Sunday, September 9, 2012

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Christian View on Birth Control: "Sex is for Reproduction"?

Location: Bagram Airfield, Bagram, Afghanistan
To an unexpected degree, many have sought to make this political season one about increasing access to birth control ... to which Americans should be excused for responding:  "Huh?"

Birth control is easier to obtain in America than beer, cigarettes ... or a Big Gulp in New York City.  The forces arrayed in opposition to birth control were routed decades ago.  The debate we're having now is about how to root out those bitter remnants of opposition still hiding in caves and bring them into submission.

When I was in the 10th grade, I was subjected to the indoctrination of a California sex education class.  I had only just begun my trek into the world of Christianity, so I was experiencing weekly sermons to compete with the daily public school lectures.  Thus was I caught unprepared for challenge laid down against my emerging faith by the redoubtable Ms. Bergstrom, who by way of introduction confidently strode to the blackboard and, in large letters, scrawled as follows:
Christian view:  sex is for reproduction
Of course, my class full of hormonal adolescents chuckled at this, as was the teacher's intent.  As support for her assertion, Ms. Bergstrom quoted from Genesis 38:9 (King James Version, which is always a crowd-pleaser when seeking to portray Christianity as arcane foolishness):
And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
The message was clear, though Ms. Bergstrom helpfully expounded upon it lest it be missed.  The angry God of the Bible will kill you if you use "family planning".

This presented quite a conundrum for Young Jailer, having had little moral or Scriptural foundation to ready me for that moment.  I kept my mouth shut and let the challenge pass.  Yet something about all this seemed fishy.  I suspected the Gospel According to Ms. Bergstrom might contain some interpretive errors.

Sure enough, further study demonstrated that Onan's sin went beyond practicing coitus interruptus, to his refusal to honor and care for his deceased brother's wife, according to both compassion and tradition within that culture. He did this to protect his own family inheritance and legacy.  In other words, he used his dead brother's wife for sex, but denied her children--a selfish, cruel and disobedient act.

The messages of Scripture about sex are, of course, far more complex than Ms. Bergstrom's four-word exposition.  Sex is good (as Song of Songs makes clear), intended by God to be enjoyed freely--within a committed, lifelong relationship between a man and a woman.  In other words, within the context of marriage.  Oh, and I suppose I must now be specific--heterosexual marriage.

Now, because we believe this, Protestants have not drawn the line at birth control, and there is good reason to say that we ought to have freedom on this matter.  After all, is there a clear command for married couples to reject birth control measures?  And yet, we must wonder if we have taken this freedom too far, and are thus properly disdained by Catholics--and mocked by Monty Python--for our sexual nonchalance and indifference to the gift of children:


After all, while God's first recorded command to Adam and Eve was to "Be fruitful and multiply ...", today we have so segregated sex from childbearing, that we celebrate sexual activity and freedom from children almost as inalienable rights.  We think little of using medical assistance to delay childbearing so that we can enjoy carefree younger years.  Later we use different medical assistance to (we hope) induce childbearing because we have waited so long.  Because we no longer need them to care for us in our dotage, thanks to government programs, children are treated as a commodity to be tolerated in our time and on our terms, when we're done frolicking and self-actualizing.  Otherwise, they are a failure of family planning.  Fortunately for us, abortion is (mostly) safe, legal, and affordable.

Hooray for us.  This counts as "progress" in the Land of the Self-Absorbed.

3 comments:

  1. Yesterday, Christians gathered in front of our county court house for Cry Out America day. One of the speakers was Col. Vance Huston Ret. USMC. Col Huston came to our county many years ago as the commander of our ROTC program at our high school, he is now in his 80's. He still looks very smart in his dress blues. He said that military chaplains are not allowed to pray in the name of Jesus, and then he said that he was going to pray in the name of Jesus here in front of the court house even if they put him in jail. It must be hard to be a Christian and be in the military. Jailer, I'm inspired by your strength.

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  2. Excellent commentary. Still, godliness requires wisdom, which is neither cheap nor easy. Stop being simple is the command wisdom herself gives. I’m glad you noted the Song of Songs. It’s message is unmistakable—married love is important and deserves investment and enjoyment. Yes, sex is for reproduction--to fill the earth with God's people--but lest we lose the both/and typical of Scriptural truth, I think a look at Proverbs 5:19 is in order. The term typically translated as ravished or enraptured is sagah, to stray, and is associated with transgression, intoxication, sin and wandering. Everywhere else in Scrpture it is used negatively, something to avoid. Here God *commands* it. Married love is the one place we men (and by implication our wives) are merely to let ourselves be distracted, our inhibitions go. Contrary to John Locke on this subject, this does not end with reproduction. The command is *always*. There is nothing wrong with married pleasure. Blessings--Ron

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