Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Peter Espeut | Wignall's world: Libertarianism must rule

Published:Friday | January 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Mark Wignall's shallow and ill-informed column in yesterday's Gleaner cries out for a response.

Right at the beginning, Mark admits: "Beginning with deflection in response to my simple questions on the Bible while just a teen, and my rational examination of life, science and natural phenomena since, let me state at the outset to clear up any misunderstanding, for the last 50 years I have not shared a belief in any religion or divinity, myth to me, but reality of God to many".

Rebuffed in Sunday school as a teenager, Mark's 'rational examination of life, science and natural phenomena' since then has led him into atheism. But a really rational person asking serious biblical questions, if rebuffed, would seek the answers elsewhere.

It seems that Mark has not advanced in his appreciation of Christian teaching in the last 50 years; the giveaway is when he says that "church leaders and flock are forced to see sexual predation as the work of the devil living just south of the belt buckle".

This is fundamentalist Sunday-school claptrap not supported by mainstream Christianity today. The church which Mark berates is a figment of his religiously deprived childhood, the scars of which he has carried for the last 50 years.

I observe that many people who grow up in fundamentalism and find it intellectually inadequate, reject religion altogether, when it is Christian fundamentalism that they should reject.

"Forged in the false acceptance that the flesh is weak and not normal; sinful and not sexual, in the Catholic Church, for example, priests must make the vows of celibacy, a state physiologically unhealthy and mentally uncomfortable for a 'normal' male".

Mark's 'rational examination of life' has led him to the conclusion that the sexual desires of the flesh are natural phenomena, and because they are natural they must be normal (i.e., the norm). And because they are normal, to give in to them cannot be sinful.

In other words, if you feel to do something, then it is OK to do it, because your feelings are natural and therefore normal.




Last week, in my column, I wrote: "Discipline is synonymous with self-control and self-restraint. Without discipline, we humans would simply follow our base desires, doing whatever we feel like doing at the time. Discipline, then, is suppressing our base desires because our higher faculties inform us of a better course of action."

For Mark, then, there is no such thing as discipline, and self-control is uncomfortable, unhealthy and unnatural. Mark's extreme libertarian stance denies the possibility of anything being wrong, as long as you feel to do it, which is natural and normal.

With this fundamental stance, Mark would have to argue that just as dogs and donkeys eat when they are hungry, and copulate when nature calls, human beings must be governed by their base animal desires, and must deny the urgings of their higher faculties.

Mark makes his personal position crystal clear: "I am prepared to accept my own weaknesses of the flesh as my fun side set on normal."

And because the sexual desires of the flesh are normal and natural, to take a vow of celibacy as Roman Catholic priests do is 'a state physiologically unhealthy and mentally uncomfortable for a 'normal' male'.

Mark's whole world view is based on a false premise: just because something is natural (i.e., you feel to do it) does not make it right or normal. People eat themselves into obesity, and drink themselves into unconsciousness. And some men are attracted to underage girls, and even boys.

During the Holy Season of Lent which begins in six weeks time, many Christians will practise the self-discipline of fasting and abstinence from meat. There is virtue in denying the supremacy of the base urges over one's being, and in our brains and wills being in full control of our bodies.

I will argue that allowing one's base urges to rule us is a form of slavery. Removing all constraints to true freedom results in true liberation of the person, making us free to be genuinely happy.

For many Roman Catholic men and women, to perpetually deny themselves genital pleasure in order to be free to serve others, is a special calling not for everyone. And although a few try to live that life and fail, this does not discredit its value.

In Mark's experience, celibacy is impossible. The existence of genuinely celibate priests and nuns threatens Mark's world view and his conception of himself and his way of life.

As we mere mortals struggle with our lower selves, we become only too aware that the flesh is weak. Jamaica has nowhere going if we encourage our fellows. 

- Peter Espeut is a sociologist and a Roman Catholic deacon. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.