Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Prosperity Gospel Discovers Lust

The comments are starting to come in on my Christopher West post, "Custody Battle". 

So far we've got an anti-West, a pro-West and someone who'd like to impeach John Paul II, if JP2 were still pope.

The pro-West commenter gives away the game at the end of her defense of West.  She implies that West's critics are all "Manichean", and she concludes with this ...

To the pure, all things are pure - says my mom.
To which I respond

Tell your mom, "Even if that were true, none of us is pure." And that's not Manichean. That's just Church teaching on fallen man.

Of course, a fuller explanation is, things are not defined merely by our attitude toward them. If an innocent child accidentally views pornography on line, is that pornography "pure" because he is (sexually speaking) "pure"? I think not.
This subjectivism, rampant in our culture, is the currency of the Dictatorship of Relativism, and infects even the otherwise good Catholics among us.

And it's the insidious and heinous lie behind what West is doing.  "To the pure, all things are pure" means, if you follow the logic, that I may indeed view pornography if I'm pure.  For my own purity will transform everything I do, including self abuse in front of a computer screen. 

Some purity.

This is a kind of Calvinism applied to sex.  To the Calvinist, everything that happens to the elect is a sign of their election; everything that happens to the damned is a sign of their damnation.  Want a new car?  If you get one, it means God loves you and you're saved!  Thus, the Prosperity Gospel makes us feel good about our greed, "spiritualizing" a base motivation in order to excuse it.  And as the Prosperity Gospel assuages our greed, so West's nonsense assuages our lust. 

Want a little porn?  Go ahead and look!  You're pure and everything you do is pure!  God loves you and you're saved!

It's The Prosperity Gospel for Horn-Dogs. 

The author portraying the Reverend Cletus P. Love, of the Four Square Meals a Day Prosperity Sandwich Gospel Church.


waywardson said...

I don't think that's what West is saying at all.

Holiness (for a man) is NOT averting your eyes at a beautiful woman to keep from lusting. Holiness is being able to look at the woman without lusting after her.

Like Jesus looked at the many women he interacted with in the Bible.

In the former case, the man is managing his lust, which is far better than not managing it. In the latter case, the man has overcome his lust, which is more virtuous. The goal of chastity is not to avoid temptation, but to no longer be tempted. This is what brings true freedom.

Put another way, this is the difference between the alcoholic who avoids drinking vs. the alcoholic who no longer wants to drink.

Of course, that is easier said than done for the rest of us.

This goal can be achieved, but only with God's help. Surely you do not deny the power of God's grace to purify men's hearts?

Wade St. Onge said...
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Wade St. Onge said...

Kevin O'Brien said...

Waywardson, everything you said is right out of West's playbook. You need to be de-programmed. Yes, God can purify men's hearts, but not when men stare at naked ladies, convinced that they can do so out of "mature purity". God sanctifies us through our humility, not our pride. West is selling pride.

By the way, the goal of chastity is NOT TO COME TO A POINT WHERE YOU'RE NO LONGER TEMPTED. You are utterly wrong. And believing we will ever avoid temptation in this life is an insidious lie of Satan. It plays to the worst things in us.

"I'm no longer tempted! I'm holy!"

What delusional thinking.

How on earth is this Scriptural? How on earth is this sane? Holiness is not the absence of temptation, neither is it the absence of being lured to act on a temptation. To think that holiness is anything other than the daily and even hourly struggle against very real temptations felt in a very real way is to discount God's action in our lives, and is to "immanentize the Eschaton" in a very foolish way that will only lead to one thing: sinning while claiming you're not sinning. Thinking you're a saint when you're far from it.

A very bad place to be.

Mrs. Pinkerton said...

If it weren't tragic, it would be hilarious that anyone on this earth could arbitrarily (or even after much intense prayer and discernment, ha ha) declare himself "pure." We all know whence comes such wisdom (see Dante).

Re: "no longer tempted": I believe that state is known as "death."

Anonymous said...

I haven't West and it is clear that I have nothing to gain and plenty to lose (at the very least, time) by reading him. I don't need to drink the whole gallon of milk to know it is spoiled when one whiff will do.

Scott W.

Seraph said...

West is a false prophet in the Church and a rich pervert. He has advocated sodomy and blatant immodesty and irreverence in his lectures. His theology is Pelagian, erroneous and confuses modesty with puritanism.

Concupiscence is never taken away in this life. Chastity and purity are possible, but the effects of concupiscence are with us until death.

Temptation is also with us until death. It's our trial and means of sanctification. No sinner or saint ever escaped temptation. It's been said by saints and theologians that Satan prepares his worst temptations at the end and in the agony of death. God's grace is always there for us to overcome temptation.

jvc said...

Every time I see that picture of you, Kevin, I burst out laughing. You have an exceptional ability to use humor to illustrate the silliness of something or someone. The creeper smile is pure gold.

Anonymous said...

Btw, thanks for the links wade. I read in the first link that not one, but two West defenders said they've heard West speak over a hundred times.

It reminded me of a diary entry of Alec Guinness:

A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere. I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The bad penny first dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boy's eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.

`I would love you to do something for me,' I said.

`Anything! Anything!' the boy said rapturously.

`You won't like what I'm going to ask you to do,' I said.

`Anything, sir, anything!'

`Well,' I said, `do you think you could promise never to see Star Wars again?'

He burst into tears. His mother drew herself up to an immense height. `What a dreadful thing to say to a child!' she barked, and dragged the poor kid away. Maybe she was right but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.

Wade St. Onge said...

Thanks for sharing, romish.

There is a reason why I have at times referred to West as "the Pied Piper of Catholicism".

Benjamin. said...

That's an interesting quote.
I had found out somewhat recently of Alec's conversion.
I remember George once mentioning how careful he wanted to be.

About a month or two ago I watched his Father Brown, (which is apparently when he converted.)

Reminds me somewhat of Tolkien. Tolkien also had a concern with over devoted fans.

Benjamin. said...

As for the issue of temptation...

"Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."

Don't tempt yourself.

Benjamin. said...

Matthew 26:41 "Watch and pray that you will not enter into temptation, for the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Joey Higgins said...

Put another way, this is the difference between the alcoholic who avoids drinking vs. the alcoholic who no longer wants to drink.

Doesn't this illustrate the point of those that don't like West's arguments? We've just switched the appetite and with the switch, we can more easily see the error.

In this analogy, the sin is from over-consumption of alcoholic beverages. For the analogy to work, the person practicing, "mature purity," would have to drink alcohol and not over-consume because of grace from God/maturity.

Is that really a good idea? Do we really think that the alcoholic would be able to control his urges indefinitely? Even if he was able to with much prayer and reflection, you have a limited amount of willpower. Why would anyone want to use that willpower to fight something that is a known issue? It fails on all levels.

waywardson said...
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waywardson said...

Kevin O'Brien:

From your comment you show that you have completely misunderstood Christopher West AND John Paul II.

Let's not talk about naked ladies. Let's talk about naked men. I can look at naked men all day long without lusting. I'm not bragging, I'm simply not wired that way. Looking at naked men holds no interest for me. (Because it holds no interest for me, I do not do it.)

What West is saying is that a straight man who has victory over lust could look at a naked woman in the same way he would look at a naked man: With no sexual interest. He is NOT recommending this practice.

The problem with West isn't that he's selling lust, it's that he is too much of a Puritan. Straight men cannot be expected to not show interest in naked women.

Yet ironically, you and West seem to make the same mistake of equating desire (eros) with lust, but that's not what John Paul II wrote.

The difference between lust and desire is that lust turns the person into an object, while desire is the "raw material of love". (JPII, not West). Lust settles for less, desire asks for more. Lust is about the body, desire is about the whole person. Lust is about pleasure alone, desire is about something more.

Battling lust is about more than just avoiding naked women. It is about changing our hearts so that we see the women as more than just bodies. And yes, this would likely involve looking away out of respect.

A man can see his wife naked and desire her. Their desire relates to their mutual love and their life together. Desire starts long before marriage, although sexual activity is reserved for marriage. If a man does not desire the woman he plans to marry (and vice-versa), they have a problem!

This thinking has caused tremendous harm among married couples who have been led to believe that their healthy and normal loving desire for each other is sinful, unholy lust.