Before anything else, let me say that Amanda at Pandagon has done a terrific job this morning summarizing the Men's Rights Movement. Though it's always vital to note that there are many strands to the men's movement (including large numbers of pro-feminist men), it's the MR fellows who often seem to get the most press. She does note, correctly, that Glenn Sacks is very charming.
Lots of interesting -- and challenging -- comments below my previous post about my words to the All Saints teens Wednesday night. Regular commenters from the more conservative end (Chip, Stephen, and John) have taken me to task; some of my secular feminist allies have strongly supported my words; still others have taken a more nuanced view. (I think in particular of Thunder Jones.) It has not escaped my attention, however, that those who showed the strongest agreement with me were the most secular of my commenters, while those who challenged my answer to the kids were mostly fellow believers.
I'm still struggling this Friday morning, honestly. The fact that I'm uncomfortable with what I said is not evidence of a guilty conscience, at least I don't think so. But heck, I'm prone to second-guessing myself all the time. A hallmark of my own spiritual peregrinations has been a simultaneous fascination with, and fervent rejection of, absolute truths. In the past quarter-century, since I first started thinking about God and morality when I was about to enter adolescence, I've vacillated between a fierce libertarianism and a kind of communitarian censoriousness on moral issues. I'm getting better than I used to be, but sometimes, to play with the old saying about whirlwind travel, "If it's Tuesday, Hugo must be a social conservative." It's hard to be so uncertain about so many things. It's hard to be "living in Laodicea" all the time, as some of my more conservative friends suggest I am. It's hard when I know that my own ambivalence about practically everything serious makes it difficult to take me seriously. (I think it makes me an interesting teacher, however.)
I'm embarrassed by how difficult it is for me to have deep enduring convictions, especially around issues of sexual morality. There are many things I have strong, unshakeable feelings about. (A recent example of my implacability is here.) But perhaps because of my own past experience, I'm tremendously reluctant to set limits. That's odd, because the lack of limits in my own life caused great pain to many people in my younger years, myself included. Like too many young people, I suppose I'd rather be labeled anything in the world except for a hypocrite; I've fallen prey to the modern notion that hypocrisy is the greatest vice of all, while tolerance is the greatest virtue. I know what a superficial and flawed notion that really is, and yet... and yet.
Do I love the All Saints kids? Absolutely. I'm passionate about them. As I wrote yesterday, I see them as individuals rather than generic teens, and I am acutely aware that they have different psyches and maturity levels and desires. At the same time, I know that there are some universal truths about adolescents that apply to every one of them, and one of those truths is that they are not miniature adults!
I wonder: if I could have the "best" for them, the complete and utter best, if I could have them "hit the mark" directly, would I want them to wait to become sexually active until they were older? Yes, I would. Would I want them to wait until marriage? In all honesty, I'm not sure. Despite the fact that I have dear friends of mine today who did "wait" for marriage, my own background and life experience still tells me that for most people, that's an impossibly lofty goal that isn't even worth shooting for. I wonder if my theology of sex isn't being informed by my own sense of frailty.
I'm not ambivalent about Jesus. I believe He died for me. I believe He loves me. I believe He loves the kids I care for far more than I comprehend, and I believe that as a youth leader, I am a shepherd whom He has asked, in the words of the Johannine gospel, to "feed my lambs." I stand by my words on Wednesday night still. At this moment, most of me still believes that for at least some kids, sexual activity in adolescence can meet the "Regas Test" of being liberating, life-giving, joyous, fun, easy, ecstatic, fantastic...resist(ing) all cruelty, all exploitation, all impersonalization. But George Regas, for all his tremendous talent and legacy of devotion to social justice, is not Jesus, and I can't substitute a sermon from my church's former rector for the gospel.
I wonder (as I wander), was there much substance to the food I gave to these lambs I love? I was eloquent, I think, and sincere. I do eloquence and sincerity well. But was I right? Were they fed?
I'm still in a lot of doubt this morning. Much to pray about before next Wednesday's youth group meeting. My kids whom I treasure need a consistent message from me, and that means I need some clarity. Fast.