Russell and Duenes

New Year’s Resolutions and Having Babies

with 4 comments

Regular readers of this page will be familiar with my aversion to the general use of contraceptives in our culture – Christian culture as well as non. But in these days of reflexive rage against anyone who would even suggest that widespread contraceptive use is a bad thing, it bears repeating that I am not a contraceptive absolutist. In other words, I am not persuaded by Scripture that every single instance of birth control use is sinful. However, I certainly am an absolutist in my opposition to the birth control mentality that pervades our culture and churches. This mentality, whether consciously held or not, says that children are in some sense liabilities, impediments to “ministry” or even nuisances rather than blessings, that bringing more children into the world may be harmful to the environment or lead to the overpopulation that allegedly plagues our planet. The birth control mentality says that parents are only “ready” to have children when they are “set” in their careers, when their children can be “provided for,” (“provided for” meaning: when the children can be given the various upper middle class cultural amenities) and likely when the parents have had some fun without children. I’ve tried to support this assessment in an even-handed way in many previous posts.

I admit that changing hearts and minds on this matter is difficult, but in these days of resolutions and renewals, I remind myself that my mind was changed and I can point to other minds that have been changed as well. I’m always attentive when others touch on the issue of procreation, to see if there are other angles I’ve not yet pursued. Thus my interest in C.S. Lewis’ little essay, The Transmission of Christianity (in God in the Dock). Lewis spends most of the essay discussing the need for Christian education, which I heartily endorse. But he argues that Christian education by itself is not enough. In other words, Lewis held that “getting at” the schools in England would not “re-baptize England.” There is a great need to convert adults as well as children. But, Lewis added that he did not see the need to despair. And why not?

As long as Christians have children and non-Christians do not, one need have no anxiety for the next century. Those who worship the Life-Force do not do much about transmitting it: those whose hopes are all based on the terrestrial future do not entrust much to it. If these processes continue, the final issue can hardly be in doubt.

Of course, Lewis wrote this before the advent of The Pill and the widespread use of contraceptives among evangelical Christians. Further, one may argue that having babies for the specific purpose of “transmitting Christianity” sounds rather utilitarian and mechanical, rather than loving. But is that true? Is not the conceiving, bearing, and raising of human life a blessing according to Christ? And is it not a further blessing to raise children to know and love Christ and experience His salvation? Wouldn’t it be the height of love for two parents to conceive children out of profound love for each other, and to raise those children to love and serve Christ so that they too might enjoy the fullness of pleasure in God’s eternal presence? Is there a higher, more selfless, motivation for bringing children into the world?

We see that families like the Duggars are lambasted for having so many children, but as one lambaster asks: “Where are the forces that shall help neutralize [The Duggar’s] effect on the culture? Where is the counterbalance, to offset the damage? Where is, in other words, the funky tattooed intellectual poetess who, along with her genius anarchist husband, is popping out 16 funky progressive intellectually curious fashion-forward pagan offspring to answer the Duggar’s squad of über-white future Wal-Mart shoppers? Where is the liberal, spiritualized, pro-sex flip side? Verily I say unto thee, it ain’t lookin’ good.”

No it ain’t, and I think Lewis has told us why.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

January 2, 2012 at 1:19 pm

4 Responses

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  1. As a father of seven it’s pretty obvious how I feel about most of this post. Re: the demographics, “it ain’t looking good” might be true at the physical level, but at the spiritual level I’m not so sure (in our time/place at least). Or to answer the Lambaster, the forces are unseen, but they are there. The church’s inclination toward larger family size is only an advantage if they can defeat those forces and retain their offspring. I heard a speaker last week who had no children (not by choice) but considered those he had influenced throughout his lifetime to be his “children” – we need that childmaking, or disciplemaking, to occur, since it surely occurs elsewhere in our culture (universities, media, etc.)
    [Incidentally, being a funky tattooed intellectual poetess doesn’t nec. imply one is not a Christian — have you been too long in Kansas?]

    Andy M

    January 3, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    • The “funky…” line wasn’t mine, but the guy from the SF Chronicle. But with your larger point, I couldn’t agree more. Christians merely having children will not accomplish God’s purposes.

      -D

      russell and duenes

      January 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

  2. I have so many thoughts about this issue that I could write a book.

    1) Blogger Bonald has a recent post on his struggle with “contraceptive mentality”. While Bonald’s strict Roman Catholic theology is frequently off-putting to me, I have often thought that the Catholic Church has it right on so many moral issues where Protestants have dropped the ball (the benefit, I am sure, of having a top-down authoritarian church structure).

    2) I have always felt in my gut that artificial contraception (I hate the term “birth control”, which I feel mischaracterizes and trivializes a grave issue) is kind of gross. It might be worthwhile for me, sometime, to explore the reasons for this. Regardless, some might feel it’s an interesting admission for a 21st-century healthcare provider to make.

    3) We had our first child within a year of marriage, and our second a year after that. Our families’ and acquaintances’ reactions ranged from amused surprise to very raised eyebrows to slight (but only slight, since they know us to be responsible individuals) horror.

    4) During that second pregnancy, my wife would get rude or uncalled-for comments in public (at the grocery store, e.g.). I had no idea about this until it had been going on for a long time and she came home one day in tears. I was very angry, and to this day I think I mark that as the time that I really began to HATE the anti-family and child-hostile nature of our society.

    5)

    and likely when the parents have had some fun without children.

    In truth, we *do* sometimes wish we had had more time to grow as a couple. But overall our children have been nothing but blessings, which I don’t say as a platitude – it really is true. I would say, though, that society – or maybe the church, since I don’t expect a lot from society at large – needs to do a better job at teaching parents how to balance caring for their marriage with caring for the children; it is very important for a couple to remember that they are husband and wife first, and parents second. Otherwise the marriage suffers badly, and that is no good for parents or children.

    Focus on the Family’s magazine, which I read, has been very helpful to me in this regard.

    6) The connection between contraception and abortion is so intriguing. Most people don’t realize that one major reason abortion was legalized was that contraception – and extramarital sex – had become mainstream. The authorities said, “Well, nowadays women assume that they can have sex and not get pregnant. They are building entire lives around this assumption. Ergo, they need an easy ‘out’ in case, by some fluke, they do become pregnant.” That, in different words, is really what one judge said, although I can’t recall which judge or where.

    7)

    when their children can be “provided for,” (“provided for” meaning: when the children can be given the various upper middle class cultural amenities)

    Ha, ha… too true.

    Samson J.

    January 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    • Samson – So well put. Perhaps you should write that book.

      I agree with all of your points, but particularly with points 2 and 6. Henceforth I shall attempt to abstain from the term “birth control.” Besides, the term “contraception” carries much more freight, since taken etymologically, it presumes we are against – “contra” – something which God calls an unmitigated blessing – “conception.” As Janet Smith says, it turns the act of intercourse into something where a woman says to the man, in effect, “I want to share every part of myself with you, except that I want to put up a barrier to the most momentous consequence of this act of lovemaking.” There’s something deeply troubling about that, and damaging to marriages.

      Regarding point 6: Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has essentially said that BECAUSE we have contraception, we must have abortion. In the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the court said, “In several important respects, the decision to have an abortion is the same as the decision to contracept…For two decades, couples have based their intimate relationships on the availability of abortion should contraceptives fail.” That about says it all.

      -D

      russell and duenes

      January 4, 2012 at 1:57 pm


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