I have been trying all week to find out Jesus' position on contraception. According to the Catholic Church, he was definitely against it. They could be right, I suppose. I was raised in the Methodist Church, and I don't recall Reverend Pegues or my Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Cornett, having much to say about it.
The reason I have been searching for this information is because contraception is in the news, thanks to President Obama's edict last week that religious-based employers must provide contraceptive health care for their employees. Mitt Romney immediately claimed that Obama was waging an "assault on religion." His fast-rising rival, Rick Santorum, said the administration was "trying to shutter faith." And fast-fading Newt Gingrich proclaimed that the president had "declared war on the Catholic Church."
The administration quickly amended its position, requiring insurers to provide contraceptive services, rather than the institutions themselves. Polls show that most Catholics are okay with this, and, in fact, a majority (58 percent) believe that contraception should be covered in health-care plans. This is not surprising, given a recent survey that showed 98 percent of Catholic women had used artificial birth control at some point during their lives.
The truth is, one version or another of this proposed "new" national mandate is already in effect in 28 states. The nation's fifth-largest health-care system, Dignity Health (formerly Catholic Healthcare West), provides contraceptive coverage, as do Catholic universities Georgetown, Fordham, and DePaul. This is a tempest in a political teapot, mainly serving to provide rhetorical fodder for candidates looking for fresh ammo to attack the president.
I have lots of Catholic friends. I get why they love their church — its traditions, the fellowship of friends and family, the excellent and reasonably priced schools, the music, pomp, and circumstance, the good works the church performs for the downtrodden. When I go to Catholic services, I'm always moved by the power of their communal faith.
But for the majority of Catholics, that faith doesn't extend to letting the church into the bedroom. They know contraception helps prevent unwanted pregnancies that increase family size to unrealistic levels — and can lead to abortions. It's a case where common sense trumps church doctrine. I can't prove it, but I suspect Jesus would be okay with that.
It's deep in a November night in Memphis, and I'm awakened by rain. It's coming down hard, sounding like a million pebbles hitting the roof. The gutter I've been meaning to clean is overflowing outside the bedroom window. A flash of lightning illuminates the room, and I do what I've done since I was a boy: count the seconds 'til the thunder rolls. I get almost to 10 before I hear a distant rumble. Two miles or so. Someone else's lightning ...