|A blue bird catches sunlight|
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here."
The Book of Jonah, despite its brevity, is one of the most popular books in the bible. There are innumerable references to it in popular literature, from Melville’s discussion in Moby Dick; to the cartoons with which catechists entertain children. Inevitably the questions arise, “Was he really swallowed alive and spat up by a whale three days later? Is that possible?” Fundamentalists and secularists have a lot of fun with their largely irrelevant controversy.
These questions permit the scholars to ignore the challenge and invitation of Jonah: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." Implicit is the Lord’s authority over the nations who do not know him, and the wrath all nations face when That Day appears.
Lately the Catholic Bishops have reminded the United States of our church’s teaching: artificial means of birth control are morally unacceptable. External controls frustrate the natural cycles of reproduction; they allow men and women to ignore and violate the sacred processes of reproduction within their own bodies. While it may be acceptable to tame an elephant with peanuts, it is not ethical to neuter a man with surgery or a woman with chemicals.
It is ironic that many on the left speak eloquently of living more naturally, without violent or intrusive methods of control -- but turn a deaf ear to the bishops’ teaching. They have decided the Church wants only to oppress women and dominate nature; they can hear nothing else.
Can a nation that fears our sexual nature, indulges it, and is unwilling to bridle it welcome a life-giving word? (Foreign observers say we deal with our children in the same ways: we’re unwilling to discipline them, far too indulgent, and terrified they might hate us for the trauma of obedience.)
Would we dare to allow our bodies the holiness, mystery and wisdom of a sexuality freed by mindful discipline? Can a man be asked to pay attention to the cycles of his companion's body? It would bond us in reverent, life-long, faithful, and life-giving relationships not only as husbands and wives but also as families and clans.
The matter is not simply private. Sexual relations undergird all familial relations. Undisciplined, they invade our political, economic, social and religious spheres. Even the military, the most disciplined of all institutions, struggles to define and enforce a policy about sexuality. Eventually unbridled sexuality becomes a threat to national security, though by the time it reaches that sublime height it is beyond anyone’s control.
That’s when Jonah arrives to say, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed."
Politically, I expect, the Bishops will not win this debate over birth control. That ship left the harbor a long time ago. At best they might protect Catholic institutions from laws that violate our beliefs. In the meanwhile, the Elect are again challenged: “Under whose authority is our sexuality governed?”