|Ah, teenage love and bliss.....yeah, right|
We are such a hungry generation: hungry for love, hungry for concrete answers, hungry for genuine companionship. We long for acceptance, physical affection, secure relationships. We want to be successful. Some of us want to have families. Most of us want to live in a nice house in a warm climate. Some of us might even feel called to the religious life.
And yet, Satan has taken every opportunity to twist these very good desires and make us believe that we are really craving sex, money, and lots of material possessions. It’s a clever ruse, and with magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan screaming the latest sex moves, shows like Jersey Shore and Sex and the City, and pop star strippers too numerous to count, we’ve all bought the lie, and we consume all of these things as greedily and as quickly as we can: more pleasure, more technology, more clothes, more TV shows. But there’s always, always an emptiness.
The Fault in Our Stars is a movie about two teenagers struggling with cancer that develop a relationship that ultimately becomes sexual. The parents of both characters are portrayed as well meaning but clueless buffoons who encourage their children with plastic smiles and Hallmark-card-like inspirations. When the teens’ relationship becomes erotic, the parents just nod and smile and let “kids be kids” and “do what comes naturally.” And, of course, they do, with plenty of sighs, smiles, and hours of sensual bliss under the covers, as is always shown in films like this.
The folks in Hollywood who make movies for young adults are very clever about their industry. Primarily, their goal is to undermine parental authority by portraying Mom and Dad as dried-up, fuddy-duddy twits who can never comprehend the passionate sexual odysseys undertaken by the young and virile protagonists. Teachers are idiots, school is an oppressive force that impedes freedom, and anyone over 27 might as well be admitted to a nursing home. These films portray a culture where nobody understands such troubled and rebellious teens except, of course, the movie industry and pop culture itself, offering whirlwind sexual fantasies with buff vampires, popular music soundtracks, and “hip” dialogue. In a word, it is an ingenious marketing strategy, and our generation is eating it up.
Though I have not seen The Fault in Our Stars, the concept of it has certainly caused me to think. Really, if you knew you were dying of cancer, if your fertility had been seared away by chemotherapy, and if you felt safe and loved by a fellow cancer victim of the opposite sex, why not sleep with him (or her)? After all, it would be the only chance for sex you would ever have, and who in their right mind wants to die a virgin? Who wants to kick the bucket admitting that the only naked man they’ve seen is Jesus on the cross?
You see how drastically things like this can change our thought patterns, huh?
So far, this movie is grossing close to the billions in theaters, and the book has been at the top of the list for many months; even devout Christians are buying into the film’s message of get what you can while you can. But this mantra is obviously everywhere you look, and there aren’t any readily available answers for youth who want something to counterattack this deadly sexual revolution. The Church and Christians in general have done a poor job of equipping young adults with the weapons and tools they need to give a valid and bulletproof argument against this. All we young church-going folks are told is that sex is for marriage only. Just say No. Just don’t do it. Even St. John Paul II’s beautiful Theology of the Body falls short on answering the question rattling around in our hearts: if premarital sex is so bad, why the hell is everyone else doing it and ENJOYING it while I sit at home watching Gilligan’s Island on Friday night and rock myself to sleep with the assurance that I’ll never get an STD?
Of course, Hollywood never shows the consequences of casual sex: the unplanned pregnancies, the forced abortions, the diseases, the heartbreak. But assuring ourselves that we will never need herpes shots while everyone else at the party is making out in a dark room feels like dismissing it as sour grapes. So we are faced with two options: turn off our sexuality and become an automaton or give in and letting all hell break lose. With the latter, at least no one can laugh at our chastity belt anymore, though we might get called a few other things.
Basically, we need better tools to fight the battle for purity and chastity, as a sixteen-year-old guy isn’t going to last long chanting “pure love waits” while his friends are showing him the exact opposite and having a seemingly great time to boot. We need authenticity: genuine truth to satisfy our longings for love, security, friendship. We need healthy ways to channel our desires and not suppress them. The biggest joke of all in our secular culture is that of the cold, dry, undersexed Christian, spending his Saturday nights reading scripture and smashing his computer with a pickaxe. Small wonder faith and religion get so little respect in our society.
It is up to us to show the world that purity is possible, that chastity reaps endless beautiful benefits, that only a life of temperance and self-control brings actual freedom. But how can we bring this message to the world if we don’t believe it ourselves?
The first, and perhaps the most important thing, we can do is to believe that we deserve more than what the world offers us. We deserve more than one-night stands and mosh pits, hangovers after binge drinking contests, hours wasted on the internet or playing video games. We are worth inherently more than these things, but we have been told our entire lives that this is as good as it gets, and anyone who wants better is going to have to wait forever. Don’t fall for the lie.
There is real truth, goodness, and beauty out there. You just have to know where to look for them. You won’t find it in a bar on a Friday night, or on Netflix, or somewhere on the 320th level of Skyrim. It will be hard. There will be days of dryness, of frustration, of paralyzing loneliness, but nothing that Jesus hasn’t endured already. If anyone knew about loneliness, He did—He never married (or even dated), all His so-called pals beat feet when He needed them most at the foot of the cross, and He continues to be lonely and forgotten even today in all the tabernacles of the world where no one bothers to visit Him.
There are really only two paths in this life: the broad, straight way that leads to eternal unhappiness, and the narrow, crooked way that leads to eternal life. Jesus knew it wouldn’t be a lead pipe cinch for us, so He showed us the way. He is the only place you are going to get all of the answers, and the only source of lasting strength.
Lastly, the best way we can combat this world of shallow and saccharine fakeness is to be as authentic as we can. Be honest in your relationships. Don’t say things just to butter people up. Be honest with yourself and stay away from friends and situations that betray the better person you want to be. Wear clothes that you like and are comfortable in. Watch TV shows and movies that actually make you think instead of just bombarding you with beautiful images. Know what you want from life, and make a concrete plan to get there.
Someone once told me how much they admired how frank and no-nonsense I am. I think that was the highest compliment anyone has ever paid me.
Take the challenge. Don’t be so fake that Barbie gets jealous. Be authentic. Be genuine. And stop falling for the lies the world keeps shoveling down our throats.