I was reading an aviation magazine. The senior editor contributed a column on “what to do if you bend an airplane.” It was a discussion of the differences between an accident and an incident, the terms having precise meanings under FAA regulations, and what to do if you find yourself in either one. One thing pilots who have been in an accident or incident can do is file an ASRS (Aviation Safety Reporting System) report, which is used to gather statistical data.
In theory, if you file that report, the FAA can’t use information in it to jeopardize your pilot’s license. The government wants to gather accurate data and knows that pilots won’t fess up if they fear losing their flying privileges. Many occurrences would go unreported if reporting them resulted in penalties.
Filing an ASRS report also gets you off the hook with respect to certain disciplinary actions the FAA could take. The key is that you must file the report within ten days of the accident or incident. If you miss the deadline, you have no easy way to stop an FAA administrative process.
After giving real-life examples of accidents and incidents and what problems can arise when trying to deal with the federal bureaucracy, the editor concluded his otherwise sensible column with this advice for those who bend their airplanes: “I’d file an ASRS report too, just to be on the safe side—sort of like taking a morning-after pill.”
Thud. What was that image doing there?
No doubt the writer thought his metaphor innocent. Let’s assume he didn’t know that the morning-after pill is abortifacient, and let’s hope that, if he were to know, it would make a difference to him. My purpose isn’t to complain about him or his column. What bothers me is that we live in a culture in which such off-the-cuff comments raise few eyebrows.
The magazine writer saw nothing wrong with his remark. I presume his editor didn’t either. I wonder whether any other readers saw a problem. There used to be a time, not many decades ago, when national magazines frowned on any mention of contraceptives.
If contraceptives were available at drug stores, they were hidden behind the counter and had to be asked for, and people asking for them made sure no one else in the store was around when they did the asking. Nearly everyone understood that the use of contraceptives was shameful. Yes, some people used them, but they didn’t pretend they were doing something good—or even morally neutral.
There is no such reticence nowadays. Quite the opposite. The shame factor is gone, both for the buyer and the seller. When at the drug store, looking for cold remedies, it’s hard not to find yourself confronted with whole shelves of contraceptives. Often, both pills and devices are placed at the counters’ endcaps where you—and your kids—can’t miss them. I guess they must be fast-moving items.
Standing before the display, you may suffer mild embarrassment and find yourself involuntarily moving aside a few feet, so no one will think you planted yourself there on purpose, but the real embarrassment should be reserved for our culture. What have things come to? It’s not just that most people have become desensitized to the public existence and mention of the morning-after pill and its relatives—it’s that they actually use them, so of course they see nothing wrong with them or with mentions of them. What once was evil now is thought a positive good.
We often are cautioned against people who don’t practice what they preach. The real problem is people who preach what they practice. If they practice contraception, they will preach it, directly or indirectly. Belief follows action. Engage long enough in a wrong action, and you end up believing it to be meritorious. You conform your thinking to your deeds—a fine way to minimize shame—instead of conforming your deeds to your (right) thinking.
As in so much else, our culture has things exactly backwards. If we say no more than that, believing Catholics would have cause to feel about as low as can be. There would seem to be plenty of reason for perpetual depression, but that would be a false attitude.
As Christians, we should know that Christ already has won and that his victory will become manifest, not just at the end of time but, in varying ways, long before then. One way is through the fact that, at length, all false things fail. So it will be with the backwards things in our society. They will be seen to be failures because they won’t satisfy the longings that their advocates have claimed them able to satisfy.
Someday there will be another sexual revolution, but it will be a revolution toward common sense, propriety, and perhaps even holiness. It will be based on a true anthropology, which is to say a Christian anthropology. It will not be perfect in practice because its practitioners will not be perfect, but it will conform to the reality of (fallen) human nature more closely than does the present dispensation.
In many ways it will be like what once was, decades and even lifetimes ago, though with its own distinctive traits. It will be attractive because it will be understood to have numerous advantages over what has come upon us in the last half century. Unfortunately, it probably won’t be something we’ll live to see.
It takes a long time to come in from the wilderness.