What’s really at stake when men — husbands, fathers, brothers, cousins, sons, and neighbors — objectify women through sexual misconduct? Why do they do this? While mainstream America seems to have concluded that personal power corrupted these men’s hearts, we are free to question that conclusion. After all, men who have absolutely no power with regard to personal position, wealth, influence, personality, or accomplishments also have been accused of objectifying women in the same manner. Let’s talk about the real reasons and consequences.
If power is not the sole corrupter of our hearts, what is? I believe men — (and women) — rich or poor — act with diminished human dignity when they actually lack personal power. Not the kind of power that we tend to associate with influence, authority, money, or popularity. Rather the kind of power that allows one to treat others well because that’s how they wish to be treated. This is also known as the Golden Rule which basically summarizes God’s commandments four through ten. The Golden Rule necessarily acknowledges that the treatment of others hinges on how well we obey commandments one through three. These first three commandments teach us to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul and then directs us how to love our neighbors in the next seven commandments. We can’t get the first three commandments right if we don’t get the last seven right; it’s also true, that we won’t get the last seven commandments right if we fail to obediently love God first and foremost. The Golden Rule is foundational to our interior strength/power.
Authentic power/strength is the sum total of one’s personal integrity, virtue, Faith, authentic love of God and more. This interior disposition invites us to treat others with the greatest dignity and respect. This interior strength keeps our hearts, body, mind and soul in sync with God’s moral authority and vice versa. This strength mostly rests outside of ourselves; it is not self made compared to the personal power associated with acquisition of money, position, influence, popularity, or accomplishment. Therefore, authentic power is not afraid of putting others’ interests ahead of self interests. Interior power does not diminish with time; Divine Grace advances it for a lifetime and beyond. Authentic power reins in the temptations associated with selfishness including arrogance, the objectification of others, dishonesty, pride, etc.
The recent sexual misconduct scandals reveal just how little power the accused men actually had. Few of them could keep their own jobs despite current and past successes. Ultimately, they had no control over the women who decided to out their bad behavior regardless of the personal consequences. They also lacked prudence, temperance, justice, and self control because their own bad choices, decisions and habits had morphed into their own enslavement to personal addictions, immoral lifestyles, loss of faith, and self-justification. Their personal freedom to choose and act well were compromised. In other words they enslaved themselves to their own desires.
The seriousness of these scandals ought to prompt a national discussion with regard to the cause and the cures. The scandals argue against the philosophy that men and women will naturally choose good over wrongdoing in most cases! (The Enlightenment Philosophy) But how can a person choose good and avoid evil if they are not taught what is right and wrong and hold those things to be true? Over the last several decades, moral relativism which argues against right or wrong for everyone has expanded its reach to all walks of life. Hopefully these scandals will wake us up to its impact. Yes, there is right and wrong, and yes, we can identify it as did the recent victims.
Society also seems accepting of the mantra: lets let boys be boys without actually clarifying what that means. When said with a wink and a nod, the mixed message seems problematic at best. And the underlying message apparently give boys (and men) unspoken permission to use love to get sex. Conversely, it also gives an unspoken permission to girls to use sex to get love. Unfortunately, we have granted both genders an unqualified permission to use other people for their own selfish interests. That is the very definition of objectification of another human being. While we can use things, we must never learn to use people.
Modern day drama proves all too often that too many couples traded long term happiness in for short term pleasures creating a crises among families, children, and parents. Pornography use plays a heavy role in this hurtful drama which in the long run disaffects families much like any other catastrophe. Pornography is more addictive than some opioids (another tsunami hitting families); it is one of the main causes of divorce; it is readily available at younger and younger ages warping ideas about happiness and relationships; it alters the male brain chemistries changing the way men relate to women; the industry enslaves women in various ways to demeaning lifestyles; and it persuades young girls of the need to dress and act like porn stars they observe on the Big Screens. How did it get to be such a big industry unless it had significant, silent approval?
Let us pray for the courage to argue for the cures and against the causes with conviction, love and mercy. Let us answer truthfully when challenged by the Who Are You To Judge questions? In fact, Dr. Edward Sri, author of the book of the same title, suggests countering with this: “So, basically I hear you asking me not to judge others even as you are now judging me to be judgmental…” We have to work to restore God’s moral code which is black and white with regard to moral right and wrong.
The accusers — while sharing some things in common and many things probably not in common — arrived at the same conclusion. The perpetrators wronged them! The women felt horribly violated and for good reason. They spoke with credibility. Like these brave souls, may all of us speak with moral authority about the causes and the cures of the many ills hitting this nation for the sake of our men, our neighbors, our brothers and husbands, our fathers and our co-workers and our families. Let us speak out in truth about love and life; mercy; and the real purpose and meaning of marriage and sexuality this Advent & Christmas Season.
May you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.