What troubles me most here is the commenters on this very thread who seem to think it’s laughable to want to prevent teens from having pre-marital sex, and who take umbrage at being told that it is “barbaric” not to object to such fornication.
First, not all teens have sex. If 70% of 19 year olds have had sex, then 30% haven’t. And so forth for whatever the numbers are. So as a factual matter, it is in fact possible for temptation to be resisted.
Second, the entire Western world until very, very recently would have held that it was simply obvious that civilized people ought to object to the sort of thing Rod says the book is about. We have gone from “of course fornication is wrong, even if it happens” to “of course teen pre-marital sex is healthy and it’s going to happen anyway” in a VERY short time, historically.
What worries me isn’t smut like this book: that has indeed been around for ages. What worries me is that my version of the BenOp does NOT involve running off to some Catholic commune somewhere, but instead trying to live among neighbors of many faiths and none. And what this thread is telling me is that if I want my children not to sleep around as teens, that secular and liberal parents, if they hear that, will scoff at me for being unrealistic, and take umbrage at my presumed judgmentalism toward their more laissez faire attitudes. Worse, they will happily let their kids sleep with my kids under their own roof. What this thread indicates is that liberals and secularists are not my allies in trying to keep my kids chaste, but instead enemies who will happily subvert my supposedly outmoded attitudes. And that’s a lot more worrisome for a parent surrounded by liberal, secular parents than any silly YA novel. A lot more.
I have met the problem, and it is you guys.
This is true, but it’s not the whole truth. I was just on the phone talking to a friend who lives in another state. He and his wife have decided to homeschool their children next year. They are taking their kids out of Catholic school. Among the reasons? One of their daughters, age 10, has been socially isolated by her friends there. The girls told this kid — whom I’ve met, and who is the most vivacious, gregarious little girl — that because she doesn’t watch the same TV shows as they do (e.g., “Modern Family”) and listen to the same pop music that they do, that they can’t be friends with her. For the last three weeks, his daughter has been eating lunch at school alone, reading a book.
This is not the only reason they’re bailing on Catholic school. But it does seem to have been a last straw.
Now, do you suppose the parents who send their kids to this Catholic school are secular liberals? I very much doubt it. What they are is conformists. They are more afraid of telling their kids “no,” and of their kids not being popular, than anything else. My friend and his wife put their kids in Catholic school in part to form them in a community of faith. But that community is a façade. The children within it come from homes where they are exposed to the same garbage as everybody else’s kids are.
I completely agree with Irenist that “liberal, secular” parents of our kids’ friends are a problem when they actively or passively subvert traditional Christian virtue, e.g., by letting kids who come over watch something sexually explicit. But “conservative, religious” parents are scarcely better when they have the same “whatever” stance towards popular culture, social media, and so forth as everybody else, but think somehow that, magically, holding the correct opinions about God, cultural politics, and the like will protect their kids.
It is astonishing how quickly this has passed. When I was a kid, it was easy to count on the moms and dads of your kids’ friends to hold particular lines on what was acceptable and unacceptable in terms of behavior, cultural consumption, and everything else. Of course there were far fewer opportunities to be transgressive, but most parents believed that the lines were pretty clear, and worth defending. About 15 years ago, I was talking to a group of New York City police detectives for a project I was working on, and listened with fascination as all of them recalled their childhoods in the 1960s, in which their parents relied on the same thing. It was the parents’ code.
It’s all gone. And if you think it’s only gone among secular liberal parents, you’d better wake up. There is no solidarity parenting anymore. It’s all liquid now, as in Zygmunt Bauman’s concept of “liquid modernity”:
[I]ts characteristics are about the individual, namely increasing feelings of uncertainty and the privatization of ambivalence. It is a kind of chaotic continuation of modernity, where a person can shift from one social position to another in a fluid manner. Nomadism becomes a general trait of the ‘liquid modern’ man as he flows through his own life like a tourist, changing places, jobs, spouses, values and sometimes more—such as political or sexual orientation—excluding himself from traditional networks of support.
Bauman stressed the new burden of responsibility that fluid modernism placed on the individual—traditional patterns would be replaced by self-chosen ones.
The responsibility of parenting has become much more difficult with the collapse of the code of parental solidarity. One way of coping with the pressure is pretending that this is not actually a problem at all, that everything is going to be fine if we just do what everybody else is doing, and hope for the best.
We want to be sure. We want to be able to count on each other, as parents. But how do we do it? We are all treading water in the liquid.
The most difficult part of the Benedict Option project will be convincing people that you cannot live this way, not if you want your kids to hold on to the faith, or even moral sanity. In the age of liquid parenting, every family is an island.
UPDATE: Here is a comment by James C., on the smartphones thread. It applies here too, so I’m going to share it with you:
People are complacent and lackadaisical about it until it happens to them. And it will.
My niece doesn’t have a smart phone, but other kids at school do. She uses my sister’s smart phone from time to time to play games.
Well, last year we discovered her looking at hardcore pornography on it. She was barely 7 years old.
Who taught her to do that? Other parents’ kids, of course. And when my sister put a search filter on the phone, she still was able to do searches to view some pretty risqué stuff. Afraid some other kids would teach her how to get around the filters, my sister banned the phone. Period. How important is a smartphone? Enough to risk poisoning your kid’s mind and destroying his/her innocence? I don’t think so.