Whose Body Is It Anyway? Birth Control Pills and Women in America

There seems to be a really bizarre movement going through our Congress which involves birth control and the Federal Government or Catholic Hospitals and Insurance and President Obama and Politics. The most outrageous of them is something like a Congressional hearing where the one woman who wanted to speak was removed because she had no standing to speak to them. Seriously? Really?

How does birth control get to be this political? I don’t want to get into the whole Catholic Freedom of Religion issue. It’s way too complex. But Congress is not a religious organization. And in a nation that has only elected one Catholic president in its 225+ years (and he was shot!), in a nation that has never voted for a Jewish person, an Islamic person (Really, Rick Santorum, Obama’s one of mine), a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Pagan, or anything else, I have trouble believing it’s about Catholic rights. In a nation where Republicans struggle with voting for a Mormon male, I just can’t even conceive (no pun intended) of the idea that our Congress is standing up for the rights of Catholics — or that it won’t stand up for the rights of women to speak about something this important to them.

I am not going to wade into the abortion issue either. I don’t want controversy here. I don’t have that much time or energy.

Here’s my point. If we men don’t want women to get pregnant, we have either got to stop having sex with them, have vasectomies, or allow women to have access to birth control. It’s actually that simple.

If we don’t want them to have abortions, then we need to give them access to birth control before that becomes necessary. And when I say, “access”, I mean in all 50 states, even in the middle of nowhere, even when there’s only a Walmart or Kmart around, even when the insurance company doesn’t want to pay for it, even when the government doesn’t want to pay for it, even when the women can’t afford it — if we don’t want to be daddies, they have to have access to birth control.

Beyond that, though, if they are Americans, we need to grant them access to their voices. We need to listen if a woman says she doesn’t want to have sex, doesn’t want to be raped, doesn’t want to be a mother yet, can’t afford a child, wants to have a career first. We need to listen to a woman if she does want to have sex, wants to be a mother, can afford one, doesn’t want to have a career other than motherhood and anything else she says about her body. We don’t have to always agree with it, but we have to hear it. We have to encourage them to say it. We have to discuss it. We have to engage them in discussions about our part in the whole birth control thing, but we have to hear what they have to say. If we don’t do that, they aren’t really Americans. Americans elect a government, Americans have voices, Americans count for something, Americans consider it a crime when they are attacked physically or threatened emotionally. They have the right to have their grievances redressed. If our Constitution says that we don’t have to allow occupying military forces to stay in our homes, then we certainly have the right not to have them occupy the bodies of any American.

We can’t wave the flag about how great America is if half the population doesn’t get their rights. We can’t talk about how free we are if half of us aren’t free to think or do with our bodies what we choose. And, as men, we can’t talk about how important the rule of law is if we think it doesn’t apply to us. No man gets to determine if, when, or how a woman thinks, acts in regard to her body, or has access to the tools which allow her to make those decisions. Some guy at a drug store in the middle of nowhere — or the middle of somewhere — gets to determine both if a woman has sex and whether or not she has access to birth control. It’s not right. By my understanding, a man shouldn’t get to determine either of them, but he definitely shouldn’t be able to determine both.

It’s not American.



But, more than that,


Answers to Emilys

At South Church this morning, our seminarian Emely Goodnow preached about the “glowing Jesus” of the transfiguration story and her experience — or lack of experience with — a call narrative. A “call narrative” is a story if how a person realized they were “called” to ministry — usually including a wham-bam-I-saw-Jesus-come-out-of- the-sky-glowing experience. Everybody in seminary is supposed to have one and they spend a lot of time discussing and sharing them.

But what if you don’t have one? Or one like that?

This morning, as balloons showered down from the balcony of the church in celebration of our confirmation class — an idea from the kids, brought into reality by my wife (in the process of ordination herself, either with or without one of those narratives) the balloons, while beautiful, got really chaotic in the sanctuary. I thought “how appropriate”. The Spirit, which the multi-colored balloons represented, is chaotic.

One of the places where I think the church errs is when they expect God to do things in a certain way. God often does things a certain way, but we — children of free will — have a God who also has free will. In short, God can do anything God wants to, even if it seems “messy” or unorthodox. God can choose people for ministry without a call narrative, or with a call narrative and everything in between. God is not particularly fond of boxes, no matter much we like them.

In this particular case, Emely glows. As I thought about writing this blog, I heard our pastor say to a woman I know as “Patty’s girlfriend” that he could “see the glow” in her as she attends classes at Hartford Seminary. He was kidding-but-not. She and I talked about it and you could see the glow come out. What I didn’t tell her was that a few years ago, George met with the Church and Ministry Committee and — after a cursory visit — the committee said, almost in unison, “Wow!”.  George had, in a few words and a brief visit, said what we needed to know — he had The Glow.  Char Corbett has The Glow. Carroll Cyr’s belief in herself — because it’s palpable — is like The Glow.

The indwelling of the Spirit (aka “the Glow”) is interesting because of — among other things — who can see it.  Among others, dogs, children and “crazy” people, and sometimes other ministers, can see it. A few years ago, my wife said about me, “dogs and children like him”. I take that as the highest form of compliment. (As I write this, my cat is stroking my hand with her head). When I visit clients’ homes, dogs act like we’re old friends. In bus stops and emergency rooms, kids come up and talk to me out of the blue. I assume that other ministry types have the same experience.

And about “crazy” people — when I work at the Institute of Living (the building for psych patients at the Hartford Hospital), I don’t have to show my credentials, I don’t have to explain why I was ordained, I don’t have to wear a robe, I don’t have to explain that I have the right to be there. The folks there seem to know — which is different than it was in seminary, which was full of intellectuals wanting to know which book I read that proved that I was smart enough, cool enough, or politically correct enough to be there.

Why is this possible? What’s with animals, children and supposedly “crazy” folks? . Years ago, Julian Jaynes wrote a book called “The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” which says that before people’s brains developed they were able to talk to God or Gods directly. As we “evolved”, human beings lost that ability. I’m sure that there’s some brain piece involved in all of this. I once saw a “Ted” lecture as part of a conference. A woman who had been brain injured in some way, but had only one half of her brain available felt all of the glow-y connections of the universe, without all the “reality” behind it. I don’t know what it all means except that we are all on a continuum between very controlled and more impulsive, more primitive and less primitive, more in touch with our emotions and less so. Animals and children can see something or sense something that we can’t… unless we train ourselves to. People with mental illness may have less brain regulation and therefore be able to sense the presence of the Holy within people.  Who knows? That’s my guess.

So that, I think, explains the glow in Emily and others in the field.  But what about a “call narrative”? How come she — and others — don’t get one? Why don’t they get the big “Wham!” experience of God? Because they don’t need it.  I believe that if God doesn’t have to yell at us, God doesn’t. It’s when things are really amiss that God has to make a showing. In the text this morning, the story has a couple of interesting details. Some commentators say that, while Peter is stumbling around for words, God basically yells, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.  Shut Up!”. Further, as Emily pointed out, the gospel records the disciples as never quite getting it and — as Jesus’ time on earth draws to a close, God wants to make sure the disciples get it.  When we’re going the wrong way, God brings us prophets who yell at us.  Our best friend whom we can talk to at any time seldom feels the need to yell at us.  I suppose “the Glow” in Emily (and others who have no Big Experience) has come quietly and over time, in drops as a steady stream over the years of her lifetime, rather than as a big bucket of SPIRIT.  We don’t have to see the light, we have to be the light.

This brings me to my last point. The  thing is that people who have “the glow” don’t generally notice it in themselves. It’s not for them to see.  It’s not there for them. It’s for all the people they minister to, to notice and be attracted to, so that, whenever wisdom comes from the Spirit, they are around to hear it. And wisdom is uttered, even when the person themselves doesn’t  even know it. As Carroll and I have talked over the past few year, it became clear that people she had touched lives without even knowing it. Adults suddenly came up and said that she has said something or taught something or done something that changed their lives. That’s what ministers do. They say or do or teach something that God wants people to be touched by.

This is why we have Committees on Ministry and Ordination Papers and such — because the community of believers confirms what has been written and said. After meeting with the intellectual crowd, the people determine if the person is called to ministry.  That’s as it should be. You can’t lead without people to lead. You can’t just say you’re a minister. You have to do ministry — for someone, at some time. People had to have been attracted to the Spirit within you and you or the Spirit has to have done something with it. We’re not given a call to talk to ourselves, so we don’t need to know if we have it. We just figure it out, with God’s help and our own sense, and with the changing of lives in some way or another.  Today, during church, it was announced that Emily is going to do a second year at South Church. A spontaneous round of applause arose from the congregation. George said, “what a coup that was”. People talked to her after worship and told her how excited they were. As I’ve said, she’s got that glow.

This post is called, “Answers to Emilys”  for a reason. There are lots of people out there like Emily, doing ministry without a call narrative, I suspect. As I said, God doesn’t much like boxes. If you are one of those people that dogs like and children are attracted to, if you are one of the people that have been told you have touched lives (even if you didn’t mean to), if people are thrilled to see you, and want to share their secrets for no particularly good reason, if people say you’re a good person and really mean it, if they say that there’s something palpable different about you, you don’t need no stinkin’ call narrative. Heck, you don’t even need to be ordained. You’ve got a call.




“Matters” means a lot of different things
1) Something to do, as in “take care of these matters right away”.
2) Something important, as in “that matters to me”
3) Something with mass or weight, the thing in physics that’s not energy. It’s the stuff that exists .

That last one is kind of odd. Apparently, there’s a lot of space in matter between the positive and negative ions. In other words, there’s a lot of nothing in the things we think of as something.

Our culture is the same way. There’s a lot of nothing that we take to mean something. I don’t want this blog to be one of them.

Life is too important. Your time is too important. Your opinion is too important. I remain convinced that my opinion is no more important than yours. It’s no less important either, so I don’t want to waste either of our times. I want this to be a place where things I value get aired and where things you valued get aired.

So what does matter to me? Certainly not everything and certainly not the things I’m supposed to be interested in. I have fantasized lately about creating a satirical “reality” magazine like the ones I see at the checkout counter where “Kim” and “Debbie” fight over “Tom”, or teen mother “Sue” grieves over her miscarriage of “Ronnie’s” child. I put these names in quotes because the magazines somehow assume I should know and care who these people are. I don’t and you won’t find them here. Ironically, I hope that this blog is more based in reality than “The Real World”. The other thing is that the blog won’t cost you as much as the magazine at the checkout counter. In addition to it being free I want people to get something from it — hope or a thought to chew on for a while or some acknowledgement of good people you don’t hear about elsewhere or news that means enough to talk about long after the next 15 minutes.

In the old days, someone like CBS used to do in-depth reporting about things like the war rather than spending 5 minutes a day for 6 months on the latest news about Monica Lewinsky — nothing of depth, said repeatedly, about someone who doesn’t make national policy and who, frankly, doesn’t matter to me. I don’t really consider this blog journalism, but I want it to be closer to the old CBS than the new CNN or FOX.
Because of that it won’t appear daily or anything. It has to stick in my craw longer than that or make my heart leap or my mind change before I will write about it, and that simply doesn’t happen every day.

So, to sum it up, I want this to be a unique and special blog about unique and special people and ideas . I want it to matter, and I hope it does.