When Christians compare themselves to a flock of sheep it’s becase they take seriously Jesus’ command to follow Him. As the Good Shepherd, He will lead them to the Kingdom of God. Some look at Christian faith through the lens of conservative and fundamentalist beliefs but those beliefs aren’t representative of the entire flock. There are many Christian flocks blind in their faith. Not all Church leaders encourage their flock to follow without seeing. If the only experience an outsider, or God forbid an insider, has of the Christian church is one of conservative legalism they would rightly conclude that Christians are blind and dumb to follow doctrine with no understanding of how milleniums old legalism came to be and still seeks to thwart its power in our everyday lives.
The real issue here is power. Without it, the Church as we know it would not exist as it does today and yet the Church needs to set its eyes on another power; the power of transforming lives through the Gospel of Christ instead of trying to seep its conservatism into American politics. Church leadership that reflects the love of God has a church body that reflects the love of God. And that is a powerful church. It does not need to meddle into political affairs because when the heart and the mind have been transformed by the love of God, it matters not what societal laws allow or prohibit and it matters not what religious laws allow or prohibit. What matters most is faith.
Blind faith is not the same as faith without discernment. A powerful church understands this and instructs its flock to follow Jesus, search for truth, and pray for understanding. And yes, that means questioning authority so that we may see what has been hidden from us. Sheep are not blind, they follow their shepherd because they trust in him. They are intelligent animals with the ability to recognize shapes and patterns and adapt their behaviors when necessary. When left unattended, they actually are able to find their way — together. Although, it is true that when isolated, individual sheep become distressed, which is why I suspect it is often preached that a good shephered will abandon the flock of 99 to find the one who strays.
The Catholic Church has always wanted a blind flock of parishioners. It wants its flock to depend on the Church for safety from the worldly and liberal anti-Christian Obama administration. It wants its flock to think Catholicism and family values are threatened with contraception available to all and it hides behind the First Amendment while it fails to realize it imposes its beliefs on those of another. Actually, it fails to realize that its doctrine isn’t even practiced by its own members. With 98% of Catholic women admitting to using/having used contraception, the Church is in trouble and needs to turn its attack away from the political arena and needs to send another message from the pulplit; and I hope it would be one of love and understanding. Because even if the Church is morally opposed to contraception, the battle is lost when literally almost all of the women have decided that that’s not really what God wants for them. And if women have decided that the Holy See isn’t the end all be all of Christianity, then the power it has lost isn’t just over female sexuality. The gift of the Enlightenment, to think logically about society, politics, religion, life, means that the next question on people’s minds and hearts isn’t just about abortion or birth control. Is the Catholic Church really the authority of the Christian church? The next question sure to come is, “Is Christianity really the only way and the only truth and the only light?” Things did not turn out well for the Catholic Church during the Enlightenment. It led to the end of the First, Second, and Third Estates during the French Revolution and it put an end to the Church nobility across Europe. Unsettling for the Vatican, I’m sure. But it is better to have the kind of society where people are free to ask questions, think of themselves, and decide for themselves without passively waiting for their inheritance in the afterlife.
Contraception is not an attack on Catholicism or any religion that prohibits believers to engage in anything other than natural family planning. With a nation comprised of people in all shapes and sizes, races and faiths, the protection of the First Amendment’s freedom of religion covers us all. This is something I would expect conservative Christians to understand given the doctrine of grace which is believed by some to cover us all. Those who believe contraception is contrary to God’s law will remain in good standing with the Catholic Church. They are of one flock. But there’s a larger flock of sheep, a larger flock of people who don’t even adhere to Christianity, who work for Catholic hospitals, universities and charities with active and healthy sex lives and don’t want 10-12 children. That’s hard to hear if you’re of the position that children are precious gifts from God and contraception blocks blessings. But listen anyway, because it is also everyone’s right to accept and refuse what they may or may not deem to be a blessing.
The blessing most women graciously accept is in the form of birth control. Children are expensive, exhausting, demanding, and unyielding and as much as we love them, we want them when we’re in the emotional and financial position to take care of them. There are enough unloved, underfed, neglected and abused children in this country. We all know one. So my hat goes off to you if you’re Catholic and you decided that the age of reason wasn’t for naught. Women should not be controlled by their faith or their God or their husband or their society. The Church disagrees. But its outrage serves only to mask its fear that it can no longer convince its flock of a truth they’ve created and convinced generations of women to accept.
The present government no more anti-Christian than the majority of Americans who identify with being Christian or Catholic and agree that contraception is a women’s health preventative measure and that it should be covered by employer healthcare benefits. The government’s role isn’t to protect the Catholic Church. It’s responsibility is to the people, to protect our right to practice religion or to not practice religion from those who seek to control us. That includes the state, private businesses, employers, and the Church. We may be a flock of sheep, but we’re not dumb.