02 December 2011

Why casuistry should be left to the professionals

A post you won't like if you don't like this blog. And if you don't like this blog, I urge you again, don't visit it.

If you want to me to pray, tell me about the Kerlumpkins and their seven unruly children and poor Mrs. Kerlumpkin whose health is so bad. Tell me about the Sammyads and how chronic unemployment has ruined their marriage and their family life. Tell me about the Bagginses and their terrible pregnancy losses. Tell me about the Ottery-St. Catchpoles and their two-bedroom apartment and their second set of twins. Tell me how Mrs. Spumoni is penguin-guano crazy and their kids' lives are wrecks and Mr. Spumoni gets blamed for it all.

If you want to see my eyes glaze over, tell me about all those people and then look at me with the squinting frown which asks, "And NOW what do you think of your judgy convictions, you judging judger?"

I'll tell you right now what I think about every single one of those situations. They're unspeakably awful. Lord, have mercy. They also have nothing to do with how I should live my life. The personal experiences of the Kerlumpkins or the Ottery-St. Catchpoles or anyone else have zero bearing whatsoever on what constitutes sin in the court of God Almighty. Hard cases make bad law, and sometimes the Law makes hard cases.

As big of a deal as a sick mom or a lost income or a bunch of people just plain coming apart are to the individuals under scrutiny, it does not change the answer to the question of whether it is OK to enjoy sex while avoiding children. That question I must always answer the same way whether I like it or not. I have all kinds of sympathy for those who grew up and got married without ever being taught the whole truth of such things (which my beautiful associate has written about so well in the previous post) and are now mucking through a muck they didn't know existed. I am one of those people. It's been, you know, rough. It still is.

The question of the what the poor Spumonis should do about their situation I am in no way qualified or authorized to answer. I'm a freakin housewife who doesn't even know those people. I also can't help noticing that no amount of stories about the marvelous Sarsparillas and their 14 marvelous, talented, successful children who made it through on powdered milk and prayers or Ethel Kennedy and her 11 C-sections (before the bikini cut!) manage to convince anyone on the other side. Hasn't TLC alone provided us with ample evidence that the anecdotal approach to persuasion or proof on this topic is completely fruitless?

So, Bagginses and Spumonis and all you other people I know only through the bald gossip of Christians, I am sorry that you have been turned into situationally ethical footballs. I am sorry your names have become bywords among those who ought to be treating you with the most charity rather than the least. The details of your situation are between you and God and your pastor. If you wish for me to be involved, I will pray for you. That is absolutely all I can do.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rebekah,

I'll admit I am doing this anonymously because I'm not brave like you. Maybe I lack the faith I should have. Or maybe I can in part rejoice that God has helped us develop technologies (i.e. writing and the internet) to help me do this once in a while. To still grow, while not embracing the fullness of what could be.

I like your blog. I like your post. I don't agree with you right now. : ) And I don't think you are a "Judging judger". : )

"it does not change the answer to the question of whether it is OK to enjoy sex while avoiding children"

What is the most convincing argument that you have heard regarding why contraception is unChristian? (could you please provide links to posts that you find particularly powerful and bring the Scriptural truth out in all its clarity?)

I mean, I know that almost, if not every time it comes up in the early church, (not sure just how often that is) it is condemned, usually with a reference to Onan (I'm sure you know the arguments vs. that position). Still, it strikes me that contraception has been available forever, and there is no explicit condemnation as such. The way I look at it is that while we ought not despise children or strive to remain perpetually childless in marriage, some persons (like myself currently) simply feel that its OK to say "no thank you" to the wonderful gifts that God would give us once in a while (we do this all the time, although I grant that children are one of the greatest gifts he could give us). While I believe that He wants all of us to have stronger faith, the fact of the matter is that many of us don't have the faith that God will take care of all of our needs (which is something we certainly want to encourage) We think that God has given us the means and rational ability to, for example, focus on our marital intimacy, without worrying about the difficulties that children *may* provide. While all Christians should want to trust God more, should we condemn those who say something like "God also gave us the smarts to use contraception - because he realized that many of us think that for whatever reason, we have to say 'no' to God for now..." (even as there is I Cor. 7:4 to consider).

I guess my position is a bit more like Albert Mohler's as it stands right now.

By the way, I think the Duggars are fantastic and admire them to no end. I certainly am not a "haven't-they-heard-of-contraception" kind-of-person

Blessings to you...

Untamed Shrew said...

"Penguin-guano" is certainly a more Kosher term than I've used in communication with you, Rebekah. And yes, by all means pray for me. I would heart that very much.

~Mrs. Spumoni

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous--I don't know that this will help, and I know it's out of context, but "What God has joined together, let man not separate." He made an awfully good thing... I don't want to mess with it. Personally, each of our sexual acts is so intertwined with the idea of child-- either a looking forward to a future child, celebrating a current pregnancy, or celebrating one of the beautiful blessings sleeping in the other room-- I can't imagine wanting to separate the act in order to somehow "make it better" without the "worry" of another child. If it would be best for us not to have another, God won't send us one. We aim to show our trust in Him implicitly through our actions. I mean, of course, since we're sinners, it's not always that rosy. But it is the ideal.

And then, there's always the abortifacient factor of contraception...

Emommy said...

Amen, Rebekah, from all of us "freakin' housewives" out here.

And to Anonymous 1: As an alternate to thinking of contraception as saying "No, thank you," here's this. My unmarried, unchilded sister and I were just talking about contraception, and she said, "I've started to think of contraception as just another way of saying, "I don't trust you, God." He's the only one who can give life, so why can't we trust Him to give children within marriage when He wills?" I'd never thought of it quite that way, so maybe that will help.

Megan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebekah said...

Anon--comments like yours are the reason we haven't disabled anonymity. I want to do justice to your questions and don't have the time right now but I'll get after it ASAP. Blessings likewise.

Anonymous said...

Emommy,

(I'm the person who did the first post again)

Yes, maybe that's right - my "we love babies, but no thank you for the moment" certainly does not seem ideal - to say the least. I know we are supposed to fully trust God, and that what I'm saying seems to imply its not really that important that we do just that. I just think that even if I did think that contraception (by the way, I am only talking about condom-type stuff, but not abortifacients, which we would not use due to that fact that at this point we are talking about taking the life of an actual human being, and not one that God wanted to give to us) was never right, I would still probably not push the issue too much (I'm not saying you guys here do) seeing as how, as I said, there were contraceptive means in the ancient world and this kind of activity is not explicitly condemned.

Won't be able to comment again for a few days. Blessings to all here.

Anonymous said...

Rebekah,

Just saw your comment. Will brace myself, because I know what kind of intellect you have. : )

Anonymous

Anonymous said...

This might seem off topic - but it's really a string along this thought process. Do you find that as a CSPP'er you are inclined to refuse vaccinations for your children because this would introduce technology that could potentially put a barrier (albeit a potentially positive one) between what God has ordained for your family and what modern science could effect. Although I am looking in from the outside (my children are decades old) I'm wondering how this might typically be addressed by a CSPP'er as I do have grandchildren. Just wanting to expand my understanding. Thanks.

Reb. Mary said...

Vaccine Anon: You raise a point that confuses many people (I am not implying that you are confused, but simply using this occasion to clarify). Perpetual parturitioners fall into various immunization camps, for various reasons of their own. CSPP is actually not directly related to vaccine decisions, and here's why: Pregnancy is not a disease. People (including a bioethicist or two I've known) argue in favor of contraception (particularly hormonal, but other forms as well, including the scientific know-how necessary for NFP) based on "God gave us science/medicine, so it's a blessing for our good and it would be practically wrong NOT to use it if we feel that we need it." Science and medicine, researchers and doctor, are indeed all hands/masks of God in their vocation of healing. But a pregnancy is basically the opposite of a disease; it is an indication that something has gone right in the body, rather than an ill to be prevented or corrected.

I hope that this admittedly hastily composed answer has indeed expanded rather than clouded your understanding of the distinction between vaccine and contraceptive decisions. ;)

Beloved Rival said...

Hello (officially) to CSPP. I've been reading your blog for awhile now, but never commented. My sister is Emommy, who paraphrased me earlier. As she said, I am currently unmarried and unchilded. I will add uncertain to that list.

The context for me is this: in a long-distance serious relationship (marriage and children being discussed) but not certain (assuming we do get married) what to do about the Contraception Question. I have thought recently that it does come down to trust - trusting God that if He wills children, He will give them. And if not, He won't. The uncertainty is...well, the uncertainty. We don't know what He has planned. I've said it before in a different context that "God never gives us more than we can handle, I just wish He wouldn't put so much faith in me!" So much of this is fear, and selfishness. In a conversation with the boyfriend, children came up. I told him I was considering not using BC after marriage, for philosophical reasons. He has misgivings, all of which I have as well.

CSPP makes excellent points, but unless I'm missing something, everyone here came to this position after marriage. It's completely selfish of me to say "Can't I use BC for a couple of years? Shouldn't a husband and wife have some time after we're married to settle into it without worrying every time we have sex I'm going to get pregnant? Shouldn't we pay attention to our finances and make decisions based on what we know we have to deal with?" (Neither one of us will likely ever make a lot of money.) I know I'm selfish, and this is the struggle. I want some time (alone) with my eventual husband. I want us to be able to do certain things that with children are much more difficult, if not impossible. I want a few kids, not a houseful!

But is it really what I or my future husband "want"? No. There are no guarantees, either. I've seen too many friends and relatives struggle with infertility. We simply don't know what will happen. And that's the scariest thing. We have to trust God, not knowing what is in front of us. And trusting God is something that for most of my life has been a big, fat FAIL.

"Ignorance is bliss", some say. Even six months ago, I had no problem thinking of BC as a natural(no irony here) step after marriage. Part of me wishes I had never paid attention to this discussion. Then it wouldn't be so hard. :) As if life ever is..

Thanks for listening to my rambling. One question for a future posting here (or elsewhere) - how would CSPP explain their non-contraceptive practice versus the legalism inherent in the Quiverfull movement? To those in the secular world, it may sound similar.

Blessed Advent to you all!

Untamed Shrew said...

When it comes to "no thank you," I always have to ask myself, "When else do I ask God to withhold His blessings?" I've never asked for less eyesight or intellect or manual dexterity or voice, even though my poor management of these precious gifts brings sin into my life, like hourly. I do not keep my eyes from coveting; I do not employ my mind as I ought; I have misused my hands to hit, make obscene gestures, and be slothful; I have said hateful, hurtful things with my voice--especially to my children, wretch that I am. God knows this, and yet He gives the gifts. His ways are not our ways.

lisa said...

And where I always end up very confused is when the person informing me of Mrs. Kerlumpkin's horrible, horrible situation looks at me blankly when I ask, "Oh, so have you been bringing over meals/watching the kids during her doctor's visit(s)/helping them with groceries?"

That's when you find out that either 1. they don't "really know" The Kerlumpkins (cough) "that well" - you know, "well enough to help" or well enough to "know the details" or, 2. The Kerlumpkins always decline help, as reported by that one guy who was a friend of Mr. Smith's half-brother's second cousin who heard it from Bob.

I'm sure Mrs. Kerlumpkin has got problems. Big ones. I too desire to pray for her. My question is: Why is no one familiar enough to use her as a football familiar enough to bring her a casserole bi-weekly whether she wants it or not?

Rebekah said...

Shrew, I thought I was Mrs. Spumoni.

Original Anon, you flatter my intellect. I am all mouth and no brain, as many people will gladly testify.

What RM said on the vaccine thing, 100%. I just love that girl.

BR, we don't always get offered the blue pill, do we? God be with you as you figure this out. Here's us on QF:

http://concordiansisters.blogspot.com/search?q=quiverfull

Lisa--YES. Grrr.

Aubri said...

Rev. Rolf Preus (He and his wife have 12 children.) said it well, "We didn't choose to have children. We didn't "let" God give us children, as if he needs our permission. We simply got married. "

Read his paper on birth control here:

http://www.christforus.org/AndGodBlessedThem.htm

Beloved Rival I hear you and I know you probably aren't addressing readers of this blog when you say "everyone here came to this position after marriage" but wanted you to know that that is not my story.

I knew years before I met my husband that I would not ever feel "right" about using birth control. I couldn't in good conscience separate the marriage act from the possibility of conception. Knowing that it is God who opens and closes the womb, who did I think I was to attempt to control such a mystery and blessing? I went into marriage with the same conviction. I got pregnant on my honeymoon. My husband and I had 9 months to ourselves. We've been married for 4 years, we have 4 children all 14 months or less apart in age.

I won't tell someone that they are wrong to use birth control. I can only say that children are never a curse, they are a gift. Just as my husband and I don't want to despise His good gifts in other areas of our lives, we open our arms, our home and hearts to His good gift of children.

I think it's too easy to fall into the world's thinking of children as choices, options, accessories. We can decide when we're ready. Sorry, but I'm a sinner and that has affected all of me. I don't trust myself to decide on matters of creation.

Am I sometimes scared to death? You bet. Do I ever think of just getting my doctor to write me a prescription to keep this from happening again? Yes, after every baby. But you're right it comes down to me NOT trusting God and only doubting His goodness. Both sins I have to confess over and over. The just shall live by faith right? God help us and you as you think through this with your future husband.

Alison Schroeder said...

Hey Anonymous, you still out there? Just wanted to toss you my own tidbit (not that you asked for it, but, you know;).

Something that helped make this issue finally ‘click’ for me was to consider the following:
How is a professedly ‘pro-choice’ viewpoint different from that of a professedly ‘pro-life’ view that allows for the use of contraception (even excluding abortifacients)? One permits infanticide, and the other doesn’t, but, functionally, they’re both pro-choice. (I have to give credit to Pastor Hemmer for bringing that point to my attention – his post here: http://hemmersphere.blogspot.com/2010/07/idol-of-choice.html)

It’s complicated being both pro-life and pro-choice at the same time, though that’s where I found myself not too long ago. Being uncomfortable with that fundamental inconsistency, I finally jumped the ideological fence (or the shark, depending on your views). I don’t know, but I think our little girl is happy about that.

Rebekah (and Reb. Mary, and Gauntlets, too), I’m glad you write. Keep it up - as often as you can. Even though I know you don’t mean to, you do a great service to lots of people (myself included). So I thought I’d finally be polite and say ‘Hi! I’m Alison.’ and, also, ‘Thank you.’

Gauntlets said...

Thank you, Allison. :) And that's a really great point about the shark. :D

pekoponian said...

Rebekah-
I jet wanted to thank you for the term "penguin guano crazy"! It is how I have begun describing my more challenging days to my husband, i.e. "I'm going penguin guano crazy here!"