I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.
The above quote was posted by Anne Rice, author of the Vampire Chronicles, on her Facebook account. Continuing my series of posts in reaction to this quote, today I will write about Rice’s third complaint — that Christianity is anti-artificial birth control.
To be fair, this complaint is more specifically an anti-Catholic stance than an anti-Christian stance, since not all brands of Christianity take Rome’s hard line on this subject. Although there are positive things one can say about Rome’s position (abstinence is the only birth control method that is 100% effective), it has roots in the theology of St. Augustine who, if we are to be honest, was unduly influenced by both his Manchean past as well as Neo-Platonism.
Mancheaism is a gnostic religion that sees the material (including the human body) as evil. Neo-Platonism has a cosmology where God is equated with simplicity. The more complex something is, the farther away from God it is. Thus, the Mind is seen as higher than the Body, and must struggle against the Body. St. Augustine thus understands sex to be the body rebelling against the mind and is therefore equated with sin. In this view, the only redeeming aspect of sex is children.
In contrast, St. John Chrysostom states in his Homily 19 on 1 Corinthians 7:
Sex is not evil; it is a gift from God. But it can become a hindrance to someone who desires to devote all his strength to a life of prayer.
Just as with all gifts, sex can be used in a demonic as well as a salvific way. St. John understood sex in the context of marriage not as a concession to the flesh but as a means of making husband and wife one.
This view stems from a very basic Christian understanding — Christ physically took on a human body because He wanted to save the totality of our humanity, not just our soul. In turn, our body and all of its functions can and should be an integral part of our salvific transformation in Christ. Indeed, the Orthodox Church celebrates feasts of Conception (St. John the Baptist on June 24 and the Theotokos on September 8). Sex is an integral part of the history of Salvation.
To understand sex in the way St. Augustine does drives a wedge between sex and marriage and ultimately between sex and the Church. Whereas marriage is a sacrament, sex is evil. This world view is not only unhealthy, but ultimately not Christian.