Contradeception: The Public Nature of Marital Privacies

Just when I thought I had covered every inch of the issue of birth control, Rebekah Curtis proved me wrong with this brilliant piece published in Touchstone Magazine.

I contacted the author for permission to reprint and she graciously granted.  I hope it provokes your thoughts the way it did mine.

Unbelievably good.  I read the whole thing in italics out loud to my husband. You want to read this.

“Our four ex utero kids are generally well-behaved, or so we’re told. But occasionally they do something spectacularly disobedient, and even more incredibly, they fail to make any serious effort to conceal it. This infuriates their father. If they’re going to do something that dumb, he growls, they should at least be clever enough to keep us from discovering them at their sin.

However, I salute their stupidity. I take it as a sign that though the children are disobedient, they have at least sinned simply and honestly. Their sin is impulsive, not deceptive; it is primarily of the flesh and not the devil. They sin with desire but without duplicity. They sin as I wish I sinned.

Their sin reminds me of a time when I would say of a couple of friends “in trouble,” “If you’re going to be stupid, at least be smart about it.” Their stupidity led to their exposure, their excruciating confessions to parents, their hurried marriages, the incongruity of birthdays and anniversaries in their family histories. At the time when  had such sophisticated advice to offer, it did not occur to me that this counsel amounted simply to adding decep- tion to their sin.

Signs of Health or Brokenness

Sexual relationships, while enacted privately, are public property. The lover declares, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”  This protects the relationship from internal and external breach. Those within the relation-ship are bound to each other by their promise of troth, held in trust by the neutral third parties who witness the promise. Those outside the relationship know that this new unit of their community is being rightly founded, and also that any attempt to besiege the promise is illicit.  The vow of complete self-giving is sanctioned by those   present, and its publicity makes it safe to carry out. Thus would a bride in former times blush—all those gathered in her honor knew what she would be doing in just a few hours.

And in former times, when the married couple fulf lled their vows to God and each other and their witnesses, they produced, at God’s favor, babies to prove it. The lack of a baby indicated either a broken body or a broken vow. While both called for the community’s prayer, the latter also called for the community’s assistance in healing the marriage for the benefit of everyone, for a broken vow means broken people. When a baby gave evidence of a union where no vow had been made, it was similarly in the interest of the community to correct the situation in the way that would most benefit all the parties involved.

In marriage, a couple gives over supervision of their marital health to those who approved their avowal.  A sexual relationship between people who made no vows would normally not remain a secret for long. But contraception blinds the community by concealing the sexual act outside of marriage, or its absence within marriage, and by leaving goods damaged in various ways unmarked as such.

The heartbroken suffer alone in hijacked bodies. A relationship is known to be serious (since sex is no longer a mark of gravity in a relationship) when both members unload the “baggage” of past relationships. Accountability is lost, and there is little opportunity for prevention.  We are all left to pick up someone’s pieces when it is too late, and without help, since these matters are private.

This is not to advocate public shaming. The Church is not a place of shame, for Christ covered shame with his naked death. But the shame of sexual immorality torments even if it is not widely known.

Every member of the community profits from a protective mechanism against such shame. Two people cannot become one flesh without being personally affected, and the shock waves their union generates change the community. Publicizing the event allows the community to approve, prepare for, and absorb the change. Extra-marital unions infect the community with diseases of body and soul. Atrophied unions weaken the community in body and soul. A community that has been deprived of its primary diagnostic tool for identifying an ill or illicit union is less able to remedy itself.

Unacknowledged Debt

Why must we have physical, public evidence of the faithful fulfillment of even those marital vows most of us can’t imagine neglecting, at least at first? Who would lie about such things? Well, who would talk about them?  Allowing nature to manifest our faithfulness is certainly more graceful than a verbal report.

Contraception, now the status quo, also puts the burden of disclosure on the tragically infertile. They are forced to openly deny contraceptive use to prove their faithfulness. The involuntarily childless must actively solicit the sympathy of friends and the prayers of the Church, giving painful birth only to words that express their sorrow.

The fruits that proceed from the union of lovers bear witness to the lovers’ faithfulness to their public vow. This is the pain of infertility: a union unconfirmed, a love lacking its plainest proof.

This is also why the Church perceives discord in the decision of a newly married couple to take a few years to “enjoy being married” before ending marital enjoyment with children. Apparently, we are expected to take them at their word that they are fulfilling the vows made before us, although they refuse to tender the token. In those storied former times, we’d have worried that perhaps the sweet things weren’t quite sure how things worked.  For now, charity ordains that we fill in the child-shaped marital deficiency with the sad assumption of trouble conceiving, except in the great majority of cases, where bride and groom make no secret of being confirmed window shoppers at the baby mall. If you’re going to be married, be smart, after all. Be ever copulating but never conceiving. Their debt to their witnesses (to say nothing of each other) goes quite unacknowledged.

So also is the public treated disrespectfully by the couple who, 2.1 children later, give no sign of continued faithfulness to their vow. Is he so disgusted by the sight of his wife’s birth-changed body that he will no longer suffer its embrace? Is she using her maternal exhaustion as an excuse to withhold herself from him? Can this marriage survive? The only way we know a marriage to be sexless is when it comes out in therapy, on the golf course, at play dates, on the pages of The Atlantic.

On the other hand, those inclined to give evidence of ongoing sexual success can simply mention recent adventures to friends. We no longer provide pregnancies to testify to our faithfulness, for faithfulness is no longer a positive act or a community act. It is simply the failure to pursue gratification elsewhere. Furthermore, to whom could we possibly owe testimony? Sex is private.

“Safety” in Secrecy

Outside of marriage, contraception permits sexual sin without public consequence. The public, for the most part, no longer cares, but the Church certainly must. Those who accept contraception as legitimate within marriage set up their children to succumb not only to lust, but also to guile. Fornication super-enabled by contraception leads the young away from marriage and into a life of secret sin behind closed doors on which no one has a right to knock.

The Christian couple “in trouble” faces more shame now from the Christian community than in ages past. With so many opportunities to conceal an illicit relationship or even an illicit pregnancy, those couples who must admit publicly to a sin considered private assume a largely avoidable humiliation. They’re concupiscent and stupid.

Christian parents are tempted to hope that if their kids mess up, they will at least be “safe” about it. The young have to be taught, with subtlety of course, that for everyone to remain happy, they must plan their sins and take measures to prevent these sins from coming to light. Veniality is far too risky.

The people we seek to keep safe are ourselves. There is nothing safe about “safe sex” besides an external reputation. As long as no one knows, we can still participate in society’s grotesque nuptial parodies. Our daughters flounce down the aisle in ironic white gowns, naked from the cleavage up; our sons save for honeymoons on which the couple, drained by months of preparing for the exhibition of extravagance, can finally get some sleep. We smile about how our darlings waited—or if they didn’t, about how they at least were smart enough not to let it become a problem.

Empty Glasses

But as go the banns, so go babies. Our churches must grow, but our families must be reasonably sized; our sex must be fantastic but never dutiful; our food is organic but our love is not. We sip from empty glasses and sing the expressiveness of the wine. True love waits, or if that’s too hard, it can be made to appear to wait. And after the official waiting is over, love need show nothing for itself but a naughty grin.”

This article first appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity (www.touchstonemag.com)

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92 Responses to “Contradeception: The Public Nature of Marital Privacies”

  1. Jodi says:

    Wow.

    This is good. I need to read it again! Thanks for publishing this.

  2. b says:

    Yiiikes. The arguments in this article are so horrifying, though nicely written.

    Why do we owe “signs” of our sex lives to our community? If church/community members are concerned about a marriage, why don’t they just ask its partners how it’s going? Pregnancy is such a poor, LAZY proxy for honest conversation.

  3. Wow is exactly what I was going to say. This is a new way to look at the subject of birth control, except my husband had come up with a nice little “reply” to those certain family members who criticize our continually growing family. Next time someone comments, he plans to exclaim, “How old am I? 30? You’ve been ABSTINENT for 30 years? Wow!” (He is the last of only 2 children in his family.) Well, I think you get the idea.

  4. Wow. How interesting!! I love this.

  5. Word Warrior says:

    b,

    Glad you asked. Because if we understood the body of Christ as it was meant to operate, none of us are entirely “unto ourselves”, as the author so clearly explained.

    In our autonomous society, the thoughts of revealing private matters “horrify” us; but that’s not how God intended the body of Christ to be. As she said, its a very normal “diagnostic tool” if we don’t interfere with it.

    I don’t know if you’re a Christian, but I don’t expect a non-believer would get this. If you study Scripture, you see this accountability all throughout and it’s part of a beautiful plan God had for His body–safety for us.

    I would add, as the author explained, the health of a marriage in our community is not just “your business” because the disintegration of that marriage affects all of us. What the wedding ceremony is supposed to do is have the couple, God, the minister AND the whole community joining together in a vow–theirs is not only a vow made to each other; they are promising God and everyone watching that they will be faithful. So to a large extent, it’s a marriage we all should have investment in, participating in its health to preserve our own.

    I think this is one of the major reasons the church is suffering so much.

  6. b says:

    First, I am a Christian.

    Second, of course healthy marriages are important to a church community! What I am saying is that pregnancy is a TERRIBLE diagnostic tool for the health of a marriage. Just because two people are having sex doesn’t mean that they are treating each other well or are loving each other. For all we know, the husband may be raping his wife.

    The church should be involved in its members’ marriages — absolutely. But this is a truly ridiculous, lazy, imprecise way to do it.

  7. LB says:

    A lot of families I know have 5-6 children (or even 2-3 for that matter) but no more. Does this mean they are being unfaithful? I have never, for one moment, thought these people didn’t love each other any more just because their family didn’t continue to grow. What a silly thing for her say. Maybe I just totally missed what she was trying to say. I hope so.

  8. b says:

    LB – You didn’t. It IS extremely silly (and damaging). Apparently, if you stop making babies or haven’t started, it means either that you don’t love your spouse anymore or that your body is broken.

  9. MaryM says:

    Is she blaming contraception for not letting her know what is going on in other people’s bedrooms? Both married and unmarried? This is SO wrong.

  10. Anonymous says:

    While I agree with the basics in this article, I have to also agree with the questions posed by LB. I was in a horrible marriage where I was emotionally abused by my addicted husband. In our four years of marriage, we had two children. So, we obviously fulfilled that part of our vow. However, my husband was also being unfaithful. Publicly we had a ‘good marriage’, but privately it was a nightmare for me. We were divorced. In the last few years, a disease I had as a young adult flared up and I had to have a hysterectomy. Fast forward to now.. My exhusband cleaned up his act and found a career. Through prayer, communication and counseling, we are now remarried. I can no longer have children and there will be no more pregnancies to witness to our faithfulness to each other – or lack there of. While I agree that pregnancies are one sign of a faithful marriage, and that God designed it that way; I feel this article limits it. I have two children and can have no more. I got married after my surgery, so if pregnancies are the way my marriage is judged, it would seem I have already failed. My body is broken, so what was the point in getting remarried?

    Please don’t get me wrong, contraception is a very dangerous thing. I agree that there is nothing safe about safe sex. It provides a way to hide sin, and is therefore a sin in and of itself.

  11. We have a large family by today’s standards (6 kids). We believe in being open to the blessing of children. However, after 3 very complicated pregnancies ending in surgical deliveries, the thought of me undergoing major surgery every two years and all that it means has given my husband (and me, for that matter) pause.

    Because of that, I was slightly put off by this post upon my initial reading of it. It felt so black and white, as if the considerations of the couple involved are secondary to the concerns of the church community.

    That said, despite my discomfort, I cannot deny that this woman speaks the truth. My special circumstances notwithstanding. I think it was this point that I noticed on my second reading that drove the truth of her reasoning home:

    Contraception, now the status quo, also puts the burden of disclosure on the tragically infertile. They are forced to openly deny contraceptive use to prove their faithfulness. The involuntarily childless must actively solicit the sympathy of friends and the prayers of the Church, giving painful birth only to words that express their sorrow.

    I have seen this happen to couples, and its heartbreaking to be sure.

    By the way, we are indeed accountable to one another in the church. We are not supposed to be lone wolves, operating and making life choices independently with no regard for Biblical standards. I am a firm believer that this disconnectedness and lack of concern among the people of God is largely to blame for much of the societal decay and rise of the welfare state that we are currently witnessing.

  12. Word Warrior says:

    Anon,

    I am so thrilled and encouraged to hear that your marriage was restored…what a testimony to God’s grace.

    I understand the points you are making. But I also don’t think Mrs. Curtis was referring to BC as an exhaustive measure of a marriage’s fidelity. In addition, like most other principles, there are always exceptions. (For practical purposes, a hysterectomy would be public knowledge within a church body.)

    She was addressing a general principle–most couples with a healthy marriage will likely produce children on a regular basis until a certain age, a testimony to that couples’ felicity.

  13. Word Warrior says:

    Terry,

    I didn’t read your comment until I finished posting my last…very discerning of you to reiterate the point I made–notwithstanding special circumstances, the general principle remains.

  14. Bethany B says:

    Great article!

    I don’t think the author of this article is saying that pregnancy is the ONLY indicator of a good marriage. She is saying that contraception hides ONE of the indicators of a healthy marriage, to the detriment of the couple and the body of Christ.

    Christianity is communal, it is not simply individual. Yes, we must each have a relationship with Jesus on our own, but we are adopted into a family, into the body, into the church. We must see our lives, every aspect of them, as part of the body of Christ. This age of privacy and individuality has really weakened the church.

  15. I am with b and LB. I am a conservative Christian and a mother of 10. I found this article quite off-putting. I don’t think most people, Christian or no, go around judging families who only have 2 children as being unfaithful sexually. There are so many complex factors in determining why couples have as many children as they do, and being so simplistic about it does not help anyone’s credibility. What others might think would not even register as a serious factor in my decisions anyway. We are to do what we do because we are called by God to do it, not because of what other people think. Yikes!

  16. Word Warrior says:

    Virginia,

    Again, I understand your thoughts here, but still feel like the author’s intentions are being misunderstood.

    You said,

    “I don’t think most people, Christian or no, go around judging families who only have 2 children as being unfaithful sexually.”

    That is most certainly true in our day of predominant birth control use. However, the point made was that when/if a couple just does what couples do, their union is usually fruitful. If the couple isn’t infertile, and babies aren’t coming, once upon a time it could be assumed there might be something of concern that would do the church/community well to address. Not meddling, sincere concern for the well-being of the whole community. General principle. Kind of like Proverbs–if you take a principle from there and start thinking about all the exceptions, you miss it.

  17. Niki says:

    I have only in the last few years been introduced to the idea of letting God decide the size of your family and this article does share a whole new perspective. I was able to glean many things from it. Will need to read it a few more times to let it all soak in!

    Thanks for posting, Kelly!

  18. It is important to remember that the author here is making a distinction between the traditions through the ages and the times in which we live.

    If we look at this only in light of what we have come to accept as the normal way of living at things in 21st century western society,this woman’s logic will indeed seem absurd,medling,and judgmental.

    However,we are called to lookat things froman eternal perspective. Because of the bloodof Christ, thankfully our holiness and salvation are not intrinsically tied to our decisions in the bedroom so long as we are faithful to the vows we have made.

    But the fact remains that sans the advent of birth control, if nature were allowed to take its course, a happily married,reproductively healthy couple will produce many children.

    Of course, as the daughter of woman who died the day I was born, I am acutely aware of the reality that many women routinely died giving birth. Given the risky pregnancies in my own life, I am especially aware of the blessings of medical science and have every compassion for couples who need to make tough decisions with the information available to them.

    Still, the fact remains that pregnancies are an indicator of a healthy union. Not the only indicator, but certainly one of the indicators.

  19. Mrs. Santos says:

    Thank you Terry@breathing grace – your comments really helped clarify the article for me. Your comment too Kelly, “Because if we understood the body of Christ as it was meant to operate, none of us are entirely “unto ourselves”, as the author so clearly explained.”

    The authors words “the public treated disrespectfully” really hit a nerve.

    I have a thousand thoughts that have sprung from this article…thank you for sharing.

  20. It seems an important metaphor – the barrier, the contraception, between the lives of Christians within our church body, and our church buildings. Privacy usurps service, not wanting to be thought ill of, or being seen as nosey, wins out over expressing concern, embarassment leaves people to suffer humiliation and even physical damage from abuse and addiction because the cleansing confession nets only “shh, it’s your problem, deal with it – you really don’t want that to get around”. The point that I take is that the gift of fertility (bearing fruit) has been interrupted, even encouraged, within the church – and we’re not just talking pregnancy. This is one of those articles that gets bigger the more I read it.

    @ Terry, I always love when you comment – what she said!

  21. Sarah says:

    I don’t have the time or mental energy to think this article through as well as you or other commenters have done, but I just have to draw the line at another sister in Christ bringing up my marital intimacy. How would this take place in a real scenario? What would that look like?

    If one of my sisters notices a problem in my marriage and feels compelled to bring it up in a private conversation, I think I would be ok with that, assuming she’s doing it out of love and concern. But to confront me with a supposed problem in my marriage based on the fact of whether or not we were having babies? Really, under what circumstance would that be appropriate?

    I can understand, if perhaps a sister had expressed that she were withholding herself from her husband (without a biblical reason), that I would want to gently point her to the appropriate Bible verses to correct her thinking. But other than that, how? Why? Please clarify for me, in a realistic scenario.

  22. Jennifer says:

    I’m so glad that Anon, Mary, LB and B share my feelings. Kelly, I know your thoughts here; divorce and marital infidelity hurt many, as does loose sex. But this article enraged me.

    “The lack of a baby indicated either a broken body or a broken vow”

    Which is why this thinking is so disgusting and obsolete. How dare they judge such a thing about a woman or marriage!

    “The vow of complete self-giving is sanctioned by those present, and its publicity makes it safe to carry out”

    What utter nonsense. God sanctions the vow, no one else; this woman seems to almost have a fetish about considering what people do in private and how this “affects” the public.

    “We no longer provide pregnancies to testify to our faithfulness”

    That’s because you’re not God, dear. What next, showing the bedsheets to the church?

    Here’s a shocker: sex lives ARE private, whether sinful or not. If a couple behaves sinfully, it’s important for a family member, trusted friend, or pastor to talk with them, NOT the whole freakin’ church, nor is it the whole church’s place to know about it. Their lives and reproduction issues are their business, not anyone else’s, and the marriage is between THEM; outsiders have a very limited participation in it.

    “Contraception blinds the community by concealing the sexual act outside of marriage”

    Or inside marriage. Again: THEIR business. This kind of behavior does lead to shame inevitably; this has been true from Biblical times to the 50’s, just a product of human nature. The idea that the whole church helps prevent public shame is just humorous. This woman, basically, is offering a nicely packaged sharp-ridged knife which clearly intends to cut back to the idea that birth control is not a private matter, slicing through the tissue of matters which vitally need privacy while it goes. QF families hate criticism of their private decisions and being told what “too many” children might do to the environment, yet it’s ok for foolish women like this author to criticize childless families, whether they CHOOSE to be such or not, and tell them how every INCREDIBLY private thing they do will affect the Christian world??

    Again: Kelly I understand and respect your thoughts and those of people who think the way you do on this issue. I also know the truthful part of this article: sexual immorality such as abortion, wild sex, and the physical discipline some women give to their husbands (and make outrageously public by trying to indoctrinate it) are very harmful to all those touched by it. But the way this woman presented her case is full of errors and couldn’t have been more poorly presented.

  23. Jennifer says:

    “The public treated disrespectfully”

    What an utter crock. The harm comes from the ripples of harmful sex, not an immediate “disrespecting” of the public that has no right to be so affected by it.

  24. Jennifer says:

    It wouldn’t, Sarah. She’s repeating and apparently indirectly (or directly, if I missed it) condoning an old and horrendous practice.

  25. Jennifer says:

    “Embarassment leaves people to suffer humiliation and even physical damage from abuse and addiction because the cleansing confession nets only “shh, it’s your problem, deal with it – you really don’t want that to get around””

    Now THAT is a valid point and situation. Healthy sex, on the other hand, which does NOT necessarily include babies, is not a situation inviting any outsiders to comment. Even unhealthy sex requires one or a few advisors, not the entire church.

  26. Word Warrior says:

    Jennifer,

    I’ve always given you freedom to express dissenting opinions, but I’d prefer you refrain from slanderous, condescending language that sounds so hateful. (You may try putting a few minutes/hours between what you read and your response?)

    Based on your response, I’d say you have a poor understanding of the way the body of Christ is meant to operate and have been highly indoctrinated with the notion that we are all just autonomous members of a building. The body of Christ, for lack of a better word, would do well to “be all in each other’s business” where it concerns sin–in whatever form that takes. Paul used VERY strong language to drive that point home.

    Mrs. Curtis makes a highly intelligent, well-articulated case that (as Terry pointed out), in a culture where natural fertility was left alone, there was a general gauge (not THE, just one) to help keep couples accountable, which must involve the knowledge and interaction with others of the body.

    The very act of “balking” against one’s “private affairs” being revealed in the realm of ultimately providing safety, shows our natural tendency to rebellion.

    “…in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others…”

    When my hand is on fire, the rest of me knows it and delights to “meddle”. Otherwise, if the “diagnostic tool” of pain fails me, it brings me great harm.

  27. Jennifer says:

    My language may be condescending in return to a condescending article, but I do NOT see how it was slanderous; that’s quite an accusation. I actually showed some restraint, considering how much I do loathe this kind of thinking. I think I already explained myself pretty clearly: I’m well aware of how a body operates and stated, repeatedly no less, that truly harmful actions require a great deal of intervention. Regular sex however IS private and, if sinful, requires a few other “body” parts, not the whole darn congregation, to intervene; I think I was quite clear on this. The whole body is not needed to pull a person from sin anymore than your entire body is required to remove the hand from the burner; all it takes are some muscles close to the hand, not organs and appendages properly distanced.

    If the sex is not sinful, no one has any remote business meddling. Our genitals are OUR property and God’s, not the church’s or society’s. I retain my thoughts that Curtis’s article was incredibly poorly and offensively written.

  28. Jennifer says:

    “If the sex is not sinful, no one has any remote business meddling”

    This in fact was one of my main objections with the author: she was not simply talking about harmful situations, but indicating or claiming that other people make the marriage, that it’s ok to assume a body or vow is broken if there are no babies (and that it’s alright to even keep such tabs on the situation), and that the church in general (the entire church?) has a place making such judgements. And not just the church; she claims that the entire public will and even has a right to. Marriage doesn’t seem sacredly private to her at all; the whole article speaks of an entire congregation making the marriage, guarding the marriage, freely thinking about the sex within the marriage, criticizing the marriage, judging the state of the marriage and making presumptions about it to boot. That’s abhorrently disgusting to me.

  29. Jennifer says:

    Plus, two become one flesh, not two hundred. The husband and wife are one body that shares intimate, everyday and incredibly personal things that the rest of the church body doesn’t come close to.

  30. Yvonne says:

    The author brilliantly exposes the warped twisted philosophy of our western culture. The quote that struck me most was,
    “The young have to be taught,with subtlety of course, that for everyone to remain happy, they must plan their sins and take measures to prevent these sins from coming to light”.
    This so clearly articulates the utter deception of our culture’s youth and the corrupt education system in this country and the ideology on which it is based. As the church we are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” Eph.5:11-13 Contraception makes a provision for the flesh by eliminating the natural consequence of the union and therefore concealing the sin. Romans 13:14 says “make NO provision for the flesh…”
    The author was clever to say that one must “plan their sins”, for that is exactly what an unmarried person is doing when using any form of contraception. Instead of teaching youth to “flee from sin”, society has made a provision for it (maybe this is why contraception was originally outlawed in our country and why the Catholic Church forbade it…it was seen as a threat to a healthy society/church.) Instead of teaching our youth that there is grace for sinners, they are taught to hide it and just keep sinning! And that the shame is in the consequence, rather than the sin itself.
    Thankyou for this truthful, thought-provoking post!
    Y

  31. Jennifer says:

    “This woman seems to almost have a fetish about considering what people do in private and how this “affects” the public”

    That certainly wasn’t intended to refer to a sexual kind of fetish; ech. I can see how that was taken as slanderous and unkind; sorry about that.

    I’m a very private person by nature; it makes me incredibly upset when I see people forcibly intruding on others’ lives, including on TV shows from “comedy” to drama where family members, doctors, police officers and/or detectives are portrayed horridly as doing unprofessional, even illegal breaches of conduct (I don’t watch those shows anymore). When I see unnecessary spiritual intrusion, it’s another kind of great sin and horrible treatment. I love my church body and respect everyone, in person and online, who gently tries to address me on something they think might be harmful. But Curtis’s article went way, way beyond that with its implications and examples; I’m sure I don’t have to explain when, where and how again.

  32. Jennifer says:

    “That the shame is in the consequence, rather than the sin itself”

    That’s true even among foolish teenagers. Note how sex is considered cool, but the girl who “slipped” and got pregnant is ridiculed and ostracized.

  33. Miranda says:

    Wow! Very well written. Im so glad you posted this article.

  34. Kate says:

    My stance on Christian birth control for a long time has been primarily that each Christian couple needs to take it honestly before the Lord and obey the Holy Spirit. They are likely to need counsel on how to do that seeking, hearing, and obeying, especially since most of us have been tainted so heavily by the world’s thinking.

    It is sad that so many Christians today take the default attitude of, “We’ll use BC, and THEN precisely plan each child,” rather than giving conception and raising children the first place.

    I have had 4 children and am constantly in communication with the Lord, taking to Him my specific concerns about continuing to bear more children (my health, housing, homeschool, etc).

    I believe that this is a wonderful way to go about it. I believe it is wrong for Christians to come across as teaching that there’s a “law” to have as many biological children as nature brings about that is never mentioned in the NT (abortifacient BC is out of the question, of course!).

    Anyway, b/c the world, our bodies, our churches, and almost everything are imperfect, and b/c we know we are charged with educating and providing for our children, I do believe that a couple can go honestly before the Lord and be guided by the Holy Spirit (rarely, however!) to abstain from the creation of a baby for a certain period of time. However, I think in most cases our God would guide us to address the other issues as best we can (obviously health issues may be out of our hands) and if we truly love children, which we all should, He is likely to guide us to pursue other activities or adoptions that show that love for children and other people.

    Thanks for posting this Kelly, and making me think again through this ever-important issue!

  35. Word Warrior says:

    Re the points she and some of you make about helping our young people “double sin” by concealing the consequences of immorality…I’ve been jumping up and down about the typical response to pre-marital pregnancies almost since I had one myself.

    We push our kids to date for pure recreation, even send them on their way, most of the time less than properly dressed, to spend who knows how long together who knows where, and pretend we don’t think they’re physically involved. Then she gets pregnant, and we’re MAD? We should only be mad because they didn’t carry out their deception carefully enough.

    I see it all the time and it infuriates me–the average adult’s insane response.

    I want to hear, just ONE time, from a parent…”well of course you got pregnant, what did you think? At least you weren’t trying to hide it.” That’s a logical response. And if they aren’t prepared to give it its logical answer, then they need to consider an alternative to what they’re teaching their children about dating and marriage.

  36. Jennifer says:

    “We should only be mad because they didn’t carry out their deception carefully enough”

    Very true. In another way of saying it, a teen not getting pregnant allows her parents to continue pretending to ignore, or ignoring, the fact that they’re not as involved as they should be in their kids’ lives.

  37. I understand your point about contraception concealing pre-marital sex. That is quite valid! But judging the health of a marriage by whether there is a constant stream of babies to prove they are still having sex is ludicrous in my mind. Having a bunch of babies proves nothing — it doesn’t even prove the that the mother loves them, unfortunately. I don’t think me having 10 kids makes me any more righteous or guarantees that my marriage is any more faithful than my friends who “only” have 3. My wise husband always told me, “It’s not a race. We’re not having these babies to prove anything to anybody.”

  38. Yvonne- I thought this was the most insightful addition to the comments here, and I just wanted to repeat it in your own words:
    “Instead of teaching youth to “flee from sin”, society has made a provision for it (maybe this is why contraception was originally outlawed in our country and why the Catholic Church forbade it…it was seen as a threat to a healthy society/church.) Instead of teaching our youth that there is grace for sinners, they are taught to hide it and just keep sinning! And that the shame is in the consequence, rather than the sin itself.”

    To me, this was the crux of the article, the heart behind it, though it was certainly not the only point made.

    Of course, I did not agree with every word of insuation made by the author, but this core, I did agree with.

    My biggest problem with the article is this sort of emphasis on the public (or the Church) have “rights” to knowledge of intimate matters between a husband and wife. That rubbed me the wrong way, on personal as well as theological grounds. While I agree that marriage effects all (especially within the Body of Christ), I do not believe that the inner workings of marriage should be public domain. They are private. As someone else (Jennifer, I think) said, that is why two become ONE flesh. Sacramental marriage is a private relationship with far-reaching and eternal significance and imact, but it is, nonetheless private in nature.

    Oh, and Kelli- Your last point about teen pregnancy is brilliant. Tough love.

  39. wordwarrior says:

    Virginia,

    “I don’t think me having 10 kids makes me any more righteous or guarantees that my marriage is any more faithful than my friends who “only” have 3. My wise husband always told me, “It’s not a race. We’re not having these babies to prove anything to anybody.”

    Heartily agreed! And yet I think this point has very little to do with the author’s message.

  40. I am perceiving that the author had two messages — one that contraception masks promiscuity in the unmarried, and the other that contraception makes it hard to tell whether or not married couples are having enough sex or not — which is really none of anyone’s business anyway. Enough of the article was about this second aspect as to make a rebuttal quite appropriate. My point is that you simply cannot judge the health of the marriage by the number of offspring it produces. It is even MORE unfair to the infertile (whom the writer is ostensibly trying to protect) to make that assumption at all. If anything, seeing other families have baby after baby rather effortlessly can produce even more grief for them. If you want to be sensitive to an infertile couple, it is far better to emphasize that babies do not make a holy or healthy marriage. As far as frequency of marital relations, you may wish to think of it this way: a couple using contraception is more likely to be able to enjoy conjugal fun more often if they aren’t worrying about babies. A couple who already has a lot of closely spaced young children but doesn’t feel quite up to the challenge of another right now may be denying themselves of that privilege more frequently. So if you are measuring marital health by frequency of sex along, I think the contraception using folks probably have you beat. 🙂 We might also wish to candidly acknowledge that having many children closely spaced can be pretty tough on a marriage relationship, even if children are seen as cherished blessings. I do not at all regret having 10 children – each one is a tremendous blessing and SO worth it, but at the same time, I certainly wouldn’t insist everyone follow in my footsteps on that. They need to count the cost. If they are only doing it because they feel they must, it’s not going to be a joy.

  41. Ashley says:

    I think if you have that much time to think about someone else’s sex life- you need a life of your own.

  42. Jennifer says:

    So well-said, last two ladies.

  43. wordwarrior says:

    Virginia,

    Not going to argue beyond this….I see your points. But many of them are springing from a mindset that has only been in place since the acceptance of birth control, and the author is addressing an era of time where people thought differently, and by all practical measures, may never be able to be recaptured.

    You said: “a couple using contraception is more likely to be able to enjoy conjugal fun more often if they aren’t worrying about babies.”

    This is probably a true statement now; but babies weren’t always viewed as something about which to “worry”. Just another symptom. And probably, before we were so jaded, there surely was a sense of “not rightness” about withholding or creating any barrier between the sacred “one-flesh” union.

    So again, I don’t think you’re coming at it from the same angle as the author. Her very points play into a number of other “ills” as well, regarding the church’s view of children. I don’t know if I’m making sense 😛

    I guess bottom line, we can’t even effectively think about her points, in the context of our current thoughts about children, marriage, etc., because our view on this side of the BC movement is so jaded.

  44. By Jennifer, March 30, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

    “Embarassment leaves people to suffer humiliation and even physical damage from abuse and addiction because the cleansing confession nets only “shh, it’s your problem, deal with it – you really don’t want that to get around””
    Now THAT is a valid point and situation. Healthy sex, on the other hand, which does NOT necessarily include babies, is not a situation inviting any outsiders to comment. Even unhealthy sex requires one or a few advisors, not the entire church”

    Actually – unhealthy relationship DEMANDS the engagement of the entire church – as in, you hurt my sister/brother, you’ll have to deal with all of us. The differences between privacy and secrecy have been misinterpreted, yet are vitally important.

  45. Word Warrior says:

    Virginia,

    I also think you may be oversimplifying and thereby missing her point altogether:

    “..that contraception makes it hard to tell whether or not married couples are having enough sex or not — which is really none of anyone’s business anyway.”

    No, she isn’t saying this. She isn’t saying we should be concerned whether a couple is “having enough sex” but that if a couples stopped having sex, as evidenced through a lack of fertility, it would be serious enough a problem that someone needs to get involved–that is a church’s business. Subtle, maybe, but it makes all the difference how you interpret that.

  46. Jennifer says:

    “Many of them are springing from a mindset that has only been in place since the acceptance of birth control”

    That is indeed a problem, because BC realized a privacy that people should have had LONG before, and it troubles me that this understanding of appropriate privacy should even have to be connected with BC. People should understand that regardless! We shouldn’t have needed the legalization of BC to teach us this.

    “Unhealthy relationship DEMANDS the engagement of the entire church – as in, you hurt my sister/brother, you’ll have to deal with all of us”

    Yes, I think you’re right about that. Hurting someone else is NOT private. If the mistreated spouse wishes to keep it from being a generally public matter (in the church or out), however, that needs to be respected.

  47. Jennifer says:

    No, that is not a church’s business. And it’s obsolete anyway, since lack of fertility no longer means (and never exclusively meant) lack of sex.

  48. Kelli, please understand that I have spent many many years in the anti birth control mindset. I firmly believe that children are a blessing, and that families should exercise faith in the area of child bearing, seeking God for what HE would have them do during each season of their lives. I also believe the healthiest situation is for a dad and a mom to do what they do because of God’s grace alone, not because they are under pressure from a watching community to prove their faithfulness. Otherwise, there will likely be subconscious resentment which is going to distort the marital relationship and hinder a warm and loving nurture of parents with their children. Yes, by all means have a bunch of babies if that is what is in your heart and in your body’s ability to do — and then love them all well. Don’t tune out and dump it on your older daughters because you’ve been so tired bearing the babies that you’ve lost the heart to emotionally connect with each of your children, young or old. I speak from experience on this, and I’ve had to apologize to my older daughters, one of whom is married and expecting our first grandson soon. Babies are for loving, not for counting…

  49. Jennifer says:

    “No, that is not a church’s business”

    To clarify, lest that’s too simplistic: it is a church’s business to take care of its members. It is important for a person (not the entire church) to try and help if a relationship’s suffering, very much so. It’s not the business of the church or any individual to try and find out what the intimacy level/activity is, and it’s not anyone’s place to aggressively get involved if not invited.

  50. “It’s not the business of the church or any individual to try and find out what the intimacy level/activity is, and it’s not anyone’s place to aggressively get involved if not invited.”

    But yes, yes it is…healthy activity is the goal. Of late,we’re (secular humans) only interested in the defect, the deceptive, the perverse…God’s family is interested in healthy behavior. Being interested in the defective is the genesis of gossip, and wrong judgment, and wrong advice.

  51. Linda says:

    I have been witness to a “broken relationship” in which one partner decided to with hold physical intimacy (except to reproduce). This one sin has had a domino effect, the hurt and anger it caused leading to more sin and the relationship is all but destroyed. Because everyone thought it was none of their business and even a Christian counselor neglected to give biblical counsel and hold an individual responsible for her sin against her husband.

    I would have never anticipated the broad affect this couples dysfunction, the broken relationship, would have. It has hurt their children, their family, their friends and others in the church. The dysfunction has had a destructive influence on young singles within their realm of influence, forming wrong opinions about the opposite sex and about marriage relationships that will affect their future marriages, family, friends and church community.

    The example I have shared is not unique. The attitudes that this woman has have become all too prevalent among many women I encounter, even Christians.

    If it is not the business of the church to lovingly approach, correct and restore individuals and couples to a right relationship with eachother and with God, then whose responsibility is it?

  52. Kelli, I also wanted to let you know that I appreciate your heart for mentoring moms. You write so many things that bless and challenge me, which is why I read your blog even though I don’t always agree as much as I would have 5 years ago or so.

  53. Linda, if there are symptoms of marital dysfunction or if one partner asks for counsel, that is a different story. Some intervention may be appropriate. But to judge the need for intervention based on baby counts is weird. In your example case, the couples were having relations for procreation anyway, so in that sense, they were masking their dysfunction by having babies, rather than by not having them. This was not a contraception problem, it was a heart-of-the-matter problem in their marriage.

  54. Jennifer says:

    “But yes, yes it is”

    No, no it’s not. Trying to gauge someone else’s intimacy? If I were 13, I’d say “duh”. This is Painfully obviously PRIVATE material. And anyone trying to push their way in doesn’t deserve to be part of a church family. It is NOT anyone else’s job to gauge a couple’s sex life or whip it into shape. How dare they?

    “Healthy activity is the goal. Of late,we’re (secular humans) only interested in the defect, the deceptive, the perverse”

    I don’t care what their darn motives are. Some have an obsession with purifying others’ sex lives just as others wish to dirty them.

  55. Jennifer says:

    It’s THEIR responsibility, Linda. Are we now so obsessed with keeping everyone correct that we rely on others to keep track of our sex lives?? ONE person, be it a friend, pastor or especially therapist, should try to offer advice.

  56. Jennifer says:

    Cottage Child, if you mean that it’s one’s place to get aggressively involved if something really unhealthy’s going on, then I agree. On the topic of generally keeping track of others’ sex lives or forcing their way in about anything else, my thoughts are different.

  57. “Some have an obsession with purifying others’ sex lives just as others wish to dirty them” –

    Yes, which is what fellowship is meant to deter…sorry if you don’t like the involvement factor, being called to accountability has that effect on me, too. Doesn’t change it though.

  58. Jennifer says:

    Depends on how far you go with it.

  59. SavebyGrace says:

    I kind of keep expecting to see “Judge not; lest ye be not judged” thrown in here somewhere. 🙂

    Some of the comments remind me of “small town life”. You know the one, the one where everyone knows everyone else’s business. The one where the church Deacon’s daughter gets married hurriedly and everyone starts “the count down”? Life is still like that – it depends upon where you live.

    A comment was made about shame being a terrible thing. But truly shame is a good thing. It is good to be ashamed about our sin, shame helps bring about repentance. People should be ashamed of their sin. Shame comes when others know about the sin. The Bible speaks frequently about sin being done in darkness and not likeing the light. By saying that “everything” is personal and private we help to keep sin in the darkness. This “do whatever feels good” world that we live in doesn’t like to held accountable. It likes the “it’s personal” – “stay out of it” mindset. I think part of the point of the article is the need to hold people accountable. The author chose birth control and babies as her soapbox but really it could be anything. In reality, people don’t want to be held accountable by anyone. But when God’s line of authority is utilized correctly we will be told “that behavior is wrong” from time to time. How will you respond to the authority in your life? Anger, argument, denial, repentance …

    Scripture makes is perfectly clear that the whole congregation isn’t to go along, right away, to discipline a wayward member. But that the sinned against member should:
    1. go alone,
    2. take 1 or 2 more, then
    3. tell the church
    Matt. 18

    If scripture were to be followed to the letter the sinner would be cast out of membership with the church until they repent. Part of the problem we see today is a church body that is too scared to apply scripture properly.

  60. Linda says:

    SavedbyGrace, thank you.

  61. As far as getting involved, if a couple (or just the wife or just has husband) has any genuine relationships within their own circle of Christian friends, then those friends should know them well enough to discern if there is a problem. They could see beyond fake smiles and platitudes. They could pick up on hints, facial expressions, unguarded comments, etc. If they suspect something amiss (signs of abuse, open hostility, overt flirting with others, comments from the children, etc.), they can ask if there is something they can help with. Or if the husband or the wife comes out and asks for advice, then counsel can also be given and perhaps a pastoral conversation initiated with the offending spouse. Or, if you are acquainted with a couple you don’t already know well and sense that they might need some mentoring or help, you could make the effort to get to know them better, not prying, not treating them as an improvement project, but in a commitment of genuine friendship that respects them and their dignity.

    Other than that kind of trusting Christ-centered, grace-filled relationship, nobody has any business intruding in something so private or making unfounded assumptions (such as speculating about reasons behind their family size) about what is going on behind the bedroom door.

  62. Carmen says:

    Christendom is suffering because the church is not more involved in one another’s lives. It is our duty to be fruitful and multiply. God did not leave a caveat of “if you want to.” He then states that children are a blessing from Him. When we reject His Word, because we want to wait until we feel like having children, we are in disobedience. Someone mentioned that the mother may be concerned about her health, etc., but isn’t it God who numbers our days? Our job is to be obedient to His word. Contraception is a tool of Satan, and he is winning in the churches of America today. It is amazing to me how the Muslims are procreating 4 to 5 times more than Christians. If you haven’t seen this you should: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU It puts it in perspective. We shouldn’t just be thinking of ourselves, but having the eternal perspective of what God wants for His Church.

  63. Jennifer says:

    I always hated those small towns, Grace. Thank you for shating those Scriptures, all good examples of what to do if a bad problem can’t be worked out privately. I’ve heard this repeatedly in discussions about what to do if a spouse is abusive and this kind of logical process is exactly the sort that Curtis doesn’t seem to get.

    Boy am I glad the Christian world as a whole doesn’t share your views, Carmen.

  64. Jennifer says:

    “sharing”

  65. Word Warrior says:

    Virginia,

    I appreciate that very much.

  66. Jennifer says:

    Perfectly said, Virginia.

  67. SavebyGrace says:

    Jennifer, I think you missed my point. Here’s another resource:
    ****************************
    1 Cor. 5: 9 – 13
    I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

    Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.

    But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

    For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?

    But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
    **************************

    We, the Church, are supposed to judge and hold each other accountable. We, the Church, are to “put away the wicked person from among ourselves”. Sin is not private, Sin is a horrible thing in God’s eyes and we, the Church, will be held accountable for not making proper application of God’s word.

    That being said, there is no need to go barging into someones marriage w/o good cause. Things should be done gently and with love but they should be done.

    In today’s world, because of the harm of birth control, we cannot tell about the sanctity of a marriage (the author’s point). But that does not relieve the Church of it’s responsibility when sin in known.

    Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. 1 Cor. 10: 24

  68. I have been patiently waiting for someone to point out that accountability to the church is not a matter of dragging a couple before the corporate gathering to give an account of their marital intimacy and procreation. The church is people who have a relationship with Jesus and with each other.
    Thankfully, Virginia pointed that out.

    I have already concluded that the point of the Ms. Curtis’ article as a contrast between the state of sexual accountability in the church and society before birth control and after has been lost in the fog of modern attitudes concerning the issue.

    But I am heartened to see that we, as the church, have not totally abandoned the notion that we need other believers in our lives to be accountable for and to be accountable to.

  69. Yvonne says:

    The author writes,”Fornication superenabled by contraception leads the young away from marriage and into a life of secret sin behind closed doors on which no one has a right to knock”.
    This seems to be the author’s main point about contraception within marriage. There always has been and always will be ways to try and conceal sin…. but the wide availablily and effectiveness of birth control makes a provision for fornication (in many different forms, including homosexuality) on a much larger scale than ever before.

  70. Yvonne says:

    Actually, let me correct myself on the above quote I posted. She appears to be saying that contraception discourages the young from marriage, but I think the application extends to the married as well in the fact that birth control may make a way for adultery by concealing problems in marriage and hiding extramarital affairs. To me, anything that makes sin easier, should be handled with extreme caution and discretion.
    It may be appropriate to add here that we must always remember who the inventors were for birth control and what their motives were. Barriers, if I’m not mistaken, were invented by whoremongers. Margaret Sanger was another main advocate of BC.

  71. Jennifer says:

    “In today’s world, because of the harm of birth control, we cannot tell about the sanctity of a marriage (the author’s point)”

    It’s not our PLACE to try and analyze the sanctity of another’s marriage. I had a feeling already of what your point was, Grace, and didn’t care; I see another code of conduct in those Scriptures and it does NOT involve an outsider trying to get involved because they personally thought they gauged a problem. Birth control is and remains a ludicrous red flag in this situation, since neither it nor babies are good indicators for what’s going on.

    “That being said, there is no need to go barging into someones marriage w/o good cause”

    Thank God. A sin being known and one being guessed are totally different.

  72. Jennifer says:

    Those are interesting Scriptures, Grace. I never knew there was a passage in the Bible actually telling others to judge.

  73. SavebyGrace says:

    You’re really stuck on birth control & a perceived invasion of someone’s privacy aren’t ya? Well, I see her point clearly and I don’t believe that she’s taking it to the same conclusion that you and others are taking it too. The point is about the harm caused by birth control in making shacking up and cheating something that can be hidden more easily than in days gone by.

    The point is that Christians are accountable to the church body. There’s tons of scripture to support that position (or are those some of the ones you throw out?). Technically – if an outsider did guage a problem and was brave enough to step into the situation many of our social ills would no longer be social ills.

    And Jennifer, if you didn’t care you wouldn’t keep posting over and over again. We don’t have to agree. I say you’re wrong and you say I’m wrong. I say the Bible is ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY and you like to tame it down just enough to make it more palatable to your taste. So be it.

  74. SavebyGrace says:

    I was snide and I’m sorry.

  75. Jennifer says:

    Kelly, please don’t release my last comment. Grace, thank you and that’s all right. My own comment may have been snide since I didn’t confirm that I actually agreed with most of your post before last, the one about church being involved in vital situations without being forceful.

    If my response to your last comment does get through, please ignore it.

  76. SavebyGrace says:

    Jennifer, I’m sorry. We come at this whole thing from different vantage points. We disagree. That’s okay.

    At least we know we’re passionate, right? I’d rather be passionate about something than luke-warm.

    Now, have a blessed day and go outside and enjoy some wonderful sunny weather. We need the vitamin D. School is finished for 4 whole DAYS!! I’m not sure who needs the break more me or the students:)

  77. Jennifer says:

    No problem 🙂 And you’re right, passion is wonderful. I do agree with the core of your argument; it’s the side-issues presented in this article and how they were presented that I didn’t like.

    Have a blessed day too, and I have indeed found that Vitamin D is essential! We live right on a bay down in FL and the sunny weather combined with breeze and balmy air is divine. By all means, let your mind recover well from school; put your feet up!

  78. L says:

    http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2010/marapr/features/mosher.html

    A bit of history from the Victorian times about women and sex and contraception.

    Throughout human history there has been use of contraception. We happen to have by far the best methods for use nowadays, but it has always been available in one form or another. One can argue that it allows young people to act bad – I would say that without it young people just try to do everything but intercourse.

    Contraception is not a new thing and while it can be used wrong, so can anything. As Christians, we can ask each other to pray about what God wants if we think someone is on the wrong course, but it is not for us to tell each other what God wants for a specific situationb that is a gray area – and God never, ever said contraception was wrong. It’s a gray area.

  79. Word Warrior says:

    L,

    There are aspects of your comment that are true–God never said contraception is wrong. Unless you count his actions toward Onan, the only recorded story of a man trying to prevent a pregnancy.

    But, think rationally for a minute: There is NO gray area about how we should view children. Viewing children as anything but a blessing, a “heritage from the Lord” and exalting a woman’s fruitfulness are all clear positions for the Christian.

    These positions have been woefully compromised, perfectly parallel to the increase of the acceptance of birth control.

    One must admit that logic can serve to clear up gray areas and if we are willing to look, without our own reasons for justification, at the mindset behind the BC movement, what it has done, broad scale to families, churches, etc., combine that with what the Scripture reveals about God’s heart toward not only children but His “desire for godly offspring” as it relates to Kingdom building…well, we have quite a bit more to work with than a simple, “well there’s no verse”.

    All that to say, I also believe an area that has done so much damage to the body of Christ is most certainly an area where we would be wise to gently instruct, ask questions and challenge our brothers and sisters to study more carefully.

    God never, ever said going to a strip club was wrong; but we would be remiss to use that fact as justification.

  80. L says:

    “L,

    There are aspects of your comment that are true–God never said contraception is wrong. Unless you count his actions toward Onan, the only recorded story of a man trying to prevent a pregnancy.”

    That was not about birth control, that was about denying his brother a descendant. In fact, that story makes me think coitus interruptus was a pretty common method back then to try to prevent birth. If so, why did God not have any other stories about married couples doing that and being punished because he wanted them to have more children?

    “But, think rationally for a minute: There is NO gray area about how we should view children. Viewing children as anything but a blessing, a “heritage from the Lord” and exalting a woman’s fruitfulness are all clear positions for the Christian.”

    I agree with all of those statements. I think children are wonderful and I would love to have a lot. I also want to BE a blessing to my children by not having so many children that I cannot provide them with necessities.

    “These positions have been woefully compromised, perfectly parallel to the increase of the acceptance of birth control.”

    Attitudes and sins go up and down in cycles throughout history. In Japan family planning has been practiced for centuries – it used to be by killing “extra” babies once they were born. I agree that America has gone downhill in many ways but I disagree that birth control is such a huge cause of it.

    “One must admit that logic can serve to clear up gray areas and if we are willing to look, without our own reasons for justification, at the mindset behind the BC movement, what it has done, broad scale to families, churches, etc., combine that with what the Scripture reveals about God’s heart toward not only children but His “desire for godly offspring” as it relates to Kingdom building…well, we have quite a bit more to work with than a simple, “well there’s no verse”.”

    Yes, but also look at historical examples and realizing how much incredible misery people have suffered through because of a lack of reliable birth control. I don’t think BC itself is a cause so much as the lack of asking God/obeying Him is the cause of people’s selfishness. IOW, in previous times people had less choice about how many children they had, so they had more. It wasn’t necessarily because they were trying to please God. Nowadays a couple can ask God for his wishes for their situation and then do what they believe He wants. How is that sinning? How is a purposeful life like that any less Godly than the person who just has children “because?” What we do in faith is what pleases God, not what we do because it just happens.

    “All that to say, I also believe an area that has done so much damage to the body of Christ is most certainly an area where we would be wise to gently instruct, ask questions and challenge our brothers and sisters to study more carefully.”

    Certainly ask questions and challenge, but if someone honestly feels God told them something different, then is this is a salvation level issue?

    “God never, ever said going to a strip club was wrong; but we would be remiss to use that fact as justification.”

    Agreed. That means we study the rest of the Bible and figure out what it would look like to imitate God’s character in the situation of a strip club, i.e., leave (unless in there to rescue someone, perhaps). God said be fruitful and He said children are a blessing. Those are not commands against birth control and I maintain that it is perfectly possible to love children deeply and still plan births and that being a blessing to existing children by not way overextending in finances, health, etc. is also important.

  81. L says:

    Finally, I have been in places and helped in situations that were dire, truly dire, where lack of birth control was causing enormous problems for people… including interfering with the Gospel as people were too weak and sick and busy struggling to survive to hear and comprehend. I totally believe in the rightness of giving a semi starving woman who has had 12 to 15 pregnancies birth control as well as food and help in any way you can. It is part of stopping a cycle of poverty. Also, I despise Planned Parenthood – they go into desperate countries and push for abortions whereas I never met a woman, even one who had had that many pregnancies, who wanted an abortion. They only wanted birth control. If Christians tell them that is ungodly and they MUST be open to more children even though there is no decent healthcare, even though their existing children are starving and not getting educated, even though their husband drinks all the money, and even though life is a constant struggle on every level, where is the compassion? How can we say that to a sister in Christ in a situation like that? How can we lay burdens on people so strictly when it is not even a clear command in the Bible?

    I realize this may be an extreme example – except that there are many more women in this situation than are in the Western situation of ease and selfish putting off having children to go on trips.

  82. Word Warrior says:

    L,
    There are so many things I could address in your comment, but my time doesn’t permit, especially given the fact that I’ve addressed them all at length in other posts.

    No one said this was a salvific issue. Your original concern was that “it is not for us to tell each other what God wants”. I happen to think that the general principle of birth control and children among Christians mostly is not the view of children we’re instructed to have in the Bible. We should be talking to each other about that. Which is why I continue to write on the subject. I would invite you to read some of my other posts if you interested in my answers to the points you made in your comment (including why I don’t believe God’s actions toward Onan was mainly about avoiding a brother’s descendant ;-))

  83. “that being a blessing to existing children by not way overextending in finances, health, etc. is also important.”

    L, you weren’t talking to me, directly, but I’m chiming in anyway :)…

    two issues with your statement (and I quoted the exact part I might take issue with)…perspective is important. While birth control may not be new, operating a family from a child-driven perspective is. I would suggest that there is connection between the fairy tale image of Christ we like to imagine – Jesus loves the little children becomes Jesus would have us worship the little children – and the rationale that we’re “blessing” siblings and each other by limiting our family size.

    Health, yes, it happens and Kelly has addressed that, but it is rarely actually a physical matter as much as a spiritual one. Finances….no, I don’t think intentionally pursuing poverty is a service to one’s family, but our standard is the American one. Largely indulgent, even among lower income families. Planning is a sticky issue…whose plans, exactly?

  84. Jennifer says:

    Our plans, CC. We all have our reasons for them: finances, personal preferences, health, emotion, conviction. This issue is more of a rainbow than either black and white or gray alone.

  85. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify, Jennifer…I’m wondering if God’s plans might be worth considering. I’m not judging, I’ve certainly thumbed my nose at my share of direction, just thinking there’s a whole lot of human plans we’re reaping the consequences of, lately. I don’t think it’s a matter of conviction as much a matter of convenience in the matters of birth control for most contemporary Christians – and many have shared that exact truth with me. I don’t know any woman who knew to an absolute certainty what her emotional/personal/etc. reaction would be to two or seven or no children in her life. By that measure, maybe no one should have children? Very gray, when it’s limited to the merely terrestrial.

  86. Sara says:

    I know I’m finding this post late. I thought this article was very interesting, and applicable.
    First, my husband and I for the whole of our marriage have given over our family size to God. We had four children in five years. But from the beginning, we had significant marital problems that were delayed in being addressed because children kept coming and absorbing all the attention. I kept giving myself to my husband even after the marital issues became so bad, that I felt sick and depressed after each time. We kept having children, so babies were not a good judge of the health of our marriage, or the health of our sex–which was pretty sick, at least on my side.
    Finally, ready to throw my hands up and divorce so as to not have to have sex anymore, I realized, I don’t need to divorce. We just need to abstain until some of these problems can get worked through. That has helped immensely. I don’t dread sleeping in the same bed with my husband, I don’t have the fear that more children will come and the problems will just continue to be ignored etc. So in that case, the abstinence was more healthy than the sex.
    Honestly, books and certain women telling me I was sinning b/c of wanting to deny my DH did our marriage a lot more damage than help. It really warped my view of sex as I kept doing it even when I hated it, just so I wouldn’t be sinning.
    Here’s the part of the article that hit me today though.
    Fast forward to now, 2 years since, and the problems have mostly been worked out and DH is on the right track. But I still feel uncomfortable with the idea of sex.
    We would normally have had another child by now, and I know he is wishing for one.
    At this point, I think I am probably abstaining out of selfishness, and if I gave the issue over to God, He would be able to heal my heart and heal our sex lives.

    All this to say, babies or no, you can’t tell the state of someones marriage by what you can see. And I think this is probably true for those “days gone by” too.
    B/c we ARE one of those families that haven’t used any BC from day one. And the issues were so complex, NO ONE would be able to discern what was going on unless WE purposefully shared it with them.
    Especially not by outside factors. Maybe if we still hadn’t had a baby three years from now, those who knew we didn’t use BC would start to wonder. And I see that that’s the main point of the article.
    But we have known many couples who used natural family planning or even BC (which I don’t agree with) who had much healthier marriages than us. So, while it may be regretable to some, you just can’t tell by these things. But I do agree at some point godly intervention is called for. For example I think intervention *could* be warranted for our situation, now. But b/c of the possibility of BC no one would know if there were problems or not. And that’s one of the points of the article with is really valid.

    All this to say, I agree with some things, and disagree with others. But I think it’s tricky to start laying down heavy burdens on people, even with good intentions. Those who counseled me to give and give and give in the bedroom probably thought they were helping, so I can’t fault them, but it did SO much damage.

    But now, that same advice would be warranted.
    You just have to be careful and seek the Spirit on these matters, and the answer may be different for different times, like it was for me, there isn’t a pat answer for everything.

    So, thanks Kelly for posting this. Probably the kick in the butt I needed, and hopefully God will give us another child in the next year.

  87. Jennifer says:

    If I may say so, Sara, I don’t think you need or deserved to be kicked anymore at all, especially not from one who espouses such ignorance about others’ marriages. God bless you.

  88. SavebyGrace says:

    Hi Sara, I appreciate your post. We all need a kick in the butt from time to time. Sometimes that’s how our Father gets our attention;) Happens to me too!

    I know what you mean by good intentioned “helpers”. I had someone wade into my marriage and almost wreck it – a very trusted someone no less. DH had to come home from work 1 day because I was falling to pieces. But we have to forgive them and we have to recognize that we none of us are perfect. I pray that your marriage will be rock solid babies or not.

    Cast your cares on Jesus. It’s hard not to take them back and worry them, I know. I believe we Christian women must be in prayer for each others marriages. The attack is going to get stronger!

    In Christian love,

  89. Liberty2bme says:

    Couple things…

    1.Loved this post. Thank you for sharing it.

    2.After reading through the post and then all of the comments, there are a couple of things that I would gently like to point out which I find harmful and language which should be avoided….namely, expletives and vulgar or obscene euphemisms… such as “freakin'”,”darn” and “What an utter crock.” This is an encouragement to each of us to bridle our tongues, though it may appear aimed at one, it isn’t. We all need to carefully consider our words, they have meaning. Let’s follow the teaching of 2 Tim 2:16 and “shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”

    3. Jennifer, I know you were not speaking to me when you wrote this, but I feel compelled to challenge your thought process that says “The whole body is not needed to pull a person from sin anymore than your entire body is required to remove the hand from the burner; all it takes are some muscles close to the hand, not organs and appendages properly distanced.”

    ….though I know you did state that you are “well aware of how a body operates” are you sure you really considered this argument?

    That was a huge oversimplification and and in fact a clear misrepresentation of the magnitude of the body’s response to pain requiring removal of a hand from a hot burner.

    “not organs and appendages properly distanced” Seriously? Not only would one be hard pressed to remove a hand from a burner without the use and benefit of the organs and appendages perceived as distal to a hand, one may cease to exist at all without most of them, …you name it, the nerves, the veins, the arteries, the head, the brain, the spinal cord, the skelton, the heart, the stomach, intestines, the lungs, the liver, pancreas, etc….I could go into explaining how each are involved in this extremely complex process that you seem to view as quite simple, but suffice it to say a careful study of anatomy and physiology will reveal the truth. Our body’s are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made and our parts are all interdependent. In fact their is only one organ in the body that has the ability to do it’s job apart from the nervous system telling it what to do, and even it will soon die after being seperated from the body if not quickly and properly restored. (for those who may be wondering, I am referring to the heart)

    also, on another note, you mentioned that “never knew there was a passage in the Bible actually telling others to judge. Well I though I would share another verse with you which you may find quite interesting.

    1 Corinthians 6:2-3 “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”

    in fact, people in general and christians especially, often misunderstand the scripture that says to “judge not” ….

    let us look at it… shall we?!

    Matthew 7:1-5-
    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    The message presented here is NOT that we never make judgements, rather that we be aware that when when we judge we will be judged by the same standard by which we judge or we will be found to be a hyporite.

    This should certainly give us all caution in haphazardly flinging judgements about…but some people just stop reading there. The passage goes on to advise us to consider ourselves (a call to action) and first (not the word- only, rather…first) remove the plank from our own eye so (in order that) we can see clearly to help a brother remove the speck from theirs….

    I hope that helps clear up some misperceptions.

    May God bless each of you!
    In Christ,
    Liberty

  90. Jennifer says:

    Liberty, I find it amusing that you warn me of flinging judgements after approving of this woman’s incredibly judgemental and presumptious article. You can be sure that I judged her on the same standards I hold myself to, and may God smack me if I’m ever so sinfully nosy and potentially meddling in others’ personal lives.

    “That was a huge oversimplification”

    Not in the least. I’m sorry, but the stomach, the arteries, the liver and the intestines do not assist in moving a hand; I can remove my hand from any surface without any body part other than those in my arm and brain working. The fact that we can’t survive without most of our organs is totally irrelevent to this point. Such an anology requires careful thought, and I gave it thus before making it. It’s really not hard biology. Nor do I find the body simple, much less this delicate issue, which you and the author seem to.

    Thirdly, I don’t consider words like “darn” and “crock” to be vulgar. If you do and are generally that sensitive, I’m amazed you can make it through the Bible.

  91. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John C. Welch, Aaron Garner. Aaron Garner said: previous tweet is in regards to this article: http://bit.ly/doa4ed […]

  92. […] Here is an article which has one of the most bizarre takes on the entire issue I’ve ever seen.  The central premise is early on stated in 0ne sentence that defines all of this nonsense, in whatever creed you care to name. Image by yuri_arurs at Dreamstime.com (with permission) […]

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