They really make it too easy, but hey, we’ll take it. At least we’re not reduced to inventing news so that we have something to criticize, condemn, and attack. All we have to do is sit back, listen, and report. It couldn’t be easier. Seriously. It’s almost as if they’re trying to score points for their opposition.
Take as an example this gem, captured by Right Wing Watch. Meet Daniel Lapin, who is called by Right Wing Watch “the Religious Right’s favorite rabbi” though he fashions himself “America’s rabbi”; and James Dobson, Focus on the Family’s founder, who apparently agrees with Lapin’s website bio that he is one of the most “brilliant/eloquent” speakers in the country. Dobson wasn’t going to let this valuable weapon escape without striking a blow for backwards thinking. Old culture warrior Dobson, the man who says tolerance and diversity are “buzzwords”, has long claimed that marriage is the foundation of Western Civilization. It is no surprise therefore that he got Lapin to tell him that contraception has caused the collapse of American civilization. Who knew? :
Dobson: How did we get in this mess? I mean, we can all see that something is going wrong, but why now? What’s going on right now?
Lapin: Again it is the tug of sexuality; it is not an accident. Future historians might say that the big dividing line between a time when American values really meant something and a time that we look today with unconcealed dismay at our own prospects, when do you think that began? Wouldn’t you agree that most people somewhere in the 1960s, back then in the ’60s perhaps one of the most notable events and I think its significance can hardly be exaggerated was the arrival of the birth control tablet in the early ’60s. What that did for the very first time is it created the possibility of perpetual male adolescence, it made it possible for the first time for men to really never grow up and essentially it transformed masculinity with all the implications of honor and respect and courage and the ability to defer gratification, everything that we think of as responsible masculinity, and got transformed into a very simple question, ‘did you remember to take your pill honey’?
So much for propaganda. Here are some facts from Wikipedia:
On June 10, 1957, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Enovid 10 mg (9.85 mg norethynodrel and 150 µg mestranol) for menstrual disorders, based on data from its use by more than 600 women. Numerous additional contraceptive trials showed Enovid at 10, 5, and 2.5 mg doses to be highly effective. On July 23, 1959, Searle filed a supplemental application to add contraception as an approved indication for 10, 5, and 2.5 mg doses of Enovid. The FDA refused to consider the application until Searle agreed to withdraw the lower dosage forms from the application. On May 9, 1960, the FDA announced it would approve Enovid 10 mg for contraceptive use, which it did on June 23, 1960, by which time Enovid 10 mg had been in general use for three years during which time, by conservative estimate, at least half a million women had used it.
Although FDA-approved for contraceptive use, Searle never marketed Enovid 10 mg as a contraceptive. Eight months later, on February 15, 1961, the FDA approved Enovid 5 mg for contraceptive use. In July 1961, Searle finally began marketing Enovid 5 mg (5 mg norethynodrel and 75 µg mestranol) to physicians as a contraceptive.
Although the FDA approved the first oral contraceptive in 1960, contraceptives were not available to married women in all states until Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 and were not available to unmarried women in all states until Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972.
So while oral contraceptives first became available in the 1960s as Rabbi Lapin says, married women could not take them until 1965, half-way through Lapin’s critical decade, and they were not available to unmarried women in every state until 1972, two years post Lapin’s critical decade, which makes the 1960s, well…much less critical.
But that’s not all. Another problem with Lapin’s reasoning is that there is no evidence that men have ever sought to control their needs, that is, to practice abstinence. Obviously, in Lapin and Dobson’s perfect world a man could not just “whack-off” since every sperm is sacred and all that. The thing is, men were just as able and just as likely to have sex before as after birth control. The only difference really, is that then women got pregnant as a result, and before modern medicine, often died (which was no problem for good Christian men since a good Christian man would just get another wife and keep spewing offspring until she died, ad infinitum), and that now, women do not get pregnant as often. Whereas women were once produced a child about every 15 months, women on the pill have a less than 1% risk of pregnancy if taken correctly which is 1% more than abstinence but abstinence seems almost never to be “done correctly”. Women still die, of course, from complications of pregnancy, and Republicans insist they must die, as no unborn infant must be allowed to do.
This reduces Lapin’s argument to this one issue alone: a woman’s right to control her own uterus. Oral contraceptives give women the ability to not get pregnant, which is really a big deal when you think about it, since before oral contraceptives there was nothing comparable throughout the entirely of history – thousands of years – that had come before. It also takes a great deal of power away from the virile (or is that viral?) Christian male.
There is no evidence at all that oral contraceptives have made men less than they had been, that it has emasculated them: we see no evidence of “honor and respect and courage” being tied to the production of children (it’s mostly unrestrained lust and some energetic thrusting) and certainly no evidence of “the ability to defer gratification”! The claim that men held back from intercourse before the widespread availability of the pill is a myth and as a result women were baby-making machines to be used up and replaced so that man could continue gratify his needs. The Old Testament recognizes this, feeling it necessary to point out the only time a man cannot have sex with a woman – her period.
Yet despite this widespread genocide of mothers, known to Republicans as “the good old days”, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) is claiming that birth control “is unrelated to the basic needs of health care”! As Rachel Maddow said a couple of days ago,
“Mitt Romney is campaigning saying that he would like to end-all family support at the federal level and eliminate that,” he said. “And Rick Santorum says he would like to make contraception illegal. And the Republican party is waging a war on contraception, and that is where the discussion is at.”
Of course, here as in so many areas (e.g. marriage equality), Republicans find themselves on the wrong side of history, as a new Public Religion Research Institute poll shows that “A majority (55%) of Americans agree that ’employers should be required to provide their employees with health care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.’”
How to explain James Dobson’s and Rabbi Lapin’s rage?
The issue seems to be the tangled mess that is the paradox of religious conservatism’s obsession with sex, a lascivious fascination for combined with revulsion of. Look at the poor bastards, saddled by their God with an insatiable need for something – a vagina – that is by biblical decree a thing of Satan. How do these poor Christian men even retain their sanity when faced by such impossible choices? It’s no wonder they’re half-crazed and driving the rest of us crazy with their incoherent and nonsensical ranting. What they need isn’t a war on sexuality, or even a Bible to thump, or a fake war on Christianity, but a good Twelve-Step Program. They look down on homosexuality as something unwholesome but if there is an unhealthy lifestyle out there it is the Fundamentalist Way.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.