The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Are You Thankful for Sex?

Posted on | November 25, 2010 | 11 Comments

You’re thinking that Holiday Traffic Suckage Season has gotten the best of me and that, in desperation prompted by Blogger Mood Disorder, I’m about to write a blog post so grossly distasteful as to offend everyone.

And you’re wrong.

In fact, this post was inspired by the Pope, and you can blame none other than Elizabeth Scalia, the Anchoress. In her Thanksgiving linkaround, she linked an article by Ann Arco in the British Catholic Herald:

Humanae Vitae was ‘prophetically right’, says Pope

I am not Catholic — my ancestors were Ulster Scots, and I remain proudly Protestant — but over the years many Catholic readers have been attracted to this blog by my advocacy of a pro-family, pro-life philosophy which owes much to the doctrine expounded in Humanae Vitae. If you have never read it, you certainly should and please note that Humanae Vitae is addressed not merely to Catholics, nor even exclusively to Christians, but “to all men of good will.”

Yet it is a profoundly Christian document, invoking among other texts Ephesians 5:25-33 (“Husbands, love your wives . . .”) and portraying marriage as an institution reflecting the will of the Creator: 

Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.

Notice the rejection of “blind evolution” as an explanation for marriage and the obverse declaration of marriage as a reflection God’s “loving design.” It has become sadly fashionable to sneer at “creationists” without recognizing that this attitude necessarily denies the Creator and entails ingratitude toward the Author of that “loving design.”

Excuse me for being reminded of the joke about the atheist woman who, in the throes of passion, cries out: “Oh, Science!”

Yet it is not merely the atheist who is at peril of judgment, for as Humanae Vitae says, every rejection of the divine design of sexuality “contradicts the will of the Author of life.” And by embracing what has been called the Contraceptive Culture, too many who call themselves Christians have put themselves ” in opposition to the plan of God.”

Recall that Paul VI wrote this in 1968, eight years after the first oral contraceptive was made commercially available in the U.S., at the height of the ridiculous hysteria over “The Population Bomb,” and five years before Roe v. Wade.

As Benedict XVI says, Humanae Vitae was “prophetically right,” because Paul VI clearly warned that the embrace of artificial contraception would “open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” Furthermore, “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and . . . reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

The first headlines sparked by the publication of Peter Seewald’s new book involved some of Benedict XVI’s remarks about condoms that were interpreted as a shift in the Catholic position. (Wrong.) The same headline-mongers have ignored what Benedict XVI told Seewald about Humanae Vitae:

“This approach to fecundity as something apart from sexuality, so far apart that we may even try to produce children rationally and no longer see them as a natural gift, was, after all, quickly followed by the ascription of equal value to homosexuality.”

Separating sex from procreation is unnatural, and thereby inevitably encourages the unbundling of that which God intended to be a single package — love, marriage and sex — so that men and women become alienated from each other. And this alienation didn’t begin with the invention of a pill. It wasn’t the result of Griswold v. Connecticut or Roe v. Wade. Rather the “general lowering of moral standards” and the degradation of women of which Paul VI wrote so “prophetically” began with ingratitude toward God: “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.”

They were not thankful to God, you see, and the consequences were predictable: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools . . . Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.”

Ungrateful to God and unwilling to worship and serve Him, instead they “worshipped and served the creature,” celebrating themselves and their own ungodly desires. This passage (Romans 1:22-25) was a condemnation of pagan idolatry, but always makes me think of our own latter-day idolatry of celebrities, who are admired as “the beautiful people” no matter how ugly their attitudes or behavior might be (cf., Charlie Sheen). When we abandon eternal standards of Truth, we will inevitably begin to judge according to a flawed and false human standard, with evil consequences.

It is one thing, I suggest, to appreciate beauty as part of God’s creation. It is something else entirely to subtract God from that equation, to worship beauty, and thereby deprive God of that worshipful gratitude He alone deserves.

Yet this has been the ascendant attitude in our society for decades, an attitude deeply connected to the Contraceptive Culture. Rather than to love women as wives and mothers — partners whom they “should surround with care and affection” — men have indeed forgotten “the reverence due to a woman, and . . . reduce[d] her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of [their] own desires.”

Feminists have gotten this all wrong. Feminists believe they may make war on the Christian view of marriage and family (a view they commonly denominate “patriarchy” and ignorantly denounce as “misogynistic”) without undermining the attitude of “reverence . . . care and affection” that men ought to have toward women.

“[F]eminist literature has been a remarkably consistent and uninterrupted cacophony of grievance, recrimination, and sexual discontent. In that forty-year record, we find, as nowhere else, personal testimony of what the sexual revolution has done to womankind.”
Mary Eberstadt

What is there, in the rigid egalitarian dogma of feminism, to justify men’s “reverence . . . care and affection” toward women? We aren’t allowed to ask such questions, nor to reflect on what has been lost in the fanatical quest for “equality.”

“The age of chivalry is gone. . . . The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone. It is gone, that sensibility of principle, that chastity of honor, which felt a stain like a wound, which inspired courage whilst it mitigated ferocity, which ennobled whatever it touched . . .”
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

All of this, you see, begins with ingratitude toward God, a rejection of the authority of the Creator. And we know where such ingratitude ultimately leads:

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful . . .

Amid that long roster of vice, we see that horrifying phrase “without natural affection.” The sort of affection that men should have toward their wives, which parents should have toward their children — the sort of unselfish kindness expressed by the Greek word caritas — this is destroyed by an ungrateful rejection of “the will of the Author of life.”

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” — excuse me if that phrase once more reminds me of Charlie Sheen.

He was married to the famously beautiful Denise Richards, with two young children. How many men would crawl through broken glass for such a chance? Yet because he was “without natural affection,” Charlie threw away all the happiness he might have had with his wife and children, and made such a fool of himself that he reportedly spent $3,500 for an evening with a woman he subsequently called “a publicity hungry scam artist” — but not before he allegedly offered her $20,000 to keep quiet about their evening together.

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.”

Having obtained God’s favor — Mrs. Other McCain is definitely a good thing — then I ought to be thankful. And I’m also thankful for our six children, one of whom just came downstairs to tell me, “Mom’s about to put the turkey on the table.”

Thank God. Literally.

UPDATE: The turkey was delicious. Also, if you agree with Benedict XVI, you’re a hater!



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