I have former student who posts regularly on Facebook, and we’ve gotten into more than one political discussion. What bothers me is his insistence that liberals are best represented by the extremists among us, while the religious zealots of the Right are the exceptions, rather than the rule. He insists that there are no real religious overtones in the conservative movement.
Yet somehow, over the last several weeks, I find myself listening to frontrunner conservative presidential candidates actually engaging in disparaging discussions about contraception. Not abortion; contraception. In a world where we know that countries with widespread contraception use have longer life expectancies, higher literacy rates, greater economic prosperity, and greater support for human rights. Why is this an issue? Because the Catholic Church forbids the use of contraception (though the majority of its members use it).
I have mixed feelings about the whole Catholic Church insurance hullabaloo. On the one hand, I believe in religious freedom, and mandating that a church provide money, or at least insurance premiums, to provide a service it believes to be against its central tenets seems to infringe upon that vital freedom. On the other hand, is allowing them not to cover contraception, something I would consider of vital interest to everyone’s health and welfare, the same as saying a Christian Science organization (like the Monitor) doesn’t have to provide health insurance at all? I guess many conservatives would argue that companies shouldn’t be required to provide health coverage. I can’t help but think a universal payer plan would solve all these thorny problems.
I guess what it all comes down to is that I just don’t get what seems to me like an almost fetishistic obsession the Catholic Church has with contraception. Another Facebook friend, a staunch Catholic, has been trying to explain to me how much more reverential sex is when a man “respects his wife’s fertility.” How sex without artificial birth control is “respectful of life” and therefore makes sex into a sacred act. How this brings him closer to his wife. I dunno. I’ve had some pretty spiritual sex using contraception. And sometimes DH and I just want to have a little fun. Why must it always be deep and meaningful? And must it really be fraught with the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy to reach that level? For me, that would be a real barrier to any sort of deep intimacy.
All of that aside, I just can’t believe this country is having this discussion. Simply believing that insurance should cover contraception does not equate with “being paid to have sex” any more than covering Viagra does. In fact, it equates even less. I guess we’re still caught in the paradigm of our language. A man who wants Viagra is a stud, a player, a “dawg” (said with a nudge and a wink). A woman who wants to be responsible about bringing children into the world is a slut.
But religion doesn’t play much of a part in the conservative movement.