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Monday, November 18, 2013

Abstemiousness, Erotophobia, and Anhedonia, use all of these words in a sentence.

One struggle that American society wrestles with is the prudishness and anhedonic attitudes we have towards sexuality and, to a lesser extent, alcohol.  While the USA has absorbed many cultures that don't have these attitudes, the old prudishness rises to the top like some ungodly cream from the milk of a depressed cow. Shame is a powerful weapon, and since most cultures do have some taboos regarding sexuality, it is a button that American culture has been able to press on most of its immigrants up until now. 

Of course, it didn't help that our nearest relations are the English, who birthed the Puritan Movement that embodied these attitudes and then gave us the Victorian attitudes that were akin to Spartans' (minus the nudity).  What this has done, with the help of Augustinianism and profound distortions of Christian tradition, is made sex and joy something that we should feel guilty about even when we are doing it 'right.'

Our erotophobia has left us uncomfortable with discussing sex with our children, obscuring its natural role and making it seem dirty and disgusting.  Yes, there are certain aspects of sexuality that are clumsy and awkward.  But, it is part of what God created.

Sex is a gift.  So is wine...

And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart. (Psalm 104:15)

Yes, God is OK with us getting a little buzz.  To the Puritan, this was akin to saying that God permits fornication and murder.  Alcohol use, while rampant in the UK, was seen by the religious zealots that emigrated to American as a sin.  So, when we drink, we do so to excess, having violated the taboos with the first sip,so why stop?

If you travel as an American to Europe, one of the first things you notice is how much folks drink.  In fact, European drinking could be, in an American context, considered alcohol abuse.  To them, we look like abstemious zealots who can't hold our liquor.

Our prudish attitudes are not healthy.  Not everyone who drinks heavily is an alcoholic, nor is everyone who has sexual desires a pervert.  Our stigmatization of these has led to more problems of guilt and shame, which in themselves cause us to abuse these natural gifts.

So, what is really going on?  Why are American colleges becomes cesspools of depravity, while so-called Christians have nothing to offer but 'no'?

The answer is plain: American society has, at all levels, bought into the idea that marriage and real family life is to be put off as far as possible from puberty.  Given that males and females begin to have their strongest urges for sex during this period where culture now tells them they are not 'ready,' they react by 'acting out' in ways that old-school American puritanism finds even more offensive.

We are telling young adults that their natural desires to be married (companionship, relationship, etc.) must be stifled and neglected, then we add to that the cutting off of their sexual desires.  We add the further mixed message that 'early marriage is bad.'  Then, when young people struggle with this unnatural condition, we condemn them.

Internet pornography, the 'hook-up' culture, the abuse of drugs and alcohol... all of these are ways that young people cope with the burdens that our society, with its expectation that everyone must waiting until their mid-30s to get married, yokes them with.  So-called Christians buy into this nonsense, and then add another layer of condemnation to make young people feel guilty when they fail to control their overwhelming natural urges.

When young people do the right thing and marry early (by modern standards), we do little to help them.  We make divorce easy and repercussion-free, and so they bail on the relationship because they've bought into the lie that marriage is about your romantic feelings rather than something more profound.  Again, so-called Christians are busy talking about 'Jesus saves' and speak little about the crosses that all of us must bear.  Christianity without ascetic struggle and self-sacrifice is no Christianity at all.

That's not to say that so-called Christians are entirely alone in this Puritanical monstrosity of modern life.  Feminism is the ultimate form of Puritanism, where women are expected to suppress their natural femininity and sexual desires, including the desire to be mothers, to fit into some strange gendermorphic existence as a pseudo-man.

The hipster movement is the natural reaction, where men become pacified and feminine, trying to look as cuddly and soft even with a beard and carefully-managed unkempt appearance.  Men are afraid to be men, because the repercussions range from mandatory sensitivity training to being fired and sued for harassment.  Yes, there is genuine harassment, but how much of that would go away if we returned to traditional gender roles, and men were expected to treat ladies like ladies?

We send out confusing signals: women are equal to men, but if you really treat them that way, they are too weak to bear it.

Feminism is the fullness of this insanity, and it relies on Puritanical intolerance to make its weird ideas work.  It is its own form of Fundamentalism, castrating both women and men.  Behind it is pornography, alcoholism and drug abuse as people of both genders fight their own nature in order to meet its expectations.

Just in case you are wondering, I'm also not buying into the pop-theology movement that brow-beats women into acting like Barbie dolls for their husbands or urges men to treat their wives like five-year-olds.  I think those are horrid ideas.  Men and women have differences, but their humanity is equal.

What I am saying is that many of our addictions problems are because we are trying to turn off our normality.  We have stigmatized it and, when we break with the natural order, we have created such a dam of shame and guilt that it is very hard for young people to recover.  They are washed away on a tidal wave of pent-up urges, and blown even further off course by Puritanical rage.

We need to stop building dams and, when people fail, bring them back with love rather than subjecting them to over-the-top condemnation.

I don't wonder why there is such a depraved culture these days.  In fact, I often wonder how on earth so many young people remain functional at all.

Self-control is an important part of happiness, yet it is not the whole deal.  These days, we live in extremes of either complete suppression or reckless abandonment of self-control.  As a result, we either use in excess or not at all.  Like throwing a 'super-ball' in an elevator, we ricochet back and forth between extremes, never knowing the truth joy that we can have by existing according to our true nature in union with God.

Addicts really have a difficult time learning to be happy, and this is made worse by so much of modern society, which demands of us conformity to expectations that lead to unhappiness.  I would go as far as to say that we are truly lost because we let the squeakiest wheels, those who are the most unhappy, to dictate our social expectations.

Unhappy people are only good at being unhappy.  Don't expect them t know how to get out of their unhappiness by themselves, because if they could, they would not be unhappy.  Happy people, even when saddled with heavy burdens, still find ways to be happy and optimistic.  They are also free of hatred of others.

We all need to abandon our fears of real joy and embrace what is good.  We must return to our nature, which can only be found in union with God.

Please pardon the rambling here.  I will try to unpack this all in further posts, and perhaps then what I am saying will make more sense.

1 comment:

  1. A couple books that take on these topics are "Daring Greatly" by Brene Brown and "Kosher Sex" by Rabbi Shumley Boteach. Also a blog by Dr. Kelly Flanagan called "Untangled".