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NOM in St. Paul: a disturbing perversion of Christianity

Timothy Kincaid

July 28th, 2010

The National Organization for Marriage presented its usual speakers in St. Cloud, Minnesota today. But it also presented someone who made the most peculiar and disturbing speech we’ve yet observed on their tour.

First, let me say that it is appropriate that religious moral teaching – along with other codes of ethics – deal with appropriate sexuality. Violation, abuse of trust, maturity, fidelity and even abstinence are all issues about which people of faith may and should determine ideals and personal goals.

It is not peculiar or inappropriate for Christianity – or any other belief system – to establish rules of self-comportment which preclude using others sexually and which encourage abstinence before commitment and fidelity afterword. But lately I’ve seen faith leaders who go far beyond ethical sexuality and who have gone so far as to spiritualize and even deify heterosexuality.

Take, for example, this report by NOM’s blogsite (perhaps Maggie Gallagher) of a speech by Father Mike Becker, the rector of St. John Vianney Semi­nary in St. Paul:

Father Mike Becker, from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, told supporters today that from a spiritual perspective, “Marital intimacy is a prayer,” relaying the account of a woman who told him that she believed there were angels in the room rejoicing when her child was conceived.

That is, to me, shocking coming from a Christian minister.

The idea of “intimacy” as an offering to a deity is not a new one. Fertility cults, wherein deities are honored by sacred acts of f*cking, were at one time a dominant religious experience on the planet. Sexuality is a powerful force and linked as it is with procreation and rebirth and the cycles of the seasons, it was almost inevitable that it would become a focal point of worship.

But not for Christians. The Protestant long Judeo-Christian heritage is one of rejection of “sacred sex.” Indeed, most scholars agree that the Levitical sexual restrictions exist in a part due to the sex worship of neighboring Canaanites. And New Testament Christians set themselves apart from the collection of Roman deities with their temple prostitutes.

To say that “marital intimacy is a prayer” is not only heretical, but a very disturbing perversion of Christianity, as I know it to be. And to conjure up images of invisible demi-gods hovering about watching you have sex is not only exhibitionistic, but hearkens back to Samhain fires and Astarte temples. While these may have an appropriate place in the religious lore of others, they are certainly not a part of Protestant Christianity.

I am troubled that many of those who oppose civil equality for gay people do so not limit themselves to matters of sexual ethics. Rather, for a while some have been demonstrating an obsession with sex that borders on the deification of heterosexuality. But this is by far the most extreme that I’ve seen.

UPDATE: More from Courage Campaign:

We also met with Father Michael Becker, a Catholic priest whose main argument against homosexuality was centered around the practice of anal and oral sex. According to Father Becker, anal and oral sex lack dignity because they abuse their partners as instrumentalities of pleasure for non-procreative potential.

He said it, not me.

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homer
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

When Maggie Gallagher was in Tucson she basically stated the same thing- that sex was sacred (and told us that she didn’t use birth control- ewwwwww).

johnathan
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

Wait! Homer, when was Maggie Gallagher in Tucson? I shudder at the thought that she even entered to disgrace our beautiful city.

Ray
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

A song to confirm the voyeurism of demi-gods.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC1rODAvKXI

Jim Burroway
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

Actually, the line about “marital intimacy is a prayer” would not be considered heretical in the Catholic church. This is a religion that places all acts in the context of prayer, much as the early Shakers did in 18th an 19th century America.

This isn’t the same as “sacred sex,” since that pagan practice was taken as a ritual undertaken solely for the satisfaction of a god. But rather the Catholic belief that all acts, not just words spoken or unspoken, constitute prayer when done prayerfully. This teaching was at the very heart of Mother Teresa’s ministry. It is also a part of John Paul II’s “theology of the body.” All physically acts, then, are acts of prayer, as is every thought from the head or yearning of the heart. Catholicism doesn’t divide physicality from spirituality as often happens in Protestantism.

I know the words used here must be very confusing among Evangelicals who are accustomed to look at a lot of religious beliefs through the prism of pagan “contamination.” But that understanding of sexual acts as ritual would be equally confounding and appalling to Catholics. I don’t see that as being what Fr. Becker meant.

David
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

This is not surprising to me; I’ve seen it inside the ex-gay movement.

I’m not now (nor have I ever been) a member of the ex-gay party. However, my parents promptly joined an ex-gay ministry when I came out to them – a ministry where they still remain, now leaders and consulting other parents on how to relate to their gay child (amusing since they have almost no relationship with me).

Long story short, I found out about their involvement in this ex-gay group second-hand. I went onto the group’s forum to see what they were talking about. Many interesting and thoroughly disturbing things on there. But here’s a quote from the local leader of the ministry (half-remembered; I have it saved to disk on my home computer, if anyone wants the exact words I can go look them up tonight):

‘Sex between a man and a woman is the highest way of worshiping God there is. It is a perfect match of spiritual and physical complementary as God intended it to be.’

This floored me when I read it. Apparently Ricky (that is the man’s name) has abandoned New Testament teaching on sex in order to resurrect some perverse form of fertility/sex worship with Yahweh tacked on the side. Whether it’s Canaanite or Roman doesn’t matter, it’s clearly not Christian. Apparently Jesus and Paul never worshipped God as highly as they could’ve, since they weren’t dedicating themselves to passionate, hetero lovin’. Sinners.

But stepping back and looking at it – he’s just taking his anti-gay-obsessed reasoning to its logical conclusion. There’s very little in the Bible about homosexuality, and what’s there is far less difficult to rationalize than, say, the bits about women having to have a sign of authority on their head. So to prop up their fervently anti-gay views, they’ve gone into obsessing about procreation and some nebulous concept of “male-female complementarity,” and couched it in deeply religious language. What else could possibly emerge from that bubbling cauldron but a fertility cult?

Jim Burroway
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t think Fr.Becker’s teaching to be “heretical” in the slightest. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not without implications. In the Catholic straightjacket of “every sperm is sacred and solely reserved for reproduction in heterosexual marraige,” it does lead to what Timothy describes as “deification of heterosexuality.” And not just that, but also defication of reproductive heterosexuality, which precludes masturbation or male orgasm via oral sex. (Oral sex as foreplay without ejaculation is acceptable.) But the kind of arbitrary boundaries around what two people in love consensually do together or alone, and you get some mighty strange restrictions. Sexual obsessions indeed.

Timothy Kincaid
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

I did clarify that this is peculiar to Protestants. (But thanks, Jim, for providing the Catholic perspective)

As an aside: Is it considered a “prayerful act” if they scream, “Oh God”?

I understand intentional acts which could be considered prayer. I can see charity or kindness as a form of prayer. I suppose that one could prayerfully engage in sex.

But Becker is not talking about instances of intentional devotion. Rather, he’s saying that all husband/wife f*cking is prayer. And to Protestant ears, that is heretical and cultish.

Jim Burroway
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

I don’t think screaming “Oh God” is a prerequisite for it to be a prayerful act ;-) They can even shout “F*ck yeah!” while doing it doggie style. But for it to be cultish, the f*cking would have to occur to fulfill some kind of diefic imperative. Husbands and wives can f*ck or not f*ck to their heart’s content, as long as it is “open the the procreative possibility.” And that’s what makes it “prayerful,” even if it is a bit durty at the same time.

Jim Burroway
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

There are a lot of areas in Catholic teaching that many Protestants, and particularly evangelicals and fundamentalists, find heretical: transubstantiation, intersession of the saints, forgiveness of sin via the confessional, etc., issues that Catholics (and most Orthodox) have no problems with. Which is why I always thought it was odd that Evangelicals so eagerly drop all of their suppositions of Catholics going to hell (at the least) or that the pope is the anti-Christ (in the more extreme) in order to make common cause in social issues.

But they’ve all managed to put those suspicions aside. Which means that they would rather make common cause with the suspected anti-Christ than treat LGBT people with dignity. Some have wondered if the newer alliance with the Mormon church will hold, given the insistence among Protestants and Catholics that Mormons aren’t really “Christian.” Well if anyone actually harbored any hope that this alliance is shakey, we have the example of the Catholic-Evangelical alliance to fully put that notion to rest.

Timothy Kincaid
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

Jim,

While Protestants may disagree with transubstantiation, intersession, confession, etc., that isn’t what they’ve bonded over.

It’s peculiar to me that they’ve bonded in an area in which the Catholic Church seems (to Protestant eyes) like a sex cult. I cannot fathom my father listening to a priest say that sexual intercourse is an act of prayer without him being confused, at the least.

I would get them bonding over “the Bible says its sin” and overlooking doctrinal differences. But the priests and Bishops they’ve had so far seem to be making NOM’s rallies all about Catholic doctrine.

Oh, hey, I feel another commentary coming on.

Emily K
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

On the contrary, Timothy, Jews see sex as a sacred act indeed. The Talmud has rather explicit explanations, interpretations, and writings about sex by Rabbis going back hundreds of years. To make love on Shabbat is even better than making love during a different day of the week!

I don’t see anything wrong with thinking God was in the presence of the conception of her child. Isn’t conceiving a child a often the product of a loving physical union? The problem lies in deifying a specific sexual act to the preclusion of all other sex acts.

Steve
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

The Catholic Church (and many others) seem to ignore one uncomfortable truth. There are simply TOO MANY HUMANS on this planet. Global warming, all kinds of pollution, maldistribution of wealth, food shortages, fresh drinking water depletion, deforestation, urban sprawl, species extinction, and on and on are all due to one simple truth. There are too many of us.
So, what is the logic of the Catholic Church’s teaching that all sex must be for procreation???
On one hand the Church condemns global warming and speaks about respecting the environment. Yet they suggest that humans must continue to breed like rabbits and destroy this planet in the process.
The Catholic Church and many humans have the inflated idea that this earth was made only for us. They also believe that all evolution must have stopped with us—we are the end all of all God ever wanted.
What garbage.

DN
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

I find it very interesting that in order to find out what NOM’s speakers said at their rallies, I have to go to their opposition’s websites.

I asked NOM in a blog comment (which, no surprise, was moderated into the digital garbage) why nobody from NOM is reporting on what their actual message is.

As to the content of this guy’s message – utter tripe.

Jim Burroway
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

I would get them bonding over “the Bible says its sin” and overlooking doctrinal differences. But the priests and Bishops they’ve had so far seem to be making NOM’s rallies all about Catholic doctrine.

Oh, hey, I feel another commentary coming on.

Bingo! :-) Once you ground social policy arguments in religious beliefs, then the next logical question is whose religion should prevail!

That is why Catholics have historically been reluctant to enter into overt politics (and why most of the Catholic laity are still reluctant to do so). Historically, they were never on the winning end in the English-speaking world.

So yes, NOM’s very open Catholic-centrism is an odd thing to see. Imagine if the Mormons had put on a public rally in San Diego talking about Celestial marraiges?

Jim Burroway
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

anal and oral sex lack dignity because they abuse their partners as instrumentalities of pleasure for non-procreative potential.

There ya go! It’s all about procreative potential, although if I recall, the chatechism was okay with it as long as it was an act of foreplay leading to “procreative potential”. So Fr. Becker is a bit off.

But yes, you can see the whole obsession over sex that is, well, strange and unhealthy, to say the least.

While the idea may be off-putting among some Protestants, the Catholic view of sex as prayer, I think, has some very attractive features from a spirituality standpoint. And from a more practical point of view, I offer my condolences to anyone who has never had the feeling of having been in the company of angels in the afterglow.

Candace
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

So, I guess Fr. Becker doesn’t pray much?

TampaZeke
July 28th, 2010 | LINK

You know what? Spiritual sex; prayerful sex; worship sex; pagan sex or just plain f*cking sex, I don’t get my sex advice from middle aged men who have spent their whole adult life in celibacy or hiding and lying about their sex.

That makes as much sense as getting advice from a vegan on the best way to roast a pig or asking a lesbian for advice on jerking off.

Sorry to be crude but I find it fascinating that people go to PRIESTS for sex, marriage and relationship counseling.

Richard Rush
July 29th, 2010 | LINK

Catholic church issues prayer for faithful to say before sex

Roman Catholic couples are being encouraged to pray together before they have sex.

A book published by a prominent Church group invites those setting out on married life to recite the specially-composed Prayer Before Making Love.

It is aimed at ‘purifying their intentions’ so that the act is not about selfishness or hedonism . . .

The article even includes a how-to photo.

As a part of comprehensive sex education, I believe our children need to learn exactly what it means when Dad says to Mom, “Let us Pray.”

wendy leigh
July 29th, 2010 | LINK

I’ve said for a long time that the issue of abortion is about preserving white birth numbers, and it is spoken about quite openly on other continents.
Father Becker used the same schpeel at our conference committee hearing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sK-OxOZ6XkQ&NR=1

Priya Lynn
July 29th, 2010 | LINK

I know as an atheist it shouldn’t matter to me, but I find it despicable when evangelicals preach that Catholics are going to hell and the pope is the anti-christ. Within a christian framework that’s absurd. It surprises me that evangelicals are so bigoted to their fellow christians and makes me think much less of them.

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