Here at the intersection between life and God, author Sandy Ralya recently wrote a kind response to my original review of her book, The Beautiful Wife. (Thank you, Sandy!)
Where I question Ralya’s challenge to Christian couples to have more children in response to the specter of a growing Muslim world, especially for the reason that parenting these days still largely falls on the shoulders of mothers, Ralya writes the following: “As I instruct my readers in chapter 1 of The Beautiful Wife, it’s critical to approach each chapter discussed with the following guidelines: 1. Turn to God 2. Understand your role 3. Share within a community. As it pertains to our decisions regarding whether or not to limit family size, I encourage women to consult, rather than ignore God as I did, in decisions regarding fruitfulness and multiplication. On the one hand, I can appreciate your reaction when I inserted a reference to a growing Muslim population in connection with God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. On the other hand, it was a big reaction. When my reaction to someone or something hits a proverbial nerve, I ask myself why and invite God into the conversation. Are you afraid to trust God with this decision?”
In reply to Ralya’s question, I essentially answer, “Yes, I probably am afraid”- “yes,” that is, if “being afraid to trust God with a decision about having (more) children” equates with practicing birth control or committing to a vocation while already rearing two children to the best of my abilities.
The admonition, “be not afraid” or “do not worry,” happens over and over again in Scripture, with the implication that fear or anxiety do not come from God. But the admonition is also not attached to a conversation about family planning! In Jesus’ defining manifesto about the kingdom of God- his so-called “Sermon on the Mount”- Jesus urges us not to worry about what we will eat or drink or wear. He could have added, “And don’t worry about how many children you have,” or if the condom breaks, or if you miss a day of those little blue pills.
But, seriously, I’m not sure that all fear need be an inherently bad thing. Sometimes our fears (insofar as they don’t overwhelm or paralyze us) can help to inform wise decision-making. If I am fearful of walking alone down a poorly lit street at midnight in my neighborhood of downtown Atlanta, that fear should be something I listen to. If I am “afraid” of bringing a third child into my already chaotic life of mothering two children and shouldering the responsibilities of my vocation, is that “fear” really a bad thing insofar as it attunes me to my own limits? I don’t think so.
That said, if by Ralya’s own logic, fear is inherently a problem, because it can keep us from trusting God with our reproductive decisions, then fear of a world in which Muslims outnumber Christians can also keep us from trusting God- in this case, by having more children.
But what do you think here? Does Ralya have a point? Am I being unreasonable?