Can Christians Use Birth Control?
- Tuesday, July 14, 2009
There’s no doubt the Bible says children are a blessing, but the Bible doesn’t seem to address the specific topic of birth control. Is this a black-and-white topic, or does it fall under liberties?
I was standing in line at the grocery store with my five young children when a typical Seattleite in line behind us made a point of rebuking me for having so many children and thereby ruining the planet and contributing to overpopulation and global warming. Trying to make light of a tense moment, I said I knew the world had a lot of people, and I did not like most of them, so I was just trying to create some people I did like. Further, I was hoping global warming would hit Seattle so we would see the sun more than once every presidential election.
Not dissuaded, my critic continued her illogic. I patiently tried to educate her and told her that theoretically everyone on the earth could live in the state of Texas, each with roughly seventeen hundred square feet of space; further, problems such as starvation are the result of wars, disasters, and distribution more than overpopulation. I also explained to her that we are a faithful recycling family that has only one garbage can, which is never full, but two recycling cans and a glass bin, which are full every pick-up day.
Nonetheless, she continued to decry the existence of my children while my children looked at me with furrowed brows, wondering why someone they did not know hated them so much. The woman then asked me, “Don’t you know what causes this problem?” At that point, my middle son, the not-yet-kindergarten-age “buddy” Calvin, rolled his eyes and looked at me, in essence begging me to defend his existence. Hoping to shut her up, I said, “Yes, a beautiful wife with a pleasant disposition has caused this, but don’t fret, you won’t ever have to worry about it.”
She grew more agitated and reiterated that there were too many people on the planet. In a moment that was admittedly not very pastoral, I told her that maybe she should find another planet for herself, thereby freeing up space on mine.
Eventually, we concluded our purchases and left the store. Once in the car, my oldest daughter, Ashley, asked me why so many people hate children. Since then she has also told me that she gets embarrassed when people stare at our family and whisper when we are out, as if we are freaks that escaped from an Amish compound. My wife has even been yelled at for driving a Suburban, despite the fact that we intentionally drive very little, roughly one-third as many miles as the average American, thereby using less fuel than the average hybrid car driver.
In short, there is a great cultural debate about sex, marriage, children, and birth control, with heated opinions on all sides. This question is intriguing for me, personally, on a number of levels. I was raised as the oldest of five children in a working-class, Irish-Catholic family. That branch of Christianity considers nearly all forms of birth control sinful and emphasizes the sanctity of all human life. My Catholic mother stayed home to raise five children out of her convictions that children are a blessing and that motherhood is a high calling. Today, I am the blessed father of five children (we would have six had we not suffered a miscarriage) and my wife, Grace, stays home to work a more than full-time job as a mom. We are raising our children in the city of Seattle, which is among the least likely places in our nation to see a child, since there are more dogs than children.1 Our city is also among the least churched and most overpriced cities in the nation, which make having a big Christian family unusual, complicated, and expensive.2
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