Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Well Worth the Read

Today, I read two articles that are well worth the time it takes to read them.
The first is today's blog on Conversion Diary, a blog by Jennifer Fulwiler. Jennifer converted to Catholicism about 5 years ago, before that she was a total atheist and pro-choicer. I find her thoughts on the abortion issue different and very convincing.

Read The Two Lists here

Here is a snippet:
My peers and I were taught not that sex creates babies, but that unprotected sex creates babies.... In this worldview, when unexpected pregnancies came up, it was seen as a sort of betrayal by the woman's body.... Abortion wasn't ideal -- even we acknowledged that it was a violating procedure that was hard on a woman's body -- but what choice did anyone have? To not have the option of terminating surprise pregnancies when they came up out of nowhere would mean being a slave to one's biology.... In fact, I started to see the catastrophic mistake our society had made when we started believing that the life-giving potential of the sexual act could be safely forgotten about as long as people use contraception. It would be like saying that guns could be used as toys as long as long as there are blanks in the chamber. Teaching people to use something with tremendous power nonchalantly, as a casual plaything, had set women up for disaster.

But don't stop there, read the whole thing. It is refreshingingly sympathetic to women.

The other article is quite a bit longer and chock full of facts and information. It is written by Mary Eberstadt, a writer whom I have come to admire. Two years ago, I read her book Home Alone America, The Hidden Toll of Day Care, Behavioral Drugs, and Other Parent Substitutes. Over the last year, she has become a frequent contributor to First Things , "an interreligious, nonpartisan research and education institute whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society".

Her latest article is Christianity Lite - I must admit I had a preconceived notion of what it might be about but it was so much more. Eberstadt traces the watering-down of most mainline religious denominations over the past 70-80 years and she makes this bold statement on the divergence of most Christian denominations from the Catholic Church:

...we can see clearly that these are not the kind of issues that divide the Catholic Church from the churches of Christianity Lite today. As of now—and as has been true for some time—those churches have increasingly defined themselves as dissenting on one issue above all others: They have jettisoned one or another or all of the teachings of traditional Christian sexual morality.

It began, of course, with Henry VIII when he sought divorce and that led to the acceptance of divorce within the Anglican Church (but not for some time, Henry was considered an exception). Then came the acceptance of artificial contraception with the Lambeth Conference in 1930.

In short order, not only was birth control theologically approved in certain difficult circumstances but, soon thereafter, it was regarded as the norm. Nor was that all. In a third turn of the reformist wheel that no one attending Lambeth in 1930 could have seen coming, artificial contraception went on to be sanctioned by some prominent members of the Anglican Communion not only as an option but in fact as the better moral choice.

And then the acceptance of contraception leads to the acceptance of homosexuality. As Robert Runcie, former Archbishop of Canterbury, says:

...once the Church signalled . . . that sexual activity was for human delight and a blessing even if it was divorced from any idea of procreation . . . once you’ve said that sexual activity is . . . pleasing to God in itself, then what about people who are engaged in same-sex expression and who are incapable of heterosexual expression?

So what comes next?
Moreover, as of the December 2009 ordination in Los Angeles of the Episcopal Church’s second noncelibate gay bishop, it is clear that homosexuality’s theological status—like that of contraception before it—is now moving from an option to a religiously approved option. It therefore joins divorce and contraception in the signature religious cycle of Christianity Lite, conferring on a once prohibited sexual practice a theological seal of approval.

Eberstadt concludes:
Does the relaxing of dogma drive people from church, or does the decline in attendance push leaders to relax dogma? As with the previous discussion of dissent, we do not really need to know the answer in all its causal complexity. All we really need to know—as the brilliant convert and teacher Monsignor Ronald Knox observed in an essay some eighty years ago, “The Decline of Dogma and the Decline of Church Membership”—is that “the evacuation of the pew and the jettisoning of cargo from the pulpit” have been going on side by side for as long as Christianity Lite has been attempted. As with doctrinal dissent, it seems, where one appears, the other is sure to follow....
After all, if there is a single point to which modern, enlightened people have been agreeing for a long time now, it is that the antiquated sexual notions of the Catholic Church are an anachronism that had to go for the sake of a kinder, gentler Christianity.
It would be more than passing strange if, at the end of the day, that very anachronism were to turn out to be something that could not be sacrificed after all—not without having everything else fall down, anyway. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first time in Christian history that a piece rejected by the builders turned out to be the cornerstone.

You can read the entire article here

For Mary's previous article on the effect of pornography on modern marriage, click
What Does Woman Want?

and for her incredible article on Humanae Vitae, click
The Vindication of Humanae Vitae

For a list of all Eberstadt's articles, go to First Things and put in Mary Eberstadt in the search box. There are 8 articles listed there, just in case you become a fan, like I am.

1 comment:

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