Last time I wrote about an essay that won the New York Times’ “Modern Love” college contest, a little piece about the aversion to commitment that runs rampant in what passes for dating these days.
It made me sad to see this young writer trying to convince herself that she should stifle her desire for “happily ever after” and instead give in to the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of the modern hook-up.
But not nearly as sad as a later article in the series, entitled “Eating the Forbidden Ham Sandwich.” This one was written by a young man trying to overcome his “traditional” upbringing and have sex with his girlfriend.
Apparently his conscience was impairing his performance, so he went to a friend for help. The friend told him that overcoming a moral upbringing is like eating pork after growing up in a religious that forbids it. You try to eat it, but the first time you throw up. Then you keep trying and eventually you can eat it just like anything else.
It’s the same way, he said, with sex.
And then his “wise” friend gave him the advice that horrified me the most. He said, “Stop thinking about her as a person.”
I kid you not.
This is actually the heart of his advice. He then went on to say, “ ‘People are animals and having sex is a natural thing that animals do all the time.”
‘One enormous lie’
I would love to report that our hero found this advice horrifying and that it led him to realize that his parents’ morality was on the right track, even if their approach was a bit off-kilter. (They seem to have relied heavily on guilt and fear.)
But he didn’t. In fact, he took his friend’s advice and reported that “For my blood to go where I needed it to go, I needed to distance myself from my fears, my religion, my mother, Sam and even myself. So I did, and it happened.”
What happened next is even more horrifying to me.
The condom broke, so they went to the drug store the next morning to procure the Plan B pill.
Once again, you would think the specter of fatherhood, and the even more real possibility that they had conceived a child they were about to extinguish, would make him re-think he newly-adopted morality.
He considered that just another part of this “rite of passage” he had achieved by dehumanizing himself and his girlfriend.
I don’t judge this guy. I know his actions were appalling, but I don’t know how God sees his clearly confused heart.
He has bought into one enormous lie – that I know for sure. He’s trying to convince himself that the way to love is to stifle love, that the way to fulfillment is disregard any instinct that rises above the most animal parts of our nature.
The timeless truth
He could not be further from the truth. The Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes says that “man, being the only creature created for his own sake, finds himself only in a sincere gift of himself.”
That will never cease to be true. We find ourselves in love. We find ourselves not through disregarding another’s humanity but through recognizing it and fully embracing it and seeing God’s image and likeness in that other person – and acting accordingly. Love means always desiring the best for the other.
Dehumanizing a girl to score with her and then medicating her body to exterminate the new human life that may have resulted is not a rite of passage, it’s not progress, and it’s not “modern love.”
It’s a result of narcissism run amok. It’s an attempt to turn love inward on itself. It’s a fruit of the culture of death.