Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sixth New Baby

So I’m having my sixth baby. I’m due to give birth in a month, but this particular baby has decided to be troublesome, so I’ve been having hardcore Braxton Hicks contractions for the past three weeks. It’s pretty exhausting. With my other babies, I didn’t have to put up with this until a week or two before going into actual labour.
I can feel the threshold of fear hovering on the horizon. It’s one of those things that I think you can’t actually avoid if you’re approaching massive physical pain. It sort of shimmers there, threatening, and sooner or later it’s going to manifest and become real. I don’t know how other people deal with this, for some reason all of the pregnancy preparation books mention it without ever doing a really great existential analysis of the problem. Some of them advise you to do cheesy imagination exercises, or yoga. Maybe the problem is just that all pregnancy manuals are written for people whose aesthetic is antithetical to my own. I’ll give you my method:
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, there’s this wonderful little Bene Gesserit prayer called the “Litany Against Fear.” I memorized this back when I was fifteen years old, and it goes like this:
“I will not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will allow it to pass over me and to pass through me. Where the fear is gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Apart from being put in a wonderfully appealing idiom, it’s actually a very good pulling apart of the anatomy of courage. You start with the statement that you’re not going to be afraid, which of course is never actually true. I don’t care what the Stoics say, I’m sure that Socrates had his private little Gethsemane moment somewhere out of sight of Plato before he went out and faced the hemlock tea with a smile on his face. At the point where you’re saying, “I will not fear,” you’re already afraid. Still, you need to resist the fact, to put it in its place as the enemy of whatever you’re hoping to accomplish. It doesn’t matter whether it’s giving birth, or making a scary phone-call, or fighting a Balrog, or asking someone out on a date; the basic fact is the same. Fear is the mind-killer. It’s the thing that will totally paralyze you, and bring about the little death which, if it is allowed to take root in the soul, will ultimately lead to total obliteration. There is no Cross without facing fear, and no salvation without the Cross.
Now you get to the acknowledgement that the fear actually does exist: “I will face my fear.” The determination to confront the enemy, where it is, now, without succumbing to the temptation to wait for that distant moment when it won’t be scary. There is no such moment. You have to face the fear, and you have to let it “pass through me.” That’s the lynch-pin image here. You’re going to confront fear, and you’re going to feel afraid. The fear will be actually present within your psyche, and your body, and it will pass through you. It will awaken like the Kraken in its depths, and it will rise through you on its way to the surface where “once seen by men and angels,” it will “rise in roaring and on the surface die.” So you accept it, you let it pass through, and then it goes. And where it has gone there is nothing, only the self, strengthened and ready to face whatever trial you have to face.

Six New Books

I’m currently working on, and need prayers for, a few new book projects, as follows:
1.The Marriage Quest: A book on courtship and marriage, jam-packed with literary examples and paradigm-shifting advice on how to woo and be wooed.
2.The Wayfarer’s Guide to the Malice and Snares of the Devil: A spiritual warfare guide, in a tongue-in-cheek style. Ancient insights with a modern edge.
3.Theology of the Body for the Married Woman: A Theology of the Body book that applies John Paul II’s insights specifically to the female body, and which provides practical insights into married sexuality without sinking into schlock sentimentality.
4.A Crisis of Passion: This was supposed to be released this Winter by the late lamented Circle Books, and is now seeking a new publisher. It ports the best of Postmodern thought into a Catholic context, examines how Catholic art can speak to the postmodern generations, and answers questions like “What is postmodernism anyway?”
5.Slave of Two Masters: This already has a publisher, but I need to get it drafted over the next couple of months while giving birth to my sixth baby. It’s about how Christ’s teachings on poverty apply to lay people, and especially families, with an emphasis on how to have more fun with, and get more out of, the economic downturn.
6.Octavia: This is my pet favourite, because it’s a novel. It’s about a sixteen year old girl, the youngest of eight, whose parents like to pretend that Rome never fell. Six years ago, her best friend fell into a sinister well that was dug at the Beginning of Time in order to hide all of the secrets that had to be kept from the eyes of God. Young adult supernatural horror, with geeky Classical references.
Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated, and of course, throw St. Francis Xavier a line and ask him to shepherd these projects into print.

Life on the Rock

I’ve been baby-brained, and my internet has been down, so I forgot to put up a link to my appearance on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock.” If you’re interested, you can see me look all nervous and awkward on national television at

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

God Made Me This Way

One of the most difficult arguments to deal with in the debate about homosexuality, is the “God made me this way” argument. The argument in its logical form runs something like this:

P1: I have a strong desire for a good thing: sexual love with another person.
P2: I am able to fulfill this desire only with members of my own sex.
P3: (This is usually a hidden premise) All desires for good things must come from God.
P4: (Also usually a hidden premise) God would not give a desire and then prohibit me from fulfilling it.
Conclusion: God made me gay, and it is therefore morally legitimate for me to act on my homosexual desires.

Most Christian apologetics on the matter focus on attacking P2. Protestant groups especially have tried to demonstrate that homosexuality is not fixed or innate, and that gay people can be brought around to happy heterosexuality. For obvious personal reasons, I’m suspicious of P2, but I do think that it’s fairly clear that there are some people for whom it is true; if not in an absolute sense, certainly in a practical sense. The actual problem, however, is with P4. Christianity must fundamentally reject this premise – and I’m going to argue that any belief in a good and all powerful God must necessarily rest on its rejection.

There are obvious cases where the argument would produce moral nonsense, for example:
P1: I have a strong desire for a good thing: justice.
P2: Justice can only be fulfilled in case X by a vigilante execution.
P3 and P4 as above.
Conclusion: Therefore God has given me the right and duty to lynch this murderin’ son of a barnacle.

We need not, however, resort to cases of obvious immorality, because P4 is untrue even when both the desire and the fulfillment of that desire are unquestionably morally licit. This is one of the central truths at the heart of the Passion. Christ kneels down in Gethsemane, and He asks God for permission to cling to life. The body does not wish to die, human life is a good thing, it is a gift unquestionably given by God, and Jesus, as a man, wants to hold on to it. He asks that the cup of suffering and death be removed – and then adds the most profound statement of Christian faith, “But not my will, but thine be done.”
God does not give permission. He sends His own only begotten Son out to die on the Cross. He says, “No,” and Christ assents to that no, and in assenting, in setting aside His legitimate desires, brings about the salvation of the world.
Oh ho. But perhaps we are talking about a special case here. Christ was God, and He made that sacrifice voluntarily, and presumably He was in on the plan before He was even born. He chose to come into the world to suffer and die, whereas ordinary people have made no such choice. A beneficent and humane God might expect such superhuman self-sacrifice from Jesus, but He would not demand it of us.
The problem with this is as follows: whether God’s “no” comes in the form of a moral prohibition, or in some other form, its effect on the human psyche – not to mention the human life – is the same. It is a readily demonstrable fact that people frequently go to God and beg for things that are objectively just and good, and God says No. People falsely accused rightly ask God to grant them liberty, that they may not spend the next twenty-five years incarcerated for a crime they never committed, and God, through the instrumentality of twelve honest folks, says No. A soldier prays to survive the war that he might return to his family and provide for them and raise his children up to love and serve the Lord, and God says No. An African subsistence farmer prays that the locust swarm may pass to the west, so that she might be able to have food enough to produce milk for the unborn child in her womb, and God says No. Examples can be multiplied endlessly: this is the problem of Evil, and it is the primary objection to the existence of a good and almighty God.
If you don’t believe that God would ever demand profound suffering and privation of human beings, you must become an atheist. There’s no good pretending that a different kind of God exists, because this is the sort of world that we live in. It is a world in which the denial of the ability to enjoy sexual love doesn’t even make the grade on the list of grievous trials which human beings are called to endure. It is a world that could only be justified and redeemed by an act as radical as the Cross: by the absolute and unswerving demonstration, on the part of God Himself, that suffering is not a negation either of the existence of God, or of the meaningfulness of life. That, on the contrary, suffering is the foundation of meaning, that the Cross itself is the way of truth and life.