New York Post opinion editor Sohrab Ahmari's new book, The Unbroken Thread, is written to his son, and is an exploration of how to raise that son in the culturally confusing, permissive landscape of the contemporary west, notably, New York City. I've undertaken a similar mission, raising my son not in Manhattan, but Brooklyn, in a city which is by all rights my son's ancestral homeland. Our family has been in New York City for more than 100 years, and still, I find myself confronted with the same questions that Ahmari, an immigrant from Iran, has about how to go about this delicate, difficult, necessary task.
Early in the book, Ahmari discusses some ads that he saw featured on the subways a few years back. As soon as he described the ads—which were based on the concept of DTF, or "down to f*ck–I could visualize them—they were impossible to forget. They were ads for a dating site. Ahmari writes that as soon as he saw these scandalous images, advertising polyamory, drug use, and so much more, he wondered how he would undertake to talk to his son about it were he older at the time, were he to ask.
My son was older at the time this ad campaign came out, and he did ask. And I explained what the ads were for. I shaded over most of the explicit details, but I was honest in answering his question. I believe I said something like "these are ads trying to tell you how to have romantic relationships that the company approves of. They want you to believe that sex isn't only meant for loving, committed relationships."
By that time, at 9-years-old, he knew that my view was that he should wait to experience this gift until he was in a committed relationship with someone who he was in love with who was also in love with him.
This is a traditional view of sex and love, and it is tradition that Ahmari makes an argument for. He holds contemporary American culture and practice to account through the use of 12 questions that any cohesive belief system should be able to answer, and in so doing, he also makes a clear, persuasive argument for Catholicism itself.
I am a Catholic, though I didn't start out that way. My religious education began at my grandmother's knee, a Norwegian Lutheran with a devout faith in Jesus who has for as long as I've known her has taken solace and comfort in her personal relationship with our Lord and savior. But Catholicism came in the form of my father's second wife, who as soon as their own marriage was complete, launched me into the first sacrament of initiation, baptism, followed shortly thereafter by reconciliation, and communion. That I would be confirmed was a given, and when I was married, that, too, was in the Catholic faith.
In my own life, I let go of faith. When I came back to it, it was through a process of questioning very similar to the one Ahmari lays out in his book. Without faith I could not justify my life. Without faith, I could not find meaning to life or its circumstances. Without faith, I started to believe in something of a determinism, where all of our actions were predictable based on our DNA and chemical composition.
When I came back to faith, it was because I could no longer stare into the void left by its absence. I found that life was better, stronger, more joyful, if I believed that the meaning of life is God's love, that the evidence of that love is the gift of life, and that the beauty of that life is the chance for grace.
Ahmari wants to do what so many parents do—he wants to impart what he has learned to his son, to save him the pitfalls of faith and conscience that are so hard to recover from. He wants to give his son a way to faith, but even more importantly, he wants to give him a way back. But he is doing something else, too.
Ahmari is speaking to all of us as the children we are, appealing to our reason, as well as to our eternal selves. He petitions that part of us that, like children, reaches out to the sky, the universe, the heavens, and pleads for some glimpse of true meaning. We beggars at the altar of mercy have tried everything we could think of, have indulged in every kind of fulfillment, prioritized every pursuit, and still none of them can equate to the glory of God's love.
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Remind me next month