Jason Evert and the Christian vision of love

Jason Evert  and the Christian vision of love
A parent’s perspective

An article on The Catholic World Report website discussing Pope John Paul II’s vision of marriage and the family describes love in marriage as the union of one man and one woman to form “a communion of persons, through a sincere gift of self”.

It talks of love forming the inner dynamism of family life and of conjugal communion. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the marriage covenant as a man and a woman forming with each other “an intimate communion of life and love”.

The image of a couple leaving their respective lives and joining together to live as one still holds a lot of appeal. In 2017, 52.8% of couples opted for a Catholic marriage ceremony and, while some question the reasons behind this choice, there’s still something drawing couples towards the Catholic model of marriage. The Second Vatican document, Gaudium et Spes sums up the beauty and the challenges for every married couple: “Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day.”

Sometimes we may feel that the Catholic view of relationships, sexuality and marriage that we’d love our children to embrace is becoming more aspirational than realistic. In an era of instant internet access, Tinder dating and an assumption that consent is the main consideration in intimate interactions, we’re struggling to find the right way to counterbalance the messages our children are being bombarded with. Without a like-minded Christian peer group and good Catholic role models and mentors, teenagers and young adults may feel very isolated and alone. A very good way to create a Catholic space for our young people is to have Catholic organisations for youth and to hold Catholic events and conferences. Interacting with other young Christians and discussing and debating faith-related matters is a great way to form bonds of friendship and to forge supportive relationships that can last a lifetime. Nourishing and enriching their faith gives our youth the motivation to go out and bring an inspiring message to the world. In the words of Pope Francis: “Swim against the tide! It’s good for the heart!”

Ignite 2020 was a university youth retreat held in Dublin from January 16-18  with a great advertised line-up of speakers including Fr Conor McDonough OP, the Nashville Dominican Sisters and many others including the popular Catholic author and speaker, Jason Evert. Jason and his wife, Crystalina Evert, live in the US and regularly visit high schools and colleges to speak on relationships and sexuality. He’s a mainstream Catholic who talks to young people about the benefits of conducting relationships in a way that reflects true love and respect, constantly emphasising that the Church isn’t a killjoy out to spoil the fun. The message of Christ calls everyone to an authentic life of joy and gives us a guide to a “rich fulfilling life of love”. Hundreds of young Catholics who’d signed up for Ignite which was held in UCD, Dublin were disappointed and upset to learn that Jason Evert had been ‘deplatformed’. His talk was cancelled following a campaign launched on the UCD LQBTQ+ Facebook page which accused Evert of homophobia and of bringing a hateful ideology to the university. Other talks were also axed including ones planned for Blackrock College and The Tower Hotel in Waterford. Two talks in Merrion Road church in Dublin and in Rockbrook Park School, Dublin were due to proceed. A video posted on Twitter featured a woman who seemed outraged that Catholic schools and churches would preach about Catholic sexual morality. She had strong words about hatred and quackery and spoke about contacting the bishop and Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flangan in an attempt to have events stopped.

While people are free to like or dislike any particular speaker, it’s a worrying trend if this “deplatforming” approach becomes the norm.  A statement on Catholic Comment Catholic Voices Ireland’s Facebook page says: “If people like Jason aren’t allowed to speak in our country, all of us should be worried about our society – and I don’t mean just those who share his views.” They also pointed out that what Jason Evert speaks about is now “radically different from the ‘accepted’ and acceptable view in Ireland today, because the Catholic view (shared by many good people who aren’t Catholic) – on the human person, on marriage, on sexuality – is now radically different from what the dominant voices in modern Ireland allow.”

Catholic Comment explained that Jason Evert does indeed believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, that “marriage is a very particular relationship with a very particular purpose (the kind of love that is open to and leads to babies – and gives kids the best chance of being brought up, where possible, by their birth mother and father); he believes that sometimes real love involves pain and sacrifice, but the kind that leads to our true happiness, he holds the view that sex is not primarily about casual fun, and that when we recognise that, we give sex its true value. In other words – Jason Evert is a Catholic”.

In the end, due to illness, Jason Evert had to cancel his whole trip to Ireland but I hope, in the future, our young people will not be prevented from hearing a Christian vision of love, something that’s needed more than ever in modern Ireland.