Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Remaining Consistent

Monday, May 08, 2006

Remaining Consistent

One of the plaguing problems that all people groups share, whether it be fundamental conservatives or far-left liberals, is the tendency for specific persons within those people groups to allow the disease of inconsistency to decay their thought. It happens to all of us and we must make the mental effort to re-think and be consistent in our views. If we don't, then we just simply won't make the kind of impact with integrity that makes people listen.

Having said that, Russell Shorto with the New York Times has written an article that should incite an interesting series of conversations from all walks of life. His article is named "Contra-Contraception" and is a rather detailed account of the current status of the increasing debate over the use of contraceptives, both by unmarried and married couples. The main points of interest are two-fold.

1. Shorto quotes Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Seminary and arguably the most intelligent and well spoken Southern Baptist, or evangelical conservative for that matter, on the planet. (I look forward to learning quite a bit from him soon.)

"When the pill came out, evangelicals were very much a part of mainstream American culture, and like others they saw technology as a gift. There was a vaccine to fight polio. The pill was seen in the same light. I think evangelicals thought, Catholics can't use it, but we can: aren't we lucky?"

But then, from this perspective, the pill began to do terrible damage. "I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill," Mohler continued. "It became almost an assured form of contraception, something humans had never encountered before in history. Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation."

Shorto goes on to say "That may be a distinctly minority position, but some who work in the public health field acknowledge that the social conservatives have a point. "I think the left missed something in the last couple of decades," says Sarah Brown, president of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which positions itself as a moderate voice in the heated world of reproductive politics. "With the advent of oral contraception, I think there was this great sense that we had a solution to the problem of unintended pregnancy. But that is a medical model. I think the thing that was missed was that sex and pregnancy and relationships aren't just a health issue. They are really about family and gender and religion and values. And what the right did was move in and say we're not just talking about body parts."

2. The second point, and even more interesting, is how the various contraceptives work. The question being asked more and more by protestants, and not just Catholics, is if the contraceptive acts as an abortifacient. That is to say, that the egg is fertilized and the contraceptive kills the fertilized egg, or keeps it from implantation. The question then must be answered, does a pregnancy begin at fertilization or implantation?(implantation is where a fertilized egg attaches to the uterine wall). This has in turned raised issues with the pill and other formerly accepted means of birth control among conservatives.

Here is where The Beast comes down, as best I can, on these issues. Obviously, I believe a Biblical view of sex under the umbrella of marriage is the only acceptable view. Having said that, Christians have always been a voice for sexual purity for those who are not married, especially teenagers. Efforts like "True Love Waits" have done a fair job on a national level of making students at least aware of what is considered a healthy and biblical view of sex. Anything that would make the temptation or ease of entering into a sexual relationship before marriage is of course going to be frowned upon by conservative Christians. The current "PLAN B" over-the-counter birth control that is in heated debate right now is a major stimulus for the new interest in all birth control. At it's simplest, does this product drive more teenagers and adults into unhealthy and even dangerous relationships that they might not otherwise go.

The second point is really one of consistency, and I am happy to see our conservative Christian leaders struggling to remain consistent on all the issues that affect us. If we are bold and loud to stand up against abortion because it kills a baby, then we have an obligation to follow that through to the end. We can't stop short and say that if a women is pregnant and a pill or injection will end the pregnancy then that is acceptable because it is not an "abortion" at a clinic. That is inconsistent. So we must wrestle with the issue of when does a pregnancy actually occur?

Mohler also makes the point in his article, correctly, that "we must start with a rejection of the contraceptive mentality that sees pregnancy and children as impositions to be avoided rather than as gifts to be received, loved, and nurtured. This contraceptive mentality is an insidious attack upon God's glory in creation, and the Creator's gift of procreation to the married couple."

However, as is usually the case in these kinds of things, Mohler has not be completely quoted. I tracked down and read Mohler's full article that Shorto quotes. He is, in fact, not against contraception at all, nor are conservative protestant Christians. The issues being raised are those that ask, "are we doing this the right way, in a way that is pleasing to God?" How can that ever be pointless question to ask?

Here are the final words from Mohler's article:

"Therefore, Christians may make careful and discriminating use of proper technologies, but must never buy into the contraceptive mentality. We can never see children as problems to be avoided, but always as gifts to be welcomed and received. . .The moral justification for using contraceptives must be clear in the couple's mind, and fully consistent with the couple's Christian commitments."


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May 09, 2006 7:03 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...


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May 09, 2006 12:08 PM  
Blogger Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Another well-thought and well-written post.

As a conservative Lutheran pastor, I am ardently pro-life. I have, for years, been talking about the abortifacient character of the pill. Glad to see this topic seeing more light of day.

When I speak to a couple about to get married, inevitably we talk about contraception. Here is what I tell them. First, I express the concern about separating the sex act from procreation. And I talk about God's command to Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. My understanding is that God does not specify how many children they should have or when they should start having children. I tell a couple that it might be wise, for a number of reasons, to wait a few years before having kids or to try to limit the number. But I do see it as a sin against the commanment of God for couples to decide a priori that they will not have any children. I hope that does not offend any of your readers. But it seems to be that procreation is one of (not the only) purpose for marriage.f

So I am not opposed to all forms of birth control, wisely used. But that "wisely used" part is what is tricky.

Thanks for pointing us to the Mohler article. I agree with you that he is an excellent Christian leader. I always enjoy reading his stuff.

May 09, 2006 4:28 PM  
Blogger Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Oh, I meant to add that I do not mean to imply that couples who are unable to have children are displeasing to God. Not at all. I know the pain that many men and women have who would love nothing more than to have children but are not able to for medical reasons.

May 09, 2006 4:30 PM  
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