Lila Rose Shows the Way
EDITORIAL: The Catholic ‘cultural entrepreneur’ recently appeared on a secular dating talk show and modeled the kind of winsome engagement with the broader culture that the Catholic Church in America needs more of.
Our sexual culture is broken and bruised and deeply ill. Physical intimacy and relationships have been reduced to vehicles of self-gratification, our bodies are treated as malleable raw material, and God is, for many, at best an afterthought in the background of it all.
Faced with such confusion and disorder, it can be tempting to choose one of two false options: Batten down the hatches and hermetically seal ourselves off from the world (and our neighbors in it) as things continue to go to hell in a handbasket; or embrace a sort of sickly sweet “kindness,” avoiding any kind of confrontation or disagreement with those who reject Christ while not actually caring about their ultimate well-being.
But there’s another way to engage our broken world. It’s an approach characterized by both truth and charity, because its primary concern is not winning arguments or “getting along,” but the flourishing of every person encountered. And it was put on display in a prominent way this month by Lila Rose, the well-known pro-life activist.
The 34-year-old Catholic appeared on Whatever, a YouTube channel that hosts a popular “Dating Talk” series, joining an array of other guests that, as Rose told the Register, were a “chaotic representation of the chaotic world that we’re in when it comes to dating and relationships.”
Multiple women on the show (which contains explicit and vulgar content; read and watch with care) produce pornographic content. A male guest maintained the belief that he could be a good father and lover without committing to one woman. And, perhaps most tragically, a female “pastor-turned-stripper” boasted proudly about being in her “slut phase.”
But although Rose often challenged the lies and harmful assumptions that undergird the choices and beliefs of others on the show, she didn’t reduce her fellow guests to caricatures. As she told the Register, she strived to see her interlocutors as “beautiful souls,” struggling people who were nonetheless “sincerely searching for happiness, for connection” — ultimately, for God.
Rose contributed by being assertive and uncompromising when needed, but also empathetic. She encouraged one young woman who makes pornographic content for money but recognizes that it’s degrading that she had what it takes to find other ways to support herself. And when the pastor-turned-stripper said that the version of Christianity she had been formed in implied that women were inferior to men, Rose expressed her sincere sorrow that that had been her experience, before sharing how she has found Catholic teaching on marriage and sex liberating. A big part of Rose’s ability to effectively witness in this context comes from her recognition that her Catholic faith and formation isn’t a personal achievement, but a gift she has received. Her own struggles and challenges have also given her humility, an antidote to pride. Therefore, her faith isn’t something that needs to be lorded over others, but is a gift to be shared.
“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to just show up, be honest, share the truth that I’ve been given and that has changed my life and given me more peace and joy than I could ever even explain,” she told the Register about her experience on Whatever.
Rose modeled the kind of winsome engagement the Church in America needs more of — and that each Catholic is called to emulate, in their own particular way.
“If people don’t see joy and love, then why would they want to live the way we do?” she told the Register. “People are attracted to beauty, and I think God wants us to make beautiful verse out of our lives.”
Not all of us will earn an invitation to a YouTube program viewed by millions. But each of us can put into practice what Rose said is the most effective way of winning others over to a life of Christian virtue: being proud and happy and joyful in living it.