Monday, October 18, 2010

Body Language in Hollywood

Joshua Kingdon is a Hollywood actor/director who leads a Theology of the Body study group in Hollywood. The Theology of the Body is a manual on human sexuality and relationships, rooted in Personalism and the writings of Pope John Paul 2. Theologian George Weigel, calls the Theology of the Body a “theological time-bomb set to go off with dramatic consequences ...perhaps in the twenty-first century.” True Feminism talks to Joshua about his role in this movement.

SD: How did you get involved with the Theology of the Body study group?

JK: I had never heard of the Theology of the Body, until I came to Los Angeles. A couple of friend’s of mine had decided to do start a study group. They would meet up and read a couple of chapters of the actual text of the Theology of the Body and would discuss it. I went for a few of those meetings and started to get familiar with it and then we were going to have a more formal study group at Family Theatre Productions and I brought up the idea that since we are in Hollywood, it might be a good idea to illustrate some of the points, made within Theology of the Body with movie clips. Last year we did 16 sessions. Another girl and me sort of put it together. We would introduce everything verbally, watch the video by Christopher West and try to line up two to four clips to illustrate certain points. We took a lot of time, trying to narrow down the major points, and created a short summary of a screenplay called a log line.

SD: The Theology of the body seems so body focused. How can this be reconciled with one’s spiritual self or how one thinks?

JK: God made us body and soul. This is the idea of sacrament, looking at our physical bodies, as tangible bodies that reveal this invisible truth. We connect the physical realities, the differences between male and female, in some way to reveal spiritual realities, invisible realities of how much God loves us and the relationship that he calls for us.

SD: This teaching is good for Heterosexuals, but where does it leave people with a Homosexual orientation? How can they live out the Theology of the body?

JK: Christopher West in his interpretation of the Theology of the Body says, “We as human beings are meant to be a gift, to another, specifically in the realm of marriage, that gift of sex is meant to reflect the relationship that Christ has with the church.” If you look at the crucifixion Christ gave of himself, of his body completely in a way that we would have life. The analogy with humans, is why the church preaches that there should only be conjugal relations between a husband and a wife, because the action says I will be with you forever, and am open to life, the giving of oneself. Being attracted to the same sex is not bad or sinful, but homosexual sexual activity, says something with your body that you’re not actually saying.

SD: What impact has the Theology had on your personal life?

JK: When I see a beautiful woman, instead of using terminology like she’s hot or she’s a babe. I have got into habit of using the term, that’s she eschatological, referring to the time, when our bodies, are re-united with our souls, after death and are restored to their amazing beauty, like Adam and Eve before the fall.

On a larger level, it’s given me greater confidence, in terms of apologetics, in terms of understanding the importance of marriage. You know that when you indulge in a lustful act that something isn’t quite right and for certain people, their consciences will speak to louder than others. The Theology of the Body, gives us a fuller understanding of why those activities are wrong, with respect to our relationship with God.

SD: What results has this study produced in Hollywood among those who attend it?

JK: People that attended were better able to articulate catholic teachings, on human sexuality. People that came go into and look at relationships, as more directed to the giving of oneself, and in finding ourselves in that way. A married couple enriches their relationship, to be more selfless . Someone who is dating, is given more confidence in their decision to not to sleep with someone before marriage. Some of us can understand this to a certain level, but when we take the time to study it, the better off we are as humans in our relationships with each other.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Personalist Feminism

Personalism in a nutshell is a philosophy whose objective is to uncover what defines human persons and how people relate to another. This series of articles on personalism attempts to explore the challenges and the opportunities personalism presents.

Dr. Mary Lemmons is the Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. Dr. Lemmons is also the co-founder of the Sienna Symposium for Personalist Feminism. The other co-founder is Dr. Deborah Savage. True Feminism talks to Professor Lemmons about their project.

SD: What is Personalist feminism?

ML: Personalist feminism is the feminism dedicated to caring for human life from conception to the grave. It is based on the recognition that each and every human being is a person deserving to be loved and cherished according to the Personalistic Norm as expressed by Karol Wojtyla. It is a form of feminism and not humanism because such love requires not only the sensitivity to vulnerabilities so characteristic of women, but also the willingness to do something about it. This kind of activism born of love is a particularly feminine gift. It is maternal in its core. Such maternal caring is a gift that every woman can make—even if never married and a virgin. Maternal caring is the spiritual motherhood whereby a woman achieves her greatest fulfillment both in the home and outside of the home. We are called to bring this gift of maternal caring to all the places where insensitivity rules and human beings are denigrated. If we, women, can witness to men the power and beauty of love, they will rediscover that their own destiny as men lays in a spiritual fatherhood where they also bring good to life.

SD: What role does Metaphysics play in Personalist feminism?

ML: Metaphysics is the philosophy of being and the objectivity of being enables one to achieve truth and goodness. But truth and goodness are achievements of a heart bent on love. Since, then, personalist feminism focuses on loving the human being in all stages of life, personalist feminism is the orientation that enables one to see the truth about the human being and to know that each and every one of us is deserves to be loved—no matter how small or how sick. So from this perspective, personalist feminism plays a role in metaphysical insight and wisdom.

There is yet another connection between metaphysics and personalist feminism, namely, the love required by personalist feminism develops within the heart, a willingness to walk where fear thrives. Love walks one into the disabled person’s school room, into the dying person’s bedroom, into the boardrooms of the powerful and seeks to enhance the lives of the vulnerable. This requires a degree of humility that requires one to take life as it comes and to fight against those who would damn a human life as unworthy to live. Eventually, I believe, this humility opens the heart to the deepest truths of being where one finds the God of love and seeks to be God’s friend. Personalist feminism thus sees metaphysics embodied in the vulnerable who have no one to advocate for them. Finally, the maternal caring characteristic of Personalist feminism requires one to see that invaluable gift men make to the lives of the vulnerable and the need to support men for the good that they do in their own roles. Of course, this means that Personalist feminism sees heterosexuality as a gift both to men and to women because it enables them to see that the meaning of being is to transcend the self in a gift of self to others.

SD: How does Personalist feminism connect to difference feminism?

ML: Difference feminism can be defined in different ways. On the one hand, it could mean that men and women are different from each other in complementary ways--as also held by Personalist Feminism. On the other hand, it could mean that the differences between men and women are so great as to be mutually exclusive or antagonistic; and, this Personalist feminism rejects as being uncaring and a lie about the metaphysics of being human and being sexual.

SD: What writers have played a role in defining Personalist feminism

ML: The writer most influential in shaping Personalist feminism was the personalist Polish philosopher Karol Wojtyla who became Pope John Paul II. He called for a new feminism in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae. He also promoted sexual equality in the home and in the workplace, while urging workplace reform that would allow the woman to harmoniously combine her roles. See, for instance, The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World #23. Also see Michelle Schumacher’s anthology called Women in Christ: Toward a New Feminism; and Elizabeth Schlitz. 2007a. “Should Bearing the Child Mean Bearing All the Cost? A Catholic Perspective on the Sacrifices of Motherhood and the Common Good,” Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture. Vol. 10, #3: 15-33; and also Elizabeth Schlitz. 2007b. “West, MacIntyre and Wojtyła: Pope John Paul II’s Contribution to the Development of a Dependency-Based Theory of Justice,” Journal of Catholic Legal Studies 45 (2007): 369-414.

Since the inspiration for Personalist Feminism is rooted in the personalism of Pope John Paul II, it is not dependent on Catholic theology but on human nature and the reality that one sex bears the children for the human race.

SD: Where can Personalist feminism be studied?

ML: Right now, I know of no place where Personalist Feminism can be extensively studied as such. That may change, since just within the last few weeks, I am starting with Dr. Deborah Savage a pilot program with the St. Paul School of Divinity at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. This pilot program is an interdisciplinary think tank trying to get a handle on all the issues that are involved in being faithful Catholics while advancing sexual equality and Personalist Feminism. We call ourselves the Siena Symposium for Women, Family and the Culture and are looking for funding so that we can develop systematically the insights that give us the confidence to know that women and men are not only equal but need each other to keep the culture alive.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Confessions of an Ex-Porn Addict

Matthew Fraad has an inspirational story about overcoming his pornography addiction.

Matthew’s fascination with porn started out when he found a Playboy centerfold at the age of eight, by the time Matt was 11 his friend and he would go into porn stores and steal porn magazines. One day Matt's father, found his stack of porn in his bottom draw and told him “just don’t let you’re mother find it.” Matt’s father was re-affirming the lie that men look at porn and it’s not a big deal. He was trying not to make Matt feel ashamed. An 8th grade teacher also told Matt, that porn and masturbation were healthy and that young men should go for it. A friend’s mom would even rent porn films for them to watch. All this was before the Internet.

Porn taught Matt three things: 1. women are supposed to be constantly sexually available. 2. Be physically flawless 3. a woman is worth as much as the lust she generates in me.

Porn trains men in boredom, you look at a picture for five to eight seconds, and then get bored with some of the most beautiful bodies on the planet. Matt got bored quickly and moved on from soft core to hard core to strip clubs. It soon became a daily addiction. Deep down Matt knew it was wrong, something kept telling him “this is not how men should act, this is not who I want to be.” Matt wanted to be a father and a husband one day and not some guy looking for his next fix. It was finally at a strip club that Matt realized that he had to stop.

Matt was now 17. Matt described himself as a Gothic Atheist who became a Catholic after a trip to Rome. Growing up Matt thought his problem was not porn, but up-tight puritanical Christians who don’t get it. After he became a Christian , Matt learnt that you veil what is precious, and that one of these women could be his sister or his wife and did not want someone looking at them someday like he was. Matt says “Porn is not bad because it shows too much, but because it shows to little”. It strips women of their femininity and turns them into objects for consumption. Matt now runs the porneffect. com. A outreach for men and women struggling with porn. Matt says that “Women are beautiful, but objectifying them is not." Porn is not about appreciating women, but getting something out of them.

Matt Fraad talks to True Feminism about his life now

SD: Can you give some practical tips on how a man can stay faithful to his wife—and pure for himself?

MF: A man must know three things before he is ready to battle his lust and choose purity.

1. You have a problem! Stop blaming your wife, the media, the culture or even the porn industry and recognize that it’s your problem!

2. There is no secret formula to over come porn. You must understand that purity is not a destination but a journey. You wont wake up one day and exclaim “by golly I’m finally pure!” Purity requires a daily choice! (See CCC 2342) Stop looking for a magic formula and start choosing purity moment by moment.

3. The only thing that can conquer a desire is a stronger desire. Though your desire to objectify women may be strong, you’re desire to guard and love is stronger!

There is much more that could be said, but these 3 steps seem to me foundational.

SD: How can his wife help him from falling of the wagon? Maybe your wife, Cameron, would like to weigh in on this question?

MF: I can only speak from experience. When I am tempted I will ask my wife “Honey can you please ask me over the new few days if I’ve remained faithful to you?” This does a few things. First of all it makes me aware of the severity of looking at porn. It’s not simply “naughty” or “unhelpful” it is choosing to be unfaithful to God and to the woman I promised to protect and love (Mt 5:28). Secondly it is a sobering reminder in a time of temptation to that my beloved will ask if I’ve remained faithful.

When a wife discovers that her husband has been viewing pornography it feeds into the many lies that she usually already believes about herself. Lies such as “I’m not captivating”, “I’m not enough” and “No man will fight for me”. Because of this it’s crucial that she not only pray for her husband but also seek to find her identity as a beloved daughter of God the Father. Regardless of how a husband may fail in his mission to love and guard his wife, she is still objectively a princess of the King of heaven.

Finally, dear wives, pray for us, have compassion on us.

SD: In your opinion, why is porn so attractive to men?

MF: G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Everyman who knocks on the door of a brothel is searching for God”. The same can be said for the man who views pornography; every man who clicks on a porn site is searching for God. Porn offers a warped sense of intimacy and a real sense of ecstasy. But as with all sin, it promises us everything and leaves us with less than we came with. In response to his loneliness a man seeks a sense of intimacy in porn, only to find isolation and loneliness. In repose to his desire for wonder and awe a man seeks excitement in porn only to find boredom. He seeks relief, only to find himself agitated; he seeks to have his masculinity validated but in the end finds himself to be emasculated. This is why C.S Lewis wrote in The Great DivorceLust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.

SD: How has your faith helped you conquer your addiction?

MF: Jesus Christ is my answer. In him I have found hope, mercy, strength, desire and passion! Instead of viewing the flesh of porn I view the flesh of the Eucharist, begging Him to heal my eyes and heart. Instead of remaining in the chains of pornography I willingly take up the chain of the Rosary! Instead of making excuses, trying in vain to justify my weakness by saying things like “boys will be boys”. “It’s natural”, I now willingly accept my weakness and sin in order that He, the lover of all souls may forgive me entirely.

I’d like to remind every man reading this who may be tempted to despair that Jesus once said to St. Catherine of Sienna "My mercy is greater without any comparison than all the sins creatures can commit. Therefore it greatly displeases me that they should consider their sins to be greater."

His mercy is bigger than our sin and the only sin he cannot forgive is the one we will not ask forgiveness for.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book for Classy Girls

Jordan Christy, is a music publicist for Warner Bros. and the author of "How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World: The Art of Living with Style, Class, and Grace." True Feminism talks to Jordan Christy about her message.

SD: What inspired you to write “How to be a Hepburn in a Hilton World”?

JC: I wanted girls to know that you can be successful, intelligent, and beautiful without sacrificing all your dignity. It’s all about knowing who you are, and being proud and empowered by that knowledge. There’s no reason to shrink back just because you don’t conform to the popular standards in today’s culture.

SD: Why did you choose Audrey Hepburn as your role model?

JC: She’s such an iconic image for women everywhere, all over the world. Her poise, natural beauty, and humble nature have continued to inspire generations of young women, and I think we could use more of that!

SD: According to you girls are either smart or stupid, is there room for anything in between?

JC: I’ve actually met very few “stupid girls” in my life – there are, however, a lot of smart girls that simply make poor choices. It’s never too late though – no matter how many mistakes you’ve made, there is still time to become a classy girl.

SD: You are a music publicist for Warner Bros. How do you practise being a Hepburn in a Hilton industry?

JC: I’ve found that it really doesn’t matter what industry you work in – whether it’s the fashion industry, the food service industry, or the music business – you can and will stand out when you conduct yourself with poise and intelligence. I’ve always simply tried to do each task to the best of my ability and, simultaneously, keep a positive attitude. And, of course, you can never go wrong by avoiding mini-skirts and alcoholic beverages at work functions!

SD: What advice would you offer to those who are afraid to go against the status quo today for fear of being rejected by their peers?

JC: Stand tall and be proud of who you are! You don’t need to feel like a loser for wanting to read books instead of going out partying, or feel like an outsider for not having a boyfriend by the time you’re 28– you can hold your head high and be confident in your choices and your character, even if it doesn’t conform to today’s standards.