Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


Sermon on the Mount Family Planning

“Consider the lilies, how they never use birth control…Blessed are the fertile, for they will be barefoot and pregnant.”

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?

 

 

 



Previous Posts

Mental Health Break—Sprawl II
My favorite band these days is Arcade Fire, and I've featured the Canadian indie rock group before at this intersection between God and life. The lead singer studied Kirkegaard in college and their songs, like this one, are often subtle but brilliant critiques of the least aesthetically pleasing thi

posted 12:58:15pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

I Can't Breathe and the Widow's Cry—A Guest Post
Fellow saint and sinner Saskia de Vries is a neuroscientist in Seattle, Washington and has posted before at this intersection between God and life. She, like so many of us, is grappling with the tragedies of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the larger systemic problem they seem to reveal—namely,

posted 2:10:09pm Dec. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Advent and Emptiness, Via Louis CK and the Prophet Isaiah
I've been making my way through the book of Isaiah. This morning's reading was from chapter 6, where the prophet Isaiah receives his call to go to the people of Israel and proclaim God's judgment of a people who have wandered away from God's purposes for them. Isaiah asks how long God's people will

posted 11:45:39am Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Advent Resurrection
It may seem strange to pair Advent with resurrection. Usually resurrection comes more naturally at Easter. But at heart the labor pangs of all creation giving birth to the Christ child are a longing for a new start. Advent is a longing to be born again. Neuroscience now teaches that every minu

posted 2:47:38pm Dec. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Birthday Cred—Ecclesiastes Via David Foster Wallace
Today I'm still (barely) on the left side of 40, and bea

posted 11:01:03am Dec. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.