Choice and Chastity
The tug-of-war in our society between virtue and vice, as it relates to sexual appetite, really IS all about choice. People who advocate for a woman’s “right to choose” are, in a distorted way, correct in focusing our attention on “reproductive freedom.” Unfortunately, they frame it as a woman’s choice between her life — her freedom, and the life of her baby. Let’s consider briefly how women, and men, can cultivate the strength of interior habits that make the false choice of abortion not just undesirable, but inconceivable.
Choosing Decision Virtues
When I began developing the plans for the Virtue Works Media VIRTUE LITERACY PROJECT, I felt urged by God to frame this work around the spiritual strengths paradigm of Dr. Richard Johnson, PhD. This paradigm describes 30 virtues that can flourish in our personalities to make us spiritually strong. These strengths are categorized in habit groups based on how virtue typically operates in us. I always struggled with the fact that chastity, such an important virtue, was not named in any of the habit groups. Upon further reflection, I realized why. Chastity is a synthesis of ALL the decision-focused virtues. Chastity is a multi-faceted CHOICE.
I have adapted Dr. Johnson’s paradigm into a literal Moral Compass of 30 Everyday Virtues. Take a look. The five decision-focused virtues are in the GREEN habit group.
Let’s see how the decision virtues work together in the exercise of chastity. Self-control makes us the master of our sexual appetite. Prudence enables us to choose goodness that goes beyond our impulses. Fortitude is the white-knuckle strength to resist giving control of our choices over to a desire for pleasure. Patience enables us to wait for a lifelong relationship that will honor our dignity and the gift of shared intimacy. And in this context, Cooperation is a willingness to make sacrifices, including loneliness, to cooperate with God, our family and a spouse we perhaps have not met yet, to protect the miracle of marriage. Think about it. As God’s grace empowers us to habitually engage those five virtues to guide our choices, then sexual vices, and the false choice of abortion, that flow from them…can be avoided entirely.
How to Empower Virtues of Choice?
In a society that now might make folks from Sodom and Gomorrah blush, how do we reintroduce even the notion of virtue? How do we move away from sex as a recreational sport, for which a fetus is simply an inconvenient parasite…which is easily removed at a local clinic? We need to get inside people’s heads. The power of sleazy novels, explicit movies and “hot” music has normalized impulse-based, pleasure-enslaved behavior. These SAME cultural touch point mechanisms are the path back to virtue’s true freedom.
I have gathered a very special collection of recommended books and films that speak to the hearts and minds of young adolescents and teens. Young people are the most vulnerable age group affected by our culture’s celebration of sexual vice. These are NOT teaching guide books. They are NOT a curriculum. They teach as Jesus taught: through the power of parable. They implicitly imbue the notion of chastity, and gently empower the practical decision virtues that make chastity possible…through the power of story.
A Choice and Chastity Resource
Share the (downloadable and printable) VWM Choice and Chastity Recommendations resource with your family, your parish youth group, your Catholic High School, and your middle grade parochial school teachers. Start a conversation in which chastity is framed as a positive lifestyle of proactive choices, not a restrictive rule to get in the way of fun. Our youth face an onslaught of creative messaging that is selling them slavery to pleasure impulses…like it’s a good thing. Abortion is the bloody collateral damage of a society that stokes self-serving sexual appetites. Cultivating the internal virtues that dispose us for the choice of chastity is the long-term solution that will make huge strides toward ending abortion. Books, movies, and music that show, rather than tell, the true freedom of virtue and chastity, enable young people to imagine and internalize the goodness of it.
Imagining Healthy and Holy Sexuality
Pope Saint John Paul II understood the power of the arts to propose, rather than impose, faith and virtue…so that people will be open and more disposed to embrace it. His incredible Theology of the Body gave us the blueprint for healthy and holy human sexuality. Over time, more and more writers and visual storytellers, inspired by his genius, are crafting creative and compelling stories that bring his philosophy and anthropology…alive.
One Catholic publisher is specifically devoted to this purpose. I consider Full Quiver Publishing a Theology of the Body Arts incubator. Their name is not meant to imply that we all should have as many children as possible. They simply desire to empower us as parents to raise our children as strong arrows to launch into a world that needs godly young men and women in the mix so much. The Full Quiver team is a mix of talent that you need on your radar. Be a patron of positive arts. Some of their titles are referenced on the Choice and Chastity Resource page. Read their work. Let them know what you like …and what you don’t like. We need to support these courageous creatives who are willing to devote talent and resources to renewing our culture. We can save lives through the power of story. We can help to end abortion by preventing the behavior that precedes it.
This is how we normalize chastity. As we consume reading and media that internally strengthens decision virtues, we can make chastity a normal lifestyle choice. The power of story just may be an important key to overcoming the evil of abortion…with what is truly GOOD.
Cathy Gilmore is an author, educator and Virtue Works Media Ministry founder. Virtue Works Media is pioneering an innovative approach to family virtue formation. This non-profit ministry is FUNDRAISING to build the only online VIRTUE-based search engine for reading, media and entertainment. Through the VIRTUE LITERACY PROJECT, Virtue Works Media strives to help children, teens, and families grow strong in habits of virtue through the experience of books, movies, and music. Follow Cathy on twitter @PowerofParable.