Today I have the pleasure of sharing with you my interview with Jason Evert who will be a speaker at the Theology of the Body Congress being held in Ontario, California next week. He will speak on homosexuality and the Theology of the Body.
Jason Evert is a renowned speaker and author known for his talks on chastity. Together with his wife Crystalina, Mr. Evert connects with both the young and the old; the faithful and those of little or no faith, as well as those who are seeking answers to the questions that have been set upon their hearts. Through the Chastity Project, various social media outlets, through seminars and talks, and through a new program entitled YOU, Mr. Evert seeks to empower, educate, and prepare the next generation to share the vision, the knowledge, and the love that comes from understanding God’s gift of human sexuality.
We began our interview talking about the new videos on Theology of the Body for teens entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body (which I will have a review of on Wednesday) and continued to tackle a few hot button topics.
Once again, I feel that Mr. Evert’s words need to be heard in their entirety and so I present our interview in a question and answer format. I pray that you will be inspired, encouraged, and empowered by the wisdom that he shares today.
Q. You are well known for talking about chastity to teens, how do you think the new videos will reach out to a new generation of teens and young adults as opposed to other ways you have brought chastity talks to them?
The previous generation of Theology of the Body for Teens that we came out with was great at the time 10 years ago. Today teens are struggling with brand new issues that weren’t even on the radar 10 years ago. For example, I was talking to a young woman who wanted to go to college at Stanford and as a part of the application process she had to pick a gender… there were 18 genders to pick from and the two genders that were missing were male and female. They weren’t even an option. This wasn’t on the radar 5 years ago let alone 10.
There are questions like “what is marriage?” What does it mean to be male and female? These are fundamental issues that teens really need to have to have a solid understanding of in order to understand God’s plan for their lives. So this new version is really cutting edge in terms in being able to offer solid guidance, not just to teens but to educators to answer these tough questions.
Q. Is it just for use in schools or catechism programs or would families benefit from it as well?
Whether it is a homeschool family or a child who goes to a public school and the parents want to make sure they are getting a truly authentic education in human sexuality rather than “that’s it”… for home use or you can do it with group study, Ascension Press has a really neat offering that if you only had 4 people who wanted to do the study as a group you can just do the digital videos so you pay for the workbooks and don’t have to buy the dvds- you can get free streaming online of all the digital content.
There are 10 chapters, each chapter is about a half hour long and covers all kinds of content- homosexuality, pornography, modesty, vocations, starting over… it’s not just a chastity program. It goes much deeper into identity and John Paul’s full understanding of what the Theology of the Body is.
Q. At the Congress you will be talking about those who experience same sex attraction. How does TOB give clarity and hope to those who experience same sex attraction?
We need to take a good look at our language when we are talking about this topic. A lot of times people speak, “Oh that’s a gay person” “That’s a lesbian person”, “That’s a straight person.” But this isn’t really a Catholic way to talk about what it means to be a human being. What I mean by that is that there really aren’t like 9 different kinds of people. There are really only three kinds of people according to the Catholic understanding of that word.
A person is a rational being, so how many different types of rational beings are there? Well there are three- the Divine Persons- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There are angelic persons, which are the holy angels and the fallen angels. And then there is the human person made male and female in the image and likeness of God. And that’s it.
Our personhood, our identity, the deepest truth of that is that you are either a son of God or a daughter of God. Our sexual attractions are not the defining factor of our human identity and if we make our sexual attractions the core of who we are, then we will think that our life and our identity is being stifled and we can’t act out on those attractions.
An attraction is something I experience; your personhood is that you are a son of God or a daughter of God. And typically our behavior will flow from our identity. And so if we can first understand foremost who we are as beloved children of God, then our behavior will flow from that. John Paul provides an adequate anthropology, a sufficient understanding of what it means to be a human person. The only adequate response to another person is love. Not only to give that love but also to receive that love.
Q. In trailer I found a quote that was perfect for this conversation, “Being you is not all about you; you are a gift to the world when you love as God loves you.” How does this tie into the Congress and how will you bring this ideology to the Congress?
One challenge with this generation of young people is there is so much centered on myself- I’ve got my Instagram, I’ve got my Facebook, I’ve got my Twitter and I need to tell everyone what I am doing and share the picture of me when I look the best. There is a bit of an overemphasis on me and what I feel. Even with the gender issue of today, what I feel is who I am… regardless of what my body parts are, what I truly am is who I think I am. What the TOB does is call us to step outside of that and say “you are more than just your feeling; you have been created to make a gift of yourself. Stamped into your body is not just parts that you can do away with; stamped into your body is the sign of complementarity that you’ve been created to make a gift of yourself.” That might come within marriage, it might come with priesthood or religious life, or it might come within serving in your community, by making a gift of yourself and by giving of yourself that’s how you truly find yourself.
Q. Our kids are bombarded by society telling them that they should do what makes them feel good and to do what they want and that the Church’s teachings on the sacredness of sex and love are not important. How do we combat this ideology when the world’s voice is so much louder than our own?
There is a lot that we can do. And what we have in our favor is that their minds are made for the truth, their hearts are made for love, and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality truly offer them both.
John Paul II was asked, “If you could only keep one passage from scripture and all the rest had to be gotten rid of, what would it be?” He said, “The truth can set you free.” The truth is that the Church’s teaching on human sexuality is not just a litany of rules, regulations, and prohibitions. The Church’s teaching on human sexuality is really what the human heart longs for. Do we really want a love that is forced or conditional or temporary or lifeless? No, we want a love that is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.
It’s not that the Vatican is imposing these things on us; this is what the human heart truly wants. Unfortunately our world has sold young people this false notion of freedom- that in order to be free you just got to do whatever you want. Sometimes true freedom isn’t doing whatever you want; sometimes freedom is having the ability to do what you do not want in order to do what’s best for another person. The Church teaches that your freedom is best measured by your capacity to love. Anything that inhibits your ability to love- lust, selfishness, pride, ego- those things limit my ability to love to that extent I’m not free.
This language of John Paul II doesn’t argue from the outside in- these are all the rules that you have to follow; instead it argues from the inside out- what is it that you really long for? As a result, even though the world may be louder, the Church’s teachings really resound within the hearts of the young people when they are proclaimed in their fullness.
Q. How can parents incorporate TOB into their family lives so that when they talk to their children their kids won’t just tune them out but will want to listen and want to be responsive?
One thing you could do is study it within your own family. If you’ve got middle school students Ascension Press has a program called Theology of the Body for Teens, Middle School Addition-for 6, 7, 8th graders. For the High school addition not only do they have the dvds that you can watch a home, but they also have the parent guide that you can follow.
The nice thing with TOB is that you can start really young with some of these teachings about what it means to make a gift of yourself. Affirming them when they are young- “Dear Jesus thank you for making little Mike a boy and for making little Sarah a girl and for making Mommy a girl and daddy a boy.” These understandings of what it means to be male and female that we may have taken for granted 10 years ago, need to be affirmed in the young people.
And just starting them with this idea of the gift of self and that you really find yourself by giving of yourself- what are ways that Mommy can give herself to Daddy and ways that Sally can give herself to Joe in our family to love one another. Whether it’s by surprising someone by doing the laundry or doing the dishes without being asked, now, what do you feel after making that gift of yourself?
It’s starting them when they are really young with the principles of the gift of self, of modesty, of the goodness of being male and female in the image and likeness of God.
Parents need to get over any insecurity they have when it comes to talking about human sexuality. Some parents are scared to death, “What if they ask me if I was a virgin?” “What about this?” You need to get over it. If you don’t talk to your kids about the meaning of human sexuality, the world is very happy to fill that void of your silence with a very contradictory message. I don’t care if your parents never talked to you about it or if you feel awkward; sometimes awkwardness is part of the authenticity of it.
Q. What is the most important concept you hope that the Congress goers will come away with from the Congress in general or from your talk?
I hope they will be empowered to take this message to the masses- whether it be in a religion class, their young adult bible study, CCD classes… whatever it is… we need an army of people proclaiming this message of TOB. It’s really a treasure that the Church has been entrusted with. My open prayer is that people will leave this conference feeling empowered and educated and equipped to go forth with these new tools that the Church has been given… that people will feel ready and excited to take this message to others.
Please keep Mr. Evert and all those who are sharing the gift of Theology of the Body in your prayers. He asks that we particularly pray for the fruitfulness of the program.
If you are interested in learning more about the Theology of the Body Congress, please visit their website. The Congress runs from September 23-25th in Ontario, CA. You can read more about it here as well.
If you are interested in learning more about Ascension Press’s new Theology of the Body program entitled YOU: Life, Love, and Theology of the Body, please visit their website (and come back on Wednesday when I review the complete program!)