Books in 2012: Men, Women and the Mystery of Love.

It took three years and three tries to read (and comprehend) Love and Responsibility, the epic book by John Paul II that made my world a better place this summer.*

It took fewer than 24 hours to read Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights on John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility by Edward Sri (which, as of tonight, is the twentieth book I’ve read in full in 2012!).

Men, Women and the Mystery of Love makes the same fabulous points Love and Responsibility does, but uses modern language, fewer words and less paper. It’s Love and Responsibility explained, and its subtitle isn’t kidding: it is totally practical.

While I wholeheartedly implore anyone – Protestant or Catholic, denominational or non, male or female, in church or out – who is now or might someday be a spouse to read Love and Responsibility, Sri’s explanation of it is a close second, an easier-to-read (and quicker!) alternative to hold you over until you can read the real thing. But for now, read on for some of my favorite insights:

On friendship:

“According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of friendship based on three kinds of affection that unite people. First, in a friendship of utility, the affection is based on the benefit or use the friends derive from the relationship. … Second, in a pleasant friendship the basis of affection is the pleasure one gets out of the relationship. One sees the friend as a cause of some pleasure for himself. This friendship is primarily about having fun together. … Aristotle notes that while useful and pleasant friendships are basic forms of friendship, they do not represent friendship in the fullest sense. Useful and pleasant friendships are the most fragile. They are the least likely to stand the test of time because when the mutual benefits or fun times no longer exist, there is nothing left to unite the two people.” -pages 12-13

“For Aristotle, the third form of friendship is friendship in the fullest sense. It can be called virtuous friendship because the two friends are united not in self-interest but in the pursuit of a common goal: the good life, moral life that is found in virtue. The problem with useful and pleasant friendships is that the emphasis is on what I get out of the relationship. However, in the virtuous friendship the two friends are committed to pursuing something outside themselves, something that goes beyond each of their own self interests. And it is this higher good that united them in friendship.” -pages 14-15

“With this background in mind, John Paul II gives us the key that will prevent our relationships from falling into the self-centered waters of utilitarianism. He says the only way two human persons can avoid using each other is to relate in pursuit of a common good, as in the virtuous friendship.” -page 15

On friendship in marriage:

Pope John Paul II reminds us that true friendship, especially friendship in marriage, must be centered on the bond of a common aim. In Christian marriage, that common aim involves the union of the spouses, the spouses serving each other and helping each other grow in holiness, and the procreation and education of children.” -page 16

“John Paul II explains that being united in this common good helps spouses ensure that one person is not being used or neglected by the other. When two different people consciously choose a common aim this puts them on a footing of equality, and precludes the possibility that  one of them might be subordinated to the other’ (28-29). This is so because both are equally ‘…subordinated to that good which constitutes their common end’ (28-29).” -pages 16-17

On the sexual urge:

“…the sexual urge is not an attraction to the physical or psychological qualities of the opposite sex in the abstract. John Paul II emphasizes that these attributes only exist in a concrete human person. For example, no man is attracted to blonde or brunette in the abstract. He is attracted to a woman – a particular person – who may have blonde or brunette hair.” -page 23

 “The reason John Paul II emphasizes this point is that he wants to show how the sexual urge ultimately is directed toward a human person. Therefore, the sexual urge is not bad in itself. In fact, since it is meant to orient us toward another person, the sexual urge can provide a framework for authentic love to develop.” -page 24

On sensuality:

When “a man is attracted physically to the body of a woman, and a woman is attracted to the body of a man, (the pope) calls this attraction to the body sensuality.” -page 32

“…an initial sensual reaction is meant to orient us toward personal communion, not just bodily union. It can serve as an ingredient of authentic love if it is integrated with the higher, nobler aspects of love such as good will, friendship, virtue or self-giving commitment.” -page 33

“Especially in a highly sexualized culture like ours, we are constantly bombarded with sexual images exploiting our sensuality, getting us to focus on the bodies of members of the opposite sex.” -page 37

On freedom:

“…freedom is given for a purpose, for the sake of love. God gave us freedom so that we could choose to live for others, not just ourselves. The purpose of freedom is not to equip us to live a selfish life, slavishly pursuing whatever pleasurable desires come our way. We have freedom so that we can choose to rise above those self seeking passions and commit ourselves to other persons, serving them and their needs.” -page 64

“Matthew Kelly writes in his book The Seven Levels of Intimacy: ‘But in order to love, you must be free, for to love is to give your self to someone or something freely, completely, unconditionally, and without reservation. It is as if you could take the essence of your very self in your hands and give it to another person. Yet to give your self – to another person, to an endeavor, or to God – you must first possess your self. This possession of self is freedom. It is a prerequisite for love, and is attained only through discipline. This is why so very few relationships thrive in our time. The very nature of love requires self-possession. Without self-mastery, self-control, self-dominion, we are incapable of love… The problem is we don’t want discipline. We want someone to tell us that we can be happy without discipline. But we can’t. … The two are directly related.” -page 66

On immature love versus mature love:

When love is immature, the person is constantly looking inward, absorbed in his own feelings. Here, the subjective aspect of love reigns supreme. He measures his love by the sensual and emotional reactions he experiences in the relationship.” -page 79

A mature love, however, is one that looks outward. First, it looks outward in the sense that it is based not on my feelings, but on the honest truth of the other person and on my commitment to the other person in self giving love. The emotions still play an important part, but they are grounded in the truth of the other person as he or she really is (not my idealization of that person). … Second, a mature love looks outward in the sense that the person actively seeks what is best for the beloved. The person with a mature love is not focused primarily on what feelings and desires may be stirring inside him. Rather, he is focused on his responsibility to care for his beloved’s good. He actively seeks what is good for her, not just his own pleasure, enjoyment and selfish pursuits.” -pages 79-80

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Click here to learn more about Men, Women and the Mystery of Love.

Books in 2012: Bible Basics for Catholics.

A week ago, at a Life Teen core team* meeting, each core member received a copy of Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History by John Bergsma, a convert to Catholicism, biblical scholar and professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville. As of tonight, it’s the nineteenth book I’ve read in full in 2012.

The book is, in Bergsma’s words, “a whirlwind tour of the biblical storyline.” The author draws out the Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and new covenants (figuratively, but also literally, using stick figures) and ties them each to each other and to what he calls the Eucharistic covenant (which is the new covenant. “However,” Bergsma wrote, “for the sake of learning salvation history, I like to call it the ‘New’ when it’s being prophesied and ‘Eucharistic’ after its fulfillment.”).

The book is equal parts incredibly easy to read and incredibly informative. And I may or may not have thrown a fist in the air in a fit of joy and shouted “boom shocka locka” when I finished reading the part about what Jesus did for us. How awesome is He? Just sayin’.

Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

On each of the covenants to be discussed in the book:

“When the priest prays at mass, ‘Time and again you offered them covenants,’ it means, ‘God repeatedly tried to make us his family.'” -page 4

 On the arrival of woman:

“The Bible tells us there was found no ‘helper fit for (Adam)’ among the animals, so the LORD put him into a deep sleep and made the woman for him out of his rib. The next morning when Eve was brought to Adam, he bursts out in rather nice poetry:

Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.

Some consider this to be the first poetry found in the Bible. Through it, we see the civilizing effect that Eve has on Adam. Up to this point, he’s just been sitting around naming animals: ‘Dog!’  ‘Ape!’ ‘Salamander!’ Now he sees this woman, and he becomes the Bard, belting out sonnets in iambic pentameter (well, not quite, but you get the point). Perhaps the author wants to point out that the arrival of woman is a high point in God’s creation, and that woman brings out the best in the man.” -pages 23-24

On Adam’s roles:

“This gives us our final portrait of Adam according to Genesis 1-2: firstborn son, king, priest, prophet and bridegroom.

 So what’s the point? Why bother talking about Adam’s roles? We began this chapter with the question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ What is our purpose here on earth? The Bible addresses this question in the first chapters, by painting a picture of Adam that is a model for every human being. All of us are called to be sons (or daughters) of God, and therefore kings (queens), priests, prophets, and bridegrooms (brides).” -page 25

On sin:

“…the line between good and bad does not run cleanly between groups of people; it runs down the center of each person. Sin has infected every human being. St. Paul puts it like this: ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God’ (Rom. 3:23)…” -page 44

On the significance of the Temple:

“For the ancient Israelite worshiper, the importance of the Temple can hardly be overemphasized. The Temple was a standing reminder of the covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David. It summed up all salvation history and represented all God’s relationships with his people. There was nothing greater than the Temple except God himself. Many years later, Jesus will describe his own presence by saying, ‘Something greater than the Temple is here’ (Matt. 12:6). When we understand how great the Temple was, we realize Jesus was claiming to be God.” -page 106

An important comparison between Jesus and Isaac:

“Calling Jesus ‘the Son of Abraham’ sets up a comparison between Jesus and Abraham’s son Isaac. The parallel is strong, especially when we think of the most important event in Abraham and Isaac’s life: the near-sacrifice on Mount Moriah. We have already discussed how this was a ‘mime’ of Calvary: the one-and-only-son carried the wood of his sacrifice up the mountain, where he is laid on the wood and offered to God out of love for his father.” -page 132

A summary:

“At the end of this book, we can now make a summary of the message of the Bible: the sonship Adam once enjoyed with God has been restored to us by Jesus Christ. Just as God breathed the ‘breath of life’ into the nostrils of Adam and made him a living being, so through baptism Jesus shares with us the ‘Spirit of Life,’ the Holy Spirit that makes us living children of God.” -page 154

And back to Adam’s roles and what significance they have for us:

“Our faith teaches us that, as children of God through Christ, all the rights and privileges of Adam have been restored to us. Like Adam, we can call God ‘Father’ (Luke 3:38). As royalty, we rule over our passions and possessions, rather than being ruled by them. As prophets, we speak God’s word to the people around us. As priests, we offer our very lives on a daily basis, as a ‘living sacrifice’ for the salvation of the whole world. Finally, as grooms and brides, we find our love and joy in embracing our true Spouse every time we come forward to receive communion.” -page 155

– – – –

Click here to learn more about Bible Basics for Catholics.

* The Life Teen core team is the group of adults who help the youth minister at church run our youth group. I joined the core team this summer. Click here to see how awesome our teens are (and click here to learn more about our ministry).

Books in 2012: Successful Strategies for Working (or Living) with Difficult Kids

In prep for my second counseling practicum (which starts Aug. 27 – prayers are appreciated!), in which I’ll work with children and adolescents, I borrowed a bunch of relevant books from my mom, who is a therapist.

One of them – Successful Strategies for Working or Living with Difficult Kids by Joyce E. Divinyi – is the 18th book I’ve read in full in 2012.

What I ultimately got out of the book is a better understanding of the importance of rising above your reflexes. When a difficult child is agitated, it might be instinctual to yell back, or return insult for insult, or criticize the kid for bad behavior. But those responses (and others like them) meet the needs of the adult (to be right, to be liked, to protect the ego, for instance). This is a problem because while the adult is meeting a need of his or her own, a child’s need goes unmet – the need for a role model, for example, or the need to be encouraged, even as he or she appears prepared to make a bad decision, to make a good choice (and that you believe he or she can do that).

The book is chock full of gems, as helpful for parents and future parents as for people whose professions require work with difficult kids (defined in the book as either defiant/disruptive or lethargic/unmotivated, whose emotional development might be arrested, all for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to having experienced a childhood trauma).

Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

On judging children: 

“Just as our emotional reactions to these children lead to judgments, our judgments have a significant impact on our expectations for these children. And children respond to our expectations. If we believe they are trouble, and will continue to be trouble, often they are. … The first step, therefore … is to suspend your judgments. … Start with the idea that this child has the potential for success at some level, and that with creativity, perseverance and the right structure, you just may be the one to help him or her succeed.” -pages 22-23

On the problem with “passive activity”:

“Passive activity may sound like a contradiction in terms but it is a good way to describe television viewing. Many children are being overexposed to passive activity because they spend most of their free time in front of a television. It is not just the content of television programming that can have an impact on their lives. … (There are) some excellent programs available for children and adolescents–but there are many things children can never experience or learn by passively watching. … how to play, how to imagine, how to problem solve, how to communicate, how to handle their emotions, how to think, how to develop a skill, how to overcome mistakes, how to set goals, how to compete, how to work, how to interact with others, how to respond to authority, how to discern right from wrong.” -pages 30-31

On discerning the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior:

“If the behavior is unacceptable in the workplace, make it unacceptable in the classroom. … If a behavior would get someone fired in the workplace, it should not be tolerated in the classroom.” -page 49

On predicting a positive future:

“Be careful not to predict a negative future. Do not say, ‘If you keep this up, you are going to fail.’ Say instead, ‘You’re too smart to fail. If you decide to work hard at this, you will pass.'” -page 56

“It is especially helpful to affirm their ability to make a good choice when they are very agitated and most apt to do something wrong. You can say, ‘You’re a smart person. You can make a good choice now,’ in the place of saying, ‘You better not do that!’ or ‘If you do that, I’ll…'” -page 57

On giving kids choices instead of demands:

“(Say) … “These are choices, these are the consequences and these are the benefits or rewards,”. The system helps eliminate angry reactions and battles of the will by defining expectations in the form of choices the child makes rather than demands you make.” -page 65

On the importance of being consistent:

“Inconsistency in your responses to inappropriate behavior reinforces the very behavior you are trying to eliminate.” -page 73

On the importance of being firm, but respectful (i.e. don’t yell or talk down, don’t use “threatening words, tones or gestures”):

“These children need instruction in appropriate behavior and they need role models for positive behavior, conflict resolution and anger management. You are the model. You must show them how people work out differences or deal with angry feelings without being destructive to themselves or others. Many times you are their only opportunity to see these skills and traits in action.” -page 75

Yelling “communicates the message that you are not in control of yourself.” -page 84

On praising the deed instead of the person: 

“Praise should always focus on behavior or actions, not on personality or personhood. Say, ‘You did great.’ Do not say, ‘You are a great guy.’ Say, ‘It was so good to hear you use words to express your anger instead of hitting or yelling.’ Do not say, ‘You are so good because you are learning to say your feelings.'” -page 88

On our mission with children:

“Sometimes parents, and even those of us who work with children, forget that our mission is to teach children to be independent of us.” -page 95

On why kids should experience reasonable, natural consequences:

“…When you take away opportunities to experience the consequences of mistakes, you rob children of their personal power, especially the power of resilience.” -page 97

– – – – –

Click here to read about all the books I read in 2012.

Books in 2012: The Purity Myth

Proponents of The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women would probably be surprised to know I don’t disagree with everything in it.

Albeit unlikely – based solely on the title – that I, a 26-year-old virgin and proponent of chastity (which involves abstinence until marriage) would enjoy reading the book, I did. And it is the seventeenth book I’ve read in full in 2012.

Written by feminist Jessica Valenti, the book aims to decry what she calls “the purity myth,” for shaming women for having sex before marriage, for promoting hierarchical relationships (in which men are authoritative and women are submissive) and for perpetuating the lies that men are uncontrollably sexual and women aren’t sexual at all.

Valenti is a fabulous writer, and the book is – in my opinion – an important and insightful one, def worth reading if you’re part of a lifestyle, church, school or ministry that involves calls to purity, abstinence or chastity (three terms which, as far as I’m concerned, should not be used interchangeably).

Which brings us to my first complaint. Throughout the book, Valenti doesn’t differentiate between purity, abstinence or chastity. Since she didn’t define them as separate, I’ll do it: 

Purity, frankly, is my least favorite term of the three. This is what’s at the heart of purity pledges (which are usually business card-sized contracts teenagers sign when they pledge to remain virgins until marriage), purity balls (formal father/daughter dances in which daughters pledge their virginity to their dads and dads promise to be “keepers” of their daughters’ virginity until she’s married [Um…]) and purity rings (a ring a guy or girl wears, which symbolizes his or her decision to save sex for marriage. From what I hear, a girl’s father sometimes takes the ring from her during her wedding and symbolically gifts the groom with it [which is almost as awkward as purity balls]).

The way “purity” is used (in the church, at least) tends to imply that once a person has had sex, he or she is impure, or contaminated, or tainted, or one of several other dirty adjectives. My problem with this is several-fold: it’s judgmental, “pure” applies to you only until you first have sex (regardless of whether you’re married) (so you’re either impure at marriage, or impure shortly after. Lose/lose!) and it potentially creates and maintains the belief that sex is bad (a belief that, when deep seated, is not so easy to shake on the wedding night, when a couple is finally “allowed” to have sex. And a person who does something he or she believes is bad surely will experience a psychological toll, at least.).

Abstinence, on the other hand, is abstaining from sex (pretty straightforward).

Chastity is not the same as abstinence, but involves abstinence until marriage, and does not itself end at marriage. It is “… a decision to die to self and to selflessly love (or to die trying). People who practice it regard all people as intrinsically valuable, reject their objectification and uphold love as a choice in a culture that calls it a feeling.” (1) Of the three concepts, it’s the only one that’s a lifestyle and, in my opinion, the only one of significant depth. (2)


That Valenti neither defined or differentiated between purity, abstinence and chastity in the book posed problems, like misuses of one word or the others, and the promotion of misconceptions about them:

A. “In (one virginity-movement writer’s) worldview, women are naturally modest and chaste; if we’re sexual at all, it’s because of outside influences.” -page 49

Either the writer whose worldview Valenti references doesn’t understand chastity, or Valenti doesn’t understand it (and therefore misinterprets what the writer means when she says whatever she says). But chastity doesn’t imply asexuality. A person can be chaste simultaneously as he or she is a sexual being, and simultaneously as he or she has sex with his or her spouse.

B. “Whats the difference between venerating women for being f***able and putting them on a purity pedestal? In both cases, women’s worth is contingent upon their ability to please men and to shape their sexual identities around what men want.” -page 91

For the record, anybody who treats anybody else as though his or her value is not intrinsic is not practicing chastity. 

C. “However, what it’s striving for  is not progressive change, but a return to ‘traditional’ norms and a time when porn – widely defined as seemingly anything that’s not women in head-to-toe prairie dresses and anything less chaste than hand-holding – existed but was hidden from view and not discussed.” -page 92

…another example of Valenti’s misconception of chastity. Anything less chaste than hand-holding? The line implies the closer a couple gets to sex, the less chaste they’re being. That would only be true if chastity ended when a person first has sex. But chastity is never supposed to end. Sex itself totally can be chaste, if the people involved are practicing chastity.

Second, in the book, Valenti also uses phrases the “purity myth” and the “virginity movement” interchangeably, and without much regard for people who a) are proponents of chastity (and therefore of abstinence until marriage), but who b) do not associate themselves with what she decries in the book (I am one of those people!). It’s Valenti’s right to define the movement as she pleases, but her readers are given no reason not to assume that everyone who promotes chastity and premarital abstinence is part of the movement she describes. (And indeed not everyone who promotes chastity and premarital abstinence is part of the movement she describes.)


My hunch is that what Valenti really means when she says “purity myth” and “virginity movement” is not “people who save sex for marriage,” but “complementarianism,” or, more specifically, the version of complementarianism that is, in reality, patriarchy.

Cases in point:

The virginity movement’s “goals are mired in old-school gender roles.” -page 23

“…(S)he adheres to the social structures that tell women that they exist purely for men…” -page 27

“The virginity movement is seeking a return to traditional gender roles.” -page 39

People who are proponents of saving sex for marriage say there are emotional, physical, moral, spiritual and political consequences for premarital sex. … “All of these supposed penalties have multiple tie-ins with other virginity-movement rhetoric and organizing – and all with the same goal: to return to traditional gender roles.” -page 48

“After all, there’s a reason why the assumed goal for women in virginity-movement screeds is marriage and motherhood only: The movement believes that’s the only thing women are meant for.” -page 58

“There’s no hiding behind the rhetoric of empowerment (in the virginity movement) – the message is clear and direct: It’s up to men to control young women’s sexuality.” -page 66

“In the world of the virginity movement, ‘femininity’ is synonymous with submissiveness and girlishness.” -page 68

“In fact, they’re exactly what the purity myth would like women to be: passive, silent, and unable to articulate their desires.” -page 88

“… Women are often described as weak, intellectually inferior, and needing men’s financial and physical protection.” -page 106 

“It’s literally more important to the virginity movement that American women adhere to traditional gender and sex roles than that they are able to make a living wage.” -page 139

“And, perhaps most of all, it’s embedded in the myth of sexual purity, which is based on traditional gender roles in which men are ‘men,’ women are chaste, and a gender-based hierarchy is essential.” -page 168

“…it’s also mired in the belief that traditional masculinity is superior and its preservation is necessary.” -page 176

And I could go on. But if it is the proponents of chastity and abstinence before marriage who encourage all of the above (as Valenti suggests throughout the book), it’s curious that I – a proponent of both chastity and abstinence before marriage – do not believe God designed us to adhere to rigid, traditional gender roles (3); nor that women exist purely for men; nor that women are necessarily solely meant for marriage and motherhood; nor that men even have the right to control women’s sexuality (nor, for the record, that women are responsible for men’s!); nor that femininity is “submissiveness and girlishness;” nor that women should be passive, silent and unable to articulate their desires; nor that gender-based hierarchy is essential (or ever good, for that matter); nor that masculinity is superior; and nor that I exist to preserve it. And the same goes, so it happens, for most of my friends who are proponents of chastity and premarital abstinence, too.

I wholeheartedly agree with Valenti when she points out the damage done by the aforementioned beliefs. But I disagree with (and borderline resent) the implication that chastity and premarital abstinence necessarily involve adherence to those beliefs. In my experience, it is rare for a person both to practice chastity and hold to those beliefs (and more likely that the people who believe those things aim for purity or just practice abstinence).

Third, there is a whole host of random stuff I didn’t like and myths I’d like to clear up. Here are some excerpts, followed by commentary:

“Just look at the women we venerate for not having sex: pageant queens, … pop singers, … and religious women who ‘save themselves’ for marriage.” -page 24

This might come as a surprise to you, but I am not saving myself. I am saving sex. There is a big difference. I probably like the phrase “saving myself” less than I like how the church uses the word “purity.” For one, I know no legit Christian who thinks he or she can save him or herself, and for two, using “myself” and “sex” synonymously essentially objectifies the person.

“Sex-as-dirty and women-as-tainted messages are central to the virginity movement and are perpetuated most visibly in the most unfortunate of places – our schools.” -page 33

If this is true, I am not part of the virginity movement. FYI. And it’s after this quote that I’m compelled to point out that I lean far further in the direction of some sort of comprehensive sex education than I do in the direction of abstinence only.

“Pleasure is widely dismissed, if not denounced, in the virginity movement. When the purpose of sex is simply procreation, pleasure is simply gratuitous.” -page 43

If this is true, chastity is unrelated to the virginity movement. Because for people who practice chastity, sex is for procreation and unity, and it is supposed to be pleasurable.

“Abstinence-only education seeks to create a world where everyone is straight, women are relegated to the home, the only appropriate family is a nuclear one, reproductive choices are negated, and the only sex people have is for procreation.” -page 111

If this is true, abstinence-only education does not align with the Catholic Church’s teachings on sex and sexuality (which do not say people who are homosexual have to “convert” to hetero, which do not say homosexuality is a sin, which do not say women have to be homemakers, which do not say everybody has to be part of a nuclear family [there are vocations to singleness or the religious life!], which do not say we have no choices in reproduction, which do not say sex is ever solely for procreation).

And finally, the book included a few gems:

“The real disservice to women here is that despite the fact that the plastic-surgery industry frames vaginal rejuvenation as “freeing” and benefiting women, the procedure’s real purpose is rarely for women’s pleasure – it’s almost always done for either men’s physical pleasure or aesthetic acceptance.” -page 74

Truth (the awful truth, I should say). And I think that goes for many (if not all) cosmetic surgeries, not limited to vaginal rejuvenation.

“In fact, women and femininity are so derided in American culture that it’s not uncommon to see men punished via feminization. A prison in South Carolina, for example, disciplines sexually active inmates by dressing them in pink. Another Arizona prison mandates that all inmates wear pink underwear. … A preschool in central Florida (reprimanded) boys by forcing them to wear dresses, and in 2001, a teen sued his former school for forcing him to cross-dress. … And it’s really women who end up being penalized because of these negative practices. This fear of women, this fear of being like women, is at the heart of most misogyny in the United States.” – page 170.

More truth! And…

“Women cannot continue to be the markers by which men measure their manliness.” -page 181.

Preach!

– – – – –

1. This quote comes from this recent sex essay of mine.

2. For a better feel for the depth of chastity, read up on it in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

3. I don’t mean to imply it is bad if a couple happens to naturally fall into traditional gender roles. I do mean to imply that I don’t believe God requires, for example, men to be primary money-makers who don’t do housework and women to be non-money-makers who solely do housework and raise the kids.

Click here to read about all the books I read in 2012.

Click here to learn more about the Purity Myth.

Books in 2012: Unleashed

In my hot Florida garage this morning, I read the rest of Unleashed: Release the Untamed Faith Within by Erwin Raphael McManus. It is the sixteenth book I’ve read in full in 2012.

McManus is a resident alien in two ways, he wrote. One, he lives in Los Angeles and carries a green card (he’s from El Salvador). Two, he lives in the world and carries the Kingdom into it.

While I read his book, I was reminded of the time I stopped at a deli for a sandwich, in a really hungry rush. I paid and jumped in the car, hit the road and unwrapped what I’d eat while I drove. Sandwich in hand, surrounded by cars, I stuffed my face. Unabashed by my appetite, I neither simply consumed nor solely enjoyed my sandwich. I decimated it with a passion. I looked like a barbarian. And I didn’t care who looked at me at the red light, or what jokes they cracked about what they saw.

You don’t care about that stuff when you eat with reckless abandon.

The faith required to carry the Kingdom into the world is the untamed faith McManus invites us to unleash. Untamed faith requires a reckless abandon not unlike the one with which I ate my sandwich. It requires risk and trust. You get undignified and uncivilized. You’re a barbarian. And you don’t care who looks at you or what jokes they crack about what they see.

Two words, friends: worth it.

See below for some of my favorite excerpts. May they comfort or disturb you:

On civilized faith:

“Perhaps the tragedy of our time is that such an overwhelming number of us who declare Jesus as Lord have become domesticated – or, if you will, civilized.” -p. 12

“…’the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15) … So what is this good news? The refined and civilized version goes something like this: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence. But really this is a bit too developed. Usually it’s more like this: if you’ll simply confess that you’re a sinner and believe in Jesus, you’ll be saved from the torment of eternal hellfire, then go to heaven when you die. Either case results in our domestication.” -p. 32

On untamed faith:

“The call of Jesus is far more barbaric than either of these. It is a call to live in the world as citizens of an entirely different kingdom. In its primitive state the good news could never be separated from the invitation of Jesus to ‘come, follow Me.’ He never lied about the danger or cost associated with becoming His follower. He told them up front, ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’ (Matthew 10:16). One danger of civilized faith is that we become so domesticated, we begin to live as shrewd as the dove. We are blind to the spiritual nature of life and the unseen reality in which we reside. Another danger is that we become as innocent as snakes. For far too long, sincere followers of Christ have had to live with the consequences of those who use religion to manipulate others and camouflage hypocrisy.” -p. 33

On what faith is not about:

“Jesus’ death wasn’t to free us from dying, but to free us from the fear of death. Jesus came to liberate us so that we could die up front and then live.” -p. 48

“You were not created to be normal. God’s desire for you is not compliance or conformity.” -p. 82

On what happens when you unleash an untamed faith:

“You cannot meet the Creator of the universe and remain the same. … expect at least some minor disruption.” -p. 65-66.

“… to everyone who is deaf to His voice, your actions will seem as if you’ve gone crazy.” -p. 80

“Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God. You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life the most.” -p. 93

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