My nephew, a young teen, helped me learn something recently, and he doesn’t even know it.
At a family gathering, I was sitting with him watching a movie that someone had turned on. The name of the movie isn’t important as is this one scene, which is far from the worst of what our children are exposed to on a daily basis, but indicative of what our culture has become.
It was a well-known PG-13 movie, sentimental, nostalgic, a glance at a more innocent era, only parts of it were really anything but that. While nothing was explicitly shown, one scene showed teenage girls and boys, “romping around” in cars, in a popular “make out” parking spot. In the heat of passion, one boy pulls his “protection” out of his wallet, and comments that it had been in there since the seventh grade, so they promptly toss it and resume their activity anyway.
While we had been chatting a little before, there was an awkward silence that followed, sitting there with my nephew. I hadn’t seen this movie in many years, so I didn’t remember this being in there. And unfortunately, as often happens to me when I am caught off guard, I did not have the proper response. I wish I could say that I had used this as some great teaching/sharing moment with my nephew, but I dropped the ball, and probably said something as equally awkward as the silence.
But at least I learned something! Having him there next to me, showed me something about how far we have allowed Hollywood, the media, music industry, and others to steal away goodness from our children.
Earlier that day, while in prayer, the Lord seemed to put something in my mind. It was the question, “What is true, and good, and beautiful?” So, I just pondered it, turning it over in my thoughts, while asking the Lord what it is He wanted to show me about this.
Later when I was thinking about this situation, I realized something…people have become so used to being exposed to immorality, that no one is really phased by it anymore, so it may help to apply this little God-test:
Is it true, and good, and beautiful?
I went back to the scene from the movie. Was the truth of God presented?
God’s truth is that sex is meant for Holy Matrimony alone. It is a self-donation of husband and wife, with God, to bring children into the world, and form the family. This is God’s design. After the sexual revolution which began in the 60’s and 70’s, we have trampled that in every possible way. The family is crucial for society and for the Church, but especially for the children. When we don’t follow God’s plan for morality we will cause suffering to ourselves and others. In this movie scene, we are supposed to think that this is a rite of passage, the harmless fun of teenagers exploring their sexuality, but what we don’t see is the reality that often follows…unwanted pregnancies, abortions, STDs, young teens already on the pill, an abortifacient, and cause of cancer, manipulation, lies, being used, painful breakups, and sometimes life-altering consequences, just to name a few!
Another thing that I only recently came to realize, after listening to a talk by a priest, is that when a man and woman have sexual relations, if they are not married, an emotional/physical/spiritual bond still occurs that can then distort their right reason. It becomes skewed. Among the effects is that someone may stay with a person who, if sex was not part of the relationship, he/she may have clearly seen as a wrong relationship. Once that physical aspect of the relationship is there, it is much more difficult to have good judgment about the other person, and it may keep you attached to someone God hasn’t meant for you. Not only that, but just as a holy bond can bring God’s grace to a relationship, an unholy bond can bring evil with it. This priest, an exorcist, said that demons can be attached to you, and stay with you, dragging you further down into sin, and causing chaos in your life. (This is not the same as possession, although this too can happen with mortal sin.)
Truth then led me to the word goodness. Does goodness come from this movie scene?
It was obvious from the level of awkwardness, and embarrassment felt, that this was not something “good” for my nephew’s soul, or mine! There was nothing redeeming about this scene which was clearly showing two people using each other for pleasure. The boy in the scene couldn’t even remember her name! There was an aspect of revenge in it too, if I recall. The bottom line was that there was nothing good for my nephew’s heart in this….nothing. It could only steal innocence and goodness from his heart and soul. Furthermore, it gives him the wrong notions about how to treat women, about sex, and it desensitizes him to things that God does not wish his eyes to see nor his heart to accept.
And you remember what Jesus said about the heart, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy.” Matthew 15:18-19
Being a parent, and now grandparent, I fully realize the tremendous effort it takes to protect your children from bad influences. They are literally everywhere. No one really thought anything about this movie being on, and it seemed quite harmless. My nephew, himself, may have even forgotten it. But here is where the danger lies. You may be thinking that I am making a mountain out of a molehill…fair enough. I have heard that before. I have also failed terribly at times in protecting my own children. But consider this, if we are not vigilant, faithful even in the small things, as Jesus asks us to do, look at what is at stake…the hearts and minds of our children concerning one of the most important aspects of their lives!
So, what about Beauty?
Truth and goodness leads to beauty. There is beauty in created things, but there is also a beauty that comes from living in God’s will. And just as God is Truth, and Goodness, He is also Beauty. So, when you turn to Truth and Goodness, you naturally encounter Beauty. And you see the Beauty in things as God intends.
So, applying this to the movie scene, I could say that there was no real Beauty, only the distorted beauty that the world sees sex being. Have you ever noticed that the term “making love” is often used synonymously for sex, especially in movies, music, etc., whether it is sex between two unmarried people in a one night stand, or even sex with a prostitute! The term itself is a distortion of what sex is meant to be. So, since any sex outside of matrimony doesn’t follow from Truth and Goodness, it is not real Beauty either. It is false love. It is fake. Oh, but we will still try to hold on to it, as if it is real.
We have become so desensitized, and so blinded, that we no longer look at things from God’s perspective, and see things as they really are. But I think we can easily see what the absence of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty has given us. We are living in the foul result.
Our children are suffering because of it. If we who DO see, do not fight for our children, protecting them from filth, and filling their minds and hearts with what IS true and good and beautiful, then who will? There is no one else!
For many years, we, as a society, as parents, and as a Church too have allowed it to happen without much protest. We have gotten sucked into it ourselves, and let it happen. Much of it we have considerable control over with a simple push of an “off” button, or removal of a tv, or other devices, or by how we spend (or don’t spend) our money for channels, or movies and shows. Some things we think we can’t live without, but do we have the courage to try?
All of this goes without saying for parents, but if you have a niece, nephew, Godchild, or a friend’s child, you can also do something to show them what Truth, Goodness, and Beauty really is. Think and pray about it, and see what you and the Lord come up with! It can be something as simple as reading a really great, inspiring book together, or expanding their horizons to some wonderful experience.
We can also speak, write, and stand up for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty! Do we care enough to do it? You are probably thinking, “What difference does it make? There is too much filth, and I am just one person. It is too late.”
But it is NOT too late, because God Himself, is for Truth, Goodness and Beauty! And guess what? He chooses to use us to accomplish the uplifting of it! So, he is waiting for YOU to do some things that only you are meant to do. Most of the time God doesn’t expect me to do big things, just to be faithful in small ones. So, look at the gifts you have, and the circumstances God has given you, and ask Him, “What is it you are asking me to do, Lord.”
You can also look at different things in your life, and apply the question: Is there truth, goodness, and beauty in this? Perhaps, God has something to show you.
I feel like the Lord wants us to wake up to this.
He created us for something far more beautiful, and He wants his children back.
“All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful, brings us to God.” Pope Francis