Entering into one the many New York subway cars that service millions of locals, tourists, and everyone in between will very quickly make clear the surrounding culture’s attitude toward human sexuality and the body itself. The ads one will find range from invitations to females who are dissatisfied with the size of their breasts to get an augmentation for “a price that can’t be beat!”, a challenge to men whose muscle mass is significantly less than that of a (scantily clad) fitness model to “beef up” and impress the ladies (and men?) at the beach this summer, an offer for reduced admission to the Museum of Sex in which you can jump around in a vagina-shaped “bouncy castle” structure, or a warning to young homosexual black men to “play sure” and obtain free condoms and HIV testing, compliments of the NYC Health Department. Needless to say, this “playful” attitude toward the expression of sexual desire and ever constant sense of improvement that is imposed upon our body image makes it difficult for those who desire to live a calling to conform the expression of their sexual desires to a more full and pure ideal.
NYC Health Department
Being a young male, regardless of the era in which he grows into his manhood, will experience the path of chastity as a cross—full of self-mortification and a pouring out of self that exceeds our human capacity to love. Every young man, and woman, will fall several times while carrying this cross on their journey to a mature and well-integrated faith life. And the sexually permissive and morally lax culture in which we currently are living will only worsen the stumbling and falling while walking. One can barely walk for a full sixty seconds in Manhattan without being barraged by some indecent image that reduces another human being to an object for instinctual consumption, or that guilts us for not having a body type that fits an aesthetic ideal fit only for Adonis and Venus.
“Is it too late to say sorry…” for not being able to afford the Photoshop package that they used for JB’s Calvin Klein ad?
And yet another temptation makes its way into our path toward chastity, this timed appearing in the form of pride. While it is natural (note-lowercase ‘n’) to an extent to experience lustful desires, it becomes exceedingly easy to perceive the indulgence of these lustful desires as a capitulation to false ideologies and agendas. It could be said that when a young man with same sex attraction makes use of the “Grindr” app to engage in fornication, or a young lady searches for pornographic images on her Instagram feed, that are indeed giving into a new cultural paradigm that conceives of sexuality as amoral and a mere “expression of (a disembodied) self.” These sins take on a new dimension of distortion when one allows his intellectual pride to be hurt because he is giving into actions that are bound up in the ideology of the secular culture. “I’m one of them,” one might lament in shame. “I’m giving into a cultural paradigm that I am superior to and distinct from!” As much as promoting such ideologies, as does our secular culture, is problematic, to identify oneself as “above” or “better than” very easily morphs into the sin of pride.
Other than the effects of mortal sin upon the person’s relationship with God, what other effects do such sins of pride have? For one, it contributes to a mentality that religious people, and anyone who seeks to live chastely for that matter, think they are better than others and are always judging those who are “beneath them.” While ideologies of sin are indeed more dangerous than sin itself, we cannot escape the reality that we are all sinners, regardless of our beliefs or ideological commitments. And the only authentic and plausible way to live the truth of one’s identity chastely is to acknowledge oneself as a sinner who is in need of grace and salvation. So while we may feel a sense of guilt for living like “them,” we ought to recognize that we actually are “them”: we are like everyone else in the culture because of the fact that we are sinners who need redemption. A true witness is not one who elevates himself into the stratus of “better than thou,” but who lives with an awareness of the discrepancy between his desire for holiness and his limited capacity to achieve it by his own efforts.