Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dignitas Personae Cont

It is with great pleasure that I share a couple of comments from my good friend 'Theological Snob' regarding my posting on Dignitas Personae.

Darin,I'm assuming that you are agreeing with the Catholic Church that the main purpose of sex and of marriage is to have children.

No, I am not saying I agree with the Catholic Church that the main purpose of sex is to have children. I think that sex is meant to deepen and strengthen the emotional ties in marriage and be a catalyst for the emotional grouth of the two partners. Sex has a vital and important role in marriage regardless of procreation. So while I would not agree that the main 'purpose' of sex is children, I do think that the Catholic Church offers an important and necessary alternative to the purely recreational view of sex that is predominant in our culture. In my humble opinion this 'recreational view' leave sex devoid of any meaning or purpose but pleasure itself. 'Recreational Sex' is not primarily interested in a deep and intimate experience with another, but in personal happiness and satisfaction, which, in my opinion, leads to a culture which makes the sex partner, an object for the self's pleasure and which leads to the commodification of sex. In everyday life this looks like unwanted pregnancy, disease, marital infidelity and divorce in my experience (not personal experience, by the way) So while I do not necessarily agree with every conclusion the Catholic Church draws as a result of calling procreation a mystery in which humanity co-creates with God, I do think it is the best alternative to 'recreational' ethic of popular culture.

On another point, and this is where I struggle, ideally the community should come together and help the single mom (or dad) to raise the child. Somone once said, "it takes a village..." but as Ian remarked above, the reality is that churches do not have their sh-- together enough to provide that community and some people are left in a no-win choice...You can take the idealist approach and say that all abortions are wrong in every case, but how does that minister to the mother in the impossible situtation? The danger with such an idealism is that it leads to a critical legalism of categorical oughts and shoulds.

Theological Snob raises an important critique of the idea that the church should be the alternative family for single mothers who feel ill-prepared and unready to raise a child. First, the practical application of that idea, that the church becomes a global adoption agency, is unrealistic. I'm not sure I want to go that far and this is where I ready admit I 'punk out' on my own ideas. I am not suggesting that the church becomes a social service agency. I am suggesting that the churches stance should be clear. We are a community for which abortion is not a viable option. In this way we stand as a prophetic voice to culture, offering a critique to the practice of abortion and showing an alternative way to deal with the 'no-win' situations that Theological Snob mentions. (in this area I am admitedly very influenced by Hauerwas).

As for Theological Snobs concern, that such a view becomes critical legalism, I think that is an excellent point. The alternative, however, leaves us no ground upon which to do pastoral care, which TS is concerned about. If the church does not have a clear and concise theological understanding of what marriage is, sex and procreation... if we do not clearly state that procreation is participation in the creativity of God, that children are such a high value that they should be created in the state of marriage and that abortion is a violation of who God is and how God acts in the world (which by the way the church is meant to be, the ebodiment of a Creative and Grace-full God) than what how do we determine our pastoral counsel? My fear is that if we refuse to have a clear statement about abortion, we have no ground for our pastoral care. If our pastoral care is not grounded on theology, than I fear we end up sliding towards the view expressed in the Nation, where the best way we can serve an un-wed mother ill-prepared and frightened, is to take up a collection for her abortion. Haven't we then ceased to be the church? In other words, how do we do pastoral care if we don't take a definite theological stand for life? If we do not offer a theological or spiritual view of the matter we are nothing but very poorly trained social workers.

While some may use a clear and concise theological statement regarding marriage, sex, procreation, and abortion in a legalistic manner, to throw away a uniquely biblical and theological view of a complex situation simply because some misuse it, is to throw the baby out with the bathwater (in a what is not an attempt at a clever pun). So while there is danger to 'idealism' I think the Liberal Christian church has discovered the danger of 'pragmatism' which is silence and apathy in regards to the issue of life, abortion and human sexuality.

My main concern (I think, because this is all just a theological thought experiment right now) is that the liberal church has failed to be a witness to its faith in regards to this issue. I am not trying to find a way to set social policy, but to return the church to its calling, which is to bear witness to the powerful presence of a living God. How can we do that if we remain so wishy-washy about a topic like Life?


pastormalone said...

I’m ever so humbled to find my pithy comments published on your distinguished blog. A thought getting at one of the deeper aspects of the conversation, i.e. the purpose of sex. Perhaps we need to think about sex in a relational context. This is not strictly recreational nor is it strictly for procreation but a way in which the relationship that exists in marriage is expressed in a physical and intimate way. Children, which tend to be an outcome of marriage, add and at times (most of the times) enhance the relationship of the marriage. If God is relational, and I believe that the Trinitarian nature of God does suggest a relationality, then marriage, sex, children, and the rest is a way of living into the will/nature of God. Thus sex is not primarily for procreation (and I think you are still leaning towards that conclusion), but is for the sake of relationality.
With this in mind, the church should be advocating for stronger marriages. It is only up to that point where I agree with the conservatives. In my humble, theological view, a healthy marriage is one of equality, not submission, one of respect, commitment and devotion, while maintaining one’s individuality (perichoresis). I am not willing to say that marriage is the foundation/bedrock of society, but it is a holy and sacred way in which we can continue to live into the relationships portrayed by the Trinity. Obviously, in an ideal world with healthy marriages (straight and gay), where sex is something celebrated within a marriage abortions would be less of an issue. Yet we are not living in an ideal world. Our views of sex, relationships, commitment and marriage are skewed at best leading to the impossible situations individuals find themselves in where abortion is considered an option.

darin said...

As far as my leaning, I suppose I am 'leaning' toward sex for procreation because procreation is what happens when we have sex!!! Call me conservative but I think our culture needs to return to discussions of human sexuality that offer an alternative to sex for recreation. Procreation is a strange byproduct of the sex act. If voicing that radical idea is conservative, well, ok. I agree that sex also exists for the emotional relationship between the partners, that is what I was pushing at in my last post...

For all your trinitarian language aren't you still leaning toward the individualistic view of sex which is so popular in our recreational culture? Even in saying that sex is for the sake of relationality you are leaning toward a view of sex that serves the self. What am I getting emotionally out of this sexual relationship. I am pushing toward the opposite direction, sex is an act of giving the self to another, which I think is missing from your view. If we practice our sexuality in the context of sharing ourselves, that act of giving should be large enough to embrace the child which often a result. Would not the sacrificial nature of Christ's work be a good theological model, offering his life for the lives of many?