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Professor in Rome

"Professor in Rome" Continued...

Issue: "Rita: After the storms," Oct. 8, 2005

WORLD: Why do we ask kids and adults to say no to drugs, drunkenness, and obesity, but consider it almost impossible for them to say no to premarital and extramarital sex?

LAWLER: We are obsessively prohibitionist when it comes to the body but indifferent when it comes to the soul. The only question left concerning human responsibility among some of our sophisticates is whether a particular activity is safe or unsafe. Using drugs, getting drunk, or being fat might kill you, but premarital and extramarital sex can be "safe."

WORLD: It seems that biotechnologists and New Age Buddhists both want us to practice nonattachment by forgetting love, losing our human hang-ups, and ignoring our movement toward death. What's wrong with that?

LAWLER: The therapeutic experts and some of the sociobiologists say we'd be better off if we were less moved by love and death, but the truth is that we are beings hardwired to long to know the truth about all things, and all our human experiences-including our erotic longings-are transformed by the openness. Birds do it and bees do it, but human sex is qualitatively different and infinitely better than winged sex, because it is transformed by all the distinctively human responsibilities we share in common, including living well with love and death. Our eros is also transformed by the mystery of human existence itself; our love for each other seems to depend on us not being wholly transparent to each other or even ourselves. And so our human love for one another points beyond itself to our total transparency before God.

WORLD: You argue that restlessness within riches shows the truth of the Christian understanding that we all have ineradicable spiritual longings. But what if it just means that we want to covet more and more?

LAWLER: We do, in fact, covet more and more, and we are more anxious and unhappy as a result: We try to divert ourselves from what we really know about the inevitable inability to control our own futures. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn observed, just beneath the surface in our country it is easy to hear the howl of existentialism. We need to turn that howl into words that correspond to the truth about our souls.

WORLD: You speculate that we may be in another Great Awakening, a powerful spiritual reaction against the soul-deadening excesses of liberalism. What signs do you see of that?

LAWLER: The growing evangelical counterculture complete with homeschooling and so forth. The resurgence of orthodox faith among Catholics and Jews. If it were not for our large and growing number of observant believers, our birth rate would be the same as the France and Italy that are fading away. The heart of our Great Awakening is the recovery of family life as the center of faith. Other encouraging signs include the increasing literacy of evangelical authors, their openness to the great tradition of Christian theology, their love of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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