yay, Lauren Winner

Nice little NYT op-ed on chastity pledges:

Pledgers promise to control intense bodily desires simply by exercising their wills. But Christian ethics recognizes that the broken, twisted will can do nothing without rehabilitation by God's grace. Perhaps the centrality of grace is recognized best not in a pledge but in a prayer that names chastity as a gift and beseeches God for the grace to receive it.

Yay! I fully believe that Aristotle was right when he talked about the necessity of habituating oneself to virtuous behavior, but grace is the piece that's missing. I can't make good decisions consistently-- in other words, I can't make a habit of virtue-- without the intervening grace of Christ. Otherwise, no matter how hard I try, I end up doing things I don't want to do and not doing things I want to do.*

The pledges are also cast in highly individualistic terms: I promise that I won't do this or that. As the Methodist bishop William Willimon once wrote: "Decisions are fine. But decisions that are not reinforced and reformed by the community tend to be short-lived."

I am so glad she addresses this. I love, and am so grateful for, the evangelical emphasis on knowing Scripture and engaging with it in a deeply personal, intimate way. But that isn't all there is to Christian life.

I picked up the premier issue of the horror that is Lily magazine a few weeks ago when I saw it on a grocery store newsstand (how could I possibly resist?). And the cover story is about this family that moved out to a 450 acre farm 20 minutes from town, and they homeschool their kids, etc. And at the beginning the mom goes on about how the world is so chaotic and busy and she doesn't want her kids to spend time on "hell's hamsterwheel." She wants them to learn about being still, so she's teaching them that at home. And I was thinking, that's great, but do you have to remove yourself from civilization to do that? Why can't you teach them to make countercultural choices in the suburbs or wherever? And then, a couple pages late, we get a little of the backstory-- the dad was on the road all the time for his job, and "fell into sin." So conviction and repentance ensues, which is good, but then he decides that God has given him a plan to do research only and no travel for his company, and move the family out to this secluded ranch to do it. So it turns out that this is really not about their kids so much as Escaping The Big Bad Tempting Sinful World. Not that the concept doesn't appeal to the introvert in me-- it does-- but we are called to be conduits of grace to this world, to be agents of transformation in ushering in the Kingdom of God. How do you do that when your own weakness causes you to isolate yourself from community? But nobody seemed to think this was an issue; in fact, every family profiled in the magazine (all families, of course, no single professional women) was all about daily devotions and prayer time with the family and reading our Bibles. It was all about the cultivation of private piety; I saw nothing about our responsibility to be engaged with our communities.

But what should I have expected? At any rate, there's reason #5,763 I no longer self-identify as an evangelical.

*See Stavrogin's conversation with the monk Tikhon in the extra chapters of Dostoevsky's Demons for an interesting treatment of this concept.

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