About the morning after
By Michael Veenema
By now many people are aware of the "morning-after" pill. The questions that have been raised as to the possible use of this drug are far more weighty than those associated with the taking of Aspirin. University chaplains have been quoted showing disagreement about the implications of its use.
It should not be surprising that views on the drug can contrast sharply. Whether or not a society chooses to make use of it touches on many important matters.
Consider the issue of individual freedom. Does a human being have the freedom to terminate the life of the product of conception? And if she does, is that freedom affected by any responsibility to that living product?
Or consider the matter of expressing our sexuality. Does the quest for such a pill and its marketing not suggest very strongly that we see ourselves as being determined or enslaved by our body (sexual) chemistry and that we are committed to doing away with the consequences of such determining forces? What has happened to our ability to abstain in this, our abstinence-starved culture? (I am thinking not only of abstinence with regard to sex but also to anything that appears desirable). Aren't we becoming more and more like slaves of our appetites, unwilling to master ourselves?
Also, consider the matter of how we view or bodies. Are they mere machines (very complicated ones) that we can manipulate as we desire? Or are they a gift to us from the Creator who requires that we treat them and the whole of creation as a gift, with gratitude and reverence? And what happens to us when we begin to act as self-serving manipulators rather than stewards of what the Creator has given?
Pop artist Joan Osborne asks, "What if God's just one of us; just a slob like one of us?" If he were, that would be touching. It would give those of us who feel down on ourselves or bewildered and trying to find our way home someone to relate to. There is a sense in which God is a slob. It takes a while to say in what sense that is and that is not my purpose right now.
But if God is a slob, he is also more. If he were not, he would not be God. And if he is more, what kind of more is he? Annie Dillard writes about people who go to church services without being conscious of what they are hearing or saying:
"Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies' straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping God may wake someday and take offence, or the waking God may draw us out to where we can never turn." - ("Teaching a Stone to Talk," Christianity Today, Aug. 12, 1996)
The Judeo-Christian Scriptures remember a God like this. "The Lord reigns, let the nations tremble. . . let the earth shake." - (Psalm 99)
Here we see God as a god of unspeakable power, a god whose entrance would cause some major shaking up of any culture which has isolated itself from him, as ours has. Here we see a god who is not domesticated or tamed.
This would be just the sort of God who might well confront us with a call to treat our sexuality with care rather than abandon. He might well summon us to treat all that pertains to life, especially to human life, with humility rather than hubris. He might well view with contempt and offence any movement toward treating ourselves and other human beings as if we are all little more than complicated machines.