Nowadays just as illiteracy is everywhere on the decrease, religious ignorance is growing at an incredible extent even in families of long Christian traditions. For one reason or another, whether through anti-Christian prejudice, or a lamentable disorientation and neglect, masses of young Christians are reaching adolescence totally ignorant of the most basic notions of the faith and elementary practices of piety.
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” [John 10:10]. “I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the father but by me” says Jesus Christ. Our Lord however never promised us an easy life, but rather, the graces necessary to overcome difficulties.
What is true freedom? Is it to do whatever I want or to live according to the truth? As Plato advises: “Seek truth while you are young, for if you don’t, it will escape your grasp.” Truth speaks volumes.
As young people there are many temptations that you must face daily – sex, drugs, peer pressure, pornography, alcohol etc. – which according to the world will give you happiness. But real happiness cannot come from material things because without God, happiness is not possible; although for a time it may appear otherwise. Happiness comes only from discovering the truth, giving yourself and rendering service.
Contrary to Planned Parenthood and other NGOs who promote consequence-free sex through the teaching of comprehensive sexuality education in our schools, there are Four Basic Risks attached to pre-marital sex: (1) mortal sin i.e. offence against God, neighbour and self, (2) emotionally devastating consequences, (3) STDs and (4) pregnancy. For STDs and pregnancy, modern society offers condoms for prevention but these fail woefully in young hands and unfortunately too, the 1st and 2nd Risks cannot even be condomised. Simply put, SIN is Self-Inflicted Nuisance and is the gravest of all four risks, whereas pregnancy (procreation) and education of children is the primary purpose of marriage i.e. sex is for pregnancy and if you don’t want pregnancy don’t have sex.
Regarding the 2nd Risk of premarital sex, it is widely known by neuroscientist and confirmed by published scientific research that the “wiring” of the adolescent brain is incomplete and that functions such as self-control, judgment and emotions are underdeveloped, leading to rash decisions and acting on impulses. As adults, we think with our frontal lobe, but teens think from the amygdala—the part of the brain responsible for our feelings and the process continues this way until age 23 for girls and age 25 for boys when the frontal lobe takes over. Thus it can be very difficult for teens and young adults to “anticipate the consequences” of their decisions especially when they are in an emotional situation or they are aroused sexually. Today, thanks to IT, knowledge can be acquired at more and more tender ages, but wisdom comes with age. To encourage adolescents therefore to “take calculated risks” and “trust in their own capacities” with regard to their sexual feelings or behavior is irresponsible.
In today’s society pre-teens, teenagers and young adults are bombarded with the tragically misguided belief that sex outside marriage and the resultant abortion hold no mental health dangers for them. At every turn — TV, music, movies, public education — young people are encouraged to participate in sex, in all of its deviant forms, with no fear of the 2nd Risk mentioned above. And if a pregnancy does occur, abortion is sold as a safe, easy and painless way to rid them of the unwanted “product of conception.”
Abortion is illegal in Nigeria, but, with Marie Stopes International clinics springing up unchecked by the Police who claim to be financially handicapped to prosecute cases of suspected juvenile abortions carried out on even underage girls in Nigerian big cities, about half of our nation’s over one million annual surgical abortions are performed on youth of 24 years or younger (especially between 16 and 20 years).
If you grew up within an intact family, your foundational source of love—an essential emotion we all need and crave—came from those with whom you lived, or, if not, then likely from your extended family. But in our world today, with marriage and the family under multiple serious threats, the traditional Nigerian family is becoming scarce or even deformed beyond recognition.
In the face of this reality, where do our youth turn for love when it’s increasingly not to be found at home? The media, our emerging toxic culture, peers and almost everything around them suggest that love can be found in casual sex.
But what happens when a young boy or girl who pursues lasting love through fleeting sex finds that love still eludes him or her? What happens when the broken hearts of a young mother and father of an aborted baby come face to face with the violent and brutal reality of their “reproductive choice” or “reproductive justice” which is Black Lives Matter’s preferred euphemism for abortion?
Helplessness, despair and hopelessness are emotions which are frequent companions to countless youth who’ve been looking for love in all the wrong places.
Maureen Underwood, a clinical director for the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, made a profound point but apparently hasn’t connected the dots where sex and abortion fit in. She said that when it comes to suicide “Many kids do not understand that once they’re dead, they’re dead forever” and we add that “abortion also makes their baby dead for ever”. They don’t understand the finality of death.
As adults, we think with our frontal lobe and teens think from the part of the brain responsible for our feelings. This biological reality should move adults and mental health experts to realize that the teen mind is not yet capable of fully understanding the lifelong ramifications of premarital sex and abortion. We are dealing with a generation that has a warped understanding of what healthy sex actually is. It’s a generation numbed by a succession of poor choices chasing after a love that continues to elude them. And we wonder why the suicide rate among our nation’s youth is rising.
We can and should help them, but first we must come to terms with what is causing this human devastation. We need to affirm to our youth how premarital sex affects marriages: infidelity about which they laid the foundation with premarital sex and the divorces that follow, lack of love between couples and the attendant violence, disease etc.
Note here however that something is morally wrong not because the Church says so, but rather the Church says so because there is something morally wrong with it e.g. Contraception is not morally wrong because the Church says so, as if it is a peculiar kind of Catholic thing, but rather the Church teaches that contraception is wrong because, against God’s design, it separates the unitive and the procreative parts of the marital union thus rendering sterile this life-generating (fertile) act.
But what western society offers young people is: The freedom to consume until their credit cards max out; to have sex wherever they want and with whomsoever they want; to live in a *solipsistic bubble. But this vision of man degrades him. [*Solipsism: belief in self as the only reality; the belief that the only thing somebody can be sure of is that he or she exists, and that true knowledge of anything else is impossible.]
Everyone gets morality right when it concerns murder, stealing, lying, racism etc. and it is not Christian teaching that makes these things wrong but the nature of the things themselves, but when it comes to sexual matters, this elementary bit of moral thinking and teaching is often forgotten; routinely ignored.
A common error is to think that mere knowledge and information are enough, whereas even the best sexual information won’t make anyone chaste; the powerful sex appetite must be reined in by spiritual formation and religious practice.
Pope Pius XI in Rappresentate in Terra
Over 90 years ago, on Dec. 31, 1929, Pope Pius XI in Rappresentate in Terra wrote: “Far too common is the error of those who with dangerous assurance and under an ugly term propagate a so-called sex education, falsely imagining that they can forearm youths against the dangers of sexuality by means purely natural and worse still, by exposing them at an early age to the occasions, in order to accustom them and as it were to harden them against such dangers. Such persons grievously err in refusing to recognize the inborn weakness of human nature, and the law of which the Apostle speaks, fighting against the law of the mind: and also ignoring the facts, from which it is clear that, particularly in young people, evil practices are the effect not so much of ignorance of intellect as of weakness of a Will exposed to dangerous occasions, and unsupported by the means of grace.” ”…Early sexual activity by young unmarried teens is the effect not so much of ignorance as of weakness of Will and poverty of spiritual formation/ life.”
“… Forearm youths against the dangers of sexuality and by exposing them at an early age…, in order to accustom them…in order to harden them against such dangers.” Is it not amazing that these same arguments are still being used today to justify secular sex education taught in the schools of our children. But after all these years the sex experts (sexperts) are still wrong and persist in spreading error.
When it comes to sexual morality, there is always far more damage done by silence than by speaking out. In the absence of a firm direction on divorce, abortion, contraception, pornography, homosexuality, same-sex “marriage”, cohabitation or any of the other issues dealing with sexual morality, people will think that it is perfectly fine to make up their own minds and will thereby develop badly warped consciences.
The London Sex Olympics (Sporting Condoms)
100,000 condoms were on hand for free distribution at the 2012 London Olympics; making sex the unofficial sport at the London Olympics. It was at that Olympics that 30 year-old U.S. Hurdler Lolo Jones, when she came in 4th in the 100-metre hurdles final faced a backlash of degrading insults from her acquaintances who claimed that if she had been sexually active (sleeping around), perhaps she would have performed better at her event. Lolo openly admitted: “Being a virgin is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life: harder than training for the Olympics and graduating from College.” but she put her critics in their proper place by lashing out: “At any moment, I could choose to be like them; however they can never again be like me.” Too true! Too true! Give it to them brave, chaste and spotless girl, because the truth is strong in itself and no assault weakens it.
Moving forward however in terms of immorality, the London Sex Olympics has turned out to be child’s play to the Brazil World cup of 2014 where 2,000,000 condoms were distributed or the Rio Olympics of 2016 where over 4 million UNAIDS condoms were available for distribution. But true to condom statistics: more condoms more HIV. The manufacturer-approved conclusion is that no contraceptive can guarantee 100 per cent effectiveness and as a result, the condom cannot prevent HIV infection. Its failure rate is confirmed as 85% for adults and 24% for young people. And that leads us naturally to the long raging debate on chastity as we ask our young people objectionable or exceptional, which do you choose?
Objectionable or exceptional – you choose
By Melanie Pritchard – renowned Catholic Chastity Speaker -. Aug. 27, 2012
One evening in my college dorm room, I saw myself in a mirror and didn’t like the reflection looking back at me. I began college a strong Catholic young woman and four short months later I was looking hard in a mirror not able to recognize myself. The decisions I made in college were drastically different from those I made in high school. I began wearing revealing clothes, going to parties, dating guys who had nothing to offer me but good looks, and listening to music, reading magazines, watching TV shows and movies that didn’t correspond with my dignity. I didn’t realize that all these little decisions would add up to this moment looking in a mirror and hating who I had become, not realizing how I got there.
I called a mentor and friend and revealed to her my inner longing to find my joy again, to find me again. She asked me a question that opened my eyes to what was going on in the culture. She said, “Whose plan are you following for your life?”
It was a soul awakening moment because naively I did not realize there were people in our culture who had plans and agendas for my life, for my relationships, and for my sexuality. I remember feeling like a fool not recognizing that there are groups of people who don’t have my best interest in mind whether it is for their selfish, social or financial gain. After much thought, I made a list of all the things I was allowing to influence me …guys, friends, movies, magazines, music etc. Then I began to think of the source of those things. I thought,
“Who wrote those Cosmo and Glamour articles friends and I read as if they were the gospel of fashion and relationship success?”
Who were those musicians singing the songs we danced and listened to?
What were their lives like? Were they happily married? Were they joyful and content?
Did they come from good families?
Did they practice a faith?
Who has formed them?
That was the day I decided that I would no longer let some unknown person sitting in a cubicle in New York writing some article they had to get in on a deadline tell me what was in.
I was no longer going to let them tell me how to dress, function in a relationship, or teach me about sex.
It was then that I took a look at the culture and saw three plans people are choosing to follow in their relationships, in their sexuality and in their lives.
Plan 1: People who choose to live morally objectionable lives
They set their own standards. They have several sexual partners, they cheat, hook-up, are addicted to and promote pornography, pre-marital sex, alcohol and drugs. They view sex as just a pleasurable act that should have no boundaries. They are selfish, careless and use people and things for their own fleeting pleasure. They have abandoned God in order to do whatever they want. They object to the idea that there is any real truth. Some might call them moral relativists. They reject the idea of sin and often talk about no rules, no morality, no Heaven and no Hell. It’s a really easy plan to accomplish because it takes no notice of virtue, discipline, sacrifice, or faith.
Plan 2: People who choose to live “seemingly” morally acceptable lives
They set their own standards and fit God into their life plan when they see fit. They are fine with just being average in their faith and values. They may not have sex before marriage, but they will do everything but that. They wear a cross as jewelry while wearing booty shorts and revealing cleavage shirts. They party hard on Saturday night but do their best to be a regular Church-goer on Sunday. They live with one foot in the world and one foot in church, often seeing how far they can push the limits. They desire to have values, but aren’t willing to commit fully to making good choices. They want to go to Heaven, but are willing to settle for purgatory in order to satisfy their earthly desires. They may try to master some virtues but give up on the ones that are too hard. They can sacrifice, be disciplined, and act in faithful ways, but choose to only when it fits them best. It is a hard and confusing plan to follow because they are living between two opposite worlds often feeling a tug-of-war in their hearts.
Plan 3 People who choose to live morally exceptional lives
These are the people who know they are weak and broken and need God’s strength in order to live exceptionally.
They follow God’s standards and believe He is the Way, The Truth and The Life and that He created them in His image and likeness.
They believe God created them uniquely masculine or feminine and designed their sexuality for the specific purpose of bonding two people together and allowing them to co-create with God. They believe they and others have value and worth. They believe that choices have consequences and they seek to form their minds to make decisions pleasing to the Lord. They choose to have sex within marriage alone as their sexuality is a gift to be given to one person.
They find their worth in God and not in fleeting things. They do what they ought instead of doing what they want, not because it confines them, but because it is what frees them.
They seek to serve and be Christ-like and their ultimate goal is to get themselves and others to Heaven. They pray daily, are in relationship with God; they sacrifice on a regular basis, and they seek the Sacraments to help them stay strong. They believe that God allows them to love as He loves which is always exceptional, and His grace is what allows them to live up to His standards. They know they can’t do it on their own. They wake up daily trying to live to their fullest potential knowing they may fail but knowing there is always tomorrow to try again. This is the hardest plan to follow, but the one that brings the most joy and peace.
Reading through the “Plans” you may be asking yourself which one you follow, but I must warn you, one of them is a figment of the follower’s imagination. Revelations 3:15-16 tells us: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, will I spew you out of my mouth.” “Plan 2: ‘seemingly’ morally acceptable” doesn’t really exist because either a person is in a relationship with God allowing Him to set the standard so they can move toward exceptional love or they are in a relationship with sin by choosing a morally objectionable life. Sadly, the plan I see many follow is a “seemingly morally acceptable” one where they are always in great danger of falling more and more into sin, sadness, and loneliness instead of a life of grace, joy and freedom.
If I were to ask people if they want to live a morally exceptional life, I feel their response will be one underlined in fear. They might say, “I don’t want to be a saint; saints are exceptional!” When what they are really saying is, “I don’t believe in myself enough to live to my full potential.” These were my own thoughts as a freshman in college when I choose to believe I was living a morally acceptable life, only to find myself…lost, doubting my own potential for greatness. Those of us who have believed it possible to live a “morally acceptable” life can tell you it is a constant tug-of-war sliding into objectionable decisions (sin), but desiring to be exceptional (in relationship with God).
There isn’t a famous athlete or musician in this world who would walk on a field or stage and say: “Today I am NOT going to play to my full potential. I am NOT going to go out there and give it my best. Today I will settle for third.” No, instead they say, “Today I am going to try to be exceptional. I will try my hardest.”
We have it in us to play, sing, dance, study in exceptional ways, but why is it some of us cringe at the idea of being morally exceptional. We choose passions where we have to make healthy choices, be disciplined in our regiments and sacrifice, but when it comes to our morality, we don’t know if we are capable. And maybe this is just it. When it comes to morality, it is harder, and we just aren’t capable…on our own.
Every day we walk out the door of our home into a battle: A battle to protect our purity, dignity, chastity and virtues. Peers, billboards, magazines, music, TV shows, movies, books, boyfriends, girlfriends will tempt us, bombard us, and pressure us to make dangerous decisions that may negatively affect our lives. We are in a battlefield. Where is our armour?
Our armour is the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit! In addition, making a habit of all the four Cardinal Virtues of prudence (wisdom), justice, fortitude (courage), and temperance (self-control) strengthens our armour and prepares us to combat a culture that is getting ever more morally objectionable. A culture which is willing to settle for mediocrity instead of exceptionality! We weren’t created for mediocrity. As Pope Benedict XVI said to a group of young people, “The world promises you comfort, but you are not made for comfort. You are made for greatness!”
And, those who choose, regardless of how many times they fail, to be morally exceptional, are the game changers! We can change the world with our yes to the world, with our yes to being loved rightly, and with our yes to the Sacraments. We will change the world by rejecting conformity and inviting Christ in to transform us. We will change the world with our joy.
And when people ask us whose plan we are following, we can say, “The Maker and Creator Himself; the One who wrote the original plan. The plan that lets you look in the mirror and like what you see. The plan that brings you joy and secures your spot in Heaven for all eternity. ”
Remember God doesn’t need you to change to come to Him. If you are far from God or living your faith with one foot in the world and one foot in Church, go to God without changing. If change needs to be made, Christ will inspire it within you. We can’t be morally exceptional on our own: it takes God’s grace. The Holy Spirit is our strength. We must live our lives with intention and choose to live to our fullest and greatest potential, seeking to be exceptional knowing it is God that makes us perfect through His Son.
“I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” [John 10:10]
Engr. J E A Okwuosa, DG Project for Human Development (PHD) firstname.lastname@example.org