Sex: A Union of Church and State

In 2018, Irish expatriates living all across the globe flew back to their homeland to vote on a measure defining the legal parameters of abortion.  As a result, abortion was legalized in a landslide.

Right now, the United States is in the throes of the 2020 election for President. One of the biggest issues for many undecided voters is the subject of abortion. The party represented by the current president has billed itself as pro-life[1]. And as such, they are insistent on appointing a Justice to the nation’s Supreme Court. The hope is that the vacancy recently created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – one of the most progressive members of the Court – could be filled by someone who would vote alongside other conservative Justices to overturn a historic case, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. For many “single issue voters”, abolishing abortion is their tantamount objective. Every other aspect of law and policy pales in comparison. And because of that, many are willing to overlook the other things that they find detestable and egregious about the party represented by the current president. It is true that they may despise his immature demeanor, unintelligent rhetoric, blatant racism, overt classism, narcissistic behavior, ableism, sexism, unabashed nepotism, and overall hypocrisy. But because he would appoint someone to the Supreme Court who will hopefully align with their conservative bent on this issue, this tradeoff is worth it to some self-described Christians. The logic is curious: ostensibly these concessions are for the purpose of making the Nation’s laws more “Christian”, yet every other principle of Christ is expendable. But that’s ok. These voters are willing to do absolutely anything to reduce abortion. Well...almost anything.

The common refrain of those who style themselves as pro-life is that abortion is used as birth control. Irresponsible sexual behavior is directly responsible for unwanted pregnancies, which in turn lead these women to abort their babies. So, they contend, to ensure that women don’t abort babies, the most important thing is to ban abortions. I won’t spend time here attempting to point out some of the flaws in the idea that abortions only happen when women are sexually irresponsible. We will set aside pregnancy due to rape, or unviable pregnancies, or pregnancies that endanger the lives of mothers, or the reality of the babies whose mothers want them but make the heart wrenching decision to terminate the pregnancy to spare it from a delivery followed by a brief and agonizing life. We’ll only focus on the “irresponsible women”. And for the sake of argument, we’ll take at face value that this is the sole cause of 100% of abortions. If this is true, and conservative people are willing to make any concession to stop abortions – including convoluted political wrangling – why be reluctant to do the one thing that actually has been shown to reduce abortions? And it isn’t banning abortions. It’s education and access to healthcare.

When abortions are illegal, they don’t go away. Women still have them. They are just conducted in unregulated and unsafe conditions. This was the United States before Roe v. Wade and this is the state of affairs in many nations that restrict access to abortion today. Now one may not care about the women themselves; it’s been made abundantly clear that, for some people, the woman’s health, wants, and desires are indeed the least important factor in this equation. However, if the goal is reducing abortions, then it would make sense to focus on what does reduce them instead of what doesn’t. And legal barriers don’t.

Education and access to healthcare does. But for some reason, this is the one thing many extreme conservatives are absolutely unwilling to do. It is somehow more expedient to tear the country apart politically than to teach about birth control and sexual health. Only 29 out of 50 states in the United States mandate sexual education in schools. Only 22 states require that education to be medically, factually or technically accurate. Unsurprisingly, adhering to the abstinence only modality of education is linked to higher incidences of unplanned pregnancies. The refusal to provide accurate information about sexual health is widespread. People have resorted to relying on social media such as TikTok to learn basic anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive system such as the fact that douching is not good, that the discoloration of undergarments is not a marker of bad hygiene or illness but rather of normal health, and that women have separate orifices for menstruation and urination. This is why political commentators and those charged to make the laws surrounding women’s reproductive rights (who are mostly men) have misconceptions about women’s health, including believing that women can’t get pregnant due to rape and that birth control is not essential healthcare but is only used by promiscuous women.

This is why it’s absolutely necessary for females and males to be properly educated about women’s health. The reluctance to do so is particularly pronounced in Christian schools and churches. I’ve already written about the dearth of education about women’s sexuality in a previous article. Not only have many Christians been reluctant to discuss female sexual behavior but we’ve often perpetuated false stereotypes leading to shame and confusion. Our understanding about sexual behaviors has been almost exclusively taught and preached about from a male lens leading to outright misconceptions that women don’t enjoy sex or that female sexuality only exists for male happiness. Books and sermons that have been popular within Christian circles have reinforced this “Madonna and the whore” dichotomy for centuries. But even more detrimental than misunderstandings about basic female sexual desire is the miseducation about basic female anatomy and contraception. Misinformation leads to dangerous perspectives about the body, and can result in unintended pregnancies.

But won’t teaching young people about sex lead to premarital sex? Again, like with abortion, it still happens, whether it’s acknowledged or not. Even among Christians. Refusing to teach about sex doesn’t hinder people from having sex, it only hinders educated decisions about sex. If Christians are committed to reducing abortions, and if it is truly believed that abortions are the direct result of irresponsible sexual activity, then why not try to teach responsible sexual practices? If pro-life Christians believe that the one principle that supersedes all others is eliminating abortions, then aren’t Christians shirking our duties if we refuse to provide comprehensive sex education knowing that it reduces unintended pregnancies in the first place?

Our Christian elementary schools and academies should be doing more than showing students videos about STI’s and teaching them that they can be contracted if you aren’t abstinent. We should be teaching about various forms of birth control available for both women and men. We should be teaching about what are normal biological processes. Shame and stigma about the human body should be present least of all among those who believe the body is fearfully and wonderfully crafted by our Creator. And particularly for a Church that espouses a holistic health message, we should be at the forefront of providing accurate and complete information on sexual health. Health is more than just eating more fruits and vegetables. If we are serious about incorporating the health message in our evangelistic efforts, our “health nuggets” and health fairs ought to expand beyond NEWSTART.  Being good stewards of our bodies means taking care of our whole bodies – not merely the parts not covered by a bathing suit. We owe it to the people within our congregations and communities to overcome our irrational squeamishness about sexual health and to preach and teach truthful and holistic information. It’s significantly easier than engaging governments into political tugs-of-war every few years. Providing effective sex education should really be one thing in which church and state actually are united on.

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[1] Pro-life should encompass more than being pro-birth.

 

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is an ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and President of the Society for Black Neuropsychology. 

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at: 

https://spectrummagazine.org/author/courtney-ray 

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10761
7 Likes

“ Making abortion’s illegal doesn’t make them go away… it just makes them go underground”. Do you mean kind of like making guns illegal doesn’t make them go away? It just makes them go underground.

Roe v Wade is settled law and is not in any danger of being overturned. So the sky is not falling if this judge gets on the SC.

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Excellent article. I agree, education, is key. Pro life is more than pro birth.
Get your flame suit ready.

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The plain word of God is killing an unborn life is murder and prohibited! Just because President Trump is unorthodox in his speech and actions doesn’t mean one should agree with his critics that “that Rowe v Wade is settled law” and therefore it is legal to kill. The 10 commandments are still binding law from God! When will all SDA Christians stand up for what is right? It is time to condemn all who say abortion (killing an unborn child) is OK!

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I agree that ROE versus WADE is settled law and unlikely to be overturned.

But I also agree with Doctor Courtney Ray that sex education and cheap or free access to birth control modalities for teenagers and young adults, ( and impoverished women ), should be widespread.

QUESTION : When will we implement these sensible suggestions in our Adventist Academies and Colleges?

Are birth control modalities available on our Adventist campuses ??
If not why not ?

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As soon as SDA’s figure out people have sex.

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Morality is established clearly in the Bible… Abstinence is God’s way for the prevention of a new life. Yes, education is required but it is not giving out any birth control methods in order to have “protected sex” unless it is in a monogamous married relationship. Sex in any other relationship is again prohibited by God. Abortion is not authorized by God and is clearly murder. Of course, the unfortunate loss of life due to a miscarriage or surgery in order to save a woman’s life due a medical emergency is not murder.

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Yeah, it’s called no dancing. :grinning:

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My question to Courtney Ray would be one that she never addressed when writing this article. And that’s why it seems like she doesn’t understand certain more nuanced position of non-affiliated centrists like myself, or even Republican or Liberal pro-life people who advocate legal route. I could be wrong, but it seems that way.

This question - Is abortion immoral? We can get more specific, and ask… is 2nd++ trimester abortion immoral and should be considered , with some exceptions, a convenience-motivated murder? When we answer that question… it should be rather apparent that:

  1. Trump’s behavior
  2. Women enjoying sex
  3. Efforts spent on education
  4. People doing it even if it’s illegal
  5. The poverty and distress it could result in

… are all secondary to the main question, and are more relevant to the debates about efficiency and tangents.

Again, the question is not whether abortion is ideal. The question is not whether making it illegal with deter people. The issue is about us as a society communicating values and boundaries to the future generation about denying someone entirety of any human experience on basis that it’s inconvenience or desirability for other.

The position of the leading liberal proponents involved… is no. It’s not immoral. In fact, many would suggest that it’s morally right and adequate to liberate women from the distress of “mandatory pregnancy”.

It actually goes a bit further than that, given that in many feminist circles Firestone’s concept of pregnancy is integrated as an “oppressive condition” that women are subjected to.
And while some may laugh at her call to move human reproduction out of female body into some technology… her call to “abolition of pregnancy”, serves as a hyperbolic concept of how many feminists see pregnancy.

In fact, I would argue that the feminist leadership behind pro-choice movement as we find it today is likely align with a position that abortion is not merely one of those immoral compromises like legal alcohol or tabacco, but rather that it’s a tool in the box of liberating women from oppression. Perfectly moral and necessary.

That’s something that Courtney doesn’t seem to address, or perhaps misunderstands that there is a spectrum of arguments which may range from religious axioms to complex positions that may have nothing to do with religion.

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And thank heavens we have a POTUS who upholds law. :joy:

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If you really think this President or any President can overturn Roe please come by to sign the papers for the bridge you just bought🤣

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Could you give me the chapter and verse please?

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If president Trump were pro-life, America would NOT have 205,000 deaths from coronavirus.

…or families ripped apart

…or shocking support of White Supremacy

…or demeaning disabled Americans

…or sending American military to Russian bounty hunters

…or calling members of the military “suckers”

…or defaming military heroes like John McCain as “losers”

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I am from Canada, so I do not have a dog in the political side of this fight.

I have just two very strong reasons why I am glad that adoption used to be a viable option–my fine son and daughter who were given a chance to live.

Sometimes there are no easy answers.

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Trump never killed 205,000 Americans — China who
originated the virus ( maybe even manufactured it in
biological warfare lab ) has the ultimate responsibility.
In fact if Trump had not sealed the border to China
ten days after the first US case, we would have had far more deaths.
He later, promptly cut off flights from Europe.
For this prompt action, Biden labeled Trump XENOPHOBIC,
RACIST and HYSTERICAL— so it is clear Biden would not have
taken these defensive actions !

Trump has NEVER supported white supremacy —there are multiple
statements where he has condemned it.
Plus he has done wonders for the black community
—- permanent generous funding for black collèges
—— OPPORTUNITY ZONES to upgrade black ghettos
—— the FIRST STEP ACT to reform prisons with large black populations
——the lowest unemployment rate for blacks in history ( before the pandemic )
——wanting blacks to have SCHOOL CHOICE — since their public schools are so toxic.
—— closing our border to stop a flood of illegals, willing to work for less than our American blacks.

Russian “ Bounty hunters ” were never authenticated by the US intelligence agencies

Calling dead troops “ suckers “ was disavowed by NINETEEN persons who were with
Trump on that trip to a Europe — only “ anonymous sources “ put out that false news .

The FAKE NEWS media exults in publishing unsubstantiated stories
The NEW YORK SLIMES which said Trump only paid $750 in taxes,
had buried in their umpteenth paragraph of the same article, that
Trump had paid TWENTY-FOUR MILLION $$$$ in FEDERAL ALTERNATIVE TAX,

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You state that ABSTINENCE is God’s way of preventing unwanted births.

If that is so, why did He supply teenagers with such a flood of sex hormones,
causing almost uncontrollable sexual drives and urges?

Seems He was trying to thwart His abstinence requirement ??

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Morality doesn’t necessarily work by observing what “is” and then concluding that something “ought”. It’s rather obvious that moral behavior is largely about constraints we may place on typical human urges and instincts.

Large part of human morality, for example, is about holding back the urge to slap someone, even though you may really really want to :slight_smile:

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It is apparent that some participants are not interested in what God says plainly in the Bible. The 10 Commandments are clear and God has spoken! None of the comments/arguments made trying to validate something different from what God’s Word clearly says can alter a “Thus says the Lord”. If anyone wants to believe anything different he/she has the right to their opinion. God allows any of us humans to disbelieve Him but God is also clear and all will be judged by His law and His Word, not by man’s thinking or saying differently.

For Christians this should matter, you are correct. And there should be serious consideration to all the words of God, not just whatever parts we best like, don’t you think?

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David, I respect your views and beliefs, but from where I stand… you are far down on the “God - Writers - Canonization - Systematic Theology - Translators - More Systematic Theology Revision - Cultural Conflation - Your Parent’s Pastors - You” chain of “God says plainly”.

When are we going to stop pretending that people in the US just pick up a Bible one day, read it, and understand is so clearly, that make all of the past complex theologians look like circus clowns with all of their speculations and musing about proper hermeneutics?

Bible is actually one of the most difficult book to understand, given the progressive revisions of theological presentation you find as you move from Genesis to Revelation. It is exceptionally difficult if you merely approach it with understanding of our present-day society and world.

I can appreciate that you can ignore all of that and merely assume certain things. I have been there. But, you have to at least have some idea that there are people who don’t share the same assumptions as you do, right?

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