Dating and Other Things Catholic: Men of Christ Monday with John Antonio

 

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John Antonio is a single Catholic professional who runs a medical ethics and professionalism program for resident physicians in the Texas Medical Center. He is also a lifestyle writer Catholicsingles.com and Catholic speaker. His new book Dating and Other Things Catholic: What Seminary Taught Me About Single Life is a smart, witty guide that I recommend to all millennials who are just starting out or for anyone who needs to start over from a major setback.

1) Where did the inspiration to write Dating and Other Things Catholic come from?

4 years ago I was leaving seminary. I had spent almost my whole life there. I didn’t know anything about careers, dating, or the lifestyle of a single professional. I had never gotten a job. I had never gone on a date. I did not know a lot of things about the lifestyle of a single young professional. I did not know how to ask a young lady out nor how to get a job. I looked for Catholic books on this since I was a Catholic. I did not find one. So I decided to do research, gain new experiences, and write the book myself.

2) Tell me what it’s like to be single. How is that different from dating, marriage, and religious life?

The religious has the Church. The married have each other. The dating have each other to some degree but not in a stable form of life. Someone who is “single” could still be dating but generally not in a serious relationship. He/she makes many decisions alone and is very in control of their destiny. That adds a new opportunity to life. Single life is a huge opportunity.

3) One problem I personally have with being single is loneliness. How do you deal with that?
A single person needs 3 things: friends, a mission, and the right type of daily routine. I find that when singles have these 3 things they feel loneliness much less.

4) Who’s your go-to saint when it comes to living the single life and discerning your vocation?
St. Valentine. “Love is all you need” or is that the Beatles?

5) What advice would you give to young adults who are discerning vocations to marriage? What advice would you give to those discerning religious life? And for those who are indecisive?
There will always be a fork in the road at some point. You will have the choice to give your freedom away or hold on to it tightly. In my experience, giving it away is risky but it leads to more exciting things. If you give it away to something good, that is.

6) Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Subscribe to my blog and I’ll keep you up to date 🙂 …I already have another book in the works though for starters; the one that will tell all and tell things as they are.

Why Seeing Red Is The Worst Episode of Buffy: Defending Spike Part 1

nope this did not happen

This is the first of a series of essays anonymously defending the character of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer written by my friend Scholastica and edited by me. To this day, the fandom is divided about whether Spike was better as a villain or as an anti-hero, whether Buffy and Spike really loved each other or not, and especially about what is called “the bathroom incident” or “the attempted rape scene” in the Season 6 episode Seeing Red. There are mentions of abusive relationships, sexual violence, and other uncomfortable “trigger warning phrases” throughout this series of essays. However, Scholastica and I feel that these things need to be said because we both love Buffy, the titular character, and the character of Spike. So please read these essays with an open mind. Civil discussions are welcome, but keep in mind I moderate comments here.  You have been warned.

 


One of the most controversial plot lines of Season Six of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the torrid and abusive affair that springs up between the newly-resurrected titular hero of the series and the soulless but chipped vampire Spike.  The half-season story arc involves violent and secretive sex between the two characters, angry verbal spats, and one brutal scene in an empty alley.  All of this ugliness culminates in the horrific bathroom scene of Seeing Red, in which Spike attempts to assault Buffy.  In the aftermath of this painful scene, Spike journeys to Africa, and audiences are led to believe he is trying to remove his chip so that he can return to being the Big Bad.  Instead, the vampire undergoes strenuous trials and ends the season by regaining his soul.

Internet commentary reveals that Seeing Red is one of the most divisive episodes of the show.  Former fans of the character often find themselves unable to forgive Spike’s actions.  For the vampire’s detractors, the attempted rape is proof that his love for Buffy was never real.  “Spuffy” shippers who continue to love Spike after Seeing Red are sometimes accused of justifying or dismissing rape.  Now, I have no intention of excusing Spike’s actions in Seeing Red.  He attempts to rape Buffy and needs to undergo penance.  I believe he does. However, the episode does not change how I feel about him or his relationship with Buffy.  This essay, the first in a series that defends Spike as a character, explains why.

Before beginning, however, I would like to put forward a disclaimer:  I view Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a practicing Catholic.  I do not mention this fact because I am trying to convert anyone or dreg up controversial Church teachings, so I would politely ask that no one troll this essay or the next ones about subjects they do not address.  I realize that Joss Whedon is an atheist and that, like most shows on television in the twenty-first century, the bulk of the romantic relationships depicted on Buffy are illicit by Catholic standards.  I happen to believe that Christians should still engage with art that disagrees with their worldview, and the wonderful thing about the Slayerverse is that it brings up all sorts of fascinating moral and philosophical issues that viewers from diverse backgrounds will likely interpret differently.  I bring up my own religious background mainly because it would be impossible for me to address such topics as the nature of love and morality, free will, ensoulment, and redemption without drawing openly upon the Thomistic philosophical tradition that undergirds so much of my Catholic faith.

Ironically, these issues are much easier to explore in rockier relationships than in easy-going ones, making Spike and Buffy’s romantic entanglement a perfect avenue.  The “Spuffy” relationship exemplifies in many ways the increasingly complex moral universe of the show itself. Throughout seasons Two through Four of Buffy, all soulless vampires were claimed to be incapable of moral good.  By Season Five, this assumption no longer seems set in stone.  Moreover, as the series progresses, it portrays more and more human villains.  By the end of Season Six, even the heroes are shown making serious moral mistakes.

Set against the backdrop of this increasing moral complexity, the attempted rape in Seeing Red seems like an awkward late-series attempt to restore the paradigms set up in the early seasons of Buffy.  For the past two seasons, the writers themselves have appeared unsure how to treat the “monster” who wants to be a man for his beloved.  The bathroom scene is apparently their answer to the question of whether or not Spike can be good without the oft-mentioned soul.  Unfortunately, it does not really accomplish this task because the scene itself feels forced and unnatural.  Like many viewers, I consider the attempted rape to be borderline character assassination of Spike.  Not only do I object to the way it is presented on the show, I also believe that it does not fit with what has been slowly established about Spike’s background and personality through the past seasons.  Thus, for the rest of this essay, I will explore my manifold objections to the scene.

 

Objection #1: The Scene is Unnecessary to Advance the Narrative

This objection is actually the least bothersome for me because I do understand the sort of hero’s journey the writers were trying to tell:  A beloved character hits rock bottom and commits the most heinous sin the show’s feminist universe can imagine.  It should be unforgivable, but the possibility of forgiveness is raised nonetheless.  Confronted with his own interior ugliness, the character goes on a quest to redeem himself.  Most of the psychological force of this narrative is blunted because the writers were also trying to trick viewers into thinking Spike was on his way to Africa to remove the chip.  Nevertheless, it would make for a good story if it were not for the other objections on my list.  The point of this objection is not that the story they were trying to tell is lacking in cathartic satisfaction.  Rather, it is that it was not the only way to spur Spike towards redemption.  The beauty of fiction is that writers have an infinite number of ways to get characters from point A to point B, and while not all stories are equally compelling, there were plenty of other options for Spike that could have served just as well.

For instance, there were a number of Spike lovers who would have preferred a soulless redemption for the vampire.  I actually have a lot of sympathy for this position.  This may surprise some readers, given that Catholics are generally pretty big on souls, but I think it makes a lot of narrative sense.  Because I plan on delving into the issue of vampire souls in more depth in my next two essays, I would prefer not to spend too much time discussing it here.  Suffice to say that I believe the soul canon in Slayerverse is sufficiently murky that a soulless redemption could have been believable.  Moreover, a good portion of Spike’s appeal is due to his ability to defy the apparent norms of vampire metaphysics, and a soulless redemption would have seemed like a natural extension of this aspect of his character.  I am not saying this is my preferred solution, but it would have been a plausible option.

The general impression I have gotten from fans who prefer soulless redemption is that a lot of their objections to Spike’s ensoulment have to do with the heavy effect it has on his character.  Whatever else the acquisition of a vampire’s soul may bring, it does seem pretty intertwined with feelings of intense guilt. While I do consider contrition a necessary component of redemption, I can also understand why advocates of soulless redemption dislike the guilt-fest.  In Season Seven, the newly-souled Spike is put through a tremendous among of physical and mental suffering, retreating in the first half of the season to a dank basement where his insanity is given full play.  He comes dangerously close to being transformed from a fun-loving punk rocker to a brooder like Angel, Buffy’s first vampire lover.  I’ll admit that I loved seeing Spike get his taste for a good fight (and his awesome coat) back in Get it Done.  With or without his soul, I prefer to see the sort of penitence that fits his personality, not Angel’s.

For me, the real advantage of a soulless redemption arc, however, is less about avoiding all the Angel-style broodiness and more about how the other characters react to the change.  For so much of Season Six, Buffy and the Scoobies justify their mistreatment of Spike by citing his presumed soullessness.  One of the unfortunate side effects of him getting his soul back is that it allows Buffy to change her opinion of him without having to confront the past cruelty she inflicted upon him.  While she does admit in one scene of Never Leave Me that his changes began before his ensoulment, she does not really dwell on his pre-soul moral growth.  Instead, whenever she addresses his detractors in Season Seven, her defense of him always begins with “It’s different now.  He has a soul.”  The soul comes across less as a requirement for morality than something all the cool kids have to have in order to please their peers.

Despite these considerations, I do have a slight preference for souled redemption because the quest to regain his soul works very nicely with the chivalric tropes I believe underline Spike’s character.  However, I still dislike using attempted rape as the catalyst for this soul quest, when there were a number of other ways to push Spike to embark upon it.  For instance, our boy could have continued to backslide into lesser crimes, much like the ones he committed in Season Five.  Such a narrative would make his decision to seek a soul the result of the realization that his good intentions were not enough without a moral compass.  Instead of reversing all the moral progress that has been made, his soul quest would be the natural culmination of the previous season’s character arc.  Alternatively, he could have sought the soul after the brutal beating Buffy gives him in Dead Things, either as an effort to understand her pain or to prove her harsh assessment of him wrong.  He could also have sought it after her rejection of him in As You Were, in order to be considered worthy of a continued relationship with the Chosen One.  He could even have sought it after the painful post-Anya scene in Entropy, when he seems so depressed that he almost welcomes death at Xander’s hands.  Any of these options would have seemed more in character with Spike in Season Six.  Regardless of what alternative one prefers, the point is that there were many ways of getting him to that cave in Africa without the bathroom scene.

Objection #2: It is only partially true that Buffy is responsible for stopping Spike

This is another relatively minor point, but one I cannot help making.  Technically, yes, the whole horrible scene ends because Buffy gives Spike a good kick that brings him up short.  Personally, I would have liked to see Spike stop himself (barring, of course, completely eliminating the scene altogether).  However, I suspect that the writers ended it the way they did in order to show a woman successfully fighting off a potential rapist, and I think that is a worthy enough message to send to female viewers that ultimately I accept the need for Buffy’s kick on those grounds.  A woman should never assume that words alone will end an assault and victims should fight back.  However, I will point out that Buffy’s kick might only have halted the attack temporarily.  She does not kill him or incapacitate him in any way.  Nor does she immediately try to escape.  If he had truly wanted to rape Buffy, the kick might only have given him a moment’s hesitation before he tried again.  In fact, I suspect that many real-life rapists might actually become more enraged by the kick.  Spike is clearly horrified.  So while her actions do (rightfully) halt the attack, I think it should be taken into consideration that the vampire is not evil enough to try again.  This does NOT remove his responsibility for the original attempt and I am not trying to argue that he should be given credit for not continuing his attack.  What I am saying is that perhaps it should give us pause that plenty of souled human males would have gone back for a second round of struggling.  I think this reveals something about his understanding of the situation and his intentions, which I will explore in a later objection.

Objection #3: The scene feels out of character for Spike at this point.

I actually think that it is out of character for him at every point in his personal evolution, but especially so by Season Six.  I am not saying that their relationship is a particularly healthy one or that Spike’s evil inclinations are fully in the rearview mirror.  What I am saying is that raping the woman he loves no longer seems like something he would try to do, if it ever had been part of him to begin with.  I found his attempted rape out of character for at least three reasons: 1) the scene does not fit with how sex has been connected to violence in their relationship up to this point 2) the scene provides no plausible motive for the attempted rape that fits either Spike’s personality or his relationship to Buffy and 3) the scene ignores the character development that has happened through the past two seasons.

Those Three Words (A Series of Haikus)

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The first time I said
those three words to somebody
I was just sixteen

It was my first kiss
Shared with a star-crossed “lover”
Boy was I stupid

I don’t think I meant it
Got caught up in the moment
Summer loves don’t last

I said them again
to someone else years later
I meant it this time

He was a lost soul
Wandering in the darkness
Wanting me with him

But I chose the light
of a bright shiny future
Instead of his love

Out on the dance floor,
I almost said those three words
to a charming man.

His reluctance mixed
with contradicted gestures
He was not my prince.

Caught under a spell
I said those three words again
But I didn’t mean them.

I was not about
To go back into the dark’s
empty promises.

I wish I could say
those three words to someone but,
I must choose wisely.

Someday, I’ll find him
Or he might find me instead
And then I’ll say them

This eight lettered phrase
Those three little words that mean
one thing: “I love you.”

Pros and Cons of Flirt and Convert: Catholic Relationship Problems Part 2

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This next installment of my “Catholic Dating Problems” series is a response to Melinda Selmys’s blog post.

Everyone has probably heard the term “flirt and convert” or “missionary dating,” in which a person of faith dates someone outside of his or her denomination (or an atheist/agnostic) in the hopes of both winning their love and saving their souls. I mean, if it worked for J.R.R. Tolkien, it could work for the modern young adult, right?

I asked my fellow Catholic young adults about how they saw the whole concept of flirt and convert and this is what they have to say.

On the Pros side:

Sarah R.: I think it really depends where your heart is at and your true intention. For me personally, before my boyfriend and I started dating we would talk about the differences of non-dom and Catholic. It was really obvious he was searching because he had a desire for God that I hadn’t found previously in a man and I knew his desire would be fulfilled in the Eucharist and I knew he’d love Mary. Realizing these qualities made me fall for him. We started officially dating and these debates continued. He did research of his own, found Scott Hahn and Bishop Robert Barron and well…obviously he didn’t stand a chance. In the time he was asking me questions about the Church it caused me to grow in my faith a way I probably never would’ve.

Long story short, it’s become extremely obvious that this was God’s plan. Too many LITTLE weird things happened in our life that if those small things hadn’t have happened we wouldn’t have met. He said growing up non-denominational left him so many unanswered questions that gave him a serious depression because he thought “There should be more. But there’s not so how can this be real?” It honestly left him in a really bad place and he said Catholicism put together all those missing pieces together and it lifted him from that dark time he’d been feeling his whole life.

Of course I was skeptical as to if he was doing this for me. But his family was extremely angry and it caused a lot of problems. He’s extremely non-confrontational and would’ve avoided that if he didn’t care but he would passionately argue them during their family bible study. He also cries almost every time he receives the Eucharist (which is adorable but whatever) and it’s very raw and real and it’s obvious. So I would 10/10 recommend. Even if unfortunately there is a breakup.

As long as you were in it for the right reasons you will receive so many graces and they will as well and that helps them get to Heaven which is what the goal is anyways.

 

Ana P.: I can say that sometimes “flirt to convert” works, in a convoluted way sometimes. In my situation, though, the guy saw (and he told me this) how in love with my faith I was, and how much joy it brings me. We broke up. This easter vigil, he’s entering the Church.

 

 

On the Cons side:

Illyana M.: Honestly for me even though people joke about it and make it seem harmless I feel like it’s very dishonest and makes the person appear untrusting. A person shouldn’t necessarily convert because of another person but because they found God. A person could have led them to God. Someone they fell in love with could have led them to God. It amazes me seeing people convert because they want to marry the person they love.  There’s the other side I see though where a person is brought to God from another but their relationship if it was friendship or significant other ended and the person becomes lost afterward. I don’t know where flirt and convert started but people I know who aren’t catholic find it rude and intimidating like Catholics or other religious people can’t be trusted with their hearts, their choices, or best interests. Another thing is I’ve found some people to be prideful over situations where they dated a non christian, brought them to the faith, but broke up over time. I find it disrespectful towards a person’s feelings and wrong to take credit for something I think God helped with.

 

Emily A.

  1. If it doesn’t work, your heart gets put through a meat grinder
  2. You can potentially objectify the person because you love them for who they could be and fail to see who they actually are – people aren’t projects.
  3. It takes a vast deal of maturity to truly love someone in a way that will lead them to conversion, and this also requires acceptance that they may in fact never convert- so you can’t go in with the intention of making it happen, that’s totally counterproductive and unrealistic.
  4. It can give you a false sense of intimacy, as well as cause you to feel as though you are solely responsible for “saving” this person which can cause resentment and frustration on both sides
  5. As one who tried it in both romance and with a friendship and got seriously screwed over as a result, 0/10 do not recommend.  This doesn’t mean don’t be a witness, but don’t ever make it your “goal” to convert someone. Just take them as they are, be an example, answer questions, and yes, pray for them. But realize that’s all you can do and they have free will and you shouldn’t try to manipulate that with emotional connection, because if they potentially do begin the conversion process and you break up/things go sour, it’s going to potentially undo everything anyway.

Siobhan F.: I know a girl who dated a guy and converted because of him. When they broke up, her entire spiritual life was dependent on him and she fell away from the church. She didn’t know how to be Catholic on her own. One of my friend’s had a boyfriend whose spiritual life was dependent on her and when her faith was shaken, so was his. He had no faith life of his own.

Are you going to be okay if this person never converts? Is it going to become an issue in your relationship later on? Are they going to drag you away from the Church? Are you going to turn into someone who just badgers them?
If they don’t convert, you have to consider your future kids. If you’re a woman, your child’s future faith is mainly dependent on the faith or lack thereof of their father. Are you willing to risk your children’s faith? Going to Mass without Daddy? Would your husband support them in the faith? Go to Mass with you even as a non-Catholic? Say prayers with you? Encourage family prayer time? Will your husband be okay with NFP? Will this be a point of tension in your marriage?  So. Flirt to convert = bad.

Kathryn O.: My mother points out that it’s kind of silly to go out with someone, or flirt with someone, who’s so weak in their faith that you readily believe you can convert them.

 

In Conclusion:

While all things are possible with God, I would advise to Catholic young adults to make sure that if they are gonna date outside of the Church, proceed with extreme caution and do not make this relationship into a conversion project.

Catholic Dating Problem Part 1: Waiting and Finding

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Happy Valentine’s Day! As everyone already knows, single people have a hard enough time dealing with their single status every other day of the year, but there’s something about Valentine’s Day that makes being single even more loathsome. When you’re a single Catholic young adult, the dating scene becomes a lot more complicated and being single is about 10x harder. I shared this article on my Facebook and got the following response:

 

Jillian W.:  I have the exact opposite problem. I don’t understand the concept of a single Catholic man, because they don’t exist. Every Catholic guy I know is either dating, married, or a seminarian. And I don’t get it when people say they are going on a dating fast because how do you get so many people to ask you out that you have to “take a break”. Like, I don’t even know how to get a bloody date in the first place (because there are no single Catholic men, much less ones that have ever shown an interest). I’m not single by choice or because it feels safe, in single because there’s no one to ask me out and even when there are, they don’t because no one is ever interested in me.

 

After asking other young Catholics about their POVVs in regards to the dating scene, I decided that this will be the first of a series called “Catholic Dating Problems.” The first major problem that most single Catholics have when it comes to dating: Finding somebody!

 

Like my friend Jillian, I am not single by choice, nor have I met someone who’s going on a “dating fast.” While I have a good group of single male friends, none of them are interested in me as a girlfriend. Nor do I want them to ask me out because I don’t see every guy out there as potential future husbands. I find it hard to believe that you can just look at a person and just know that he or she is the person you’re gonna be with for the rest of your life. It’s hard enough for me to communicate with someone I don’t know given that I have Asperger’s. How am I supposed to know whether or not the next guy I date is going to be “the one?”

 

One problem with finding the right person is knowing where to look.

 

My friend Clint M. said, “I honestly see a heavily pervasive secular culture influence the way Catholics interact and date. Where some embrace that culture wholeheartedly to the detriment of their faith, others reject it so thoroughly that they fail to provide adequate witness to those who have embraced secular approaches to relationships.”

 

There are a million and one ways to meet someone…the real problem is sifting through all the frogs to find that prince or princess. As hard as this is for me to say, I can’t offer any easy answers to this problem. I do hope, though, that this series will help those who are single deal with the longing that we all suffer with.

 

I  struggle with jealousy whenever other friends talk about how they just clicked with their significant others. I don’t mean wishing harm on those who have what I want. It’s more that I simply want the happiness that people in great relationships have. It’s that old Queen song again: Can anybody find me somebody to love?

 

God can. And no, that’s not an easy answer either. God’s time and will does not bend itself to whatever we want, whenever we want it. I often see posts that say that whenever we feel lonely, it’s God’s way of calling us to be close to Him. And while it helps when it comes to building a personal relationship with Christ, it doesn’t help on Valentine’s Day when we’re watching bad romantic comedies and binge-eating chocolate ice cream.

 

So what can we do when we deal with the Valentine’s Day Blues?

 

Check out this poem about Lent by William Arthur Ward:

 

Fasting and Feasting

Lent should be more than a time of fasting.
It should also be a joyous season of feasting.
Lent is a time to fast from certain things and to feast on others.

It is a season to turn to God:

Fast from judging others; feast on the goodness in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on unity of all life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent: feast on gratitude. 

Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives: feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal Truth.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feasts on truths that uplift.
Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that supports.

No matter how hard it may seem, hold out hope that God will lead you to whatever you are called to do. Until then, find the light in the darkness. It will at least save you some calories and hours wasted on bad movies.

Three To Get Married/In Good Times And Bad

three to get married

From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship

The first time that I heard today’s passages, I was at my friend’s wedding. The priest at their wedding complimented my friend on her choice of readings and I couldn’t help but agree with him. It was my first time ever hearing a passage from Tobit, so right off the bat, I knew that my friend and her husband had something different in mind from the typical feel good sentimentality most couples want. 

 

Whether you are single, in a relationship, or already married, I hope that you can find something to relate to in the first part of today’s reflections. Read here for part 1.

 

 

in good times and bad

 

In Part 2, I compare Tobit and Sarah’s wedding party to the Wedding at Cana.

I always felt that if I ever get married, I want the Gospel to be today’s passage from the Gospel of John. I’m not someone who constantly dreams of the perfect wedding (although I do have a wedding Pinterest board like every other girl who uses Pinterest), but I always loved the Wedding at Cana because it’s a microcosm of what I feel life is like for married couples and for those who enter into religious life.

 

What do they have common? Find out here!

 

And finally, I want to share with you the YouTube playlist I created to go with this study:

It's a Love Story: Tobit Bible Study Day 6

Tobit Love Story

From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

It’s good to have expectations and standards when it comes to dating, but don’t demand more than what your significant other can give. Don’t try to push things too far just because you want intimacy or marriage. Be relaxed and give the person you’re dating the benefit of the doubt. And don’t be too disappointed when things don’t work out because it means that there’s a good chance the next guy you date will be better. 

Read the rest here!

Match Made In Heaven: Tobit Bible Study Day 5

tobit match made in heaven

From Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship:

In these days when we can find a date with the quickness of a swipe or a tap or a click, it seems like finding a genuine relationship is next to impossible. I think we can relate to the fear that Tobias has about entering into marriage with Sarah. Although most of us aren’t exactly afraid of dying on our wedding night, we always carry a small fear whenever we enter into a new relationship that something will go wrong. This can often lead to us sabotaging ourselves without even realizing it.

Read the rest here!

Not Just Good, but Beautiful: A Book Review

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In light of Pope Francis’s recent visit to the US, I am gonna look into Not Just Good, but Beautiful, a compilation of interfaith talks from Humanum: An International Interreligious Colloquium. This book gives perspectives on marriage from Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu perspectives.

Since the Humanum Colloquium was organized by Pope Francis, there are more Catholic perspectives, but the beauty of this book was that while the theme of of the colloquium was to show the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman, each Catholic had a unique way of showing how marriage is beautiful. Pope Francis begins the colloquium with the word “complementarity” which a word that gets echoed in the subsequent essays. To Pope Francis, “complimentarity is the root of marriage and family.” In this day and age where love and marriage seemed to lack concrete definitions aside from feelings, Pope Francis says “Family is an anthropological fact-a socially and culturally related fact.” Pope Francis’s love for the family was easily seen in his visit to the US and I pray that people will look further into it and realize the truth, beauty, and goodness that the family has to offer.

Gerhard Cardinal Muller looks at marriage from a theological perspective and sees that the differences between man and woman as “an essential element to understanding the human being and our journey toward God.” Sister M. Prudence Allen looks at “complementarity” from a philosophical perspective. Jean Laffitte’s perspective looks into marriage as a sacrament and how marriage reflects Christ’s relationship with His Church. Ignacio Ibarzabal looks at marriage from a millenial perspective.

BC_NotJustGoodbutBeautiful_1The perspectives from other faiths were equally beautiful. I love how Jonathan Sacks looks at marriage from a historical and anthropological perspective, tying science and history into his Jewish faith. Penecostal director Jacqueline C. Rivers also looks at marriage using a lot of history and the perspectives from African-American culture as well as the Pentecostal beliefs. Kala Acharya, a Hindu, looks at marriage combining history, philosophy and the beliefs of Hinduism. Johann Christoph Arnold, an Anabaptist, looks into his personal life and shows how marriage can have its ups and downs when playing out in the real world. Henry B. Eyring, a Mormon, does something similar with his essay. Wael Farouq (Muslim) and Nissho Takeuchi (Buddhist) look at the languages of their faiths for insight on how their faiths see love and marriage. Reverent Nicholas Thomas Wright looks at marriage from a strictly Biblical perspective while Rick Warren gives a good practical “how to” perspective. Tsui-Ying Sheng’s essay is one of my favorites because it looks at yin and yang beyond the coolness of the symbol and actually applies the philosophy of the symbol to her life. Russell D. Moore, a Baptist, also ties in the theologies from the Baptist denomination into how things are today.

Complementarity is the overall theme in this book. Many people look at marriage and family and think that it’s just about feelings. But from observing my married friends, I realized that you don’t have to have everything in common with your spouse. The best relationships I know (fictional and in reality) involve two people who aren’t exactly alike but still work together perfectly because they balance each other’s needs. Men and women are always going to be different, no matter how many times people on tumblr and the media say otherwise. But it’s not a bad thing.

I highly recommend this book for people who want to understand marriage on a deeper level.

Visit the Patheos Book Club on Not Just Good, But Beautiful here.

A Different Kind of Tinder: The Differences Between The Hookup Culture, Friendship, Casual Dating, and True Love

Clusterflunk stock photo.

I practically live on the internet. I wrote a post about how awesome it is to have friends on the internet. I love that I can be open about my faith online to friends and acquaintances who see themselves as atheist, agnostic or “spiritual but not religious” without having any kind of yelling or belittling of myself or my beliefs. But I still have friends in real life as well and while I have a lot of social networks, I haven’t signed up for any online dating sites or installed any kind of dating apps on my tablet. Hypothetically, if I were to ever go out on a date, I’d want to meet the guy in real life, have him ask for my number, and take me out to dinner. It sounds old-fashioned, I know.

One reason I don’t go on dating sites is for one thing, all the good ones are too expensive. I do know people who’ve met and even married people they met online, but as I said before, I’m an old-fashioned romantic. I want to get to know the guy I’m with as an actual person, not just chat with him on Facebook or talk via text messaging. It takes me completely out of my comfort zone, but hey, nothing safe is worth the drive.

There’s an article from Vanity Fair going around called “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse.'” It’s a pretty long article that comments on how fast and easy the hookup culture has become with the popularity of apps like Tinder which focus more on getting someone to spend the night with than getting to know a person. But honestly, I don’t see how that’s different from two strangers going to sleep with each other after meeting at a party or a bar. The hookup culture has been around for decades. It’s just that it’s happening faster now.

I don’t blame this so-called “dating apocalypse” on apps like Tinder. I blame the hookup culture. I get the desire of wanting to be with a person, but too many people are accepting of this idea that hookups are okay without thinking of the consequences, physical and emotional. There’s this dizzying, contradicting logic that  people can have sex without consequences and yet somehow still find true love if the person is also someone you want to be with outside of the bedroom.

So why do I cultivate the majority of my friendships online but prefer to find my dates in the real world? To be honest, it’s because online, it’s easier to find people who share the same interests. I can talk about Buffy as much as I want to with my fellow online friends because we all understand our love for the show and the characters. But at the same time, I hope I can meet these friends at a convention. Eventually, even with online friendships, there’s a desire to know the person in the real world. The reason I want to find my dates in the real world is because I’m not just looking for someone I talk about Buffy or Doctor Who with. I’m looking for a future husband.

Casual dating about knowing what kind of person you like to be with and hopefully learning some emotional maturity in the process. Casual dating is not for everyone. For me, casual dating helps me to not get my expectations too high. Love doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. While I’m okay with just getting to know guys and casually dating them without any expectations of a relationship or marriage right now, eventually, there will be a guy who will go the extra mile for me and I’ll want to get too know him more than any other guy. In other words, when it comes to dating, I’m cultivating love with a different kind of tinder.

The tinder that comes with authentic love is loving the other person as a person, not just as a means to an end. I’m not saying to go out on a date and talk about wedding bells and a white picket fence right away. I’m saying that you need to know the person you’re going out with as a legitimate and actual human being, created by God for a purpose. Eventually, the right person will come. But until then, there is no need for the instant gratification of a swipe and the ego boost that comes with a person thinking you look hot enough to spend the night with. I struggle with lonely nights just as much as anyone else, but I also know, that there are ways to deal with my loneliness that doesn’t require an app or an internet connection. I hope that others will come to realize that as well.