Saturday, September 04, 2010

Towards a "Climate on Chastity"

I finished reading Dawn Eden's thesis this morning. As I state before, I was not too familiar with the teachings of Christopher West on TOB, but if they are accurately represented by the Dawn Eden, West's presentation is quite disappointing. In all fairness I should perhaps read West's materials for myself, but Eden quotes West extensively. Most disturbing to me are West's emphasis on sexual love and purity as a path to holiness, for which there is no detour. At the end of the thesis Dawn points out that while sex and holiness are by no means opposed, that the preoccupation with sex and sexual purity is misguided. Our emphasis both in marriage and in our Christian lives, should be on charity. Charity in faith is the path to salvation, not sexual purity and nuptial union of the soul. West emphasizes too much the latter.

But to critique Eden's critique, I think that she need not have have emphasized West's involvement with the sexually repressive Mother of God community as much as she did. While it does make the valid point that perhaps West is reacting against negative experiences in his life, attacking his flaws on theological/philosophical basis would have been sufficient. We don't need to know why he might be predisposed towards such mistakes. It would be equally unfair to look at Eden's sexual history and use it against her to say she is overly preoccupied with chastity.

My only regret is that I feel the thesis is too short. Eden spends much time explaining West's presentation, pointing out the flaws, drawing out the criticisms, and then only a few paragraphs on a more valid method for presenting JPII's TOB. I would really like to see Eden formulate her own presentation of TOB, one that is more balanced, that includes an emphasis on charity, the role of suffering, and one in which concupiscence and continence are more properly addressed. Also I would welcome a more feminine viewpoint on human sexuality, which Eden could bring to the table. One thing not addressed is the overwhelming male tone to West's version of TOB.

Chapters 1 and 2 of Eden's thesis were great, but chapter 3 seemed rushed. Maybe she is holding off on formulating her own complete synthesis for her PhD dissertation. I will certainly at any rate look forward to following her continued work on this topic. I just ordered her book, The Thrill of the Chaste, and eagerly anticipate reading it.

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