Ceasar and the Pill

So, I’m going to treat into the waters of the birth control vs. religious liberty debate that has been going on for a while.  I’ve been wondering how Christians should handle this issue. Now, I tend think birth control is a good idea.  Teenage pregnancy is not a good thing and well, women should be able to decide when they want children and when they don’t.

That said, I was distrubed by the decision by Health and Human Services to mandate that religious institutions with the exception of churches have to cover birth control.  This didn’t disturb me because I think birth control is wrong; it bothered me because it harmed religious freedom.  While I think that birth control is a good idea and doesn’t clash with my faith, I do know there are others that see birth control in a different light.  I don’t agree with their view, but I do believe they have prayerfully come to their decision and it should be respected within reason.

Another view that comes to the fore are those who are Christians and are very much for reproductive rights.  I’m not talking about people like myself that tend to favor reproductive rights but are kind of lukewarm about their beliefs; no, I’m talking about folks who are just as militantly pro-choice as those on the other side are as militantly pro-life.  That side doesn’t get as much attention, but they are out there.  Presbyterian Pastor Carol Howard Merritt is an example.  She writes in a recent essay that God is definitely pro-choice:

This week has been dominated by religious voices speaking out against contraception. I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise since Christianity has been controlled by men for over 2,000 years, and there has been a strong belief in both Catholic and Protestant traditions that women were created solely for childbirth. But there are way too many voices, speaking in the name of God, who target health services for women, and especially poor women.

As people of faith, we need to make our voices on behalf of women clear.

I believe in religious freedom. I believe that Muslim women should be allowed to wear a burka if that is her choice. I believe that a Catholic woman should not use contraception if that is her choice. But I resent the loud and constant religious voice that threatens the rights of women.

There is another voice. We aren’t hearing it much in this national dialogue, but there are women and men of faith who believe that women are created for more than bearing children. We support contraception and women’s healthcare.

God is concerned with the health of women. God cares about teenagers who end up in a lifetime of poverty. Jesus healed the bleeding woman two thousand years ago, and I think if he walked the streets today, he just might hand her a packet of pink pills.

I find the last sentence in this quote kind of fascinating, because I think it sums up what I think is so wrong about this debate. We as Christians are missing the boat if we think the question we need to ask is if Jesus would hand out birth control.  As much as I think the pill is a good idea, we are asking the wrong question. 

The issues at hand is how Christians should respond to the Ceasars of this world and a lack of understanding concerning the Other. 

The Church in American society is many ways nothing more than the red-blue divide dressed up in nice church clothes.  We make God a cheerleader for our side instead of learning to discern where God can be found.  We are quick to demonize those who don’t share our viewpoints instead of seeing them  as fellow questors in faith.

Then there’s the issue of how the Church deals with Ceasar, or the government.  It’s interesting how we support or don’t support the government based on who is in power.  Conservative Christians are now complaining  about how the Obama Adminstration is dealing with them, bringing up cries of religious liberty.  However, will they do the same thing when a Republican President does something that seems to infringe on liberties?  I doubt it. 

Meanwhile Liberal Christians, who during the Bush years were constantly talking about the how Bush was shredding the Constitution, have no problem telling religious institutions to stuff it and pay for something that goes against their conscience.

We are willing to stand against Ceasar, so long as he is of the other party.

Maybe I’m silly, but I think there has to be a better way to deal with this issue than shouting that God would or would not give out birth control pills.  I’d like believe that Christians would have a way of being in the world that would reflect different values, something that would make people notice.

But as usual, what I’d like to believe is just flat out wrong.


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