“Never assume you’re preaching to the choir,” said Dr. Helen Alvaré, the keynote lecturer at the Love and Fidelity Network (LFN) Conference in Princeton, NJ, this past weekend. The conference, titled “Sexuality, Integrity and the University,” was a chance to learn more about “the importance of strong marriages and sexual integrity in contributing to a flourishing society,” according to the LFN website. We were also able to interact with experts fighting a culture that reduces the human person.
Alvaré’s keynote address highlighted four basic elements of marriage that society has overlooked in favor of immediate gratification and sex without consequences. They were: liking, admiring and respecting the opposite sex; becoming convinced that being interdependent with another person is a good way to live your life; having a willingness to interact with extended families; and welcoming children.
Despite addressing a crowd relatively friendly to her message, this was not all ‘old-news.’ We left with a better idea of what a healthy marriage culture looks like and, throughout the weekend, speakers walked us through the cultural changes that have led to a breakdown in marriage, what an alternative culture looks like and how we can recover it.
“Be more than a placeholder for decency. Be a catalyst for change,” Alvaré said. Here at the University of Dallas, we’re often passive about these issues because we assume that we go to a conservative Catholic school where there is no need for these conversations to take place. This is a very dangerous assumption.
As students, much of the responsibility falls on us to be vocal about a truly human, holistic view of sexuality, especially as the Catholic Church teaches it. We should never assume that anyone else is going to do it for us, that others on campus don’t need to hear that message, or that UD will never go the way of other Catholic universities who find it easier to ignore Church teachings than to face accusations of bigotry and hatred.
Another wonderful professor and thinker who spoke at the conference was Dr. Robert P. George. Many UD students will know him as a co-author of “What is Marriage,” a popular book explaining why marriage between one man and one woman is best for both children and society. He credited the increasingly short lifespan of marriage to our “Age of Feeling” where, rather than working to align our feelings with faith and reason, we listen to their every call and wage war on all that requires us to sacrifice. But marriage, he said, is much more than a feeling. It requires a gift of self in which you say “yes” to another person, not just your own needs.
Some of the students at the conference attend respected Ivy League schools and even Catholic schools where they’ve received death threats for speaking out in support of traditional marriage and pro-children policies, and against pornography and gender fluidity. They’ve seen grades suffer at the hands of biased professors and have lost friends to prejudice and intolerance as well. If this doesn’t deter them, and if we are fortunate enough to live and study in a much friendlier environment, then we should not fear having these conversations with our peers.
The conference, which takes place every year, is a great opportunity to equip yourself with the tools you need to bring these conversations to campus.