Shakespeare and sexual morality

The notable scholar and Catholic commentator Anthony Esolen–whom I have had the privilege of hanging out with at a classical education conference at Our Savior’s in Houston–has written a fine essay on Shakespeare’s consistent theme of chastity, not just for women, but (rare in his day) for men.

There is an abundance of evidence to show that Shakespeare was a profoundly Christian playwright—and far more thoroughly concerned with the theology of grace, repentance, and redemption than any of his contemporaries. Here I should like to note one characteristic of his view of the world that seems to spring from his Christian faith—for it certainly does not spring from any recrudescence of paganism in the Renaissance, nor from the worldly laxity that sets in with the fading of western man’s assurance of Christian dogma and morals. For Shakespeare, chastity is as near to an absolute value as it is possible for a virtue to be.

via Desires Run Not Before Honor | First Things.

Esolen then makes his case by examining play after play, noble character after noble character.  Shakespeare does not ignore sex.  Far from it.  But his heroes, however ardent in their love, reject having sex before marriage.

HT: David Mills

Another Christian politician caught in adultery

Is it any wonder that Christians are losing their credibility?

Indiana congressman Mark Souder’s resignation, announced Tuesday, came after anonymous tipsters called his aides and his opponents in a Republican primary to say he was having an extramarital affair with a part-time staffer, according to sources familiar with the calls.

The conservative Christian congressman’s chief of staff, Renee Howell, confronted him last week over the rumored affair with Tracy Meadows Jackson, according to a source in the office. On Tuesday morning, two weeks after winning the primary, Souder publicly admitted the affair — without naming the staffer — and said he would resign effective Friday.

The affair began after Jackson was hired in 2004, according to the source in the office. Jackson, who is married, was to be a guest host with Souder for a daily radio spot he recorded for WFCV, a Christian radio station in Fort Wayne, Ind. Jackson also at one point played host for a local cable-access show that served as a platform for Souder to discuss conservative issues, and she helped produce numerous videos of Souder’s speeches and positions, including one in which they discussed his strong support for teen abstinence.

via Rep. Mark Souder’s resignation comes after anonymous tips about affair.

That these two, both of whom are married, started their cheating while exercising their religiosity at a Christian radio station and while making videos on Christian sexual morality is just too much.

Babies know right from wrong

So concludes some Yale researchers, who have devised experiments that show babies as young as five months making moral judgments:

At the age of six months babies can barely sit up – let along take their first tottering steps, crawl or talk.

But, according to psychologists, they have already developed a sense of moral code – and can tell the difference between good and evil.

An astonishing series of experiments is challenging the views of many psychologists and social scientists that human beings are born as “blank slates”– and that our morality is shaped by our parents and experiences.

Instead, they suggest that the difference between good and bad may be hardwired into the brain at birth.

In one experiment involving puppets, babies aged six months old showed a strong preference to good, helpful characters – and rejected unhelpful, ;naughty” ones.

In another, they even acted as judge and jury. When asked to take away treats from a “naughty” puppet, some babies went further – and dished out their own punishment with a smack on its head.

Professor Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University in Connecticut, whose department has studied morality in babies for years, said:  “A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life.”

“With the help of well designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life.”

“Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bones.”

For one study, the Yale researchers got  babies aged between six months and a year to watch a puppet show in which a simple, colourful wooden shape with eyes tries to climb a hill.

Sometimes the shape is helped up the hill by a second toy, while other times a third character pushes it down.

After watching the show several times, the babies were shown the helpful and unhelpful toys. They showed a clear preference for the helpful toys – spending far longer looking at the “good” shapes than the “bad” ones.

“In the end, we found that six- and ten-month-old infants overwhelmingly preferred the helpful individual to the hindering individual,”Prof Bloom told the New York Times.

“This wasn’t a subtle statistical trend; just about all the babies reached for the good guy.”

Two more tests found the same moral sense.

In one, the researchers devised a “one-act morality play,”  in which a toy dog tries to open a box. The dog is joined by a teddy bear who helps him lift the lid, and a teddy who stubbornly sits on the box.

They also made the babies watch a puppet cat play ball with two toy rabbits. When the cat rolled the ball to one rabbit, it rolled the ball straight back. But when the cat rolled it to the second rabbit, it picked up the ball and ran off.

“In both studies, five-month-old babies preferred the good guy – the one who helped to open the box; the one who rolled the ball back – to the bad guy,” said Professor Bloom.

When the same tests were repeated with 21-month-old babies, they were given a chance to dish out treats to the toys – or take treats away.

Most toddlers punished the “naughty rabbit” by taking away treats. One even gave the miscreant a smack on the head as a punishment.

via Babies know the difference between good and evil at six months, study reveals | Mail Online.

This seems to be evidence for the objective reality of moral truth. It isn’t just a cultural construction, since babies have not been enculturated.

It also seems to be in accord with the Lutheran teaching about infant sin, infant baptism, and infant faith. Does it undermine the position of those of you who believe in an “age of accountability”?

Can any of you provide any other, perhaps less scientific evidence, about very young children exhibiting moral or spiritual awareness?

I’ll go first: My grandson showed evidence of guilt very early, just shriveling up and crying when he would be caught doing something wrong. Then again yesterday–he is now three–after he went up for the blessing during Communion, he kept saying, “Christ given for you. Christ given for you.”

Did Porn Cause the Financial Crisis?

That is the headline in an article in “The Atlantic”:

The above headline might seem like a joke. It isn’t. Senior staffers at the Securities and Exchange Commission were surfing Internet pornography when they should have been policing the financial system. A deeply disturbing SEC memo to Senator Chuck Grassley R-IA exposing this problem was reported Thursday night by ABC News. Here are some highlights via the Associated Press:

_A senior attorney at the SECs Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography. When he ran out of hard drive space, he burned the files to CDs or DVDs, which he kept in boxes around his office. He agreed to resign, an earlier watchdog report said.

_An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting websites classified as “Sex” or “Pornography.” Yet, he still managed to amass a collection of “very graphic” material on his hard drive by using Google images to bypass the SECs internal filter, according to an earlier report from the inspector general. The accountant refused to testify in his defense and received a 14-day suspension.

_Seventeen of the employees were “at a senior level,” earning salaries of up to $222,418.

_The number of cases jumped from two in 2007 to 16 in 2008.

The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.On one hand, two cases in 2007 means that either it wasnt that widespread of a problem or it hadnt yet been detected. On the other hand, the fact that this behavior seems to have been so prevalent among senior level employees is particularly troubling. Theyre the ones who should have been closely watching the financial industry and leading the way to help prevent the system from collapsing.

via Did Porn Cause the Financial Crisis? – Business – The Atlantic.

While it is unlikely that porn actually CAUSED the financial crisis–unless maybe everyone in banks, the investment houses, the real estate industry, and other financial players were also spending all their time on porn and so were no longer paying attention to anything else–this is still mind-boggling. Is porn so addictive that it can eat away at the brain? How could any rational person be so foolish as to view and even download pornography on company computers? How could any person with any integrity at all spend 8 hours a day–that is to say, ALL DAY AT WORK–viewing pornography? While earning over $200 K a year? That salary coming from taxpayers? Pornography evidently is not only morally degrading–sexually but also in this case the equivalent of theft–but it makes a person stupid

On vows of celibacy & sexual sin

Luther and the Lutheran Confessions (explaining “thou shalt not commit adultery”) on the problems of forbidding marriage for the clergy, and how this manifests itself in sexual sins:

Priests, monks, and nuns resist God’s order and commandment, inasmuch as they despise and forbid matrimony, and presume and vow to maintain perpetual chastity, and, besides, deceive the simple-minded with lying words and appearances [impostures]. For no one has so little love and inclination to chastity as just those who because of great sanctity avoid marriage, and either indulge in open and shameless prostitution, or secretly do even worse, so that one dare not speak of it, as has, alas! been learned too fully.

And, in short, even though they abstain from the act, their hearts are so full of unchaste thoughts and evil lusts that there is a continual burning and secret suffering, which can be avoided in the married life. Therefore all vows of chastity out of the married state are condemned by this commandment, and free permission is granted, yea, even the command is given, to all poor ensnared consciences which have been deceived by their monastic vows to abandon the unchaste state and enter the married life, considering that even if the monastic life were godly, it would nevertheless not be in their power to maintain chastity, and if they remain in it, they must only sin more and more against this commandment.

via The Large Catechism – Book of Concord (The Sixth Commandment)

How would this apply to the pedophile scandal in the Roman Catholic Church? Clearly, individuals with that lust could not satisfy it with marriage, but might that not be something “even worse” than prostitution, something so bad that “one dare not speak of it,” that comes from repressed sexuality? Would this article of the catechism also apply to the chastity vows of the teen abstinence movement? Those, of course, are not permanent vows. But shouldn’t we encourage early marriage instead?

Abstinence funding

The health care reform bill consisted of 1,990 pages.  Congressmen could hardly have read what they were voting for.  Who knows what all is in there?  There may be all kinds of surprises.  For example, to the dismay of many liberals, funding for abstinence education–which Democrats thought they had killed–was stuck into the bill, to the tune of $250 million:

A little-noticed provision of the health legislation has rescued federal support for a controversial form of sex education: teaching youths to remain virgins until marriage.

The bill restores $250 million over five years for states to sponsor programs aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases by focusing exclusively on encouraging children and adolescents to avoid sex. The funding provides at least a partial reprieve for the approach, which faced losing all federal support under President Obama’s first two budgets.

via Health bill restores $250 million in abstinence-education funds – washingtonpost.com.

Isn’t it something that teaching children to wait until they get married to have sex is now “controversial”?


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