Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Contra-coitus 1/3

Genesis 38:6-10 “And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.”

The argument is getting tired. It is pretty unequivocal that in a modern context the Catholic church’s doctrine on contraception is outdated and left largely ignored by American Catholics. There is little reason to believe that advances in science and medical technology should be ignored because of a theological--not moral argument.

And it is a theological argument. The passage from Genesis is the only passage in the entirety of the Bible that makes any mention of masturbation or non-procreative sexual intercourse. The line that specifically mentions the act, “And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.” Basically, he did not use his seed for a procreative purpose.

The Lord was not happy about this and “slew him.” But the passage doesn’t actually give the reader much insight into why the Lord was unhappy--unhappy enough to make Onan God’s sixth kill.

The reason probably has little to do with the non-procreative aspect of the act. In fact, it probably has a lot more to do with the fact that Onan directly disobeyed his father Judah, a serious violation of “honour thy father and thy mother.” Incidentally the Ten Commandments didn’t exist until several books later in Exodus so it might be excusable that Onan wasn’t quite aware of the consequences of his disobedience.

And God could be excused too--for breaking the “thou shalt not kill” commandment; although God’s omniscience and omnipresence might preclude that argument as time and causality obviously are not constraints for the Lord. And if they are then the Lord cannot logically be omnipotent. This slightly tangential argument illustrates the inadequacy of literal interpretation of the Bible. Even if the word of God was handed down directly to the writer’s of these messages were still human; uneducated ancient shepherds actually, and their original audience was similarly so. The documents were then translated and re-translated through three or four languages to finally arrive at the modern version where church doctrines derive. Then humans--divine though they may be (in the case of the Papacy)--are left to reinterpret the texts in a modern context. The direct word of God will be lost through human error. What is left is the spirit; and intentionality must be looked at rather than the literal words on the pages. It would be a grave misinterpretation of the Bible to believe that all of its answers are contained within it. The sun revolves around the Earth, the planet Venus is Satan falling from heaving, and the Earth is the center of the Universe--all of these are the results of the worldview of the original writers and obviously not the word of God. There is little reason to believe that all of the Bible is true and accurate throughout.