This past week I stirred controversy by suggesting that we were losing our sense of duty and that this was reflected in a growing disdain for or indifference to self-sacrificial service, especially related to military service. Well, I want to continue to stir this pot, not because it gives me pleasure but because we're beginning to scratch the surface of a significant problem that is adversely affecting our culture and, by extension, the Church.
Obviously, one of the reasons I think we see more and more young people devoid of any sense of duty is that they're not being taught the virtue of duty. Those things that must be done because one is compelled by a strong moral obligation, so strong that one would die before one surrendered this virtue - this is what I mean by a sense of duty.
This virtue is not limited to military service only, but should govern most of one's life. Men must posses a sense of duty to their wives and children, for example. A socially reinforced possession of this virtue would serve to fetter men to their moral obligations. Negatively, neglecting these obligations would be socially regarded as a shameful moral failure. I would argue that few husbands and fathers who abandon their moral obligations to their families suffer much - if any - shame, personal or social, today. In fact, we rarely speak of shame today; and when we do, it is generally met with condemnation for having made anyone feel badly about his or her immoral behavior!
Even among Christians this sentiment can be found. I've heard other Christians rebut any rebuke by quoting Romans 8:1, saying "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…" (NIV). However, if you read just a little further, you'll see that there is shame when one is disobedient (see Rom. 10:11, 1 Cor. 6:5, 1 Cor. 15:34). A loving rebuke is often a first step, which, when heeded, is followed by a warranted sense of shame and guilt that often turns a sinner to repent (see Luke 17:3).
This is one problem. In a culture in which the moral lines have become blurred - as they no doubt have in our case - there is little social reinforcement for what is good and what is bad. We simply no longer agree on these categories; if one should - as I often do - assert a specific moral position, one can count on being condemned for "intolerance," which is the worst offense possible. Of course, by tolerance we mean, "I won't tell you what you to do and you don't tell me what to do." You think this same sense exists anywhere within the Church? You bet it does!
The second problem is the problem of gender confusion. In the 1950s, psychologist and Kinsey-affiliated "sexologist" Dr. John Money developed a controversial theory that challenged the traditional understanding of gender. Money argued that while we do have some innate sense of being a boy or a girl for up to two years after birth, our brains are, in effect, malleable and we can be taught to grow up as either a boy or girl by how we are raised - by the toys we are given, the guidance we receive from adults, and the clothes we are given to wear. In other words, you can completely separate psychology from biology. Money's concept became known as the "theory of gender neutrality" and undergirds much of the contemporary effort to redefine human sexuality into almost anything one wants it to be, regardless of one's biological gender. (Money applied his theory in the controversial case of David Reimer in 1966, in which he reassigned David to female gender following a botched circumcision at birth. Raised as "Brenda," the results were disastrous on many levels, ultimately leading David to commit suicide at age 38.)
The more radical elements of the feminist movement would seize this theory as the basis for a campaign to "liberate" girls from their traditional gender-specific identities. Girls would be encouraged to throw away their dolls and avoid domestic role-play. Boys could now be "reprogrammed." A new and nebulous child-rearing philosophy would slowly creep across the cultural landscape, discouraging the traditional forms of male play. No more G.I. Joes, no guns, no more playing war, and so on. Political correctness would attempt to restructure the nature of competition, male sports in particular. Boys would be taught that aggressiveness was bad and aggressive competition should be discouraged. At least that was the plan.
Much of this nonsense is rooted in a false conception of human nature and directed primarily toward boys. Since men have tended to be the more violent members of society, it was thought that by raising boys to be more like girls they would cease to be violent and the world would achieve the Utopian dream of universal harmony. Again, that was the plan.
The fallacy of gender neutrality is the fact that, generally speaking, boys and girls are born with not only obvious biological differences but also innate psychological orientations and interests as well. Furthermore, being neutral relative to gender (in the sense that we try to erase all distinctions between the sexes) does not necessarily yield equality. It simply means that men and women suffer a substantial loss in their own identity.
I am not suggesting that we teach our sons to be violent and our daughters to stay in the kitchen! Neither am I proposing some sort of juvenile machismo or barbaric masculinity. True manhood should be characterized by a steadfast and unrelenting sense of duty: duty to God, the community, and others, regardless of the cost. Jesus modeled this best by his unflinching commitment to die on the cross for the sake of sinners. Here again, the disciplines of military life promote this sense rather uniquely. Anyone who has ever served knows that an elevated commitment to self over the mission is quickly and decisively squashed!
At this point, we can either accept the gender-neutrality doctrine or resist this cultural influence by once again teaching boys to be men and girls to be women, thereby celebrating the God-given complementarity between the sexes.
After more than four decades of gender-neutral propaganda, we have not only not achieved neutrality but have seen a perverse consequence. Boys are increasingly becoming more feminine and girls are becoming more masculine. Boys are increasingly vain, fashion-obsessed wimps with a duty to nothing but themselves and girls are increasingly becoming sexual aggressors who are brawling on the soccer field.
This moral ambiguity and gender confusion is producing a loss of aspirations: men no longer aspire to masculine virtues and women are abandoning the pursuit of feminine virtues. The result is a generation without aspirations - those rooted in their biological gender - that lift their conduct above hedonistic self-gratification; i.e., a sense of duty.
The Church can either capitulate under the pressure of political correctness or we can train our young people - in those virtues supported by their gender and complementary to one another - in service to God and others.