By Jerome German
Jerome German is a retired manufacturing engineer, father of eleven, and grandfather of a multitude. His parochial activities have included music ministry, faith formation, and spiritual direction/talks for men’s retreats. Before retirement, Jerry’s writing was largely in the technical realm and he is a late-bloomer to writing for faith formation. The Wisconsinite and his wife spend summers in Wisconsin and winter on the Riviera Maya where they own a small vacation rental business.
In recent years, social/political pundit Milo Yiannopoulos has been an insufferable pain in the backside for the politically correct. His traditionalist views, coupled with his blatantly homosexual lifestyle, have intensified the Left’s pain. It is excruciating for the politically correct to deal with anyone who cannot easily be typecast, because, lacking legitimate argument, typecasting is the only weapon they possess. If they can’t vilify you by putting an identity sticker on you, they’ve got nothing—and there’s simply no sticker for homosexuals with a love for Western Civilization, politically conservative values, and the Church.
And now Mr. Yiannopoulos has further aggravated their discomfort by having the audacity to “come out as straight.” And they have wasted no time in condemning him in every way possible and insisting that this conversion is but a show. To add to their pain, he did it by consecrating his life to St. Joseph! He told LifeSite News that “Secular attempts at recovery from sin are either temporary or completely ineffective. Salvation can only be achieved through devotion to Christ and the works of the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. St. Joseph is the spiritual father figure of the Holy Family. In this time of gender madness, devoting myself to the male protector of the infant Jesus is an act of faith in God’s Holy Patriarch, and a rejection of the Terror of transsexuals.”
To me, what is most interesting and of the most value in this process—aside, of course, from the salvation of Milo’s soul—is the implication of the process he went through. He says that he knows it will never be easy, and he therefore treats his former lifestyle as an addiction and remains ever vigilant. I don’t want to put words into the man’s mouth, but what seems to be the crux of all this is what we have been watching take place in our culture for more than a generation: the conflation of personal temptation and identity.
Milo Yiannopoulos has clearly disassociated his temptations with his identity. And for this our diseased secular culture will never forgive him, for identifying with one’s temptations is the bedrock of the sexual schizophrenia of our day. It is no secret that there are forces at work to normalize pederasty, and that the rationalization for such is the same as that used to normalize sodomy and contraception. Without this connection—without exalting our inordinate desires by claiming they are inherent to our nature—we’re all just a bunch of sinners. The prideful among us cannot let it be so.
Culturally, we have a problem with the concept of temptation on many levels. We might hear someone say, “I’m tempted to sell my big old fiberglass boat and get a little aluminum one,”—using the word simply to mean, “I’m considering.” Indeed, in being tempted to sin, we may actually consider committing the sin, and the depth and length of that debate may say something about the relative strength of our spiritual state, but in the end, we are defined by our decisions, not by our temptations. There is a tendency in current society to see belief in the existence of evil spirits as the gratuitous invention of a scapegoat, a white-washing attempt to dissociate ourselves from our real desires. But it seems to me that free will, by its very existence, assures that, if spirits exist, evil spirits exist.
Sophistry tries to paint simplicity as reductionist, when, in fact, simplicity merely insists on starting with foundational ideas and moving forward from there, while sophistry starts with the complex and quickly loses sight of the basics—ultimately making it systemically reductionist. When Ivan Pavlov accidentally discovered that dogs could be conditioned to salivate to many stimuli and not just to food placed in front of them, the whole concept of stimulus and response was born.
This basic brain-science concept seems often to go ignored. If we have experienced sexual pleasure in a certain way, with a certain individual or group of individuals, etc., future sensory stimulation that reminds us of those encounters will trigger a sexual response. It’s not rocket science. That response, depending upon how deeply ingrained it has become, may take years to dissipate, but dissipate it will. And that response—that temptation—does not define us.
This all boils down to one thing—our societal denial of concupiscence. Concerning original sin, Chesterton said, “Certain religious leaders in London, not mere materialists, have begun in our day not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt. Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.” His words, written over a hundred years ago, clearly demonstrate that the devil has had no reason to change his methodology, leading us to believe that identifying with our sick desires somehow normalizes, baptizes, sanctifies, and purifies those desires.
I have always been somewhat suspicious of the whole self-image driven “God does not make junk” phenomenon that came about a few years ago. While I certainly cannot judge the intent of those who made this assertion, I question its fruit. Surrounded as we are with a secular society eager to conflate temptation with identity, was this potentially an invitation to normalize—to baptize—inordinate desires? An obsession with self-identity is an invitation to self-absorption and eventual self-absolution.
Which is the easier task: to improve our self-image by overcoming our weaknesses and growing spiritually, embracing the destiny God has given us (so that we actually end up liking ourselves more), or convincing ourselves that, because God loves us just the way we are, no change is required on our part? Unfortunately, concupiscence dictates that we take the latter, the easy route: Concupiscence is forever busy convincing us of its own nonexistence—convincing us that we are lazy and pleasure-prone because that’s the way God made us, so just enjoy. Friedrich Nietzsche, unable to attain self-mastery, spent his entire career attempting to prove the “absolute irresponsibility” of human nature. He died in the same place that our culture is headed: an insane asylum.
Perhaps the greatest lesson that we can learn from St. Joseph, the lesson it seems that Milo is currently studying, is that life and freedom are not about us. Freedom is found in responsibility; loss of identity is the fruit of fretting about our identity to the exclusion of connectedness—to the exclusion of real communion. Joseph communed with the Blessed Mother and her Holy Son. That connection defined his life from moment to moment. It should define ours. Joseph’s was purpose-made in heaven. He was married but lived a celibate life. His life was difficult but transformational. The alternative to the normal difficulty of life is a self-pampering, weakening, self-destructive life of ease that does not end well.
Concerning living a chaste life, Milo says, “as an entry point into this way of living, St. Joseph was kind of the perfect point of commonality with all of the things that have preoccupied me professionally and spiritually, as the patriarch, as the spiritual father, as the head of the holy family.” St. Joseph was tempted, but he did not find his identity in his temptations.