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Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan


A Wild Constraint

The Case For Chastity
Jenny Taylor
Continuum

The author is a cultural analyst who writes from a Christian perspective and who is an expert on the study of faith and culture. In this work, she cogently argues the case for chastity in general and, for those who are called to it, for complete sexual abstinence. We live in a culture that broadly assumes chastity and total abstinence to be psychologically damaging. Religion is accused of promoting this self-destructive view and so, it is said, religion must go.

According to Sigmund Freud: "Civilization built on religious self-discipline demands sacrifices in sexual behaviour that are harmful, especially to women." Freud clearly did not possess the clinical experience of assessing hundreds of women who have attempted suicide after the failure of a sexual relationship. Sadly, we sometimes hear even Christians promoting the "sex is always good" idea. Certainly, it can be good, but it also can be very damaging.

The author is much more realistic than Freud. Chastity, far from being self-destructive, affirms human persons and gives them strength.By living this virtue well, individuals like Florence Nightingale and Josephine Butler were able to make a huge impact on their society. Butler, for example, campaigned against those practices that sexually enslaved women, be they by prostitution or by enforced marriage: "A sense of the body in its social context was a prerequisite of the fight for women's rights." The early feminists were deeply religious and they promoted chastity, unlike some of our contemporary ones who campaign in favour of aborting female babies, amazingly enough.

Only by practicing the virtue of chastity, says the author, can men and women learn to respect each other. To be chaste is "to embrace the fullness of our creativity and our Christian discipleship. What is essential is a changed perception of oneself.." In other words, chastity makes us strong. To give in to the destructive culture that surrounds us is to become weak or, as the author puts it, "fragmented."

What about complete sexual abstinence? This too makes perfect sense, says the author, and acts as an antidote to the chaotic culture that surrounds us. While all are called to chastity, some are called to embrace the radical lifestyle that is sexual abstinence or celibacy. There has been a tendency among Christians to praise celibacy for those who are still waiting for the right person to turn up. Those who have to put up with it are, to some extent, to be pitied, they say. But there are those who are called to embrace this radical choice as something creative and positive. Men and women celibates are powerful witnesses against the poison of sexual depravity.

The author's discussion of the corrosive impact of the contraceptive pill on society is powerful. It often takes a non-Catholic to remind us that if it had not been for the widespread acceptance of the Pill, there would not have been a corresponding acceptance of sex outside marriage, marriage re-definition, gender ideology, etc. The Pill is surely the catalyst of the sexual revolution. Callum Brown dates the "death of Christian Britain" to 1963 and the invention of the Pill.

In his book Civilization and its Discontents, Freud wrote that "present day civilization makes it clear that it will permit sexual relations only on the basis of a unique and indissoluble bond between a man and a woman...only weaklings have acquiesced in such a gross invasion of their sexual freedom." Now, who would have thought that certain sections of the Catholic Church would become supportive of the Freudian view? Clearly, Freud was not merely intent on seeing to the eradication of Christianity: he wanted the very destruction of Western (Christian) civilization. At present he appears to be on the winning side.

The author has done a tremendous job in calling Christians to be counter-cultural. All are called to practice chastity and some are called to that special vocation of celibacy.


Copyright ©; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2016

Version: 8th November 2016



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