CHASTITY-Journal Article

BY Nathan A. Talbot

A married man and a married woman are drawn to each other. That can be a very strengthening and stabilizing experience. Unless, of course, they happen not to be married to each other. Then the effect can be quite the opposite ó weakening and destabilizing. Not just for the two individuals but for their families and for society itself.

The fact that people sometimes find themselves in such a situation isnít a product of the way modern life has evolved. Itís an age-old event. And the solution is age-old too. It could be described in a word: chastity. This may not be seen as a very fashionable answer in todayís world. Nevertheless it is an answer that has worked for centuries.

On the surface, chastity may be thought of in relation to an unmarried person refraining from sex, or a married couple remaining faithful to each other. Such conduct certainly can be a powerful force for stability in society. But if it rests just on the best human effort we can make to do the right thing, that steadying influence may not always hold.

Yes, chastity does involve right action ó action rooted in and supported by Biblical precepts. Yet it also involves our most inward thoughts as well as our most outward actions. However chaste our actions have been, for all of us there is room to deepen this unique, Christly feeling. What qualities would characterize a more chaste state of thought? Purity, innocence, goodness, virtue, spiritual integrity. There would be respect for each other, richer affections, moral courage, a love rooted in God as Soul.

Maybe you feel that moral questions are not your problem, so you havenít really seen chastity as a solution to some of the small or even larger facets of instability that may be knocking on the door of your life. Or perhaps you havenít considered what a strengthening influence chastity can be to marriage ó whether you yourself are married or single ó and therefore to society as a whole.

Take a look at society around you. How chaste is the world you live in? If you were in a boat with other people and some of them drilled a hole in the bottom, everyone on that boat would have to deal with the consequences.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in its chapter on marriage makes a compelling statement thatís worth considering. In an age in which sensualism would try to submerge spirituality, Mary Baker Eddy had the foresight and courage to write: "Chastity is the cement of civilization and progress. Without it there is no stability in society, and without it one cannot attain the Science of Life." 1

It is true that some may feel they donít need more emphasis on chastity in their lives. And others may feel they donít want it. Still others may feel theyíd love to have it but just canít overcome the worldly impulses that get in the way of having it. Whatever our assessment, we should all be praying for it. That is, if we want our own lives to rest on a more rocklike foundation. And if we want our society to experience more stability.

Sometimes a fuller demonstration of chastity isnít happening in our lives because weíve failed to appreciate a simple fact ó the fact that we can begin. The human mind may resist. But it takes only a few moments to begin. While it may be a major demand to fully demonstrate this Christly quality of chastity, to begin is achievable. And thatís the first step toward victory.

We can begin by praying for the courage and strength to be moral. Such a simple, heartfelt desire expressed in even a moment of prayer can open a door. When the door is closed, we wonít move through it. But once itís opened ó even a crack ó we find an ability to reason spiritually. And this can lead naturally to a more stable and Soul-based life.

Spiritual reasoning carries a strong healing influence. It has the divine energy of the Christ upholding it. To affirm with humility that man is actually the pure expression of God powerfully confronts and can even defeat the world-imposed feeling that man is a sinner, that he wants to sin, that he canít help sinning. To love the fact that Soul is not something in man, vulnerable to sin, but is God Himself ó sinless, holy, perfect ó begins to overturn the belief that man lacks spirituality, that he is a bundle of cravings rooted in physical sense. By seeing man as the representation of Soul, we discover a feeling of empowerment, a kind of purity and spiritual integrity that is at the heart of chastity.

Those who say that Moses was asking a lot when he called on us to be free of any kind of adulterous actions may feel Christ Jesus went beyond the pale and asked the impossible when he indicated that not only our actions must rest on a basis of chastity but even our thoughts must conform to this standard! 2

From a human standpoint, the restraint Jesus encouraged may not always seem feasible. But when we prayerfully value the Christ in our consciousness, we feel the presence of Christ giving us that needed moral clarity, increasing our ability to be faithful to the Ten Commandments as well as to the Masterís Sermon on the Mount.

A chaste state of thought frees us from fantasizing about the corporeality of others, from invading or violating their integrity of thought. If we refuse to encroach on the thought of others, weíll find our own lives more fully sheltered from intrusive outside views. Christ Jesusí thoughts and actions might be described as the ultimate example of expressing chastity. The Saviourís love for men, women, and children was so pure, so divine, that receptive hearts literally felt touched by the goodness of God when he was in their presence.

Jesusí consciousness wasnít invasive of others; rather, he discerned their pure, spiritual individuality, and the effect was to heal instead of harm. This example of authentic, Christly affection illustrates how all of us today can care so much for our brothers and sisters that we wonít weigh down their lives, but instead our consciousness of spiritual buoyancy will uplift them.

We donít need to be surprised if the carnal mind, as the Bible describes it, would try to corrupt or sensualize our thoughts and feelings. This so-called mind is always hostile to chastity and would attempt to undermine or shake our love of purity and fidelity to Soul. But those who reach for this ideal have a basis for protection. It is the Christ, always within consciousness, that gives us the strength to be pure, the ability to resist feelings that are actually alien to our real affections. We can pray as the Psalmist encouraged, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." 3

Itís just as important that chastity be nurtured by those within a marriage as by those who choose to be single. Chastity protects any relationship from whatever cheapens or debases. The world too often seems ready to corrupt unprotected thought. Chastity can be an immense influence in stabilizing a marriage, just as it blesses other arenas of human activity.

The institution of marriage, sheltering a uniquely intimate relationship, has through the centuries come face to face with a number of societal issues ó infidelity, divorce, sensuality, homosexuality, polygamy, domestic violence. In the light of the buffeting marriage has received, perhaps itís remarkable how well this very special approach to a public covenant has stood up, and in fact still flourishes. Chastity is an underlying power that gives marriage the capacity to make a major contribution, blessing and steadying society.

It isnít unusual, when people feel unsteady, to reach out and take hold of something strong, firm, solid. Perhaps a structure. Science and Health links the idea of Church to the thought of stability. It includes these words in defining Church spiritually: "The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle." 4 This spiritual concept of Church can act as a support to a pure integrity of thought, our expression of chastity, and can provide a sanctuary, a protection, from aggressive, sinful feelings.

Science and Health also includes the flavor of Church, as well as a feel for attaining "the Science of Life," in its words, "May Christ, Truth, be present at every bridal altar to turn the water into wine and to give to human life an inspiration by which manís spiritual and eternal existence may be discerned." 5

Those who are members of the Church that publishes The Christian Science Journal are in a very special way strengthened in their efforts to shelter and nurture their chastity. As members, they have pledged, in response to a specific church By-Law, to pray every day for freedom from sin. 6 Further, their membership in this Church has committed them to a solemn vow to pray for those qualities that characterized Christ Jesusí thought. Members agree to this tenet: "And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure." 7

Christian Scientists worldwide, heeding this duty, are a healing support to each other and to humanity itself, strengthening in human consciousness the stabilizing power of chastity.

A virtuous and innocent quality of thought is a profoundly appealing quality of thought. The growing awareness that God is Soul, the sinless source of all being, and that Godís children express this pure nature, brings increased stability to all of us, because it makes chastity a very real part of our daily lives. And where does this steadying quality of chastity lead us? It fosters no less than our ability to "attain the Science of Life."

(Nate Talbot is a contributing editor.)

1 Science and Health, p. 57.
2 See Matt. 5:27, 28.
3 Ps. 51:10.
4 Science and Health, p. 583.
5 Ibid., p. 65.
6 See Mary Baker Eddy, Manual of The Mother Church, Art. VIII, Sect. 4.
7 Science and Health, p. 497.

The following is from a letter the Editors recently received. We felt it was a helpful illustration of the protection and healing that result from chastity.

Last October I was elected to the position of First Reader of our Christian Science Society. I immediately faced a difficult challenge, that of a sudden physical attraction to a business associate whom I had known for a year and a half and had always respected for her goodness and fair-minded decisions.

Because I was a married man, this attraction was completely inappropriate, and in view of our ongoing business relationship I requested a meeting with her to discuss my concerns. In the meeting we discovered that the feelings were mutual and that she was in a seemingly hopeless situation in her marriage. At this time I declared that the only real solution is divine, and introduced her to Christian Science via Science and Health and weekly Christian Science Sentinel tapes.

My first concern was to protect the office of Reader and my marriage, so I discussed the meeting with my wife and called a Christian Science practitioner who helped me for a brief time through prayer. In the days and weeks prior to my term as Reader, my friend was becoming an earnest student of Christian Science. We reduced contact with one another, thinking our relationship would become spiritual and the animal magnetism would be overcome. The thought then came to me that I was running scared from something that is unreal and has no power over me.

It was at this point that, in an effort to gain some deeper spiritual clarity, I called the teacher who had given me Christian Science Primary class instruction. He immediately reminded me that we as the children of God are all related to Him, and so it is through Him that we have our relation with others, and the qualities of those relationships can only be qualities that come from God. The result of that telephone call and the prayerful work that followed was a complete rethinking of the relationship. I saw that it was already spiritual! After a peaceful nightís sleep I woke with the need to put these precious thoughts on paper in the form of a letter to my friend. The result is that as First Reader I have felt Godís protection for both the Readership and my marriage. The friend attended a meeting focusing on Science and Health and attends church services regularly.

I guess I should not be surprised that during this time I experienced two excellent physical healings, one of a very uncomfortable dental problem and the other a healing of cold symptoms ó they were stopped in their tracks. Also, the new, appropriate relationship has opened the way for another contract with the institution where my friend is employed, and we have both felt Godís protection in our day-to-day dealings.

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