How This Angry Black Male Protestant (&Pro-Life) Thinks About Contraception, etc.
47NYou not only followed their ways, and acted according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your ways. 48As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. 49This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. –
Ezekiel 16:47-49 NRSV
10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. Mark 10:10-13 NRSV
First, A Story (again, right?)
So here I am again, writing about my experience and how it will soon relate afterward to the ideas I explore after it. It was 3:55pm on Thursday afternoon when I was filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, having just had a great day at work, being educated with Special Ed/Special Needs high schoolers. As I was commuting on the bus on my way home, I noticed a very attractive black woman sitting across from me. #ThemTexasGirls
Anyhow, I worked to avert my eyes, trying to show self-control, and contemplated on what I was going to read or what t.v. I was going to watch. Suddenly, my good day was interrupted by a black man (like me!) who had a Black Power fist comb in his hair, a copy of Frederick Douglass’s “My bondage and My Freedom” in one hand, and his 4 year old son in the other. The first thing he did after he paid for his pass was make a bee-line to the seat right in front of me, and then immediately went over, and played his sorry misogynist game with the aforementioned lady. All the while, I live tweeted part of the conversation because I found it disgusting, and had no words at that moment. At one point, he said about himself to our lady friend, “I’m a barbarian, and I will drag you off the bus.”
Frustrated by his failure to seduce this woman, our antagonist walks back to his seat, and starts harassing, no, verbally abusing a young white man two rows in front of him. He threw profanities at him, threatened to beat him up after this friend, we will call him C, tried to take up for himself. Our Black Panther went on to argue that nowadays, black people can do “whatever the hell we want” as opposed to the days of enslavement. Eventually, the bus driver after one warning, asked the man and his son to exit the bus, which they did with an indignant and shameful response. Someone I Can’t See kept telling to talk to C (the white man) before I ran out of time and had to get off the bus or before he did. So, in a moment of courage (overcoming anxiety), I walked up to C’s seat, right next to him, introduced himself, and informed him (something to the effect-I’m paraphrasing): “I don’t know if you believe in God or not, but I do. You are beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God. What you experienced was racism, but God loves you.
END OF STORY
I have resisted wanting to talk about contraception for the past few weeks even though it has been on the minds of everyone and their grandmother lately. Why is this such an issue? Why now? Joel Watts has rightfully criticized Rush Limbaugh for being a hypocrite and a coward, bullying a college-coed. Today, first I want to talk about Jesus before I get into MHO about S-E-X.
So, it’s obvious to a reader of the Gospels in the New Testament that Jesus is Jewish, and is a faithful Jew at that, faithful to the tradition of Jewish prophets. One of the prophets we don’t hear about in Sunday School is Ezekiel, one of my favorites. His oracles are just a delight to read and re-read, his sign-acts are things that would be censored by CBS during the Super Bowl. They are so disgusting that they would be disallowed on the reality t.v. show Fear Factor (hey, try some REAL Ezekiel bread!). Anyhow, Ezekiel is an angry prophet who is exiled outside the big city of Babylon, the empire in his day with Nebuchadnezzar as ruler. Before he uses some trickery to criticize Babylon, Ezekiel goes after his fellow citizens (what a patriot!) and explains to them why they are in exile. They have been faithless to YHWH, basically, religious and economic sluts when it comes to worship. Ezekiel’s powerful imagery of Israel and Judah’s sluttiness (Chapters 16 and 23). Indeed, this imagery is ingrained in the patriarchal imagery of Ezekiel’s day, but all of the leaders are male, the priests, the kings, the rich house-hold heads. In a similar turn, in the song of Moses, Israel’s unfaithfulness is pictured as a very obese manly man given to idolatry (Deuteronomy 32:15-18). So, unfaithfulness then is connected with the image of not being able to have self-control.
Ezekiel talks about those Male sluts from Genesis 19, the Sodomites, and he says, “You know what their sin is?” It was greed, inhospitality, it was being apathetic to the poor. When you argue for “total freedom” in sexual relations, you are also going to have to argue for “total freedom” in economics, which is ignoring the plight of the poor and widows and orphaned and the disabled and the unborn. Indeed if we fast forward to Yeshua the Messiah years after the exile, Jesus is teaching Jewish Prophetic family values to his disciples and audience. His teachings on Marriage (which we call his teachings on divorce) are not about our views of divorce, they are about fidelity in marriage. Taking Genesis 1 as part of a marriage rite, Jesus understands that Adam and Eve, as the first married couple in YHWH represents God’s will for marriage, and in the Mark version of this passage, agency is not just with men, but also with women, and therefore responsibility lies with both to act responsibly and faithfully to each other.
A Word on Contraception
Now, I have made it known that because of my commitment to nonviolence, I am pro-life, that the government should protect human life from “womb-to-tomb.” As a Protestant, I do not affirm the Catholic teaching on contraception and Natural Family Planning. For those interested in Catholic views that are challenging NFP, please see Katie Grime’s series, Women Speak About Natural Family Planning. These real stories are shocking and informative. I have been chastened by them and have learned a lot the past week. For instance, contraceptive medication can be used to deal with medical issues that women deal with. If you want more details and specific, go ask a woman, not me please!
That being said, there is something to be said about Comprehensive Sex Education and the Common Good. If I say I am pro-life, then I need to work in the public sphere for what is good for the community. Not everyone is a Christian, and therefore, to have Christian expectations and hopes on non-Christians is an epic fail. Morality cannot be legislated, it can only be embodied in Christian practices through our witness. Abstinence-only education should be privately supported alongside Comprehensive Sex Education for those students in schools who wish to opt off of CSE for religious reasons.
Scripture does not really address contraception, and to talk about the story of Onan in Genesis, I think is faulty proof-texting at best. Christians should use wisdom when talking about this issue with non-Christians, and public health and safety concerns MUST come first (ahem, neighborly love).
Now, for Christians and sex. Everyone’s ideas of orthodoxy and orthopraxis (right practice) is gonna be different, so here’s my take. First of all, I affirm traditional marriage between a man and a woman as the appropriate context for sexual coitus. Not only that, I, unlike other Protestants, believe marriage is a sacrament (for different theological reasons than 1 would assume). Now, some in the audience will ask, well, does not Homophobia exist in THE CHURCH? And I will say, Oh Yes, it does, a lot of Christians have irrational fears about even being near homosexual persons. Do I believe that heterosexism exists in THE CHURCH? My response would be, You are asking the wrong question. Churchy sex lives, for liberals and conservatives, center on people who are in relationships; there is a (excuse the horrific neologism) (having sex)-ism, whatever it is where people who aren’t dating anyone are not included a full participants in religious communities. As a single, celibate straight male who wishes one day to be married, the Church in conservative evangelical circles is obsessed with Singles Ministries as the Pie-in-the-Sky-We-Only-Good-For-Waiting and nothing else line of thinking. On the other hand, more liberal mainline churches that support “marriage equality” are telling me that I have to be in a relationship with someone and experience erotic love, otherwise, I am not fully human either. This is the same logic as Kelly Brown Douglas’ book Sexuality and the Black Church, we ain’t nothin’ but mammals so let’s do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel.
I am sick and tired of being told I am not fully human because I am not married or having sex. Don’t lecture me about how marriage is sacred when this country was built on the back of enslaved Africans whose marriages were not considered legal or sacred (knock knock, social conservatives)! Don’t lecture me about having to have sex because it’s natural and I don’t need self-control becuz Jesus the Magician has made us all anarchically free when your movement continues to claim to supersede the Civil Rights Movement ignores its own racism (yoo hoo!: social progressives). Don’t lecture me about how I should wait until marriage until you explain to me why during segregation, white men took their liberties to rape black women. Don’t lecture me about your marriage equality until we can talk about the racial and economic conditions that create male-on-male prison rape in our injustice system. Don’t say in one breathe that I am to be celibate and practice self-control, but corporations can do whatever they want. Stop telling me that businesses are out of control, and then have the nerve to say we don’t have to have will-power when it comes to our sex-lives.
I guess my harsh offensive words to THE CHURCH are these: Self-Control should be as much as a part of the Christian life as breathing is to the human anatomy. What this means is that single Christians are no longer marginalized in congregations, and celibacy is seen as a valid choice to be encouraged. The Church of Rush Limbaugh is slutty because they are Sodomites who hate the poor (oh, and that 4 marriage things–see, a propensity to unfaithfulness in 1 area….well you can guess). Can there be secular reasons for being celibate? I believe there can be, like remaining on task to struggle against an evil corporation (that’s 2 science fiction references– Dollhouse and Angel).
As I concluded my presentation at the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion in 2009, I say yet again, that THE CHURCH must learn to teach that part of living as the Holies of Holies of YHWH is to re-educate ourselves on the lost virtue of Will-Power.
*ducks, prepares for angry comments, tweet mentions, and persecution*