Being Progressive

     When Leah spent many months at a time in the Middle East, one of the profound lessons she reported learning was that there are many ways to think of the word “progressive.”  Being “progressive New Yorker” by upbringing, she thought she knew what “progress” for a culture was.  But, she said in those days, she heard many women in the Middle East say that they have a different notion of progress: it is NOT progress, in their view, for women to lose a sense of modesty; it is NOT progress for divorce to become customary; it is NOT progress to lose faith in God or to abandon one’s practice of that faith.
     Just as Leah was impressed by the message of these women, so too I am impressed by a similar notion.  I think it is one of the great things she and I have in common: the desire to look beyond current trends and not assume that the newest ideologies sweeping across the nation or the globe are the most true.  Just because they are interesting, avant guard or revolutionary does NOT mean that they are better.  Sometimes, in fact, what has no surface allure at all is actually the most rich, profound, or real.
     This is the case, in my opinion, with regard to sexuality.  Mom mother surprised me (yet again) by announcing that she is already half through Christopher West’s new book on the Theology of the Body (how on earth does she know about Christopher West?!).  The Theology of the Body has to do with the theology of the human body, and how love is expressed (and violated) with regard to marriage.  One of the main tenets of this theology is that, while it is licit for married people to restrict the number of children that they have, they should do this restriction through natural, not artificial means.  The Theology of the Body unpacks why this is the case, what human sexuality is meant to be, and why artificial contraception undermines its purpose.
      It is my personal opinion that true “progress” is advancing toward an uncompromised respect of a woman’s body–never, ever objectifying it, either from within a marriage or from outside of a marriage.  I believe that it is true progress to respect fully a man’s body, similarly.  I believe that it is true progress to have an uncompromised respect of children’s bodies, and never to in any way objectify them, and to teach children from the earliest age how to never objectify, or let others objectify, their bodies.  To objectify a person’s body is to use them, and we all know how it feels to be used–it feels horrible; it is how we know we are not loved.   
     I believe that people need to learn of their unconditional worth, beyond being attractive, beyond being externally beautiful.  I believe that when our culture has advanced, or “progressed,” as far as it can go, all people will have a sense that human sexuality is subordinate to a generous, safe and thoughtful love.  I believe that when we have really “advanced,” artificial contraception will have become outdated.  I believe in humanity, in its beauty and goodness, and I look forward to a day when God’s creation will be respected for what it is meant to be: sacred.