Okay, maybe that title for this article is a bit provocative, but it nonetheless remains true. The New York Times published an op-ed article on 12/24/17 by Margaret Renkl, titled “Christians Need a New Right-to-Life Movement.”
When I saw the title and the source, I knew it was going to be pretty lame. My initial hunch proved correct.
Renkl bemoans that the majority of white Christians in Alabama voted for Roy Moore in the Senate election, despite all the accusations against him of sexual misconduct. She wonders how people claiming the moral high ground can vote for him. Renkl argues this undercuts any moral standing Christians can claim from hereon.
She then spends the next couple paragraphs hopping around different topics before finally raising her article’s main point. She points out that Christians are split over social issues such as “women’s rights, birth control, abortion and L.G.B.T. issues.” Then she makes her suggestion:
“What Christians need is a new right-to-life movement, one in which we agree to disagree about contentious issues of sexuality and focus instead on what we share, on what we all believe,” Renkl writes (italics emphasis original).
She immediately backs up this call to drop the right-to-life movement as we know it by claiming, “Jesus had nothing to say about birth control or abortion or homosexuality. He did have quite a lot to say about the poor and the vulnerable, and maybe that’s a good place to start.”
Renkl envisions that if all Christians embraced her call then we could “transcend” the “sex wars.” She argues, “Surely Christians across the political spectrum believe we’re called to feed the hungry, heal the sick, protect the weak and welcome the stranger. If we can agree on that much, and if we can keep our shrieking differences from wrecking the quiet conviction of shared belief, we could create a culture of life that has a chance of transcending the sex wars.”
SO, WHAT TO MAKE OF RENKL’S IDEA?
Renkl raises a good point in her article about the need to care for the most vulnerable in our society. This remains a shared belief that all Christians do, or at least ought to share. Her example she goes on to belabor in her article is care for the homeless. She goes on to describe an admirable service her family participates in regularly where they feed the homeless and then transport them in their own vehicles to area churches for services.
One thing my wife and I have been doing for years now is to stock our vehicles with what we call ‘homeless bags.’ We put a can of stew, a spoon, a bottle of water, a snack, a bag of chips, a Rosary, and a prayer card in each one. Any homeless we see on street corners we hand these bags to, in the hopes of providing them a meal and thus feeding the hungry.
Renkl claims we Christians all “owe it” to the homeless and the vulnerable to be more charitable and giving. In many respects she is probably right. Those professing to be Christians probably should be doing more to care for the homeless.
And yet, Renkl’s idea falls woefully short of ever having a chance to succeed in her goal to “transcend” the sex wars.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH RENKL’S SUGGESTION?
The right-to-life movement would be essentially erased, if pro-life advocates adopt Renkl’s short-sighted supposed solution.
Let’s begin by observing the most obvious error in her thinking. That is, by agreeing to not talk about the issues of abortion, contraception, so-called “gay marriage,” L.G.B.T. issues, and so forth, we would thus guarantee their further decaying of our culture. Only by shining a light into the darkness of sinful behavior does such behavior ever end. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them,” the Bible instructs (Eph 5:11).
Can we really take Renkl seriously about ending the call to such an important, fundamental, and common sense proposal as the legal protection for our brothers and sisters in the womb?
Giving those who practice the vices of fornication, adultery, masturbation, homosexual sex, and so on a free pass to continue their sinfulness would be tantamount to denying known truth. And denying the known truth is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Anyone who knows their New Testament knows the outcome for those who commit such an offense.
Only by exposing the physical, emotional, psychological, and especially the spiritual harm that such vices cause can we hope to save individuals from falling into these moral errors. If we Christians fail to call out our fellow man for his sinfulness, we risk judgement from God Himself (Matt 18:15-17; Ezek 3:16-21, 33:1-9; Gal 6:1, etc.).
What Renkl fails to recognize is that the victims of the Sexual Revolution are often the poor and vulnerable ones needing to be served. Divorce, domestic abuse, and abandonment of pregnant wives and girlfriends are all examples of rotten fruits of the Sexual Revolution. Those poor and vulnerable folks Renkl seeks to serve may be fed for the night by her church’s wonderful service, but those same people need their marriages and their lives put back together. How can we help them to be lifted out of poverty if we fail to discuss their divorce, their teen pregnancy, or their post-abortive psychological suffering?
Notice too that NY Times author targeted the right-to-life movement. These, I would argue, are a subset of pro-life folks who call for the legal recognition of the humanity of the preborn. Can we really take Renkl seriously about ending the call to such an important, fundamental, and common sense proposal as the legal protection for our brothers and sisters in the womb?
Besides, those who champion the pro-life cause are surely on the right side of the moral debate. When it comes to advocating for or condemning the practice of the murder of innocent human babies, there really is no debate who holds all the moral authority. In essence, Renkl is telling pro-life stalwarts like Joseph Scheidler and Dr. Monica Miller that their advocacy is in vain. Scheidler and Dr. Miller each have suffered tremendously personally, whether it be by frivolous lawsuits, jail time, or even the loss of personal property. Yet, Renkl is asking them to set aside their struggle, and instead focus solely on what they share in common with their pro-abortion fellow Christians.
I am confident they would disagree with Renkl’s assessment as to what they ought to do next. I also am certain they care far more about God’s opinion of their tremendous work than what some op-ed writer for The New York Times thinks.
WHAT SHOULD THE RIGHT-TO-LIFE MOVEMENT DO INSTEAD?
It is all well and good to point out the many errors in Renkl’s plan to “transcend” the “sex wars,” but it is another matter to propose a better solution. Let me attempt to make such an attempt to help Renkl achieve her stated goal of ending the “sex wars.” Now, I have a strong suspicion she won’t like my suggestions, but that does not negate their superiority to her lame proposition.
Here is my idea. Are you ready for it? It is actually very easy to understand in concept; though, admittedly much more difficult to implement in practice. With no further ado, here it is, folks: my idea remains that everyone ought to practice the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, especially in the areas of human sexuality. *Gasp!
Get over your initial shock and horror. Suppress your gut reaction to vomit in your mouth. Look past your attachment to your opinion and hear me out for a moment. Now, imagine a society that followed the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality that is rooted in the natural law, Scripture, and 2,000 years of practical wisdom. What would that culture look like?
Well, for starters, people would be upholding and practicing the virtue of chastity. Thus, women would be treated as dignified and worthy of respect. People would be virgins when they got married, and would remain faithful to their spouses. People would not be looking outside the context of marriage for sexual encounters or fantasies. Thus, pornography, fornication, adultery, out-of-wedlock births, and teen pregnancies would not exist—at least not to the degree it is now. I would hope we can all agree that would be a good thing.
If our society upheld the Church’s sanctity of life across the full spectrum of life, imagine the implications. Obviously, abortion would be unconscionable. That right there would end the millions we lose every year to the government-sponsored abortion practice we have today. The right-to-life movement would have prevailed. In vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research would end, as those too end unknown thousands of unborn human lives. Assisted suicide and euthanasia would not exist. The youngest and oldest among us would be respected and treated with dignity, rather than as inconveniences, whose very existence depends subjectively on those responsible for their care. Can we all agree these outcomes would be wonderful too?
And what if our society practiced the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage? Men would be marrying women. None of this so-called “gay marriage” would exist. The government would not be condoning homosexual behavior that has proven repeatedly to be so destructive for those in that lifestyle. The difference between men and women, innate to our very human nature, would be recognized as it has for thousands of years by people the world over. As well, men and women would make lifelong commitments, open to life, and monogamous in nature. Divorce as we know it would not be so rampant. Adultery would not be so common. Is that really so bad?
Now take a deep breath and stay calm when you read this next sentence. Can you imagine what would happen in our culture practiced the Catholic Church’s condemnation of contraception? Pick yourself up off the floor. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Why, men and women would not separate the conjugal act with the procreation of new human life. People would be forced to think more deeply whether they are ready to have sex, knowing they could possibly conceive a child. Not to mention, all the human lives lost to abortifacient contraception would no longer be an issue. In the end, sex would not become a recreational activity that any number of consenting people can partake in, but rather would be treated with the utmost respect because it holds the innate power to create new human life. Tell me now, is that such a horrific idea?
Literally lives are at stake by the outcome of the “sex wars.”
This is not to say everyone would follow the Church’s teaching in practice. Concupiscence—that is, our human attraction to sin—will still exist. Yet, what the Church teaches on human sexuality ought to be promoted by our culture at all levels: in the laws we enact, in the education we provide, and in the way we live our lives.
I am not naïve enough to think our culture will ever take such drastic steps as to make my idea a reality. Barring a true miracle of intervening grace from God, our culture will continue to circle the drain of certain moral destruction.
Yet, I think the recent #MeToo Movement goes to prove something significant. More and more celebrities, politicians, and people of influence are being exposed for their sexual misconduct. I think Renkl would agree this is a good thing, as it gives an opportunity to purge our society of these folks having moral clout and gives them each an opportunity for repentance and redemption—redemption being a concept she raises in her article.
The #MeToo Movement goes to show that the promises of the Sexual Revolution just never came to fruition. Instead, our culture remains rotten because it has failed to adhere to sound moral principles of sexual conduct. Sound moral principles promoted by, you know, the Catholic Church, as outlined above.
Yet, had Renkl’s article been published a few months prior, and had folks taken her idea seriously, there would have never been a #MeToo Movement. At the heart of Renkl’s proposal is a refusal to struggle any further with uncomfortable truths. Literally lives are at stake by the outcome of the “sex wars.” Yet, Renkl can’t be bothered to discuss these topics any further, calling on all her fellow Christian brothers and sisters to punt any discussion, and especially any disagreement over the sexual ethos of our society.
Those who wanted to talk about what makes for acceptable sexual ethics in our society would not have spoken up, had Renkl’s idea been proposed and prevailed earlier. The #MeToo Movement has been divisive, with many calling for its end. To think, Renkl’s recommendation is to not raise such discussions.
Renkl frowns on anything being divisive in the public square, and so wants Christians in the right-to-life movement to keep their mouths shut. Instead, they should be encouraged to just serve their local soup kitchens. I am all for everyone volunteering at homeless shelters. But pro-life activity and serving the poor are not mutually exclusive acts, despite what Renkl might think. Besides, serving chili and cups of milk to the homeless is not going to, in itself, allow us to “transcend” the “sex wars.” Keep in mind too that Jesus Himself told us the poor will always be with us (Matt 26:11).
Unlike poverty what we do have the capability to end is the moral destruction of the Sexual Revolution. We just have to muster the gumption to get back to sound sexual ethics. You know, those are the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church in place for the last two millennia.
So, what do you think of Renkl’s plan?
Do you have any opinion on my suggestions?
What ideas do you have for our society to “transcend” the “sex wars?”
Please leave your comments below!