Saturday, July 30, 2005

Where does contraception fit into the Christian life?

In my search for sources and answers in the debate on contraception, I spoke with my brother-in-law, who graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville and has just finished his masters in theology and pastoral ministries. One thing he pointed out to me was that in the debate over contraception, we must not lose sight of the big picture. We can argue over Scripture verses and semantics and such, but the bigger question must not be overlooked: where does contraception fit into the Chrisitan life, and more specifically Christian marriage?

We can clearly see in Scripture, that God's most prominent image of the relationship He wants to have with His church, His people, is the image of marriage. God continually, throughout the Old and New Testaments, speaks of Himself as the bridegroom and His people as the bride. He even uses images of the sexual marital act as an analogy of the intimacy He wants to have with us in the Old Testament book The Song of Solomon. The book of Hosea speaks of a woman who was unfaithful to her husband as an analogy of how we as God's people are unfaithful to Him. In Ephesians 5, husbands are told to "love their wives as Christ loves the Church".

Since the marital image is used so much in our understanding of God's relationship to us, we in our Christan marriages must strive to make our marriages like the relationship between God and His people: faithful, unitive, trustworthy, pure, true, completely loving, sacrificial, life giving etc. Our Christian marriages must mirror the marriage God has with His people. Our Christian relationship in marriage must mirror the relationship God has with His people.

With this understanding of marriage being a model of God's love for us, and with the understanding that we must make our marriages like that relationship between God and His people, where does contraception fit? Where would contraception fit into the relationship with God and His people? Where would contraception fit into the marriage of God and His people, the supreme Bridegroom and Bride? Where would the concept of contraception theologically fit into this holy relationship?

If our Christian marriages are to mirror the relationship God has with His people, where does contraception come in? When would God use an image of contraception in His relationship with His people? Where would something that prevents the creation of life be allowed in the ultimate life-giving relationship between the Creator and His creatures?

God would never, has never, and does not in any circumstances use any image of contraception whatsoever in His relationship, in His marriage to His people. Ever.

So, why should we?

A response...

In another discussion on the issue of contraception and the Catholic Church's stance on it, a commenter on Elena's blog asks for reliable sources stating that the word "sorcery" when used in the Bible refers to contraception. I found this in the forums at Catholic Answers and thought I would share what a user named "BibleReader" posted on the subject:

First, a list of the Scriptural references to "pharmakeia" found in this thread.

Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery [pharmakeia], hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Revelation 9:21: Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic potions [pharmakeia], their unchastity, or their robberies.

Revelation 21:8: But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers [pharmakeus], idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

Revelation 22:14-15: Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates. Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers [pharmakeus], the unchaste, the murderers, the idol-worshipers, and all who love and practice deceit.

Note how each use of the pharmak-related term is paired-up with sinful sexual activity. (Commentators aware of the contraceptive meaning of pharmakeia concede that "idolatry" in the Galatians verse probably refers to fertility worship in the Gnostic temples competing with Judaism and Christianity -- celebrating the Gnostic pantheon with sex.)

Then more is explained in this thread on a slight history of the use of contraception and how it relates to the words "pharmakeia" and "sorcery":

In fact, around 500 B.C., North Africans discovered silphium. It is not the same "silphium" commercially available today. The silphium of North Africa was a fennel-like plant, which grew wild in North Africa -- nobody ever figured out how to cultivate it. Orally imbibed as a tea, it completely disrupted the girl's reproductive tract. It was a very successful contraceptive. Around 400 A.D., the last silphium plant was picked, and the species became extinct.

Remember "Simon of Cyrene" who helped Christ carry the cross in the gospels? Well, Cyrene, Libya, was the main point of export for silphium. In the centuries before Christ, Cyrene even minted a coin featuring a naked girl holding up a fennel plant and pointing to her genital region.

Other popular and somewhat successful contraceptive herbs used before and after Christ were asafoetida, and what we today refer to as Queen Anne's Lace, and pennyroyal. Asafoetida is still sometimes used as an ingredient in Worcestershire saurce. (Please do not go out and brew your own contraceptive teas or drink a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. You don't know enough about quantity.)

All of these contraceptive preparations game to be referred to with the euphemism pharmakeia in the Greek-speaking Roman Empire -- "drugs."

All of this is well-discussed in the March/April, 1994 issue of Archaeology magazine.

The main retailers of pharmakeia in the Roman Empire were sorcerers! -- palm readers, tea leaf readers, and so on.

The local teaveling sorcerer would come into town. The local promiscuous girls would go running to the sorcerer to ask about his or her latest love prospects. The reader would give the usual vague optimistic answer, and then after charging for her reading would open up her box of contraceptive teas, and make some more money selling these.

As a consequence, contraceptives also came to be referred to with the appellation "sorcery," meaning "sorcerer's stuff." Contraceptive curses -- incantations meant to avert conception -- were referred to with the word magiae, "magic."

The reason why you had to read all of that is to understand the exact meaning of a catechetical summary employed in the early Church -- very shgortly after the time of the Apostles -- called the Didache.

Didache 2:2 condemns (1) magiae; (2) pharmakeia; (3) abortion; and (4) infanticide.

Do you see what is going on there? Progressively-invasive anti-reproductive measuresare being condemned -- reproductive curses, contraceptive chemicals, post-contraceptive abortions, and post-birth child killing.

So, the Didache, essentially written in the same era as Paul's letter to the Galatians and as the Book of Revelation, is a reliable benchmark assuring us that when pharmakeia were condemned by Early Church Christians, use of contraceptives was being condemned.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Struggling to get through "Max Tivoli"

I am currently reading The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer for my book club, and it is taking me forever! I can usually fly through a 200-300 page book in a few hours if I have a quiet day. But at most it takes me a couple of days to read a book. I am currently on day-5 of my attempts to read this book and only on page 167 (I have another 100 pages to go).

The story is about a man who ages in reverse. He is born with the appearance of an old man, and by the time he dies he will appear as a newborn baby, hence being able to guess with great accuracy the year of his death. It is the story of his struggle to act as if he is actually the age he appears, even though he is the opposite inside. And it is also the depserate stuggle to live out the middle of his life to the fullest, where he looks and is the same both inside and outside.

The problem is that I really don't care about anyone in this book. The author has made most of them completely annoying. I don't even passionately hate or disagree with them, and that would at least be something. I find the romance particularly unromantic, and the book moves at such a slow pace that it is difficult to muster up much of a desire to pick it up again after I have taken a break from it (which is quite frequently).

Greer's writing style is very descriptive, so if you like that kind of writing, then you would love this book. You can really get a feel of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of late 19th century-early 20th century San Francisco, where this book is mostly set. But some of his descriptions leave me totally confused, as he usues analogies and metaphors that don't seem to make any sense or that seem like a real stretch. Sometimes it appears he writes for the sake of sounding like a great writer instead of using words that truly encompass the mood or meaning of the moment. For example, when decribing the energy of a supposedly romantic scene, he decribes it like the pulse of venom pouring out of a snake. And I tried, really hard to determine why he chose those words to describe what should have been a passionate, romantic moment, but either I am oblivious to his intentions or his choice of words leaves something to be desired.

So, since book club meets tomorrow, I will keep plugging along through this book. But if this wasn't a book club choice, I would've put it down and inevitably returned it unfinished to the library 3 days ago.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Can you tell I have writer's block?

I have pretty much blogged about absolutely nothing lately. I just have nothing to say when I sit down to my computer. It's a shame. Maybe it is because my kids are all out of school and home for the summer so I find myself devoid of thought whenever I get any free time? Maybe it's because my air conditioner is old and needs some work and so I am too hot to write anything intelligent? Who knows. I have made some comments here and on other blogs, but that's about it. And I have read plenty of things I find interesting, but I usually find some kind of commentary on other blogs or websites that state exactly what my thoughts were, so I end up not writing about it myself. So, excuse me for the incessant links to other interesting places or the plethera of jokes that may be appearing here until I finally find something I want to write about.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A King Solomon Joke

Here's a joke a priest at our parish told during this past week's Mass.

There were two women who approached the wise King Solomon for intervention in a dispute they were having. With them was a young man, and they each brought their daughters as well.

The first women called out to King Solomon, "Oh, wise, King Solomon, this young man agreed to marry my daughter and begin a family with her."

The second woman said, "No, King Solomon, that is not true. The young man agreed to marry MY daughter. How can we settle this situation?"

King Solomon contemplated this situation. He then told the guard to approach the young man with his sharpest sword, and then said,"We will cut this young man in half, that way each daughter can have half of him."

The first woman said, "Oh, yes this is an acceptable solution. Let's cut him in half."

The second woman said, "Oh, no. Do not shed the blood of this man over this dispute. The other daughter may have him and marry him."

King Solomon said, "Good, it is then settled."

The crowd grew agitated and approached the King saying, "Oh, wise, King Solomon, why did you allow the first woman's daughter to marry the young man? She would have killed him over the matter!"

King Solomon said, "Yes, the first woman indeed would have killed the young man. But she also proved her self to be a true...mother-in-law".

I want to clarify that I love my mother-in-law dearly and have a very good relationship with her. Really!

Woman saved from forced abortion

I knew about China's policy of one-child-per-couple, but I admit that I had no clue that the situation was anything like what this article described. Since this is a situation I don't know much about, are women's organizations going to the aid of these women? What kind of advocacy is there for victims of this kind of opression? To hear that China was "strongly criticized" just isn't enough for me; why would they care?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Joke for the Day

Two Lines

When everybody on earth was dead and waiting to enter Paradise, God appeared and said, "I want the men to make two lines. One line for the men who were true heads of their household and the other line for the men who were dominated by their women. I want all the women to report to St Peter."

Soon, the women were gone and there were two lines of men. The line of the men who were dominated by their wives was 100 miles long, and in the line of men who truly were heads of their household, there was only one man.

God said, "You men should be ashamed of yourselves. I created you to be the head of your household. You have been disobedient and not fulfilled your purpose. I told you to be the spiritual leader in your family. Of all of you only one obeyed. Learn from him. Tell them, my son, how did you manage to be the only one in this line?"

The man replied, "I don't know, my wife told me to stand here."

from one of the ladies at CMOMC.

Friday, July 15, 2005

A Meme

Tagged by both Kate and Renee.

What I was doing 10 years ago: I was working at a local restaurant getting ready for my senior year in high school, unknowingly a couple of months away from meeting my soulmate, Gorgeous Redhead, in September, on a Church retreat team we were both serving on.

5 years ago: Living in Oregon, wanting to move back to California to b near family and close friends, pulling my hair out even though I only had 2 kids at the time, and pregnant with my third.

1 year ago: Spending my summer pretty much the same as this one: keeping active with the kids, taking them to swim lessons, suffering in 100 degree California heat, getting excited about the county fair, prepping one child to enter kindergarten, and spending time with my friends and with the MOMS Club ladies.

Yesterday: Suffering in 105 degree weatherm, and doing pretty much nothing; I slept a lot and had a pretty bad headache. Took the kids to swim lessons and vacation bible school.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
Salt and vinegar potato chips
salami with cream cheese and peppers
peach yogurt
tomatoes with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
fruit salad

5 songs I know all the words to:
Many ABBA songs
Rich Girl by Gwen Stefani
Gloria by Laura Brannigan
We Go Together by the cast of Grease
We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel

5 things I would do with $100 million dollars:
Buy land for my prish to build all the facilities they need
By a house
Buy a bigger automobile
Take a trip to New York
Go on a shopping spree for all of my family's needs

5 locations to which I would like to run:
New York
New Orleans
Las vegas

5 bad habits I have:
being extreme: I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person
Talking too much
yelling at my kids when I get angry
eating ice
getting irritated at stupid drivers.

5 things I like doing
going yard sale-ing
talking with friends
swimming in the ocean
being with my husband

5 things I would never wear:
leopard prints
a string bikini
a corsett
black fish net stockings
a mu-mu

5 TV shows I like:
Veronica Mars
The Amazing Race

5 biggest joys of the moment:
Feeling my baby kick
air conditioning
anything having to do with my husband
my kids passing their swim lessons
my 2 year-old's kisses

5 favorite toys:
my computer
my telephone
my TV
can't think of aything else

5 next victims
John B.
martha, martha

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's a....

BOY! Had our ultrasound today and found out. Now we need to completely rearrange the boys' room around to make room for baby brother.

Been so busy and on-the-go and it is VERY hot here where I live (hit 105 today). Sorry I'm not around much.

Send out a prayer for my baby boy! By the way, I want him to be named Stephen, but we still have until December so I hope Gorgeous Redhead and I don't change our minds.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Unfortunately, this is me.

The Lost-in-the-kitchen Generation

HYDE PARK, N.Y.(AP) Even as "food culture" blossoms in countless cookbooks and chef shows, many adults simply don't know cooking basics.

Experts blame it on a transmission breakdown. While parents traditionally shared cooking tips with their kids, the passage of kitchen wisdom has become rarer among time-pressed modern families.

On a weekend when other kitchen classrooms at the Culinary Institute of America are packed with adults preparing paella and green mango salad, Chef Greg Zifchak is teaching Chicken Roasting 101.

Fifteen students in Zifchak's "Cook's Skill Development" class mimic his graceful stuffing, trussing and slicing with uneven results. Onions are chopped tentatively and tied-up drumsticks flop around. One student holds a green sprig up and asks "Is this thyme?"

"My mother was a working woman, a career woman," said 38-year-old Beth Nolcox, one of the students. "There wasn't that transfer of skills or recipes."

Call it the lost-in-the-kitchen generation _ as families began eating together less often, a sizable number of people grew up never learning to brown ground beef slowly or to add butter to minestrone to heighten flavor.

John Nihoff, a professor of gastronomy at the culinary institute who studies food culture, said that as society became more work-oriented in the '60s, not only was Mom more likely to work outside the home, but workdays for both parents got longer.

With Mom and Dad both out of the house more, families cooked less and relied more on store-bought food. The old tradition of Mom passing on cooking skills suffered, Nihoff said. He notes that Americans now spend $121 billion a year on "home meal replacements" _ partially- or fully-cooked dinners eaten at home that are bought in restaurants or supermarkets.

Many parents figure: Why roast a chicken when they're already rotating on the spit at the supermarket?

But even in families that prepared home-cooked dinners, younger adults say the after-school focus was more on tending to homework than to cooking.

"I knew how to boil water, but my mother never said, `This is what you have to do.' So I just kind of picked up everything myself," said Laura Boggs, a 22-year-old Albany resident. She took cooking lessons last summer from a "foodie" friend in return for teaching him to play guitar.

"I never touched a food processor before then," she said.

Chef Zifchak comes across adults with kitchen knowledge gaps all the time. He said none of the students in his recent skills class handled knives correctly. And he noticed students seemed overly impressed when he demonstrated how to saute fish.

"It was like, 'Oh my God, he makes it looks too easy,'" he said, "and all I did was heat up oil and put a piece of fish in the pan."

Zifchak accordingly kept his kitchen tips simple: Don't overstir while caramelizing onions, baste a lot for successful browning, leaning on the stove is "very dangerous."

What's being lost is more than just a quaint skill, but an important family tradition that encourages healthier eating, said Lisa Young, a nutritionist and author of "The Portion Teller." She said that instead of baking potatoes and broiling flounder, parents are bringing in french fries and deep-fried fish. A dietof that sort of food can lead to obesity and other health problems, she said.

"It's higher in fat, higher in salt, higher in calories, bigger portions ... and it's lower in fiber and lower in vitamins and minerals," Young said.

There's a danger the problem will become self perpetuating _ a generation without kitchen skills passes on little more than take-out-ordering skills to their children. But Nihoff sees signs of change.

The renewed interest in fresh, wholesome food feeds into the notion of family cooking. People still want to cook _ particularly when they settle down to raise families, he said.

And if Mom or Dad didn't teach them, they're finding how-to-cook information through other sources. Cookbooks touching on everything from eggs to escargot are a boom business. Food shows are on 24-7 and there's a rapidly growing number of culinary courses available _ like the daylong course Nolcox took with Chef Zifchak.

Midway through, Nolcox admitted that rushing around the kitchen and prepping chicken with partner Monique Heenan was a little different than watching chefs on TV. But despite the sweltering heat and stray hairs pasted to her forehead, she said she was happy:

"It's exciting to be a real chef!"

My parents both worked quite a bit. When my mom did cook, she preferred to do it alone in the kitchen; I guess it was her down-ime or something. But I pretty much was completely ignorant of cooking and kitchen-knowledge when I got married. In fact, anything domestic regarding cooking, cleaning, homemaking, etc., was something I was ignorant of and have had to slowly learn throughout my married life.

It is frustrating not being the "perfect happy homemaker" like I always wanted to be, but I do my best, which probably doesn't measure up to some. What will probably happen is that I will finally get it down the day before my kids leave the nest. Isn't that how it always is? When we finally master something, it is then time to move on the the next task.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Thankful to have seen...

...Hotel Rwanda last night. It's a perfect way to begin the 4th of July holiday. I woke up today completely thankful for the country we live in, the freedoms we have, the security we have, and the fear that we don't have and can't completely understand without having lived it. Another thought that brought me gratitude, but also much guilt, is that if I were in another country and something bad happened to me, I would either be saved, rescued, fought for, or internationally mourned, not because I am a human being, a child of God, or a victim, but because I am an American. All of us who are American citizens have much to reflect on today. Independence Day? I'm thinking that today is actually Thanksgiving.

Inside Annullments: pre-marital sex, contaception, and abortion

Here is a very interesting article that gives us the perceptions and conclusions of a canon lawyer who deals with annullments on a regular basis.

Here's one interesting point:

Why is this an issue? To begin, the problems that lead to divorce are often already noticeable during the courtship. Yet couples who engage in pre-marital relations will commonly overlook these differences. Thus the problems remain unresolved going into the marriage. Once married, however, these problems are both harder to resolve and more difficult to ignore.

“I knew this was a problem,” many women share during their interview. “But I had invested so much into our relationship.” This is a common euphemism when a woman engages in pre-marital relations. She cannot break off the relationship without feeling used. Men tend to state things more bluntly: “I had my doubts, but we were living together. So I felt obliged to marry.”

Notice how pre-marital sex creates a false intimacy within an insecure relationship. The couple feel compelled to marry. This compulsion arises neither out of love, nor from a desire to build a life together. Rather, the decision to marry arises from a guilty conscience.

This would greatly explain the high rate of divorce among couples who have lived together before marrying.

There probably would be some who diagree with points in this article, but how can we dispute what this man has actually witnessed and experienced with these couples? It's a very interesting perspective.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Deep Impact

Am I the only one who isn't so keen on this idea? I know, I know, NASA hitting a comet to study its origins is great and wonderful in the name of science and knowledge. But am I being paranoid if I am a subscriber to the idea that curiosity killed the cat? Well, obviously at least one person thinks I'm a dimwitted peon:

"Some people think we ought to give it a try. Others are shocked at the idea of blowing up an innocent little comet that never did any harm to anyone. Converting a periodic comet (like Encke) into a mass of bomb plasma seems to them as bad as shooting a faithful old horse and selling it to a glue factory."

On that scale, comparatively speaking, the worst that will happen to Comet Tempel 1 on the Fourth of July is that we’ll give it a black eye.

I'm sorry, I know a lot of people who get angry over getting a black eye, much less a powerful, destructive comet. Has anyone over there read Ray Bradbury's The Sound of Thunder? Isn't that the story of the time traveler who removes a prehistoric butterfly and ends up destroying the planet and humankind as he knows it? I just think that when it comes to nature, there's just some things we shouldn't be messing around with.

But I'll still try to watch it tomorow night.