Author archives: Daniel Hart

What Are We Made For?

by Daniel Hart

December 17, 2015

The great celebration of the birth of Christ is quickly approaching. In the spirit of the season, it seems appropriate to reflect on our humanness and what it all means. After all, God created us in His own image, as the Book of Genesis tells us. He then proceeded to come to us in the form of a newborn baby in Bethlehem. We can infer from this that being human is something incomparably unique and of the utmost importance in all of creation. What, then, is our purpose for existing? Much of this question can be deduced by what’s inherent in our very physicality, in the bodies that we’ve been given.

What seems most obvious is that we are not animals. We have fingers with soft, rounded tips, not claws. We have teeth with smoothed edges, not sharp-pointed fangs. Our delicate feet must be protected by artificial soles against the thorns and rocks of the ground, unlike hoofs or paws. Our bodies are swathed in sensitive, malleable skin, not a hardened shell or thick fur—we must wrap ourselves in manufactured protective layers against the elements. This inherent vulnerability in all of us makes it clear that we’re not meant to prey upon each other in a survival-of-the-fittest free-for-all as the animals do. So what are we meant for?

Let’s dig a little deeper. We’ve been given brains that are far more powerful than any computer, capable of both grounded logic and abstract reasoning. To express what we process there, we’ve been given a voice box unique among all living things, capable of articulating language at a level of sophistication and nuance that is unmatched. What is most immediately expressive, however, are our eyes, which convey emotions and feelings with such clarity and depth that by the observation of them alone, a window into the soul of another is opened.

Perhaps, then, we are made for the other, for love. Why? Because everything we think, say and do loses all meaning if there is not another to receive it, and our bodies are thus designed to give and receive in love. Our hands are for tender caresses and firm support; when we swing and hit with clenched fists, the result is fractured knuckles. Our voices are for strong proclamation and kind encouragement; when we shout angrily, our throats become hoarse. Furthermore, even the most intimate parts of us, our male and female sexual faculties, must be given and received in complementary mutual love to have any meaning. Indeed, even our most intimate prayers and longings of the heart are directed to another person—God the Son.

What does all this reveal? At the most fundamental level, this tells us that our lives are not ours. In cooperation with God the Father, our mother and father brought us into existence in an act of love. We did not choose to come into existence—it is a gift freely given to us. Therefore, we are called to be grateful and satisfied with the body and the life that we are given, and to resist the temptation to grasp at what we think we deserve. Since our lives are a gift freely given, we must in turn freely give it away, as Christ did. As Christians throughout history can attest, the greatest freedom and joy can be found in this.

A Common-Sense Strategy in the Battle Against Pornography

by Daniel Hart

November 19, 2015

NOTE: Those who are grappling with a serious pornography addiction will most likely need help beyond the advice given here. Being part of a support group, having accountability partners and cultivating a robust prayer life anchored in God’s Word are all crucial to overcoming an addiction to pornography. Click here for more resources on combatting addiction.

National White Ribbon Against Pornography (WRAP) Week has come and gone, but the battle for hearts and minds must continue. Important, common-sense strategies in the fight against pornography consumption often seem overlooked in regard to addressing the porn epidemic in our society. Therefore, this post will focus on the simple reality that natural sexual desires and energy can be redirected, and that this is something that is healthy and necessary for human beings to flourish. If more people applied this practice in their daily lives, it would stem the demand for porn that is fueling its production and dissemination.

First, it’s important to remember that even in today’s hyper-sexualized culture, most people still think that watching porn is morally wrong. And yet, studies show that two-thirds of men and over one-third of women in the United States use porn on a monthly basis, and half of all Internet traffic is related to sex. Clearly, there is a disconnect between what people know in their hearts to be true, and what they actually do despite what their conscience tells them.

How does this happen? Justifying immoral behavior to oneself is easy, especially when our culture literally encourages it. In a society where contraception, premarital sex, and one-click-away Internet porn are the norm, satisfying sexual urges is seen as akin to eating or sleeping, as if it must be done in order to function normally. Implicit in this assumption is the belief that we are merely animals who must masturbate or copulate on impulse like baboons. The problem with this view is that it does not reflect the actual experience of those who attempt to placate these urges through porn consumption and masturbation—instead of feeling satisfied, the overwhelming feeling is one of guilt, disgust, and shame (even cursory searches of online discussion forums about pornography reveal this).

At the heart of this problem is the reality of sexual desire, which is something intrinsically good in nature, but is also uniquely powerful and instinctual, which means it is highly susceptible to being warped and abused. Here at FRC, we strongly believe in the inherent goodness of sex as expressed in the marital bonds of one man and one woman. Having said that, any honest discussion of sexual desire cannot stop there for the simple reason that every one of us, whether young or old, single or married, must deal with our natural desires and urges on a daily basis. Certain demographics, particularly teenagers (and men in general) experience keener surges in sexual energy. In a world of instant gratification where one can carry around the entire Internet in one’s pocket, is it any wonder why the web is saturated with pornography? Technology has put society in an unprecedented position: Even the slightest sexual urge can be indulged instantly, with one or two typed words and a couple of clicks in Google—without the trouble of having any real human interaction.

This is why it is so critical to deal with this problem at its root: What is one to do with the energy that is felt in a sexual urge or desire? As touched upon earlier, it must be made clear that there is a crucial difference between perceived sexual “needs” and the need for food or sleep. One can’t redirect their hunger or tiredness toward something else—these needs will only become worse until they are satisfied. This is simply not the case with a sexual urge. With effort, one’s sexual thoughts can be redirected toward something else, and the urge will often simply pass. The key to succeeding in this is through forming the habit of not extending a sexual thought into a prolonged fantasy, which a well-formed conscience will react to with shame. Once one recognizes the nature of the temptation at its onset, it can more easily be purified.

This is easier said than done, of course. When a stronger sexual energy does come, as it inevitably will from time to time, experience tells us that it can be redirected toward a creative activity such as playing music or dancing, or it could simply be a physical activity like going for a run, playing sports, building a bookshelf, working in your garden, landscaping, cleaning, etc. These activities combine our physical and creative capacities and provide a therapeutic outlet for our energy, whether it be sexual or otherwise.

The law of supply and demand makes it clear that as long as pornography is in demand, there will always be a supply. Through self-discipline and redirecting our sexual energy, the temptation to consume pornography can be avoided, and thus the possibility of an addiction can be stopped before it starts. This will in turn decrease the demand for porn, and eventually lead to a decrease in its production and dissemination. Some may say that this is an idealistic pipe dream, but if more people in the majority of those who believe that pornography is wrong stopped using it, the tide could begin to turn.

This mission can only be fulfilled if we not only commit to undertaking it ourselves, but also commit to instilling it in our children. Make no mistake, this is an extremely difficult battle to fight, because it must be fought not only with the prevailing culture, but also with ourselves. Nevertheless, it is a noble battle for the human heart, and therefore worth fighting for with all our might.

Pope Francis’s Words Confound Liberal Orthodoxies

by Daniel Hart

October 6, 2015

The mainstream media seems to be in a constant battle to try and wrest control of who they think Pope Francis is and what he stands for. What the media often fail to do is to quote the Pope’s actual words when he speaks against the modern orthodoxies that they are so fixated on upholding, in particular that of same-sex marriage.

During his homily at the Mass in Rome celebrating the opening of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family on October 4, Pope Francis reflected yet again, as he has done throughout his papacy, on the central and indisputable truth and beauty of the family, that is, of one man, one woman, and their children:

In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen 2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as the Psalm proclaimed today says (cf. Ps 128).

This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” (Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).

But the Pope did not stop there. He went on to point out the ills that modern society currently suffers from in regard to its understanding of what marriage actually is:

For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.

Paradoxically, people today — who often ridicule this plan — continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving.

He followed this by quoting his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger), who cuts to the heart of modern society’s ill-conceived notion of “freedom”:

Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite.”

Despite the media’s best efforts in pigeonholing him to fit their agenda, Pope Francis will continue to confound them with what he actually says. Only time will tell if they will ever listen.

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