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Friday, January 30, 2009

Spiderman and The Romantic Male, Twilight Part II

by Susan Fox
"As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you." (Isaiah 62:3-5)

My husband didn't like the music playing. "Why?" I asked? "What's wrong with it?"
"There's no romance in it.," he answered.
What a shocking answer. I was naive. I thought only women were romantic and men put up with it.
But a subsequent discussion with my husband revealed this isn't true. Listen up ladies, men don't typically reveal this stuff. It turns out that men are as deeply romantic as we females. It's just the reverse of the female orientation, in fact, our complement. Women want to be treasured. Men want to treasure them -- to protect them.
It's why boys like tales of daring adventure, knights slaying dragons and . . . Spiderman. It is the reason men become priests and husbands, and women become sisters, nuns and wives. Remember in the movie, Twilight, when Bella tries to guess the source of vampire Edward Cullen's strength, she thinks of the most romantic male character, Peter Parker, the comic book superhero Spiderman created in 1962. "Radioactive spiders?" she asks Edward. That was the source of Peter Parker's powers. Spiderman, a movie based on the 1960s character, is highly favored by my 20-year-old son and his friends -- college age men.

And why? Spiderman -- like all comic superheroes from the '50s and '60s -- is very chivalrous. That's why the villains always want to kidnap his girlfriend Mary Jane when they want Spiderman's attention. They know he will jump into the worse danger imaginable just to save Mary Jane. And isn't that just so thrilling for Mary Jane? It reminds me of an old Mighty Mouse cartoon I used to watch when I was four years old. The lady mouse dressed in scarlet with beautiful blond hair was tied to the railroad track by the evil villain. What a waste of gorgeous lady mouse! But before the train could hit her, Mighty Mouse -- a sort of mouse superman with yellow leotards and a red cape comes flying out of the sky singing, "Here I come to save the day!" (That means that Mighty Mouse is on the way.)

"The highest form of masculinity," according to my husband, Lawrence, " is chivalry."

"The height of male-female relations is the Middle Ages?" I asked myself. Oh Oh. Then that means relations between the sexes are deteriorating. And the true image of man is being obscured.

In fact, you can listen to it happen on XM Satellite Radio. There's a station for music of the 1950s, one for the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s and so on. I'm in Louisiana this week so I plugged those stations into my rental car radio and listened to each decade's music. It starts with"Sweet Little Sheila" and Herman's Hermits still holding hands under an umbrella, and ends with songs whose refrain is "s-e-x" or "I can love you better than him," (Hard to Handle '91, Black Crowes).

"There was still permanence in relationships in the music of the '50s, but by the time to you get to the '90s, the permanence is lost," Lawrence, my husband, mused.

There is another -- more caveman aspect of male masculinity emphasized in the '90s. True to his chivalrous nature when we were courting 26 years ago, my husband asked permission to hold my hand the first time. I said, "Yes." I asked him the other night, "How did you feel when I said yes (to holding hands the first time)?" His answer was interesting: "I'm in." In the '90s the music is all about conquering women -- the big score, another notch on your gun. There is even one charming '90s song by Aqua called "Bumblebee," where the female vocalist is a flower and the male vocalist is a bumblebee. The female flower welcomes the bumblebee, but warns him, "You gotta be faithful." His response is that while she's his favorite flower when they are together, "one flower is not enough for a bee like me." The flower sings poignantly, "I know I'm not the only flower you see, but what can I do? You're such a good looking bee."

So I asked my husband about this aspect of masculinity and he said, "A man who deliberately goes from one flower to the next is a brute. He has no compassion."

The popular music of the '90s is definitely more brutish than the '50s. But I know so many young people born 1988 and after who are still searching for this permanence in romantic love -- a permanence leading to marriage.

Desperate Housewives be damned. The human heart has not changed. It still longs for permanent faithful romantic love. I remember in the 1980s I lived in an apartment with two other girls in Arlington, VA. The couple in the apartment downstairs were older and unmarried. Apparently, the male in the relationship did not believe in marriage. She was the saddest woman I ever met.

And later doing door-to-door evangelization, I found a Filipino woman who believed she couldn't return to the Catholic Church. She was living with a man and depended on him for financial support. She told me she had been married, but a priest had told the couple they could use birth control. That led to divorce. And now she was in worse condition than before. Of course, nothing is impossible with God. God makes all things new, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (if you sin after Baptism.)

"So Lawrence," I asked, "What led to the decline of our culture and the increasing brutishness of men and the sadness of women?"

"Birth Control," he answered. (He's written to Dr. Dobson to try and help him on this issue as Dr. Dobson -- as wonderful as he is -- doesn't recognize that Artificial Birth Control disfigures the image of God in man, and makes men more brutish. )

And finally I understood that a man asking his woman to be always available sexually without any commitment was an extremely brutish act. Even with commitment, it is a brutish act. He is asking her to risk illness, cancer, spontaneous abortion for his selfish pleasure. Poor little flower, what could she do -- he was such a good looking bee.

But what about the poor man, whose selfish act is disfiguring his own male human nature. He is no longer Spiderman, but one of the monsters Spiderman must battle. And believe me, good men -- even ones who may have bought into the lies of our culture -- are uneasy about this. Think of the vampire Edward Cullen in the movie, "Twilight." Asked why he didn't drink human blood, he answered, "I don't want to be a monster."

The men in our culture don't want to act like monsters. But sometimes the women are to blame. Women -- not understanding the need men have to be chivalrous and to protect them -- often use birth control because they think it is a loving act. God help our culture when one partner believes that allowing another partner to be selfish is a form of love. We are truly confused about the nature of love in that case.

Now what happens when men become used to the convenience of birth control and an unplanned pregnancy occurs. They may expect their consort to have an abortion. My husband was counseling a friend whose marriage was on the rocks. My husband thought it was the woman's fault because she treated his friend so indifferently. But then he found out that his friend had asked his wife to have an abortion. He later changed his mind, but his wife had it anyway and then left him. Larry told his friend that when he suggested the abortion, in effect he killed the relationship with his wife in her eyes. Abortion is the ultimate act of brutishness.

And what about divorce? We have a friend whose husband is divorcing her and trying to take away all the means of support for her and her three children. They are beautiful children and it causes my husband no end of anguish to see them and wonder why any man could give up such beautiful children, let alone his gorgeous wife. But this woman's husband is the Bumblebee. He's is addicted to adultery. Abandonment is the ultimate end to chivalry, my husband said.

For the female, it is a denial of her need to be loved and cherished, and for the male it is the end of his chivalrous nature. Either way, the trinity of evils -- abortion, birth control and divorce -- destroy man's image made in the likeness of God.

If you were raised in a household without a good father or lacking a mother, you may not know how to find a chivalrous husband or a loving wife. Luckily, you can find proper models in Holy Scripture. Read the Bible. The Old Testament is full of God's chivalry. "Know that He, the Lord is God. He made us, we belong to Him, we are His people, the sheep of His flock. . . He is faithful from age to age." (Psalm 100)

And in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the most romantic man in history. The cross is the most chivalrous act ever offered for man or woman. "God so loved the world that He gave his only Son. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

Perhaps for me there is no other more romantic passage of Scripture than Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. He rides in as is foretold on the back of a foal of an ass. He comes as a king, but humbly -- not in a brutish conquering manner, not like earthly kings. And when the people praise Him -- who comes in the Name of the Lord, the Pharisees recognize that He is being hailed as God Himself. They ask Him to silence his disciples. But He answers, "I tell you if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!"

And as He draws near the city of Jerusalem, He weeps over it, saying how many times would He have gathered us to Himself as a mother hen gathers her chicks. But we refused. We would not let our Bridegroom cherish us.

Wives, let your husbands love you. Husbands, love your wives. Mankind, allow your God to love you. God, please show us your mercy and love.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Twilight's Beloved

“This my Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”

I did it. I went to see the movie, Twilight, five times.

There really isn’t anything else to see at the theater, so my husband and I checked the list and just kept going back to see Edward Cullen and Bella Swan fall in love again. Normally, I will never watch a movie more than once, but both of us enjoyed it.

My husband liked it because of the acting and the music, and because he loves me. And I liked it – well, because of the acting, the music and the well-done romance.

As time progressed, the audience became increasingly female. They hooted when Robert Pattinson made his entrance as the handsome, but conflicted vampire hopelessly in love with the very human Bella. “I just don’t think I have the strength to stay away from you anymore,” Edward tells Bella in a husky voice. “Then don’t,” she responds with tears in her eyes. My husband loved Edward’s line when he tells Bella she is his particular brand of heroin. If I hadn’t laughed, I think he would have said, I was his brand of heroin. We’ve been married 25 years and I am 55 years old, so that’s good news.

The last time I saw it, I overheard a woman say it was the eighth time she had seen the movie. Another time, I was in the ladies room after the movie and I overheard a teenager longingly say, “I have got to find myself a vampire.”

I am reminded of the time, my husband, son and I went to see, “Wall-E,” the little robot who was in love with the robot Eva. She would say, “Wall-E,” with a cute and longing inflection and he would say, “Eva,” the same way. I went into the ladies room (as usual) after the movie, and there were a ton of seven-year-old girls imagining themselves to be Eva, all saying “Wall-E” with the same inflection.

The hearts of those young girls were stirred by Wall-E’s incredible fidelity to Eva through space, time and difficult circumstances.

The character Edward Cullen shows the same fidelity to Bella. If you read the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer on which the movie was based, you will find that Bella has two lovers, Edward and Jacob Black. The second movie – yet to be released -- will be about the Jacob affair. I found the key to the Twilight phenomenon in Meyer’s books.

The author created three races of men. Human men and women are unfaithful and get divorced. Vampires fall in love once, marry and then are incapable of changing, and werewolves “imprint” on their beloved, and are incapable of cheating. Bella is lucky as she is loved, truly loved by two men incapable of being unfaithful.

Clearly the author is trying to set up relationships for Bella that won’t fail.

Isn’t that what every woman longs for in her heart – a love that will last into eternity?

Yes, but . . . It’s true the whole Twilight Phenomenon is a sad commentary on the state of our culture in which marriages so easily dissolve into divorce.

But those seven-year-olds crying “Wall-E” and those 18-year-olds hungering for their vampire lover also reveal the deepest heart of man. Men and women all desire a Love that really lasts into eternity.

I have a love that will last until death. I don’t walk into the ladies room and wish I had my own vampire. I have him. He’s 52, bald, funny, good-looking and good. I’ve been happily married 25 years to my best friend. My husband is romantic and sexy. There is nothing missing in our relationship.

But I do have an emptiness in my heart that won’t be filled until I am in a permanent and eternal relationship with God Who is Love. That is what the poets and theologians call the state of heaven. All the saints experienced this emptiness profoundly. “On the very heights of the spiritual life, indeed, we feel that our desires are not satisfied – not because God is not enough, but because we do not yet possess him fully,” wrote Archbishop Luis M. Martinez in the spiritual classic, The Sanctifier, “because we have not yet captured him in a final and perfect way.”

“For this reason those most intimately united with God, the saints, have suffered the unspeakable torment of desire. That martyrdom, according to St. Teresa (of Avila) who endured so much of it, is the greatest anguish that can be felt on earth.”

Most of us try not to suffer that anguish. We avoid the cross. And we do that is by reaching for our other little “loves” – brownies, romance novels, television, work, computer games, pornography, shopping, even our own spouse can become an idol. Sex – made by God and good in itself – can become the escape from our suffering. We are all dying of love for God, but most of us cannot recognize it. We color our hair, tattoo our body, redecorate our house, but never recognize the One we really want. Not understanding this, many people marry, find the relationship does not completely satisfy them, and so then go looking for another relationship that does not completely satisfy them. No human relationship will satisfy them.

Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, O God. (St. Augustine).

Or as the Donut Man says on EWTN, only God can fill the donut-sized hole in my heart.

Martha discovered this secret when she complained to Jesus that she had to do all the cooking, while her sister, Mary, sat at Christ’s feet. Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are busy about many things. Mary has chosen the better part.” Martha was busy in her mind as well as with her hands.

We have to work, but we can work and “sit” at the same time. There’s a little room in our heart where we can sit, “Be still and know that I am God.”

“The better part” makes this vale of tears a little easier to bear until we abandon that “dusty little threshing ground that makes us mad for our sins.” (Dante’s Paradiso)

And the good news? We are beloved of God. He loves us with a more perfect and divine love than any werewolf, vampire, man, woman, child, cat or goldfish.

He revealed His infinite passion for us by sending his Son, to die on a cross for us. "For God so loved the world that He sent His Son." "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

Man, woman, child come to know your Bridegroom, Jesus Christ.

Open the door. He is knocking.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Here's to God laughing

“To Err is Human; To Forgive Divine”
By Susan Fox
Love your enemies -- who would believe that such a basic tenet of Christianity would convert the son of a founding member of Hamas, the ruling party of Palestine recognized for its brutal suicide bombs and other attacks against Israel.
Mosab Hassan Yousef, age 30, came to the United States two years ago, but only recently made the decision to go public with his conversion to Christianity. His famous Muslim family back in the Middle East is really suffering because of what he has done, but he came to my attention at Christmas because all my Catholic friends are talking about him.
“Hamas, they are using civilians’ lives, they are using children, they are using the suffering of people every day to achieve their goals. And this is what I hate,” Mr. Yousef said in an interview last summer. After a chance encounter with a British missionary nine years ago, Mr. Yousef began secretly reading the Bible, stuck by the central tenet “love your enemies.”
Now as a Christian living in San Diego, Calif., Mr. Yousef hopes to found an international organization to educate young people about Islam and preach a message of “forgiveness,” the only way – he says -- the endless cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians can be broken.
A relationship with Jesus Christ changed Mr. Yousef’s heart and gave him the courage to publicly declare his belief that faith in Jesus is our only hope for an end to the violence that plagues the Middle East.
It is a great theme for the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, which was celebrated by the Church this past Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. Pope Benedict XVI explained that this feast points to the “everydayness” of a personal relationship with the Lord. For Baptism – by desire or by formal sacrament – marks the beginning of this transforming relationship.
“Through the immersion in the waters of the Jordan, Jesus united Himself to us,” the pope said. Baptism is like the "bridge that [God] has built between him and us, the road by which he is accessible to us [...] the gateway to hope and, at the same time, the sign that indicates the road we must take in an active and joyous way to meet him and feel loved by him."
Mr Yousef is on the same track: "I have met politicians. I have met presidents and prime ministers. I have met all the leaders of that (Middle East) region," Mr. Yousef said. "None of them have a magical solution for this issue. They are leading people but they don't know where they are going.”
"Jesus is not going to give them a political solution, but He has changed me and He can change those people to a better people. He can teach them how to forgive, how to love," he said. "Everybody on both sides is hurt -- not only Israelis, not only Palestinians. Now, as it is, there is no hope for them but Jesus. It's that simple."
Now we see the power of the Word of God. For in reading Holy Scripture, Mr.Yousef has been digging deep into the mind of God. And the conclusions he has drawn show that he has been imbibing deeply in the Rivers of Living Water.
I am amazed to see the Holy Spirit speaking so loudly all over the world. His voice is showing up in the lives of ordinary people in every nation, religion and culture. When things look really grim in the government and economy, we have to remember that all God has to do is laugh and the evil plans of men will be brought to naught.
Mr Yousef and his Muslim family is suffering persecution for his public revelation of his Christian conversion. His father – now in an Israeli prison -- has so far refused to disown him as that would give jihadists permission to kill his son. It’s interesting that his plight has been indirectly championed by Pope Benedict, who in negotiating a meeting with leaders of Islam is demanding that the topic be religious freedom. The Imams want to discuss "love of God and love of neighbor," but the pope is holding out for religious freedom. I asked my husband, why that was because it seemed to me that the topic, "love of God and love of neighbor," would lead to a discussion of religious freedom. But my husband said that the Muslim faith does not really understand those concepts, and they definitely would not conclude that love of neighbor means religious freedom. In fact, the opposite. We are lucky to have such a smart pope. Here’s to God laughing.