14 November 2007

His Holy Bride

Contraception fits somewhere onto the "unchastity" spectrum of sin. I'm still figuring out exactly where. As an adult convert to CSPP, I don't understand it implicitly like I do the sins I grew up with, and it's more insidious anyway.

Pastor Petersen says, "Sexual sins are [more] destructive than other sins because they are most against what God made us to be. They are most reflective of our depravity." I've spent some time pondering why adultery carries the scandal it does, such that (for example) Dorothy Sayers writes on "The Six Other Deadly Sins" and everyone knows exactly what she's getting at. No commandment makes us sit up straighter than the 6th, even though God puts it down toward the bottom of the page. I think this is what Pastor Petersen is getting at, and here is how I understand it: adultery is the most perfect, grotesque anti-icon; the truest picture of sin. Virtue is personified in the virgin, sin is personified in the harlot. The horror of sin is that the Bridegroom finds his beloved in leather and spikes at the trashiest truck stop in town, and she laughs at his anguish. The miracle of justification is that at the marriage feast of the Lamb, the bride wears white without deceit or guile. Her mother doesn't have to comfort her by saying, "It really doesn't mean that anyway." She doesn't think to herself in shame, "I don't deserve this."

I think this is also why female infidelity causes more scandal than male infidelity (historically at least--things have evened up, and even gone too far the other direction in these utterly depraved latter days). We don't have a spiritual schema for male infidelity, because the Bridegroom is always faithful. But how well the Bride knows, and deplores on some level, her own infidelity.

Where does contraception fit into the icon, or the anti-icon? Selfishness and all that, but I still have trouble pinning it down in my mind. I wonder if this is because the Scriptural eschatological icon ends with the marriage feast, the consummation. We don't see how the story continues. All we know is that God's love is by definition incarnational: he gives us his perfect material creation, his Son in the flesh, his Son's body and blood so that we eat and drink the forgiveness of our sins. We know that our Mother, the Church (aka the Bride of Christ), bears sons and daughters of God through Holy Baptism as often as she has opportunity. These things show us that true love naturally manifests itself in real, tangible ways outside of the Lover. But somehow chastity has been reduced to sex, and huge numbers of Christians who wouldn't dream of compromising on the extramarital sex front roll their eyes or get angry when somebody suggests that babies can't be removed from chastity equation.

Help me out here. Pregnant women shouldn't pretend to think (except Reb. Mary, whom we all know to be the brains of this operation, pregnant or otherwise).


Reb. Mary said...

***Hysterical laughter*** My current mental topics:
1)Where DID I put those car keys? and 2)What is the chocolatiest food we have in the house and how much of it can I eat before my husband gets home from teaching midweek?
If I can get #2 answered, there just (possibly) might be room for another thought in there. Doubtfully. How is it that the uterus, though technically not in a position to affect the brain as directly as it does, for instance, the bladder, still manages to squeeze all the gray matter into useless little pockets of mush?

Rebekah said...

Tell me about it. I am so unable to think of anything outside of the current moment that I've been wondering if it's safe for me to drive. My brain is pure cheese. Velveeta, even. The stupidest of cheeses.

The Gauntlets said...

And you're both pregnant. I'm only sort-of post-partum, but every time I try to think it gets ugly.

It's like being a mouse, I imagine: Eat. Run. Hide. Eat. Run. Hide.

Um . . . rebekah? Velveeta isn't cheese.

Pr. H. R. said...

It's chez.

The Gauntlets said...

Ha! Like chez chic?

That Velveeta is sooooo, like, chez! *squeal*

Oui. C'est bizarre chez un fromage!

Rebekah said...

You guys are really not helping me with my theological confusion.

Reb. Mary said...

OK, Rebekah, since you’ve been CSPP longer and truer than I have and since you’ve got brain cells to spare, even given pregnancy’s pasteurized processed chez by-product magic, seems to me that if you can’t answer this one, it might be hopeless at this point in our lives. (I know Gauntlets could help us if she could get over the chez giggles :) )

But what is bloggery for if not for uninformed P-brains to render their opinions, no matter how unqualified?

So: my addled brain thinks the key may lie somewhere in, as you said, how chastity has been reduced to sex. Youth groups send the message NO SEX TILL MARRIAGE quite emphatically. There’s focus a-plenty on the thou-shalt-nots and earnest discussion about exactly “how far you can go.” (I think I remember reading a devo to this effect once…)

This totally misses the fact that chastity, modeled on the covenantal relationship of God/Israel Christ/Church is about wholeness. It’s not about setting up boundary lines on bodies to say when/where touch is ok or about picking and choosing our favorite aspects of faithfulness. It’s pretty darn clear that the covenantal marriage relationship is all or nothing. (That’s partly what people don’t get when they get all upset about the “OT God” destroying anything that isn’t holy/consecrated utterly to him.)

The self-giving in the Sacrament is not only incarnational, but complete. Nothing like, well, how ‘bout if you just take an arm and a leg or do a little bloodletting and we’ll call this redemption thing even. No, the Bridegroom gives Himself completely—and the Bride is called to do the same. That’s chastity—whether it’s married chastity or single chastity. (Hence the virtue in the papist tradition of locating weddings within the Mass.)

So contraception removes something from the complete self-giving. It “cheats” by subtracting from the wholeness, by wanting to claim the privileges and pleasures of marriage without the self-sacrificial responsibility. Cheating isn’t chaste—whether it’s cheating with someone else or cheating with your spouse.

“This is my body, mostly given for you” just isn’t quite the same as the original.

I’m shooting from the hip here (which is getting harder all the time, as none of my body parts seem to be where I thought I had left them). So someone else should jump in here.

Pr. Conner said...

Speaking of cheese, our dairy plant in town produces something like 100,000 pounds of cheese per day. Talk about a cheesy town!

Anyway, I'm w/ Reb. Mary on the wholeness of chastity. I think Luther says it well in his explanation to the sixth commandment: "We should fear and love God so that we lead a sexually pure and decent life in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other." Luther doesn't mention any "we should fear and love God so that we do not..."

Instead he mentions sexual purity (which isn't just not doing something) in what we say and do. In other words, "wholeness." I can't help but think that we "say" things with our bodies.

Chastity is something we communicate with our bodies (something we incarnate). Contraception allows people to lie with their bodies (like Reb. Mary said, "cheating"). It just seems to rob chastity of its fullness and its fruitfulness. Reminds me of the movie Lars and the Real Girl (check out http://www.worldmag.com/articles/13478 for a review of this movie)

Reb. Mary spoke of Jesus "mostly" giving His body for us. Well said.

I also imagine someone approaching the font with a swimmer's cap on so as not to get wet. Something just ain't right.

The Gauntlets said...

Hmm . . . Well . . .

As you said, the Holy Bride is currently in the business of producing children, but virginally, if you will. Children born not of natural descent nor of human decision of a husband's will but of the will of God--children produced by the Holy Spirit, born of Holy Baptism, nursed (so to speak) on the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord.

So, BC as an anti-icon: It seems to me that if we want to participate as metaphors of this greater reality seen in Christ and His Bride, we avoid its use whenever possible. We women are still made mothers through earthly marriage and earthly consummation, but we look forward to a time when our motherhood will more closely reflect that of the Holy Virgin. To reject the motherhood metaphor (and it is an ongoing metaphor, not a one-, maybe two-shot occurrence) is to, in a way, reject participation in the greater reality. And it is to reduce sex to a trifling thing, as small and sinful as scratching an itch or blowing your nose. (Herein lies the chastity question, I think.)

Just as those things will pass away with the coming of Christ, so, too, will sex. However, in the meantime, let us make greater use of our marriages, for unlike itches and colds marriages can produce those whom God calls to Himself in Baptism and who will live forever as His children AND OURS in the life that is to come.

Rebekah said...

Hey, you guys are great. I knew you could help me. Thanks for the good thoughts; RM and Pastor C, I'll pester you to talk more about the wholeness issue one of these days. And Gauntlets: your intuitive orthodoxy never ceases to impress me. Blessed are you.

But in the meantime, I keep coming back to the idea that the shameful Lutheran punting on this topic is symptomatic of a general Lutheran tendency toward the non-RC (and also non-sacramental, thus non-catholic) branches of the Reformation. When we identify with theologies that are non-sacramental and non-incarnational, we end up frolicking through esotericland, waiting to hear the voice of Jesus everywhere other than where he's promised it in tangible quantity. This then screws up our theology of everything. There are a lot more Lutheran churches these days looking Baptist or Methodist than Roman Catholic. I can guess which camp has more crowded parsonages. (Don't worry, I'm not thinking about making up with the pope. Just sayin'.)

Reb. Mary said...