Starting today, we are republishing this series on Sundays over the summer, at a time when destructive and hypocritical virtue signalling has almost totally replaced the exercise and understanding of genuine Christian virtue – even within the main Christian denominations. This article was first published on April 16, 2018.
IN DAYS gone by, the key to happiness and fulfilment was not measured materially but rather in terms of the acquisition of the virtues. The virtues were a way of growing closer to God, traversing life with a smile rather than a grumble and getting to heaven.
We live in a time where mammon has replaced God. We are materially better off than we have ever been, but are we happier? The statistics suggest otherwise: anxiety, depression, suicide are all extremely high and you need only a pair of eyes and a modicum of honesty to see that many people are unhappy. Miserable, even.
So what better time to revisit the seven Christian virtues? The Catholic Church produced them as a response to the seven deadly sins, and to this day they provide the blueprint for a happy, virtuous and fulfilled life, regardless of your success or standing.
Vice and virtue are no doubt seen as tools of the patriarchy now but the Christian virtues still point the way to happiness and show the inexpressible beauty that humanity is capable of.
Chastity, the virtue that opposes the sin of lust, is perhaps the most revolutionary and counter-cultural for our times. We live in a sexualised and pornography-rididen society, and the assault begins at a young age. Men are reduced to braying beasts licking their lips, whilst a woman’s existence is purely to satisfy the lust of the lecherous and salacious.
Human beings are more than just their sexual impulses, but in our secular age everything is explained by biology and evolution. The fact that such a liberal and flippant attitude to sex brings no one joy and lasting fulfilment is one of those facts that need to be ignored lest the fragility of the liberal ideology be exposed.
In chastity there is great liberation. From the outside it may seem like a restriction but who is really free: the man who won’t watch porn or have casual sex, or the man who can’t go a week without watching strangers rutting on a small screen or who spends every Friday wasting his time and money stalking a dancefloor?
A modern example of chastity is US Vice President Mike Pence. He was derided recently for saying the only woman he goes for a meal with on his own is his wife. This was a patriarchal, oppressive throwback or something else muddled and incomprehensible.
I say well done to Mr Pence. Divorce is at a shockingly high rate and yet his marriage has lasted. It’s clearly working. A man of his standing will face a multitude of temptations so it is smart that he is being pragmatic and realistic about the weakness of the flesh.
Christianity will endure because what it says about life and humanity is true. Humans are attracted to the Truth like moths to the flame. In pagan societies, men had as many wives as they wanted. Then Christianity came along and forced them to have only one, and to love her, too. Is this really oppressive and anti-women? Or is this giving women, and men, what they truly want? Namely, love that endures throughout the turbulence of life.
Chastity is a cornerstone virtue because it teaches self-restraint and forces you to look at a member of the opposite sex not as a commodity but as a human being. It’s difficult, yes, but most things worth doing are.