As Richard Knerr and Spud Melin discovered, timing is everything. In 1957, they decided to manufacture plastic circles. In the next two years, their fledgling WHAM-O Mfg. Co. sold 100 million hula-hoops, netting $45 million ($346 million in 2012 bucks). And WHAM-O didn’t do too badly with another product-the frisbee.
Currently, the Robertson family has the impeccable timing. Their Louisiana business, Duck Commander, makes duck calls and other duck hunting products. The business spawned a high-flying reality show about the Robertsons, Duck Dynasty. The show generated $80 million in advertising revenue in the first nine months of 2013. Merchandise sales are around $400 million. About 11.8 million viewers tuned in this year’s premiere episode.
The show’s popularity has given the family a stage on which to express their views on a variety of subjects. Plain-speaking patriarch Phil Robertson ruffled more than a few feathers with his recent interview in GQ magazine. But perhaps the more important interview was the one given by son Jase and his wife Missy. Jase, whose life motto is “God, family, and ducks, in that order,” says that the two were virgins until their wedding night. They have a “Godly agreement that they will get each other get to Heaven.” Missy says that what attracted them to each other is what each saw in the other’s faith. “We’ve been very happy for 22 years before the money started coming in.”
Jase and Missy are bucking a trend. There were almost 330,000 births to teenagers in 2011. In the same period, there were an estimated 184,440 abortions performed on teenagers. Obviously, something isn’t right. Yet many people reject the Robertsons’ message as hopelessly out of date. Apparently, this includes the government. President Obama’s budget for 2015 eliminates all money for abstinence-only education programs. Supporters of so-called comprehensive sex-education argue that abstinence education does not deal with the reality of youth experience and leaves kids unprotected when they have sex. They push for full disclosure sex-ed, and at earlier and earlier ages. The Planned Parenthood sex education program distributes graphic images to ten-year olds. The Chicago public schools now teach sex education to kindergartners-a move that President Obama supports.
The comprehensive approach has many detractors-and rightly so. All too often, it becomes a how-to lesson that guides young people the wrong way. The approach assumes that students will choose to have sex and so should be taught “safe sex.” But the sex is not safe. The CDC says that male condoms have a whopping 18% failure rate. Oral contraceptive fail 9% of the time and according to the World Health Organization contain cancer causing Class 1 carcinogens. There are 10 million new cases annually of sexually transmitted diseases among 15-24 year olds. Condoms do not always protect against them. And none of the physical dangers speaks to the risks of serious emotional and psychological damage to someone mistakenly thought ready for “safe sex.” Ironically, the “comprehensive” approach is the exact opposite of the zero-tolerance approach we take for tobacco, alcohol, and drugs. We don’t teach students user techniques in case they decide to not listen. We teach them why and how to resist.
Abstinence works 100% of the time. What fails is our willpower. That is often the result of our failure to follow God’s way. It starts with a timeless truth: God wants us to be happy. Each of us. And because we share this life with each other, He calls to be responsible to and for each other. So a basic rule of right living emerges: we may not use others as a tool for our own satisfaction. Our pleasure may not come at the expense of another’s happiness.
God’s way treats each human as a whole, not as fractured and unconnected parts. Sexuality is part of everyone overall makeup, and it is good. Our sexuality is often the driving force in our desire to get to know another person. The attraction of man to woman can happen in an instant. Just one look can be enough. Guy meets gal; a relationship starts. But in healthy relationships, a discernment process must follow. Are we right for each other? Can we bring true good to each other? Some relationships may end quickly. Others may last a lifetime.
Though our sexuality is good, if we allow sex to become an end in itself, it can be very destructive. When sex becomes our end, the other person gets reduced to a mere object of pleasure seeking. As the sex grows stale, when someone better comes along, the “object” gets treated like yesterday’s newspaper. For the victim, the wound can be very deep.
Sex can also create confusion in relationships. That’s because we don’t understand the meaning of love. Though love involves feelings, it is not a feeling. Love is a commitment to act for the good of another. In marriage, it involves a self-surrender into what becomes essentially a new creation-the couple. Love requires each person to accept the good and bad of the other-the whole person. But because sex is about pleasure, sex tends to distort a clear view the other person; the sexual partners don’t come to know each other. After the two get married and the sex becomes less-than-thrilling, they may realize that they don’t have much in common at all.
Following God’s path is not always the easiest way, for sexual desires can be intense. Forming Godly relationships demands that we develop the virtue of chastity-the right use of our sexuality. Chastity requires constant effort and sacrifice. So do all good things. But chaste living has an incredible reward-the joy of living not as a slave to pleasure but as one free to enjoy life as God intends. And free to bring a lifetime of happiness to the other.
Jase and Missy Robertson understand that their way has been worth far more than their TV show can ever earn them. Out of date? Hardly. Their way-God’s way-is timeless.
Paul Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, and have six kids.