Saturday, January 12, 2013

Modesty, Lust, and Feminist Apostasy

This is a fairly repulsive feminist apologia on behalf of two sorts of sin, immodesty and lust. Neither sin is gender-specific, but the two tend to interact in a particular vector because of biology (males being more visually stimulated, sexually, and more geared toward polygamy), and because of our culture's wholesale acceptance of -- and therefore perversion of -- this 'natural' inclination. When in reality, of course, it isn't 'natural' at all, but a component of our fallen nature and further cultural distortion.

The author, Dianna Anderson, correctly points out that sexual lust is only one sort of lust, but draws the false conclusion from this that therefore sexual lust is not about sex. She doesn't give any justification for this, but asserts it by substituting 'lust' for 'rape' in the trite and false feminist cliche that 'rape is not about sexuality, but about power and control'. As cognitive scientist Steven Pinker says (and goes on to give evidence to support) in his book The Blank Slate, "the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence, and is getting in the way of the only morally relevant goal surrounding rape, the effort to stamp it out." And if rape is about sex (as it obviously is), lust is even more patently, unmistakably about it.

In attempting to define the sin of lust exclusively as some transcendent abstraction which comes in different forms, but which is ultimately about "power and control", we are forced, as Christians, to wage war against this airy, nebulous phantom rather than the actual concrete form in which we meet it. Which is, in practical terms, impossible. The existence of other sorts of lust doesn't change the fact that sexual lust is in fact sexual in nature, and must be understood as such in order to be fought.

While Dianna seems to think that the fact that lust can more or less 'arise' within us involuntarily precludes this from being sin, neither the Bible nor Sacred Tradition make a sharp distinction between the insidiousness of voluntary and involuntary sins (in the pre-communion prayers of the Church we sensibly pray for forgiveness of both sorts every week). We're called to put to death the works of the flesh by any means necessary. You know, cut off your hand, pluck out your eye, etc. (Matt 5:29-30). Mrs. Anderson seems quite intent on keeping our hands & eyes intact as we are incinerated in the flames, contra Christ.

This misunderstanding and soft-pedaling of sexual lust is rooted in a widespread, foundational disbelief in the reality of the Fall in most of liberal Christianity, as evidenced by statements like: "When we demonize biological functions, we set people up for failure." No, people are set up for failure by being born with a fallen, sinful nature, and this fallenness is as biological as it is spiritual. We are called to war against our fallen, biological nature (Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:5), to flee temptation absolutely and relentlessly (1 Corinthians 6:18), while receiving a higher calling that is "not of this world". God's grace doesn't free us to sin (or to soft-pedal sin), it enables us to flee from sin, and to put it to death. And what is the feminist attitude toward this unequivocal Biblical mandate, and faithful adherence to it?
[A]s good little Christians are told to flee from it in order to remain pure. Many, as Libby Anne points out, end up fleeing from anyone they are sexually attracted to, figuring that this is the best way to avoid the temptation prior to marriage.
Why, it's condescending mockery, of course.

Now, while it is true that not all sexual attraction is lust, we should be wary about being convinced we know exactly where that line is. And we certainly shouldn't deny, as Dianna does, that mental activities such as imagining sexual encounters with other people are lustful. This is the essence of sexual lust. If you want to say that "power and control" are involved in this (despite this language being absent from the Bible and the Fathers regarding lust), I won't argue with you, as long as the unequivocal Christian teaching isn't rejected, as it is being here.

My disagreement on modesty is somewhat less intense, because I agree that the issue can sometimes be harmfully framed so as to place too great a psychological burden on women. Still, when a feminist decries 'modesty codes', it's really just code for decrying any external imposition of standards besides one's own. They may concede that modesty is alright, as long as you are setting your own standards for modesty, and so long as you aren't submitting to -- God forbid -- the Church's standards. This is not to excuse a false theology of modesty that makes it more about other people than about your own striving after holiness. It is only to point out that, in the feminist framework, a proper teaching of modesty is virtually always jettisoned along with the harmful sort of teaching. This is seen clearly in this post as modesty codes as such are rejected, and nothing is posited in their place.

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