Monday, February 28, 2011
Is it possible to clarify a most complex issue as the RH Bill (now the RP Bill for Responsible Parenthood)? When priests, politicians, P-noy and plain Pinoys passionately defend each possible view on the issue, what hopes do we have to see the real grain of the matter?
Reproduction is a matter meant to be practiced and understood by adults or the mature alone, ideally speaking. But has it always been that way? Ancient societies and tribes gave their children to marry at 14 or even earlier than that. What made the marriage successful in most cases was that the whole family or community came to the aid and support of the couple. (And so it is in our times but with a lot of ramifications.) Certainly, there were rules, duties and even taboos required of the partners and of society itself. Laws and traditions pertaining to the union kept its sanctity and value in the minds of all.
In some strange cases, the parents took care of the infants born to the marriage until such time the teenage parents were old enough to do it themselves and for their children in turn. Uncannily, this pictures exactly what has happened to many teenage pregnancies today! What was socially right and un-shamefully normative before has now become socially wrong but shamelessly normative in our era. (There is no shame in teenage pregnancy, per se. Usually, it is the wrong values we measure it with that make it seem shameful.)
Reproduction, we assume, was a regular, natural and uncontrolled duty of a woman in those early marital practices, as long as she was physically able to perform it. Or was it? We mentioned in an earlier article (read article here) that the ancients did not lack for medical knowledge in contraceptives and abortifacients. With modern medicine, however, our grasp of the physiological nature of the sexual act and reproduction has crossbred with shifting values that try to define morality solely in terms of religious (that is, canonical) principles while negating general spiritual, physiological, historical and philosophical principles. (Constitutional principles may count a lot in this controversy; but is not politics or human laws just another form of “religious” attachment to legalities that try to bind people to a moral order based on external control and not to a way of life bound by a free and clear conscience as produced, protected and guaranteed by our Creator and Savior? Besides, are not canonical laws, in general, mere opinions of men presented as laws of God Himself?)
Some have the notion of separating the Church and the State due to such issues as this that divide people two-way, religiously and politically. But Christ prayed to the Father in the Garden to make us ONE “even as the Father and the Son are one.” That desire to separate Church and State, therefore, runs fully opposite the solemn desire of the dying Savior. Why? For it tries to divide one group of people from another, one rule by some people from another, one belief of a group from those of other groups. We separate two things only when they are divisible or are not one in purpose, principle and practice. And since the Church (Roman Catholic or not) and the State are deemed by many to have different or irreconcilable missions and methods in many instances (though not in reality and as designed by Heaven), we can never unite them. Hence, the divisiveness spawned by this issue and many others. And the division applies among “church” people themselves and even within religious groups and political parties.
Subsequently, in the wake of many Catholics walking out during Mass on the reading of the CBCP pastoral letter against the RP Bill, we see a rising discontent among Catholics and a patent resolve among priests to sanction disobedience. The strengthening of the spirit of those who want to be free to make a conscientious decision will be met by the flexing of ecclesiastical muscles in order to make people behave like meek lambs. This is a dangerous development that does not augur well for our nation at this time. Yet, it is a necessary step toward liberating many from the shackles of intolerance and ignorance that have bound our nation’s soul for centuries.
How do we discern then what the Lord truly wants us to believe or where He wants us to stand in this issue when the Tower of Babel has become smaller than the ivory towers we have built for ourselves in our religious denominations, our legal institutions and in our personal domains?
This issue is but a symptom of the larger division that has arisen from our departure from the basic teachings of the Lord Jesus, particularly in the Sermon of the Mount. What can that Sermon teach us regarding the RP Bill issue? Is there a message there for us, perhaps, to resolve this proverbially thorny and ostensibly horny issue?
The main argument against contraceptives raised is the capital offense of murder against unborn infants. Yet, murder, as condemned by Christ in Matt. 5:21,22, arises from the hatred we hold in our hearts against others. Preventing conception is certainly not motivated by hatred for children but by love for one’s spouse, one’s family and oneself. Abortion is murder, clearly and obviously, for it not only exhibits cruelty for a living being but disdain for a woman’s dignity and one’s own dignity. But preventing conception is nowhere near that realm. We hope people will be honest and humble enough to concede this clear point.
The other argument is that of proliferating immorality and adultery with the use of contraceptives. But in the Lord’s Sermon, the sin occurs in the heart even before the physical act itself. No law allowing contraceptives will diminish the force of Christ’s teaching. People may now commit adultery without legal rubber in between; but it will not make them moral or upright to use legal rubber later on. The best contraceptive for adultery is a heart with a spiritual shield – a rubber shield can only be effective for preventing physical birth and disease. Our failure to teach and to exemplify the pure Christian life has caused much of the present moral decay.
The final argument worth mentioning is that the poor, through our government, are being used to propagate a global plan to control the use of the Earth’s resources. Now, this may apply to countries that do not have enough natural resources to support their population. But we, as a nation, have all we need, except the political will and the moral motivation to distribute the vast wealth we have – wealth that is not in the hands of the people but in the hands of those who hold power, whether political or religious. If we want true obedience to God, let us (the leaders, first and foremost, and the people will follow with gladness) seek first to deny ourselves the pleasures of this world and to share the fatness of the land and our pockets and not keep it to ourselves. A certain amount of population control will help improve the lot of many of our people; but that is not the main solution to our many problems.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom in heaven." (Matt 5:3)
God’s ultimate desire is to hand over the kingdom in Heaven (i.e., God's rule over humans) to the poor, as the Lord meaningfully opened His great Sermon. And here we are, keeping the power to ourselves (claiming what God alone deserves to have) and keeping the wealth from the poor (claiming what the poor also deserve to have). There must be an eternal weight of divine punishment commensurate to this grievous offense.
Sadly, two extremes of immorality prevail in our land today. They remain to be the real roots to our society’s accelerating descent to physical and moral decay.
As we have seen, a social structure once existed to preserve moral order within and outside of the family. Today, we barely have a moral structure to uphold social order in all levels. The family is the first victim in the growing sexual immorality. Total abandonment of once strong moral values has overtaken society and with a lot of help from the greedy Media. For instance, how TV networks utilize the young and the beautiful to enhance profits has eroded respect for the purity and the sanctity of the human body and responsible practice of marriage, sex and reproduction. This insidious practice escapes even the most discerning among our leaders and business-people and is allowed to spawn in out midst. Billboards advertise not commercial products but seduction, lust and lewdness. The bigger and more tempting the ad, the bigger the greed. Those who buy are those who give in to their own human frailty. What we hear now is not the “sound of silence” but the “scream of sex”! And our best bet or defense is to stuff our ears and other organs with rubber. (When a billboard blatantly invites us to “return to temptation” with images of lewd sex-partners towering above our heads and we do nothing to stop it, Mammon has truly succeeded to rule in our lives. Are we so helpless against these voyeur advertisers?)
The other extreme is the villain of spiritual pride. A case of people imposing a false morality, hypocrisy or imputing guilt where there is none. More than that, claiming authority that has not been granted and will never be granted.
The Pharisees murdered Christ. Today, they still rule, control and even deceive people through a dead and wooden image of Christ – a tool they use to show a semblance of piety but only ends in perpetuating idolatry and spiritual bondage. How can truth and righteousness reign then in a nation under such a system which continues to crucify Him, entomb Him and use His glory to claim power for themselves? How can a nation tied to images and rites of the dying Christ be eventually and effectively free to reign with Him (He in Heaven, Christians on Earth – for His “will to be done”) with full spiritual power? A dying “Christian” nation is a shame to the true living Lord.
This issue ultimately is a test of moral authority. The immorality and corruption that we are trying to prevent or correct politically or theologically are the very indictment of our loss of moral authority. The issue is not birth control but self-control and spiritual control. Against such, there is neither law nor judgment.
What we have or what we are is a divided nation that will not desire to be one. What we have or what we are is a Christian nation that has no desire to follow Christ as one. What we have or what we are is a nation that is so culturally and materially blessed but does not know that it is blessed and does not know how and by Whom it has been blessed. A nation dies for lack of genuine knowledge.
“That they may be one even as We are one.”
Is Christ one with the Father in Heaven? Is He with the Father in Heaven now? Who does He rule then? Either the resurrected and reigning Christ truly lives in our hearts and causing us to live triumphant lives now and to transform the face of the Earth with our deeds and ideas or we are victims of a corrupted faith.
With or without the RP Bill enacted into law, a Christian will still find himself or herself busy fighting the forces of evil in our midst. Our fear that evil will abound with the RP law is much too late, for evil already abounds. We might be surprised to realize that we are part of the evil that we fear might arise.
Are we truly defending the youth and the unborn with our stand in this issue? Shall we bequeath them with peace and unity that we can and must establish now or are they going to fight and die for it still?
What we do and say now will determine what the next generation will do and say in the future.
(Painting above: "Easter Morning" by He Qi.)