So, let me get to it.
I know you have a ton of worthy topics, but I was wondering if you would be willing to address any of these topics?
Sure! I am an expert on exactly nothing, but I love to throw out my thoughts!
* Raising boys in an over-sexed culture. (I am already praying for [my young son's] purity, but I am still concerned. I know guys are way more visually oriented than girls, and that once they get the images in their heads it is hard to get them out. Could you talk about how you parent your boys with regards to this?)
With six boys of my own (from age 19 down to 2), it's a topic near and dear to my heart. You are soooooooo right about the visual nature of the male mind. If women had any flipping idea how different the mind of a man is when it comes to sexual images and urges, they would be shocked, speechless. The very best thing I have ever read on the subject is something that I also required my teen daughters to read. The book made one daughter weep, because before that day she had no idea. Even I was stunned. I thought I knew. Parents, read it first, and then hand it to your teen daughters:
For Young Women Only: What You Need to Know About How Guys Think
It may seem weird that I'm recommending a book for girls when you asked me about boys. But I promise you, this book will give you so much insight into how your son's mind will work when he becomes a teen that you will be well-equipped to teach and understand him.
To specifics: My boys are raised to know that their bodies are made by God and are used to glorify him. Each son is told that his private parts are not play things, but that they have a very special and holy purpose for marriage. One day, if he marries, he will have the privilege of becoming completely and intimately united with his wife in a way that is unique among all other relationships, and which is reserved only for the two of them. This act of love is so sacred, so special, so transcendent, that it has the capacity to create new human beings who will live for all eternity. My boys understand that sexuality is a powerful gift that a man must learn to control, so as not to hurt any woman or child who might suffer for his selfish actions in this area.
We are not prudes here in my house, and we don't shy away from talking about sex (age-appropriate only, of course), but no one has yet had any trouble grasping the concept of chastity as virtue, the sacredness of marriage, and how important it is to live honorably in this regard.
Here's an exchange I have with all my sons (not limited to the sexual issues of course), starting at a young age:
I say: "Who is the strongest man in the whole world?"*
They answer: "The one with the most self-control!"
*I love that when they are little, they answer: "God!" or "Jesus!" Then I clarify for them that I am talking about merely human men.
I also remind my older boys that using pornography is not only a selfish act that is degrading to them and disrespectful to all women, but it is also highly addictive, and they will easily become a slave to it. Porn will render them weak and wimpy and pathetic -- not like real men at all. There is nothing honorable about it.
Also, they know that pornography and all other sexual sins are mortal sins. My boys have a healthy fear of offending the God Who loves them (and Whom they love). And while it's certainly not something we dwell on, they would prefer not to spend their eternities in the pit of hell, so they act accordingly. Go figure. ;)
* A review of how to prove or disprove an argument logically. (This is mostly because people on facebook and who comment drive me bonkers.)
I hear ya on the "driving me bonkers" thing.
I've never studied formal logic, so my approach is just what makes sense to me. When I encounter something nonsensical or evil that is being passed off as something reasonable or good, I start with a simple question (not a statement) that challenges a person to take his idea a little bit further. No more than a question or two at a time, or else the whole thing just becomes a non-productive multiplication of words.
If the person you are debating becomes emotional and insulting, you stay unemotional and kind. And ask the question again. And again (maybe with different words). Make the question concrete and logical, not nebulous or vague. Wait patiently for an answer, and if it comes, move on to the next logical question. Answer any honest question he has with clarity and truth, and if you don't know the answer, tell him you don't know, but you will find out and get back to him.
Side note: One sign that a person is not debating in good faith is when you get a question like, "How does it feel to know that you are entrusting your children to a band of pedophiles with funny hats?" (Though here's proof that on rare occasions even stuff like that can turn into good! She later apologized and was open to being corrected.) Another example of someone debating in bad faith is when a Protestant accuses Catholics of "worshipping Mary" and then won't accept Catholic teaching itself on the issue (i.e., that worshipping any creature, including Mary, is a mortal sin).
Back to the question at hand, I have to be honest and tell you that not everyone should be involved in these kind of deep exchanges with clever secularists and zealous Protestants. We all have different gifts, and not everyone is cut out for long, philosophical debates. Sometimes an ill-advised or badly executed debate can do more harm than good. A person who is not cut out for the "battle" may instead want to be a powerful, behind-the-scenes prayer warrior while others do the debating, and/or simply have links ready so that a challenger can go to other legitimate sources for answers.
However, if one has a fairly good working knowledge of the faith and of the issues, then the debating part can be a learned skill. I'm learning every day, with things becoming more clear and focused to me as time goes on. I know that you (the original questioner) are fully capable of dialoguing in truth and love, so maybe just get some of the basic arguments and questions down pat, on the most important topics, and don't forget to pray before you type! (Or direct the person to the Bubble and I'll take 'em on, ha ha!)
Also, while I genuinely care about the folks I debate and hope to plant seeds, I know that most are not likely to change their ideology. But there are many fence-sitters, as well as Catholics who need to find the courage of their convictions, following the facebook/Bubble conversations. My discussions are often for them more than for the person whom I'm debating.
* Your view on how to best address the cultures descent into chaos. Do you think we should start with whatever the current issue is (e.g., the current one- gay marriage) or just start with contraception (since it all flows from there) or abortion/euthanasia (since you are more likely to encounter people who think they are wrong)?
While six months ago I might have said that gay "marriage" is the most pressing issue of the day, and six months before that I would have said it's definitely the foundational issue of contraception, today it's suddenly, eerily, the very issue of religious liberty itself, and whether we will lose the legal right to speak and live our Faith freely. The battleground is changing faster than I can keep up with it!
So, I guess each encounter in the battle is going to depend on the person and the situation. For example, it can be difficult debating evangelical Protestants and getting them fully on board the Culture of Life, because while they are in love with Jesus and they defend traditional marriage and the rights of the unborn with us (praise God!), they've simultaneously adopted the Planned Parenthood mentality on contraception (as you've said, it all flows from there), and the anti-establishment mentality of bucking (Church) authority. So we Christians are not fighting the Culture of Death effectively, as one Body. That's a sad legacy of the Reformation.
And encounters with secularists have their own special challenges, as it's hard to debate and seek truth among those who see the cultural train wreck as "progress", and who don't believe that an objective moral truth exists in the first place.
Ultimately, it's hard to say precisely where to start on the outside. But we do know where to start on the inside.
While this sexual free-for-all, the destruction of the family, and the loss of a sense of sin and shame has brought us to our knees culturally, it's also brought us to a moment of great grace. It's clear at this low point (ever lowering) that prayer and fasting and a return to God really are the most important weapons in the battle. There is only one thing that has ever overcome the darkness and despair and ugliness of sin, and that is Love. Jesus Christ crushed and defeated evil and death not by overpowering it, but by undergoing it, with love. So, the first step is to remember who we are, where we came from and where we are going. I promise you that the world needs saints more than she needs good debaters. The saints will win the battle for hearts and souls every time, because they have a moral authority and a teaching voice that rises above all others.
Be a saint. Teach your children to be saints.
And please, never despair, no matter how far into the abyss we go, because we have this assurance from the One Who commanded the very universe into being and yet Who stoops to love each of us as tenderly as a Bridegroom loves his bride:
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." -- John 16:33
I know that I would really enjoy reading any of your thoughts on these topics. I know I don't comment much, but I definitely keep up with the reading!
I did ramble on, so thank you for sticking with me!
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