Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Am Legend and Humanae Vitae

By Christopher West

A friend of mine recently turned me on to last year’s blockbuster I Am Legend with Will Smith. I’ve watched it four times in two weeks. I’m mesmerized by it.

In this apocalyptic tale, based on the 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson, Dr. Alice Kripin’s “once hailed miracle cure for cancer” turns out to be a virus that very quickly wipes out 90% of mankind. Only 1% was immune. The other 9% morphed into the so-called “dark seekers” – rabid, violent, hungry human animals who emerge at night (light kills them) to hunt down and eat the remaining, healthy 1%.

Will Smith’s character, Dr. Robert Neville, is part of that 1%. He’s also a virologist devoted to finding a cure and saving the human race from extinction.

With all the recent talk about the 40th anniversary of Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, I can’t help but draw some connections. I know I just devoted a whole series of columns to this topic, but allow me one more indulgence.

I believe that sometime in the not too distant future, the evening news will be speaking openly about the “once hailed miracle pill” that promised liberation and happiness, but has led unwittingly (but not un-forewarned) to today’s “culture of death.”

The haunting picture of our future painted by I Am Legend is obviously science fiction. But, allegorically speaking, it offers much food for thought. The idea of “dark seekers” feeding on the flesh of other human beings is not that far off from the many horrid forms of sexual abuse that are sweeping through our pornified culture like a virus. Just a cursory knowledge of what’s happening today with internet porn leads a person to conclude, as Dr. Neville does in the movie, that “social de-evolution appears complete; typical human behavior is now entirely absent.”

It’s time to take an honest look at how “the once hailed” technology of contraception has played a major role in this “de-evolution.” Social re-engineers do not to like this fact, but when we let the data speak, it’s clear: civilization rests on the family – that is, on the committed union of a man and a woman and their naturally resulting offspring. What would happen to the human family if a majority of us bought into the idea that sterilized sex is “better” than the natural family-building kind? Where would society veer?

Insert contraception into the sexual-societal equation and the basic goal of sex becomes pleasure rather than the establishment of those relationships that bind families and civilization together. Sexual pleasure is a great blessing of God – in its proper context. When pleasure becomes the main goal of sex, however, society becomes utilitarian. You are valued if you are useful. And, in this case, you are “useful” if you are sexually stimulating. If you are not, or if you get in the way of my pleasure, you will be ignored, discarded, maybe even exterminated.

When pleasure is the main goal of sex, people (mostly women) become the means and babies become the obstacle. So we take our pleasure and we kill our offspring. This is not some dire prediction of the future. This is the world we live in now.

As a culture, we are desperately in need of recovering what should be an obvious and celebrated truth: sex leads to babies. Who, then, should be having sex? Wise men and women throughout history – not just Christians – have concluded that only those who have committed themselves to embracing and raising the most natural fruit of the sexual act should be having sex. That commitment is called ... marriage.

But there’s more. Not only does sex lead to babies. When we allow the data to speak, we also recognize what, once again, should be an obvious and celebrated truth: women are the ones who carry them. When we forget this truth or reject it, the abortion industry capitalizes on it, the state taxes us to provide what delinquent men won’t (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) and the basic infrastructure of civilization eventually collapses.

In I Am Legend, it seemed that science had discovered the cure for cancer. Imagine the scorn and derision that would have been aimed at anyone who tried to warn the world that this “cure” was actually a deadly poison. That’s what Pope Paul VI endured forty years ago.

Few even bothered to read Humanae Vitae. But it has proved prophetic. Google Humanae Vitae and give it a read. Then (if you have the stomach) watch I Am Legend ... and “light up the darkness.”


I watched this movie with a priest and a seminarian (whom had recently watched the movie with Christopher West) and I was impressed that the movie even talked about God. That's rare in a big budget Hollywood film now days. It's a good movie and I recommend watching it but, beware, it has some scary, suspenseful parts... which the priest really didn't appreciate. ;)