07 November 2017

The Social & Cultural Climate


NB: 1st of 15 (and my second attempt at this series).  A Series of Meditations on the 15 daily intentions offered by members of the Angelic Warfare Confraternity.

We pray that our social and cultural climate may be "purified of everything contrary to chastity". That's a big ask! Several other intercessions will touch on this topic either directly or indirectly, but this one confronts the machinery that sets it all up. I just want to focus on how big an ask it really is.


One way to view each of the 15 prayer intentions is "help me control my response (or addiction) to all this stimulus": I can't control others, but God help me to hold my response in check. 13 of the petitions are about how I interact with the world. This petition is about the world, itself. A drug addict needs to stay away from places where drugs are sold. But if Christians are to serve people, to love what God loves and as He loves, we can't stay away from them. We're not called to some Amish Exclusion Principal, or to live in some M. Night Shyamalan Village. So we start out praying for the world through which we walk and love (never forgetting that to love is to sacrificially will the good of the Other). Praying for social purification is fine: God is the only one who can fix this. But how do we live our prayers?

I worked for a pr0n company once, for less than one month in the mid-1990s. That they objectify some of their employees mean they will objectify all of their employees, trust me on that: the rest of us just didn't get to have pictures taken. However, with a few exceptions, pretty much every company is, somehow, part of the Adult Industries. Do the chain or local bookstores in your area carry Maxime? Do the gas stations or drug stores have Playboy? Is there a dating app on your phone (it's not just for dating, even if you are a Catholic). Does your blogsite get money from advertising and also have "those kinds of photos? Nudge nudge, wink wink. Say no more. Cats and Memes may drive the internet, folks, but they don't pay for it. The real money is in pr0n. Do you have internet? You have pr0n. If you've bought or supported anything on the internet, you've probably done so in a way that directly or indirectly supports adult content, the objectification of men and women and, perhaps, sexual trafficking.

Our objectification of men and women, our impurity extends beyond sex, even though that's what we are focused on. As we're talking about chastity the obvious thing to point at would be pr0n, but I want to down-shade the mega industry by pointing at all the other things that are pr0n-like enough to make them even more concerning. Our entire culture serves as a gateway drug for this wider sort of pr0n, I think:

Food.
Shopping.
Kitteh and Doggo memes.
Politics.
Social Media.
The News Cycle.

It would seem each of the Seven Deadly Sins has its own sort of pr0n.

The secular world posits that these things called "rights" come from states; and states get to make up those rights. That being the case (and there being no God) there's no logical reason to claim my early 21st Century rights are any more or less valid than the idea of rights pitched by Stalin or Margaret Thatcher; people today simply have different rights than people did in Rome or the Antebellum South.

Christians, however, posit a very different idea which comes from the reveled teaching that the human person is the Icon of God: the human person is of intrinsic worth, unrelated to potential production, profit margins, or cultural ideas of sexiness. This intrinsic worth is to be upheld by the state. It is, in fact, why any "secular" authority is allowed by God at all (and since allowed by God, there is no "Secular" authority). Things contrary to this intrinsic worth - even if declared by a state to be "rights" - are null and void at least or mortal sin at worst. This is why we are called to be chaste: to better see the image of God, present in each person, and to more-fully venerate this intrinsic worth (since by doing so we worship God). This is why chastity is so much more than merely sexual purity.

Our entire culture is designed to chop up persons made in God's image and serve them back to us is useful portions. I only need your hands to sew my inexpensive clothing, dear, but I will take your husbands muscles for my farm, or your daughter's breasts for my adult content, or your son's tiny electronics-manipulating fingers for my smart phone.

It's all the same. We may pray for sexual purity in our own self-defense, but the entire culture now (perhaps rather differently from St Thomas' era) is designed to chew up persons and consume them. One of the saints said that we abstain from meat during lent, yet we consume each other with our gossip - and this is not fasting. We abstain from sexual impurity, but we find other ways to consume each other now - I think we fail.

We pray to God for purification, yet where we work, live, shop are all not only filled with temptations to impurity, but also using our money to support the same. When we talk about sexual trafficking and objectification of sex workers, we must also acknowledge all the pornographic parallels: the objectification of farm workers' hands (no less subject to objectification than sex organs), and the sexual trafficking caused by the low wages (in turn caused by shopping for cheap plastic junk at WalMart). It's easy for me to consume a sexual image after I've spent all day consuming other body parts. When we discuss the damage caused to mostly women, but also to men, by the meat market that is the Adult Industries, yet fail to discuss the damage caused by the Meat Market at CostCo, we are missing the boat.

Neither the left nor the right in our politics wants to see that. For the right wants cheap workers and some midcentury Modern moral veneer and the left wants their own moral veneer even though they never think it through logically. Neither one will demand we give up cheap clothes at Forever 21 or cheap plastic junk at WalMart. Neither one will own up to their part in the the NAFTAbation that requires human slaves. Sex traffic, yes: we all agree that sucks. But so does every other sort of traffic. And it all denies the human icon of God which denial we must end, which icon we must restore.

And it is this last - the restoration of the Human Icon of God - that is the real meaning of any "Social Justice" that is authentic. This is what we are praying for, in a wider spectrum. If we work for anything less then we must remember that protest slogan: no one is free when others are oppressed. This is the purpose of our Chastity: the restoration of the icon in us each, as members of the Confraternity. Yet, at the same time, as St Seraphim of Serov said, "Acquire the spirit of peace and thousands around you will be saved." We cannot but love our neighbor as fully. When we show love to our neighbor, we love God. As we love those around us ever more deeply, they, too, shall be saved because, "An army of lovers shall not fail." - Rita Mae Brown.