Victor Borge tells the story of a friend whom he had not seen in 50 years who asked him, rather excitedly, “Was it you or your brother who passed away?”
The captain of a four-engine plane alerted his passengers that one of the engines had conked out. He assured them forthwith that there was nothing to worry about, although flying time would be extended by half an hour. Soon thereafter, the plane lost another engine. Again, the captain assured everyone that everything was under control, but the flight would be an hour longer. A distraught passenger then growled, “I hope we don’t lose the other two engines, we could be up here all night!”
Underlying both of these jokes is the separation of logic from reality. In the first instance, the disjunctive proposition (either/or) does not require a logical answer. The friend understands that in such a proposition, if A is true then B is false, and if B is true, then A is false. But logic is not needed in this case, since the existential reality of the living brother is proof enough. In the second example, the loss of the last two engines would not extend the flying time. The existential reality of gravity would take over and render arithmetical calculations irrelevant.
A good sense of humour operates in conjunction with a sharply tuned capacity to distinguish what is realistic from what is fantasy. It serves as an invaluable ally in helping to keep us sane.
A particular form of insanity is loose these days with regard to sex education. It is a form that purports to teach sex education by first omitting any recognition of sex. To use the current, lingo, sex, that is, the basic realities of the male sex and the female sex, are “deconstructed.” What is left is an existential vacuum that is considered fortuitous, since it obliterates “stereotypes” of what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. But in being sure of removing stereotypes, the very nature of sexuality is removed in the process.
Consider the recent situation in Antigonish, N.S. The Straight Regional School Board, which is responsible for approximately 8,000 students, has approved a controversial sex education program, known as “Healthy Relationships for Youth.” The program’s belief statement reads: “Healthy Relationships for Youth is based on the belief that communication which reflects sexism, racism and homophobia creates harmful stereotyping and discrimination and that these oppressions are forms of violence.”
A central problem is that “sexism,” “racism” and “homophobia” are such broad terms that virtually any communication can be construed as an act of violence against another. For example, one of the program’s objectives is to banish such “gender stereotypes” as the need for a woman to be “lady-like” and the need for men to “act like men.” Is it an act of “violence” against a woman to suggest that she dress modestly? Is it oppressive to ask men to behave in a manly fashion?
Once sex is deconstructed, there are no longer any ladies to act lady-like or men to act like men. The existential is excised and logic proceeds unchecked to new levels of absurdity. Since any objection to homosexual lifestyles, according to the program, is regarded as an act of violence, any realistic thinking or scientific research, by logical extension, would be strictly forbidden.
Another basic problem with the program is that it begins with a resounding “no” without first understanding to what it should say “yes.” But this approach is as unrealistic as producing a beautiful garden not by planting flowers, but by removing weeds. How do Grade 9 and 10 students communicate if they see each other as being sexually amorphous and of ambiguous gender identity?
Critics of the program see it as both unrealistic and unabashedly anti-Christian. One such critic is Karen Casey, who happens to be the minister of education for the province of Nova Scotia. She has stepped in and fired the entire school board. A new board will be elected in the fall. Minister Casey is adamant that the candidates for the new board be subject to much scrutiny in the election process. She is already working on legislation that will give the minister of education more power to discipline out-of-line members.
The concept of same-sex “marriage” is based on a denial of the reality of sex as well as the reality of marriage. Labelling any reasonable objection to a homosexual lifestyle (including objections to so-called bath houses, for example) as an act of violence does not do away with violence, but simply gives it a wider target. According to the logic of the program, all true Christians are violent. But more significantly, the program has no justification in reality. The idea that deconstructing sex is the first step to achieving a sexual utopia is fundamentally insane. Such an approach completely ignores reality and allows the logic of fantasy to run amok.
A realistic approach to sex education must begin, not with the politically correct notion of not offending certain privileged groups (which is discriminatory in itself), but with an understanding of the nature of human sexuality and how male and females have natures that are both distinctive and complementary. To begin a sex education program with an anti-Christian mandate is obviously offensive to Christians. But it also fails to recognize that a Christian ethos that affirms the significance of the body, to adumbrate John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” and appreciates the fact that marriage is the basic unit of society, is inherently realistic. One does not expect every school board to add religious faith to reason, but it should insist that reason itself not be jettisoned in favour of an unsustainable and dangerous ideology.
Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo and adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary.