Friday, March 17, 2017

The death of romance. . .

Lutheran Pastor Hans Fiene has a probing article in The Federalist on how Millenials differ from other generations when it comes to marriage, family, and, well, sex.  In the article, Fiene speaks of how sexual desire becomes the impetus for marriage and family.  It is how God uses this desire that is the key.  Desire unfolds into love and love creates family and through it all the man learns to be the responsible husband and father that society needs and God desires.

Generally speaking, when a man pursues a woman, he begins by pursuing sex. To be clear, when I say this, I don’t mean that all men are Lotharios whose intent in approaching a woman is always to seduce her by the end of the evening. Rather, I mean that the biological desire to procreate is what first compels a man to pursue a woman, regardless of when he believes that procreative act should take place.

For example, the reason a Christian man asks out a cute young woman in his college Bible study group is because he’s pursuing sex, even if his intention is to not to have sex until they would be married. He sees an attractive woman. He experiences the desire to do what his body was designed for—to unite sexually with hers and to create life. And so he approaches her as the first step to fulfilling this biological need.

As men pursue women, however, they come to develop a more robust appreciation of what women have to offer them beyond physical beauty and sexual gratification. They become more exposed to the various feminine virtues—things like kindness, compassion, selflessness, loyalty, tenderness. And the more decent men encounter “the imperishable beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit,” as St Peter calls it, the more they come to value this inner beauty over raw sexuality.

Likewise, the more that decent women see men valuing their feminine virtues, the more they cultivate them and the more they seek the corresponding masculine virtues, such as bravery and self-sacrifice. We begin the mating dance by following our animalistic urges. But, during the tango, we become human as we discover what it means to love and serve and belong to each other.
It is a very interesting way of approaching the topic and well worth your consideration.  The death of romance is less about movie scenes repeated in real life than it is the loss of dating and courtship and its fruit of love, marriage, and family.  As another author pointed out, people today don't have romances or loves but have relationships instead.  And these relationships suffer because they have become contractual relationships designed for each party to get what they want.  Fiene is saying that what the man and woman wants becomes the impetus to lead them to something more -- something they may not have known or realized until desire led them to this point.  Many other authors have pointed out that this is exactly the problem for some, perhaps many, today.  Their desire is satisfied with something less than satisfactory before it ever leads them to romance, to love, to marriage, to children, and to the nobler and virtuous life God intends.

According to Lutheran theologian Daniel M. Bell Jr., there may still be some measure of biblical residue remaining to signal that relationships and singleness shaped by self-interest and self-love are not exactly all that there is. But, this biblical residue is not enough to lead to mature and self-giving "relationships" like husband, wife, parent, and child.  What has happened is that we have learned to “view others in terms of how they can serve our self-interested projects.” Other people then “become commodities themselves— mere bodies to be exploited and consumed, and then discarded”:
As a consequence, marriages are viewed as (short-term) contracts subject to a cost/benefit analysis, children become consumer goods or accessories, family bonds are weakened and our bodies are treated like so many raw materials to be mined and exploited for manufacture and pleasure. Those individuals rendered worthless as producers and commodities by obsolescence—the old and infirm—are discarded (warehoused or euthanized) and the nonproductive poor (the homeless, the unemployed, the irresponsible, the incompetent) are viewed as a threat.
Archbishop Charles Chaput wrote that in current American experience, true to Bell’s words, marriage often resembles a real estate transaction. Two autonomous individuals enter into a limited liability partnership that can easily be dissolved. Children serve as the various shared properties. And in such a world, an unplanned, unwanted unborn child is clearly the most annoying kind of drain on the emotional profits.

The great paradox of Christian faith is that the importance and value of the individual is affirmed -- no matter how weak or disabled or unable to produce or contribute that life may be.  This is the heart and core of the prolife movement. God has created us and made us who we are (fearfully and wonderfully made).  God loves each of us without limit -- not with silver or gold, as Luther says, but with the most priceless of currencies -- the blood of Christ shed upon the cross. But this Christian faith refuses to leave us as individuals.  We are bound into the body of Christ, the Church, and joined into a network of mutual obligation with others -- even those outside the Church, the family of the baptized -- the neighbor.  God has made us not for ourselves but for others and this begins with the simple and basic desire that becomes the noble and sturdy shape of love, marriage, and family.  Desire is used by God to build the unit that is family and this family is enlarged by our vocation to our neighbor to create community -- both inside the Church and from the Church to the larger community.  So, when we screw up desire, we prevent it from leading us to the nobler fruit and larger virtue that is love, marriage, family, and community.  The loss of romance is not merely the loss of romance at all but equation of a relational contract with love and marriage and family and the equation of self-interest for self-less service as equals and of equal value for society as a whole and the Church in particular.  What began as self-interest become something radically different. . . except, of course, where it remained merely self-interest and became little more than desire that could be fulfilled in various ways -- all of which excluded the selfless love that gives birth to marriage and creates family. 


ErnestO said...

The following is marriage humor for the up and coming generations. "Before you get married ask yourself: Is this the person you want to watch stare at their phone the rest of your life."

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Good point, EarnestO, many of today's modern sophisticates seem so detached from their actual surroundings and so focused on their smartphones and is nearly impossible to draw their attention away for some simple conversation. In the past, young women complained that their boyfriends or husbands didn't pay them enough attention....but now men are discovering it is hard to draw their attention from the smarphone.