wrath from all of the modern feminists by saying:

"Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, just as Christ is the head of the church, he himself the savior of her body." (Eph. 5:22-23)

 O....M.....Gosh! Did he just say what I think he did? Yes, wives are to be subordinate to their husbands. And that is where the 'tolerant', 'open-minded', 'accepting' critics of this passage leave off. But what is St. Paul's guidance to husbands? This is so good, I'm going to quote the whole thing....

"Husbands love your wives even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."
(Eph. 5:25-30)

WOW! We, as husbands are to love our wives as Christ loved the church. Christ died for his church! He handed himself over, was tortured, beaten and humiliated before being put to death for His church. So in Christ and the church, we are given another example of marriage. Christ's love for His church was epitomized in His passion and sacrifice for her. He gave Himself TOTALLY, even to His brutal scourging and death. He gave Himself FREELY:

 "This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father." (Jn. 10:17-18)

He gave Himself FAITHFULLY. Unlike Adam and Eve, who turned on God and each other, Christ did not back down when He was tempted or even when He was in agony. Even in His prayer in the garden at Gethsemane, He said:

 "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will, but what you will." (Mk. 14:36)

And most gloriously, Jesus' sacrifice for the church was FRUITFUL. For in His sacrifice, Christ conquered death itself. Taking all of our sin upon His shoulders, so that we could share in the Father's mercy and be given new life through Him. In dying on the cross, Christ made us all the children of God, brothers and sisters in His love.

So Jesus' relationship and sacrifice for the church, is the perfect example of the foundation that was established with Adam and Eve, but where they failed, He endured, thus redeeming this relationship and showing it in its purest form.
Jesus also spoke about marriage directly. When asked about divorce, Christ said: 

"Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate."  (Mt. 19:4-6),
and goes on to say,
 "Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery."  (Mt. 19:8-9).

In this passage, Jesus affirms that Moses allowed divorce because of our fallen nature and that marriage was not meant to be like that. He confirms that it was supposed to be a total and faithful covenant between husband and wife lasting until death. 

So we have the foundation for marriage and its original intention damaged by Adam and Eve's inability to resist temptation, and a long period of struggling before we have the perfect example of spousal love in Jesus and His sacrifice for His church. But what Theology of the Body teaches is that as wonderful as the spousal union and the expression of our sexuality within marriage are, it is simply a foretaste of what awaits us when Christ and His church are brought into total union at the wedding feast of the Lamb. And before you ask, no, the wedding feast of the Lamb is not a giant orgy. The reason that our physical, spousal union is but a foretaste, is that the union that Christ and His church will have is a joy beyond our human understanding. It is a union not simply on a physical level, but on a spiritual level that we cannot yet comprehend.

So what we are left with as the TOB teaching on marriage is that as man and woman, our bodies were created with a purpose and a message that points us toward union with another. On Earth, that union is called marriage and consists of making a gift of yourself to your spouse. Marriage is meant to be free, in that you give the gift of yourself willingly. It is to be total, in that you hold no part of yourself back from your spouse. It is to be faithful, meaning that it is marked by fidelity and is life-long. And it is to be fruitful, meaning it is open to God's plan for new life. Marriage is one of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. Which means by its very definition that it is a physical sign of a spiritual truth. It is a union on Earth, pointing us toward a union in Heaven.

Is marriage an institution like Groucho Marx said? No, marriage is an institution, created by God as a sign of what we were made for.

So is marriage just a piece of paper, like a contract, concerned with what you get out of it? No, marriage is a covenant, life-long, unbreakable, and totally dependent on what you put into it.

See, it's just like I said at the beginning. Marriage is willingly giving up every bit of yourself, tying yourself to another person forever and in the bargain, you get to raise a bunch of kids!

What an awesome gift God has given us!

God bless,



Saturday, July 2, 2011

Fathers and Daughters or The Practicality of an Electric Fence and a Shotgun

For Father's Day, my wife bought me a great book called, 'Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters', by Meg Meeker MD. The book goes through ten 'secrets every father should know' about raising daughters. I'm about halfway through and it is scaring the hell out of me! Truthfully, so far I have found most of the father-daughter relationship information fairly intuitive. The fact that girls can see their daddies as their heroes and that I need to model the way she should be treated by her boyfriends and husband because she will compare them to me (for better or for worse) is no great surprise. These things are daunting, but do not come as a shock. I mean, as a man, I have taken cues from my parents' relationship (for better or worse) and carried them into my expectations of, and behavior in, my marriage.
What I am most terrified about is the statistics in the book. The author is a pediatrician and quotes statistics that would (and probably should) terrify any parent of a daughter.

We are raising our girls in a world where:

1 in 5 Americans over age 12 tests positive for genital herpes
11.9 percent of females will experience forced intercourse
40.9 percent of girls aged 14 to 17 experience unwanted sex
11.5 percent of high school girls attempted suicide in 2005
10000 teens PER DAYcontract a new STD
90 percent of eating disorders occur in girls age 12 to 25

And those are just some of the hard studies. Girls are entering puberty earlier than they were a generation or two ago (as early as age 9). Just take a look around at the messages and images young girls are getting, even passively in the room when tv is on, let alone the younger and younger dissemination of sexual 'education' that they are in no way mature enough to understand.

This is definitely a world where girls need their daddies to be heroes and protectors. They need us to step up and keep them safe. Now as reassuring as it would be to just erect a gigantic electric fence, sit by the gate with a shotgun and call it a day, the possibility of 'locking up our daughters' is neither practical, nor any way to treat someone whom you love more than your own life. So we need another way to protect them.

The positive side of the studies in this book is that by being engaged, interested, caring.....  basically by being loving fathers, we can make a huge difference in our daughters' lives. But, there are more messages out there that are bound to make that a bit of a fight for us. Anyone who has watched tv in the last, oh, 20-30 years can't help but notice a shift in the portrayal of dads on tv. Where we used to have Charles Ingalls, we replaced him with Al Bundy. Where Cliff Huxtable once tread, we have Homer Simpson shuffling (and drooling). Where Mike Brady would engage his kids and teach them something, we have Peter Griffin, need I say more?

The father in many modern tv shows has become little more than another sight gag, valuable to the plot, perhaps, but portrayed as a bumbling ass so that even when he gets things right, it's mostly by accident (think of Tim Taylor and Ray Barone). Fatherhood has been marginalized as men have been perceived in some sort of suspended adolescence. We are shown as slaves to our own desires and impulses. We are portrayed as selfish morons who begrudgingly put up with our wives and children in between golf games, sporting events and trips to the strip club. It is not a good picture. And although I'm sure there are some who are happy to accept and wallow in this example, judging by all of the dads I know, it is not an accurate picture. It is also the last thing our families need.

What our families need is heroes. They need us to be bold. We must be the head of the family, but also the servant of our family. We must be warriors for the protection of our loved ones. I don't mean warriors in the sense that we are armed with weapons, picking fights or waging war on a society fraught with danger at every step. We need to be spiritual warriors.

Allow me to explain this a little further. I have a first degree black belt in two separate styles of traditional karate-do. I studied those styles for almost eight years, yet I have never been in a fight. The training I did, if necessary, could have kept me from physical harm. However, what I learned in my training, is that the self-defense 'warrior' is really more internal. It was more  in the way I carried myself, or being aware of my surroundings. All the time being confident that I could keep myself from harm if it were warranted.

These are the warriors that our families need. They need us to be strong, humble, caring, protective, and confident. They need us to listen, to set guidelines and be clear in our expectations. But most of all, they need us to be examples. Whether you have sons or daughters, you need to be an example of what a good man is. You need to show how a good man treats his wife, how he works for his family, how he listens and guides his children. Your sons will look to you as a mark of how they should behave and relateas they become husbands and fathers. Your daughters will gauge the way their boyfriends and husbands are treating them, by the example they saw at home.

We can't allow our role to be marginal. Our role can make a tremendous difference in the lives of our loved ones. This should be elementary, no-brainer kind of stuff. But as we are moving into the time when fathers have been trained in manhood by the television and we are battling the tide of irrelevance in the messages our own children receive, our job is not made any easier.

Might I suggest we follow the example of St. Joseph. When he brought Mary to Bethlehem, heavy with child, and there was no place for them to stay, he persisted and did the best he could for his family. When God's messenger told him to leave for Egypt at once, he did, without hesitation. He was a strong man, a humble man, willing to give of himself for his family and willing to listen to the word of God. Ask him to pray on our behalf that our Father in Heaven will provide these gifts and graces to us.

...and to quote another tv show from long ago, "Let's be careful out there!"

God bless,