Today the White House announced a broader exemption to the Health and Human Service’s rule requiring religious institutions to provide contraception coverage to their employees. Basically it says that religious institutions who object don’t have to buy it, but the insurance company will have to provide it free of charge. The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty sees this as a positive move that protects the freedom of religious institutions and provides for the health care needs of their employees.
Hopefully, this compromise will quell the concerns of those who felt the previous rule provided to narrow of an exemption for religious institution. I do wonder though if it will be sufficient. In part because I am not sure that religious liberty was their primary concern. The two religious groups that were most vocal in their criticism of the previous rule were the Roman Catholic and the Southern Baptist Convention. These are two groups who always have the subjugation of women on their unwritten agenda for engaging the world. Catholics do not allow women to serve as priest nor do Southern Baptist approve of women serving as Senior Pastors. One wonders if these two groups would have a different theology about birth control if more women were involved in their theological conversations.
Don’t get me wrong, the Catholic Church has provided the world with some brilliant and beautiful thinkers. I try to read something from Henri Nouwen and Richard Rohr everyday. St. Francis, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day still provide as good of an example of what it means to follow Jesus today as they did when they were alive. Yet in recent years we have seen that there are problems in the church when it comes to human sexuality. This is true among Catholics and Baptists as well. Unfortunately, each group has its share of predators waiting to exploit. Each group has resisted acknowledging the problem and addressing the issue. They have chosen rather to hide behind their theological priorities and ecclesiastical language. That has left us all a little less comfortable than we might have been when it comes to talking about sex.
A friend pointed out the other day how refreshing it would have been to see the kind of moral outrage from Catholic bishops over children being sexually abused as they demonstrated over the thought of having to provide birth control to their female employees. In fact, the former Archbishop of New York went in the opposite direction last week by recanting a previous apology he had made on behalf of the church to the victims of sexual abuse and their families. Catholics and Baptists alike seem to prefer telling others what is and is not acceptable rather than having open and honest conversations about sex and why God made us the way God made us. t.
In a world that is grossly overly-sexualized, the church must find a way to help families and individuals have a calm conversation about what it means that God has made sex apart of our human experience. To that end, I wish that I could be at A [Baptist] Conference on Sexuality and Covenant this April 19-21.