Friday, February 24, 2012

An Ecumenical Sexual Revolution

It has come to this: Southern Baptist leaders, the Pope, and Roman Catholic bishops (an all male triad) have jumped into bed together to make certain that men can impregnate women unhindered and at will ... in the name of "religious freedom." (Unfortunately, this is not a joke.)

Thus is born an ecumenical sexual revolution that would embarrass the “free-love” advocates of the 1960s.

How did religious freedom become an excuse for making women the playthings of male libido?

The sex-fixated minds of the bed-police trinity would point us to the Bible.

Of course. Back in biblical days, polygamy was the norm and was practiced by God's appointed heroes in the Old Testament. So sexually-fixated were Hebrew men that God commanded that a man's duty to his deceased brother was to impregnate his brother-in-law's widow. Masturbation was punishable by death ... because the practice wasted sperm that was intended only for procreation.

In the early Church, Augustine adopted the Old Testament belief of masturbation as sin against God because it prevented the possibility of procreation. This position became the official position of the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Leo IX in 1054 and forward, and in 1975 was re-affirmed by the Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Family in a declaration asserting that the "Magisterium of the Church" believe "without hesitation" that masturbation is "intrinsically" evil because it thwarts the only legitimate use of sex: procreation.

But wait. Banning masturbation (because it was an evil act that thwarted God's will) was not enough for the Roman Catholic Church of the 20th century, an era when evil humans concocted a devilish new way to circumvent the will of God: "birth control" (a term coined in 1914).

More measures were needed to ensure that nothing could prevent sperm from potentially impregnating women, and Pope Pius XI (aptly-named) was up to the task. Delivering to earth God's latest sex edict from on high, Pius XI in 1930 issued a papal encyclical, Casti Connubii (Latin for "Of Chaste Wedlock"), officially positioning the Roman Catholic Church against contraception.

And yet, a strange thing happened: many Catholics - scholars, doctors, common folk - ignored the new word from God, instead choosing to embrace birth control because (evil though it might have been in God's eyes) it helped bring about healthier and more harmonious families. Not forcing wives to procreate at the whim of husbands was not such a bad thing after all.

The Catholic groundswell for contraception reached such a fever pitch that, in the light of Vatican II, Pope Paul VI in 1964 appointed a commission on birth control to advise him on the matter. Three years later, news of the commission's deliberations leaked to the press: 60 of the 64 Catholic theologians, and nine of the 15 cardinals that (collectively) comprised the commission voted to lift God's ban on contraception.

Paul VI, however, chose to take the matter to God one-on-one. As a result, God instructed the Pope to issue a new papal encyclical (Humanae Vitae, or "Of Human Life," 1968) against the overwhelming majority of theologians and cardinals on the commission, and re-affirming the evilness of artificial birth control that prevented sperm from fulfilling their appointed job of procreation.

Meanwhile, Roman Catholic church members have increasingly ignored God's ban on birth control. The Pope and church bishops are about the only Roman Catholics who still oppose contraception; some 98% of sexually-active Catholic women today use birth control.

But while the Pope and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church are ignored by their own church members, they have recruited some new disciples: Southern Baptist leaders (and a host of other Protestant evangelical leaders too, for that matter). For the record, however, Southern Baptist leaders did not just now become Roman Catholic Pope / bishop groupies. The courtship began several years ago.

[First, a historical note regarding modern (that is, artificial) birth control: Baptists, from liberal to fundamentalist, have not traditionally opposed artificial birth control. That is, while some individual Baptists most likely did oppose birth control years ago (in keeping with the Baptist heritage of freedom of conscience, a Baptist is free to believe what he or she may), Baptists as a denomination and in general did not position themselves against birth control. Now, on with the story ...]

In 2005, influential Southern Baptist Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, declared that "Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation." Thenceforth, Mohler became a vocal proponent of "quiver theology" (see Psalm 127:3-5), a strategy of Southern Baptist couples procreating large numbers of children in order to help the statistically stagnated Southern Baptist Convention begin growing again.

The following year, Mohler wrote an editorial entitled, "Can Christians Use Birth Control?" After noting that Baptists (and other "Evangelical Protestants") had not historically opposed contraception, Mohler argued that evangelicals should heed Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical against birth control. While stopping short of declaring that contraception is always evil, he nonetheless invoked Old Testament imagery in declaring, "The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most defining marks of our age -- and one of the most ominous."

In 2008, Dr. Thomas White of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary warmed the hearts of Pope and bishops alike when he declared that using birth control pills is a "sin" and "murder," because the "pill" thwarts the one intended purpose of male sperm: impregnating women.

Now, five years later, Southern Baptist leaders, the Pope, and Catholic bishops - together carrying the torch of Old Testament commands that the usage of sperm outside potential procreation is a sin - are furious with President Obama for continuing (after adding exemptions for churches and religious schools and hospitals) a George W. Bush-era policy of mandating that employer health care plans include contraception medication (yes, you read it right: Bush got a pass from the Religious Right on this issue).

Richard Land, president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is telling anyone that will listen that Obama has violated religious liberty (by maintaining the George W. Bush policy).

"We are not going to sit by and allow our God-given rights, which are acknowledged, recognized and protected by the constitution, to be defeated, to be neutered, and to be confined and restricted by the Obama administration," Land insists.

If you are wondering where in the U. S. Constitution the Old Testament, and thousand-year-old Roman Catholic, view of sperm-for-procreation-only is mentioned (much less protected, favored, or mandated), you are not alone.

If this Old Testament-infused sexual revolution signifies a new ecumenism between Rome and Nashville, maybe the Southern Baptist Convention really will have to change its name. "Southern Vatican Convention" just might work.