Saturday, October 07, 2006

Christians and Contraception

There were many thoughtful responses to my post about conservative Protestants turning against birth control. I'm very skeptical of the argument that it shows a lack of trust in God. By the same argument, is it a sin to wear seat belts?

Michael Daniel wrote:

The Catholic opposition to birth control, which I happen to agree with, seems to say that artificial birth control denies the reality of the responsibility that comes with sex, that sex is not simply a means of self-gratification or a competitive sport.

No, abortion denies the responsibility that comes with sex. If a couple uses birth control and then becomes pregnant anyway, they have a responsibility to that child. But avoiding the conception of that child in the first place avoids no responsibility to any presently-existing child.

And what's the matter with sex serving self-gratification for the couple involved? Why is that such a bad thing? Is sex just morally icky and therefore to be avoided unless absolutely necessary? What we're seeing is two opposing views of the moral nature of sex.

Christine writes:

My mouth hung open at the church dinner last Sunday night as I listened to one mother explain what her daughter had been learning at her (conservative) Christian middle school.

The topic was, "Is it sinful for women to accept epidurals or other drugs to ease the pain during childbirth, since God told us we were to bear children in pain?"

After much discussion, the teacher revealed that she personally had concluded the answer was yes, it is a sin. The Bible said so.

I am still stunned. To be teaching something like this to girls in the beginnings of puberty... another example of some very bad theology out there that could have major guilt consequences for people in the future.

Bizarre. I wonder how much of this movement really is about patriarchal control.

9 comments:

Michael said...

I don't think any of this is about patriarchal control, John. If there is something that causes any level of spiritual concern, would it not be the responsibility of spiritual leaders to offer some food for thought? Not to pass judgment, mind you, but to suggest to parishioners and society that perhaps we need to rethink our roles. Are we made for sex? Is sex made for us? Is sex all there is?

Beyond birth control, how about some self control? As some comedian once said, sex is the leading cause of pregnancy (or was that Dan Quayle??). Sex is not "icky", but show me where the Bible specifically mentions sex as a divine gift? And this is a serious question because I do not know of such a passage or even an implication.

Our society is indeed offering sex without responsibility. There is birth control to avoid parenthood and there is "birth control" to avoid STD's. How far must society go to present sex as a "safe" option? How far must anyone go to suggest that sex means more than simply "getting busy"?

John said...

I don't think any of this is about patriarchal control, John. If there is something that causes any level of spiritual concern, would it not be the responsibility of spiritual leaders to offer some food for thought? Not to pass judgment, mind you, but to suggest to parishioners and society that perhaps we need to rethink our roles. Are we made for sex? Is sex made for us? Is sex all there is?

Beyond birth control, how about some self control? As some comedian once said, sex is the leading cause of pregnancy (or was that Dan Quayle??). Sex is not "icky", but show me where the Bible specifically mentions sex as a divine gift? And this is a serious question because I do not know of such a passage or even an implication.


I didn't say that sex is a divine gift. But the burden of proof that sex is inherently sinful is on those who say that sex is inherently sinful.

"Self control?" Sure. But self control for what? If sex is not sinful for married couples, why restrict it? Why add laws which are not in the Bible onto those which are?

Our society is indeed offering sex without responsibility. There is birth control to avoid parenthood and there is "birth control" to avoid STD's. How far must society go to present sex as a "safe" option? How far must anyone go to suggest that sex means more than simply "getting busy"?

Certainly birth control has created the sense in some people that sex entails no responsibility. Shall we then tell everyone else who does use birth control and accept that it is not 100% effective that they must not use it? Sex is not completely "safe", as you say Michael, but why not make it safer? Why eliminate the option?

John F said...

Isn't the distinction in the Bible between forms of sexual activity that are life-enriching and those that are exploitive or destructive in some way?

If this is so, then the issue is not whether we are using birth control, but whether the acts themselves are destructive to spiritual and human wholeness and holiness.

I would say that there are even acts of procreation that are engaged in for purposes that are themselves unholy.

If it isn't obvious, I'm engaging in the "know them by their fruit" argument here. Maybe Jesus meant something different when he said that, but I find it powerful.

Michael said...

I don't think anyone has suggested that sex in and of itself is inherently sinful but if there is not more to go with it, then it is reduced to nothing more than a physical act. That, in and of itself, could easily be construed as sinful.

I don't think I've suggested any addendum to biblical law but for those who have suggested a biblical responsibility to practice birth control (such as our own BoD), where is the biblical text to support that? Talk about creating new biblical law!

As for your suggestion to make sex "safer", I would only ask: to what end? Do I believe sex to be inherently sinful? No. Do I believe the use of birth control itself to be sinful? I'm not sure. I can only say that I've never been comfortable with it not because "the pope said so" but because my own personal objections coupled with the Roman church's teachings and reasoning behind those teachings which seems to be that sex for its own sake IS sinful (or at least is potentially). Not sure that I completely agree with that notion, but I don't completely disregard it anymore that I would disregard your arguments.

In the end, it is still a private choice that a married couple should make considering everything and how it will glorify the Lord and His kingdom. The Church can - and should - speak to it. This, too, is a responsible choice.

John said...

To what end?

That a married couple may bond closely in love and physical joy.

Richard said...

Sex is not sinful, nor is it sinful to reduce the risk of bringing an unwanted child into the world. Birth control prevents something like an abortion from happening. Birth control is a responsible thing to do.

Sex enhances a relationship, a child does not need to be the result of it. Passion can be a very strong bond between two people, of course coupled with non-corporal love. It can be a very wonderful thing indeed.

Michael said...

That birth control is "responsible" is not arguable, but that birth control itself prevents abortion is highly questionable. It is not the pregnancy that causes abortion; it is the complete disregard for the sanctity and inherent value of life. One has nothing to do with the other.

Oloryn said...

Our society is indeed offering sex without responsibility.
My impression is that our society has gone way beyond that. Often, the ability to have promiscuous sex without consequences seems to be regarded as an intrinsic right, and the destruction of anything which gets in the way of it, whether it be disease, morals, or laws, is expected to be given a high and primary priority. C. S. Lewis noted in 1958 that "Religions buzz about us like bees. A serious sex worship—quite different from the cheery lechery endemic in our species—is one of them." I'd say it has gotten worse since then - the idolatry of sex at times seems near to be becoming the national religion.

And unfortunately, some Christians react to that by merely taking the opposite tack. "Look at what the world is doing and do the opposite" is a tempting approach, but that results in you merely driving in reverse while keeping your eyes on the world, rather than keeping them on following Jesus. And the "spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" that we fight against always include some truth in their lies, not only because it makes the lies more palatable, but in hopes that those who reject the lies will also reject the included truths.

There's a need to avoid our surrounding culture's idolatry of sex without merely reversing it - which results in the idolatry of the denigration of sex. The strange theology that some Christians (like those in Christine's story) espouse on this is, I suspect, more a result of missing that need than of "Patriarchal control".

Lorna said...

the pain in childbirth teaching is way off ... patriarchical I can't say, but mascocistic without doubt