I remember attending a pediatrics conference a few years back where a speaker on adolescent medicine extolled the benefits of promoting birth control and condoms for teens and pre-teens. He laughed as he quickly dismissed the argument for abstinence education, ridiculing any practitioner who would promote it as not only naive but even negligent in their duty as a physician. I wondered to myself, “Is that what you want for your 11-year-old daughter?” and, “Is that the kind of world we want to live in?” A world that diminishes the value of the sexual act, of marriage as a permanent bond between two people, and of the family as an intact unit that fosters healthy living and values? A world that removes trust, sacrifice, and commitment from the meaning of love, while lowering human relationships to the animal level? For us to pursue an approach that throws out our understanding of childhood development and pursues an agenda based on pragmatism and self-indulgence? Some things are worth fighting for, even when the odds are against us, and the battle for chastity is one of them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “Offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. . . Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and good, and causes rain to fall on the just and unjust” (Matt. 5:39, 44-45 NABRE). That instruction is at odds with the way of the world. Once again, we take a pragmatic approach. If you get hit, hit back harder. Destroy the enemy before he gets you! Eliminate the opposition! It promotes temporary survival, but at what price? Continual distrust, fear, and the constant threat of mutual destruction?
I will admit that if this world is all there is, the way of domination through power would seem the better choice –for the present moment. But even so, in the long run, it portends a life of misery and self-extinction. The strategy promoted by my pediatric colleague, and the strategy that promotes retaliation and domination over others, seems to me to be the same strategy of a chess player who can only think ahead one move at a time. Seizing the pawn gives one a brief feeling of victory, but fails to recognize that three moves later, you’ll lose the game.
If there are a heaven and a hell, and if you allow for the possibility of God (as all honest people must), then the power strategy is foolishness. An eternity in Heaven is infinitely better than one in Hell. And even a brief earthly life following Christ will be a better one than an existence serving evil and selfishness.