February 15, 2008

Rebel with a cause: In Beech Grove, Dawn Eden shares her journey to chastity

Catholic author Dawn Eden laughs during a chastity presentation she gave on Jan. 24 at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Beech Grove. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

Catholic author Dawn Eden laughs during a chastity presentation she gave on Jan. 24 at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Beech Grove. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Sean Gallagher

BEECH GROVE—Dawn Eden has been a rebel for much of her life.

Raised in the Jewish faith in the 1960s and ’70s by a single mother that she described as a “would-be hippie,” Eden rebelled against her mother’s counterculture by “hanging out with my share of anarchists and hard-core punks in Washington Square Park” in New York and later becoming an agnostic rock journalist in the 1980s.

But it was when Eden interviewed the lead singer of an alternative rock band that she gained a new perspective on what it means to be a rebel.

The singer told her he was reading The Man Who Was Thursday, a novel by G. K. Chesterton.

Eden took up the book and soon learned what real rebellion is all about, and her life went in an entirely new direction. (She only later learned that Chesterton was a prominent early 20th-century Catholic convert.)

Eden shared the life of faith in Christ and the life of chastity that she came to discover and embrace with dozens of people who braved single-digit temperatures on Jan. 24 to listen to her speak at Holy Name of Jesus Church in Beech Grove.

“My identity as a rebel never changed,” Eden said. “I just realized who the true rebels were.

“And once I became a Christian and learned about chastity, which is part of being a Christian, I realized that chastity is truly countercultural, especially if you’re practicing it as a Catholic.”

She came to embrace Christianity in her early 30s and later came into the full communion of the Catholic Church.

Eden is the author of The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On (Thomas Nelson, 2006) and writes about chastity from a young adult perspective for other young adults.

She continued to show her rebel side in a tongue-in-cheek way by making an online music video promoting the book. The song in the video is a satire of Bob Dylan’s folk classic “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” renamed “Chastity Rome-chick Blues.”

In the video—much like what Dylan did in a short film of his song—Eden stands before a camera holding then dropping one poster board after another with the words of the song printed on them.

As Eden grew in her faith, her eyes were opened to how rebellious chastity truly is in a culture where freedom is understood as “freedom from responsibility,” and where “there [is] nothing sacred about marriage and nothing sacred about sex.”

She learned that chastity, as a lifestyle, applies to a person’s wholeness—to body, mind and soul. It is relevant for all people—to those who are single, married or living lives of consecrated celibacy.

“We’re not talking about a ‘one size fits all,’ ‘Just do it’ or ‘Just don’t do it’ kind of philosophy,” Eden said. “Being chaste is a requirement for growing in your relationship with God.”

She also came to learn that living a chaste lifestyle is the groundwork upon which strong relationships with other people are built. This was the exact opposite of her previous assumption that having sex would bring her closer to the man she might want to marry later.

“I realized for the first time that all the sex I ever had, far from bringing me closer to marriage, had actually taken me further away from even being able to sustain a relationship that would lead to marriage.”

Eden said that this was the case because “you can’t seek permanence through impermanence.”

She said her sexual relationships had no ultimate commitment and, beyond that, involved her and her partners using each other for their own ends.

They were not relationships based on the fundamental principle of chastity: that sexual choices should be based on the belief that every person is created in the image of God.

“The sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s and their ideological children tout the supposed joys of sexual ‘freedom,’ ” Eden said. “But how does the freedom to use or be used, to separate emotions from sex and sex from commitment, make one truly free?

“True sexual freedom, like all freedom, can exist only when the dignity of the human person is recognized.”

These insights that flowed from her conversion to Christianity didn’t make living a chaste lifestyle easy for Eden.

“At first, I was pretty bitter and resentful about it,” she said. “I would think, ‘OK, God, I’m doing this for you and you’d better darn well appreciate it.’ ”

Eden likened this attitude to standing in a doorway, wanting to go into a new room but “looking back at what I was leaving behind.

“If you want to learn how to love, really love and be loved, you have to go through that door because that’s the only way to find true joy in this life. That’s the secret of the saints.

“You have to discover the love that goes beyond sex, the love that God wants us to share with everyone and not just that special someone.” †

(To learn more about Dawn Eden or to view her music video, log on to www.dawneden.com. To listen to her presentation at Holy Name of Jesus Church, log on to www.holyname.cc/parish.htm and click on the Dawn Eden link.) †

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