Saturday, June 28, 2014
A Chaste Life and Contraception. . .
The issue is modern. Contraception is very modern. Condoms were mainstreamed after World War II when the Army decided that soldiers were going to do it so at least we must make doing it as disease free as possible and prevent conception along the way. Move ahead a couple of decades and the pill made contraception safe, easy, and cheap (or so it seemed at the time). What began as exceptional became normal within a generation or two. This framed the argument for homosexuality and the whole gay marriage debate.
Christians easily lost their way in this whole debate. Jesus' words were taken to mean that women did not have to be any more chaste than men did (according to the prevailing societal norm of first century Judaism) when He was saying the opposite -- men should be as chaste as honest women were expected to be! Contraception gave permission and license for women to be as free from restraint as men were expected to be (not much restraint at all) and it has left us with the ridiculous position that for Christians only gay sex is bad. We have been so silent on fornication and cohabitation that Christians presume it is perfectly fine and expected that the unmarried should not have to go without sex, except that conservative churches think gays should always go without it.
If there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contraceptive intercourse and sex that allows for conception is the exception to the rule, why would heterosexual people get a pass and gay people get a condemnation? But that is the point. There is something wrong with the view that contraceptive sex is the norm, that sex is not primarily for procreation, and that marriage is not the divinely intended place for this. There is something wrong with the idea that inside or outside of marriage sex is sex and procreation is something different altogether. There is something wrong with the idea that sexual union should be deliberately and totally divorced from fertility. Why does there need to be a marital union at all if a sexual union is already presumed as an inherent right of life? Is marriage just a little extra on top of the sex -- the way children are a little bonus on top of marriage? That is where we are at functionally. We have managed to scrape the whole nature of Christian morality over sex and marriage and procreation and adopt the view of the world as normal even virtuous. That being the case, it seems hardly fair that gays or lesbians would be singled out by another set of rules, rules straight people are free from!
As one author has put it:
If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be after all to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito, sodomy, buggery (I should perhaps remark that I am using a legal term here - not indulging in bad language), when normal copulation is impossible or inadvisable (or in any case, according to taste)? It can't be the mere pattern of bodily behaviour in which the stimulation is procured that makes all the difference! But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example. I am not saying: if you think contraception all right you will do these other things; not at all. The habit of respectability persists and old prejudices die hard. But I am saying: you will have no solid reason against these things. You will have no answer to someone who proclaims as many do that they are good too.
There is nothing wrong or evil or bad about sex. No one is saying that. But unhinged from procreation (or its potential), it is unhinged from marriage and, unhinged from marriage, any restriction or law becomes arbitrary and unfair. That is what the Church needs to recognize. We cannot adopt the world's view of contraception and somehow or other hold on to the Scriptural word against homosexual behavior without becoming the ultimate of hypocrites. So the sins of the heterosexual are justified simply because of who they are and their own sinful behavior becomes acceptable or tolerable while the homosexual are banned only because of whom they desire. Contraception and fornication and gay and lesbian lifestyles and marriage are all tied together. We cannot sort out one mess without also sorting out the other. So it will be time for us Lutherans to rethink our position on contraception or we will be patching together a leaking boat of arguments against gays and lesbians. Whether or not that will happen, I cannot predict. What I can predict is that our position of silence against the full use of contraception will make it more and more untenable to retain the Biblical admonition against those men who lie with men as women and women who lie with women as with men.