04 December 2011

One of those comments that becomes a post

I don't expect anyone to be persuaded by the following arguments which I find persuasive. I offer them as a courtesy to the polite sister in Christ who requested them, not as a call to warfare, and I have neither the time nor the desire for a spitting match. I'm sure everyone who disagrees with me is much, much smarter than I am; I forfeit. If you've already heard all this and it will make you sad, don't read it. Talk to a pastor.

1. I've said here before that the contraception question is not one of chapter and verse, but of interpretation. Until the 1930 Lambeth Convention (Anglican--a tradition founded on divorce and now swirling down the drain with a bunch of lesbians impersonating pastors), the Church catholic considered contraception an unchaste practice. There was more ecumenical unity on contraception than there was on the sacraments. As late as the 1950s publications of the LCMS condemned contraception (then they just got quiet on the topic). Interpretation belongs to the whole church, not me and my B-I-B-L-E, and that's what the whole church understood Scripture (Onan et al.) to be saying for 1930 years (and all the time before that).

This one is really the bottom line in my personal view which, again, I can't imagine being of value to anyone. But here are a few more ways of thinking about it:

2. Imagine a pastor and his parish saying, "We've made some disciples of all nations, and we're happy with them. We're going to take care of them and enjoy our time together. If we made more we might not be able to give them everything they need. Making disciples makes us tired and sick and poor. No more disciple-making." I bet the DP would love it.

3. Christians put a lot of stock in condemning fornication on the grounds that sex and marriage go together. (Chapter and verse for that? Adultery, huh? What does "adultery" mean?) Babies and sex are connected far more inextricably than marriage and sex are. It's easy to engage in intercourse outside of marriage; you don't even have to think about it, as many hungover teenagers can testify. It is normally not so easy to engage in intercourse and not have a baby happen, as many pregnant teenagers can testify. Contraception requires planning and deliberate action; it is a multi-step process (acquisition, possession, use) that can never occur in a moment of lapsed judgment. God made it harder to separate babies from sex than marriage from sex. Little wonder we should see it the other way.

4. "But what strikes me as truly extraordinary is the implication that there is something low about the objective [of marriage] being the birth of a child. Whereas it is obvious that this great natural miracle is the one creative, imaginative and disinterested part of the whole business. The creation of a new creature, not ourselves, of a new conscious centre, of a new and independent focus of experience and enjoyment, is an immeasurable more grand and godlike act even than a real love affair; how much more superior to a momentary physical satisfaction. If creating another self is not noble, why is pure self-indulgence nobler?"

G.K Chesterton, "Blasphemy and the Baby," Brave New Family

I am mystified by the elevation of the "unitive" aspect of marital love by anyone with a sacramental confession. It's not magic. The unity is REALIZED in the literal one flesh who comes from two separate people. The rest is happy thoughts, and whatever esoteric thingy seems to be indicated in 1 Cor 6 (if some qualified person would care to explain that in the comments, I'm all ears). How can unity possibly be enhanced/increased by cutting out its fullest manifestation?

5. Would it be ethical to use some method or device to remove pleasure from conjugal relations?

6. Every marriage is an icon of Christ and his holy bride, the Church, who give themselves utterly to each other and whose love is ever-bearing. Contraception is antithetical to self-giving, other-accepting love. It introduces disintegrity to the marital union. There is ample evidence that it will not necessarily kill a marriage (although we would be foolish to disregard the correspondence between the rise in contraceptive use and divorce, however it may be interpreted), but it will compromise it. It is likely to leave one spouse feeling used, even if both want to or feel they must prevent conception. Marital love normally has a consequence which causes both partners to count its blessed cost. To eliminate the cost (actually an investment) is to cheapen the act and actors. If a baby were not the act's weightiest meaning and effect, we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.

Phew. Is it hot in here?

Single persons wishing to avoid all this trouble have an opportunity to do so by remaining celibate. To the married who feel they cannot have more children, the Church has historically held out the option of continence. The present day is not this option's most popular era. :P It is still an unnatural and disintegrative separation of three things God has bound together (marriage, marital intimacy, marital fruitfulness), but conforms to the "less un-divinely ordained" view of argument 3.

I'm going to stop typing now.


Emommy said...

Here, here! Your disciples of all nations comparison is especially apt (and humorous--always a good combo). It is a strange consequence of our times that we want to "grow the church," whatever that means, but families that grow and continue to grow are often looked at askance by other believers, like the weird uncle no one can disinvite from Christmas dinner.

Phillip said...

Unfortunately the LCMS didn't get quiet on the issue of contraception after the 1950's. The Parents Guide to Christian Conversation about Sex (1967), part of the Concordia Sex Education Series, ends with Planned Parenthood's Methods of Contraception list, which of course says sterilization is a better method than "Refraining from intercourse during the wife's ovulation period." (I'm opposed to the "Rhythm Method," but really, let's cut up your body instead of trying celibacy. I'd think the church would consider the integrity of the body more basic than the contraception debate.) In those dark days of the 60's the Synod actually promoted birth control. That's probably why we lost two generations of the LCMS on this issue.

Pr. H. R. said...


It's probably why we lost about half of each of those generations, period! Those pews are empty because if you are never born, you can't go to church.


Anonymous said...

Good post. Here's a scenario:

Little Girl: I don't want to get

Mother/Aunt: Oh, you'll feel
differently when you're older,
honey. And you know what? You
can start praying for your
future husband *right now*!

Conclusion: Little Girl is not
allowed to entertain any
thoughts of celibacy. Or. . .
is the Mother/Aunt allowed to
say, "you don't have to"?

_Jane Seyboldt

pekoponian said...

Thank you so much for this very thoughtful post. It is very much appreciated.

lisa said...

Of note: "mere convenience"

Re: the pews are empty

Yes, when we talk politely about blessings and gifts, we can still have some comfortable distance from the fact we are discussing people. Brothers and Sisters in Christ. When I'm scared of that next labour or exasperated with my lot in life, I am sobered by glancing across the room at my smaller baptised Brothers and Sister in Christ who I call sons and daughter. Each one, a blessing and person, could have been a "no thank you" or, as Pr. Curtis pointed out, another empty seat next to me to be filled by an evangelism program.

Untamed Shrew said...

Love #5-- procreation now, mutual joy later! ha ha!

Spouse and I were talking recently about Reb Mary's point that pregnancy isn't a disease; on the contrary, it means things are in working order. And then I got to thinking about Calvinism and came up with this analogy all on my own.

I DO believe toilets are a blessing, really I do. But the cost of one isn't cheap, and then there's the ongoing toilet paper expense, not to mention having to pay for a plumber if something goes wrong. So for now, I'm choosing incontinence. And my God is so big and so powerful that if He really wants me to go on the toilet, my Depends isn't going to stand in His way.

Phillip said...

Very true Pr. Curtis.

Anonymous said...

So, how to I share this on Facebook?

Megan said...

Here's my little ramblings. I agree with just about everything here. But there are times when, due to other failings of the body, things that are normally healthy for a body may no longer be so healthy. Such as in walking. Using both legs is normal and healthy, but if one leg is broken, crutches and a cast may be necessary. For one to just say " If God wants to heal it, he will" and continue walking on that broken leg would be considered very foolish.

Such is the case my husband and I find ourselves. Clinical depression has crippled both us. We have four children with us and one in heaven, and our oldest is 5 1/2. While any type of abortificant is completely off the table, while we heal we will be avoiding the otherwise healthy state of pregnancy. I pray this is temporary, but we may decide it must be permanent.

Depression ends up being a lot like that broken leg. While we pray for healing, we also utilize the medicine and therapy that God has made available to aid that healing. Avoiding another pregnancy for the time is part of that regiment.

( Just a note of clarity, The Pill and other such hormonal devises that could murder our children would never be part of that regiment)

Jody S. said...

I had an interesting conversation with a member of our congregation who announced the birth of her first great-granddaughter on Sunday. Since I'm due this week, she was talking with me some "baby talk." She told me that when she was having her baby it wasn't like now; her husband wasn't physically with her. BUT she never felt closer to her husband than when she was giving birth to her child. I completely agree with her. In fact, while I was getting ready for church I was thinking about the impending birth of #5 and looking forward to that moment just after our baby is born when I get to look into my husband's eyes. I also never feel closer to my husband than at that moment.

johnqmercy said...

Um, you seem to have inadvertently conflated Episcopal/Canadian/English Anglicans (which are circling the drain) with the entire rest of the global Anglican communion - which is alive, growing, orthodox, and horrified at the first-world types. And which for over a decade now has been moving with increasing momentum toward coalescing without them. Sadly, a common mistake. :)

Reb. Mary said...

Johnqmercy, thanks for pointing that out (and for being so polite about it :D). After all, as you know, we LCMS-ers are none too fond of being conflated with certain other church bodies that bear that name "Lutheran"... :P

Rebekah said...

Phillip, good point. Rehwinkel did some fine work at that time also. I think I remember hearing that CPH then functioned as a vanity press for seminary professors, who could say whatever the heck they wanted.

Jane, I agree that it is a colossal disservice not to present the single life as an option to children. We try to find a celibate baptismal sponsor for each of our children to assist us with this (two of them married each other :D ).

Megan, I don't think you're here for a debate so I will, as always, hope and pray for you God's help.

JohnQ, you are absolutely right. I've actually got a soft spot for Anglicanism once you take out the ECUSA and mainline affiliates, so I apologize.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I was shaking in my boots there for a while.

Jane S.

Anonymous said...


I'm the anonymous you were answering in this post. Note: I'm male.

I understand your point about the Church interpreting Scripture and not us as individuals.

Do you know of a good resource that talks about the church's views on contraception until the 1930s?

I admit that I see both polygamy and contraception as being similar things in that each of them seems to fall short of the ideal in a fallen world, but neither is ever really called sin or condemned as such (yes, I understand your point about the word adultery and its implications). Both seem to involve elements of power, lust, and fear - yes, a lack of trust that God will provide...

I can run most of the Pentetuch through the descriptive/prescriptive thing (i.e. its mention does not mean its endorsement), but its harder to do that when the Song of Solomon talks about polygamy....

Not sure when I'll be able to get back again...

Rebekah said...

:D Sorry Anon dude. I'm so sexist!

Here are some readables. Full disclosure--I am involved in an intramarital affair with the author.

Should Christian Couples Use Contraception?

What Have Lutherans and Protestants Had To Say About Contraception?

I rather imagine that ancient world people would have found contraception as sick and abhorrent as we do polygamy. The times, they are a-worthless; all of them.

Colleen said...

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that I've written a blog post about being an internet troll on your blog. I hope at the very least it gives you a laugh.


Colleen Oakes
The Ranunculus Adventures

Elizabeth said...

Rebekah - when I opened the 1st article you posted to peruse, the ad on the page was for women who have been injured by Yaz, Yasmin, or Beyaz. I thought this was rather funny/ironic.

Rebekah said...

:D Colleen! I never thought you were a troll . . . more like somebody who just got off at the wrong bus stop. ;)

Elizabeth, now it's for Sears.

etem said...

colleen- i know you don't care what i think, but your blog post is this: awesome.

Anonymous said...


"Male anon dude" here. Thanks for the papers from your husband. : ) Hope to get to them soon.