|This T Shirt celebrates the more traditional campus hook up culture.|
One of the stories I haven't posted on, but was really interested in was the talk given by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson to the New Ways Ministry National Symposium recently held in Baltimore. In his speech to the Conference Robinson broached the approach to sexual morality that I have advocated for decades. It's the relational approach which places 'thee' before 'me'. The NCR just posted an editorial endorsing this approach. The following are two excerpts which I found most important in the editorial:
Rather than trying to discern good or bad in objective acts -- was this act unitive and open to procreation? -- look at how the intentions and circumstances surrounding what a person does or doesn’t do lead toward or away from loving deeply. “Sexual acts are pleasing to God when they help to build persons and relationships, displeasing to God when they harm persons and relationships,” he writes.
Rather than narrowly focused attention on a few explicit Bible verses devoted to sexual morality, use the best of scripture scholarship to understand the Bible as the unfolding story of a journey, the spiritual journey of the people of God. No single verse or collection of verses can be seen as the final word of God on a subject, Robinson writes.
Then there is this towards the end of the editorial:
Unlike sex centered on “me,” our new Christian sexuality, centered on the other, would respond to the deepest longings of the human heart, promote commitment between people, cherish the long process of relationship-building and foster community.
In the end, Robinson is making a profoundly traditional suggestion about sexuality, because what he proposes is rooted in genuine personal responsibility. He writes: “Many would object that what I have proposed would not give a clear and simple rule to people. But God never promised us that everything in the moral life would be clear and simple. Morality is not just about doing right things; it is also about struggling to know what is the right thing to do. ... It is about taking a genuine personal responsibility for everything I do.”
I have to tell a short story here. I was teaching sexual morality in CCD a decade or so ago, right as the Boston Globe was exposing the clerical sexual abuse scandal, and blew my class away by taking this approach. The boys were snickering and carrying on and the girls giving coy looks and toying with their books when I stopped teaching the traditional approach and took up the relational approach. I started by asking them if they had heard of the studies which described which teenagers were most apt to be engaging in sex. They hadn't. So I informed them that we have learned the boys with the highest levels of self esteem were the most sexually active, followed by girls with the lowest self esteem. I said that drew a picture, not of sexuality as an equal expression, but of sexuality based on a power differential that was abusive and selfish. The snickering stopped. One young man raised his hand and made my intended point. He said, "you are stating that most teen age sex is abusive in the same way about what's going on in Boston". I replied that I was not making that comparison, the statistics drew that comparison and they were replicated over and over again.
This began a long discussion about how sexuality either affirmed a relationship or confirmed one's individual level of self esteem. Not once did these teenagers ask about the procreative aspect of sexuality because that idea was the furthest thing from their minds. For them sex was not about making babies, that was what their parents did, it was about other things entirely. It was an eye opening experience for both the boys and the girls. Unfortunately, the next week, when we were supposed to continue this discussion, was preempted by a cup cake and pop party because the rest of this topic would be covered by a group brought in from the outside who would teach the diocesan approved 'abstinence only' approach. I got the message loud and clear.
Not coincidentally, the NCR is also running a series of articles on the hook up culture at Notre Dame. First off let me state unequivocally that this is not a problem unique to Notre Dame. I was just as blown away with this same phenomenon when my daughter was attending my own Catholic alma mater. Back in my day we drank a lot of beer and because the drinking age was 19, a lot of that beer was drank at college approved and supervised parties. Dating was still the 'hook up' of choice. In my daughter's day the drinking age was back up to 21, the drink of choice was Vodka and Ever Clear and spontaneous cell phone texting parties took place completely unknown to the student services staff. Some of these parties were huge and many of them resulted in sexual hook ups. The date rape culture was alive and well. My daughter served on the campus disciplinary committee and the stories she told me were just mind boggling. My boringly repetitive question was 'why aren't these incidents reported to the police?. Her repetitive eyes rolling answer was the women won't press legal charges. Which meant she and her committee were judge and jury for felony rape cases. The attitude seemed to be, 'I got drunk, I got raped, I move on. He has another notch on his belt.' Did I mention something about self esteem issues?
I think it's way past time our youth were given this relational approach to sexuality if only because it might empower our young women to say, and mean NO, and our young men to hear it. When asked, they all say the same thing, the best sex I've ever had was when I was sober and when I was in love. That attitude is not gender specific. It's true for both men and women. It's time we started teaching truth, and the truth about healthy sexuality is that it's expressed between two people who are each motivated to put the other first.