Friday, June 13, 2008

Chastity, Open and Shut

So, just in time for the weekend, here's one more take on chastity.

The vow of chastity is often talked about in terms of something you keep or protect. Something precious that you have to guard.

That's not unreasonable -- we human beings, we have plenty of passion roiling around inside, after all. We can be tempted to do some really stupid, messed up things. We need to have self-control and good boundaries.

But if my sense of chastity is fundamentally self-protection, well then, my focus is primarily on me and it, and not on the world that Jesus ventured out into and loved. In this view the world poses at least a potential threat.

I try to think of things instead sort of inside out. I'm called into the world to live and love as radically as Jesus did. And he didn't back off or run away because there were also temptations or risks. There's no story where Jesus says, "I'm sorry, I can't minister to her, because I find her attractive" or "I'd like to be friends with him, but he seems pretty damaged...this relationship might be painful for me later so I think I'll just go chill with the disciples." He spent time with the people he came in contact with, and so be it if it wasn't easy or was even dangerous.

Chastity, seen from this perspective, is not primarily about self-protection but vulnerability. Chastity means being vulnerable enough to love (in) a broken and lovely and unpredictable world, to be open to the possibility (indeed the reality) of being scared or hurt at times (or regularly), to be in ongoing contact with both the grandeur, absurdity and messiness of life (one's own and others).

The first question for me to ask as a chaste person isn't whether I'm insulated enough -- in fact, insulation, life lived at arm's length from others, is more likely the opposite of what chastity is about.

No, the first question is rather, how vulnerable am I allowing myself to be to the loves and struggles of human life?

That's not to say I live this very well. Or that everyone would agree with it. Just a couple thoughts that have been rambling around inside my head.

Have a good weekend.

PS The monkey: that's for my parents. They just got back from a cruise to Gibraltar. Apparently the place is crawling with these monkeys. So much so, in fact, that my mom said they were warned to be careful about their keys, their purses, even wearing bright jewelry. The monkeys will come right up and take them. (Good times.)

Anyway, I just thought she and my dad might be missing them, so a little something for them. An early Father's Day/Mom's birthday gift.


Rusty said...

Dear Jim,
This is your mother...thanks sooooooooo much for the monkey reminder. My heart was overwhelmed with "missing" when I saw the monkey NOT! They really do have cute little faces, though. I just didn't want a chunk of my face taken out. My, my, but your Dad and I have had some very interesting vacations.
Love u, Jim......Mom

jim mcdermott said...

Jim I just read your last posting and I don't get the monkey and Chasity connection. Thanks for reminding us of how much fun we had on our vacation. I think I saw this very money on the Rock and his name was Jim if you can believe it.

David said...


Just happened to check in on your blog this morning... fantastic turn of things "inside out" regarding chastity. I'll be sharing this with others... footnoting you, of course. Listen, we miss you in the faith-sharing group! Looking forward to hearing everything when you return!


trip said...

I enjoy the comedic timing of the chastity conversation over Father's Day weekend!! I am sure that it crosses every parent's mind at some point!!!!!