Ok, so I think the blog posts that start with an attention-grabbing controversial statement for a title are becoming a little cliché on the World Wide Web, but I couldn’t resist. Because I recently discovered this concept, and it’s MIND BLOWING.
Before you go freaking out that Joan has totally lost her morality, let me qualify. Chastity isn’t natural, just like getting out of bed in the morning isn’t natural and running marathons isn’t natural – it’s SUPER-natural. Chastity is a beautiful virtue that acknowledges the worth and dignity of a whole person. But it’s not something that comes instinctively to us humans, at least not in a bodily sense. We’re wired to, uh, keep the race going. (Ask Karol Wojtyla, ok!? I’m not making this stuff up.) So when you find someone that you’re attracted to, you’re going to want to do things that will ultimately lead to procreation. You’re not going to want to stop at holding hands. Or hugging. Or kissing. Because all of those little things are supposed to draw you farther in and farther up to the climax of intimacy that leads to the creation of another human being. This doesn’t seem earth shattering, I know, but believe me it is. The fact that a couple would intentionally stop this chain of reactions that starts with a light touch and ends with a baby seems almost absurd. And to the body, it is. But to the soul, before marriage it must be so.
But why!? Is it wrong to desire someone? Is it wrong to take pleasure in doing physical things with them? Is it wrong to hug and kiss and cuddle? Absolutely not. It’s good. We were made to respond to one another physically in that way. Then why is sex outside of marriage wrong, if the things that could lead up to it are not wrong, even outside of the covenant of marriage?
These are hard questions, especially in the face of an urge as strong as sexual desire. But let me tell you, once and for all, the truth about humanity that our culture attempts to hide: we are not merely our desires and appetites. In the same way that we don’t eat everything in sight as soon as we feel our stomachs growl, we also don’t sleep around because our bodies are telling us to keep the race going. We are more than our bodies, we have minds and souls and wills, and we need to act like it. Sexual union is a big deal, because it’s not merely two bodies coming together for pleasure or reproduction. It’s two people, performing the most intimate physical act of which humans are capable. It’s not just their bodies affected by it. Hearts become united. Sexual intercourse is not merely a natural phenomenon, but also a supernatural phenomenon. Therefore, it requires a supernatural response. The only appropriate response to the gravity of the sexual union is a total, lifelong commitment. In other words, marriage.
Here I also feel I should insert a small caveat on the dignity of each human life. Each person is so unique, unrepeatable, and sacred that even the potential to create one requires a supernatural response. The two creating this new life ought to be permanently united in marriage, because the child deserves that. Each person deserves to be nurtured in love by both mother and father. I realize that in our world, this often doesn’t happen. Many children are not raised by both their mother and father. To put it bluntly, this is a violence to the dignity of the human person. I’m not saying that sometimes it isn’t better for a child to live with just mother, or just father, or grandparents, or adoptive parents. What I am saying is something that I think each child in that situation would echo: it’s not how it’s supposed to be.
Whoa, who would have thought that chastity (usually understood as merely the abstention from sexual intercourse) could be something this monumental? Everyone, even married couples, should practice chastity. What I mean is that everyone ought to subject their physical desires to the fact that they are more than just their bodies. Chastity is not merely saying “no” to your body. It means saying, “wait, there is something greater here.” And once you can acknowledge that in yourself, that there is something great, and worthwhile, and utterly dignified about you, everything else starts to fall into place. So maybe chastity really is natural, after all.