The second item in the orders of sexuality that I have been writing about is procreativity. What I mean by this is the readiness to foster children, to contribute positively to the community, and otherwise share in the creative intent of God. So then what is procreation in the discussion of sex?
I’m going just come out with it; in the debate on abortion, I am a conception guy. I defend the position that life begins at the moment of egg meeting sperm and moving inevitably toward birth, infancy, adolescence, rebellion, and natural death (and yes, I do believe rebellion is a ‘normal’ reaction in life, from both parents and our ultimate Parent). To take this stance also allows me to defend the dignity of those who, in other ways and by other causes (natural or not) do not command full control over their minds or bodily faculties.
By defending the notion of life at conception, I am also able to defend the mentally incapacitated, comatose, and even those who are just plain ignorant (after all, a central tenet to the enemy-love that I am exploring at Duke is Jesus’ observation that our enemies ‘know not what they do’). I simply cannot find theological rationale that satisfies my reluctance to end the lives of those who may not be self-aware, self-sustaining, or physically responsive, which abortion does. I don’t think that memory or cognition is the nexus of what I understand to be the Biblical notion of “life.” Life begins before we sail down our mothers birth canal and extends after our proverbial ship pushes off and drifts toward the horizon.
So what about sex?
Well, the mainstream churches will often say, with Aquinas, that “sex is for procreation.” But as I have stated in my prior blogs, I think the order is off. Sex is for unifying intimacy first and foremost, but it also serves the purpose of creating new people. One thing in the back of my mind is how we can square that theologically in a world that is rapidly becoming over-populated, but that is probably another blog entirely.
I agree, however, that sex is, quite clearly, a means of making new human beings. I guess part of my reasoning is that babies are not made every time a couple engages in intercourse, so it cannot be only and always about babies. There must be something else that is actually essential to every sexual encounter, and that, in my opinion, is unifying intimacy. Isn’t it wonderful, then, that at times, that beautiful act results in brand new human beings?
Ok, now the debate can get a little ugly. Let’s think about abortion a little bit, since it is basically a debate about human life. I’m against abortion for the same reason that I oppose killing a fully functioning and self-sustaining human being. But I am not in favor of criminalizing abortion. I have kind of a complex political understanding of criminality that I won’t get into here, except to say that criminalizing something does absolutely nothing to reduce the occurrence of something. Prime example: Murderers still murder even though society will murder them for their murder. Making something criminal will not stop it from happening, it only makes the practice uglier and chaotic.
My next blog will be about pleasure and sex, in which I will probably talk about why orgasm should always be accidental to sex, and never an expected outcome (and I want to try to avoid repeating myself). But orgasm does touch on the procreativity aspect of sex. For men, orgasm is procreative, since semen is carried in the ejaculate that for males, to the best of my knowledge, only occurs at orgasm. For women, however, orgasm is not directly tied to the procreativity of sex. Maybe there is research out there which might suggest that orgasm increases fertility, even momentarily, but I don’t know of any myself. In this sense, I have said creative intent is constitutive to sex, but not essential – it is the literal purpose of sex, but cannot possibly be the exclusive interest of intercourse.
So what does one do with all this? What is the take away for conscientious Christians who are sexually active? My own maxim is that you probably should not be having sex with someone if you have not seriously considered the likelihood of offspring with your sexual partner. It just makes too much sense. I’m not totally opposed to contraception, but only within a serious committed monogamous relationship between equals. I can say this because unifying intimacy trumps creative intent in my book. Although, this can easily be exploited by couples who are simply lusting for one another and claim to be loving one another. The former is a craving, the latter a commitment.
Next time, I will get into more detail why I think contraception is dangerous for the ethically inclined person (not just Christians). The last blog in this little series will be about pleasure and it’s place in sex, and why it must always be accidental to sex. Anything else is simply self-gratification and violates the human dignity of your partner.