Friday, January 13, 2012

Reversing Protestant acceptance of birth control

For a brighter-than-average guy, I can be pretty slow on the uptake.

Back in August, in “The ten percent solution”, I wrote: “A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute — if you can believe those puppets of the National Abortion Rights Action League — tells us how badly the Church has lost: Around 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used proscribed contraceptive methods.”  But what I skipped in the original Reuters story was this: “Nearly 70 percent of Catholic women use sterilization, the birth control pill or an IUD, according to the Guttmacher Institute research.”

Okay, seventy percent is still way too high, as far as faithful practice of Catholicism goes.  And some of the gap is attributable, no doubt, to women who have gone past menopause.  But it’s still a 28% difference between “ever used” and “currently using” — a big difference.  And I wonder how many other writers besides myself missed it in our rush to either celebrate or mourn the 98% number.  The penny didn’t drop, however, until I read Peter Baklinski’s review of Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control 1873-1973, by Dr. Allan Carson, in LifeSiteNews. 

The book itself demonstrates how Margaret Sanger and Planned Barrenhood played divide-and-conquer with Christians by using the Catholic Church’s opposition to birth control as a wedge issue, counting on a reflexive anti-papist sentiment to keep Evangelical communions from uniting with the Church on traditional reproductive values.  But more importantly, Baklinski mentions that “some American evangelicals are rethinking their position on birth control,” using as his example “the Quiverfull Movement who ‘eagerly accept their children as blessings from God,’ eschewing not only artificial birth control, but even natural family planning.”


Atheist Austin Cline has noted the increase as well.  In his Atheism.About.com page “Contraception & Birth Control: How the Christian Right Undermines Birth Control”, Cline notes several tactics, among them opposing education in contraceptive and contraceptive techniques in sex-ed classes, pushes for abstinence-only education, suppression of advertisement and refusal to dispense emergency contraception.   “Limiting access to emergency contraception keeps women from preventing pregnancies and increases the demand for abortion,” Cline argues, adding disingenuously, “It also helps blur the lines in between abortion and contraception, useful in any long-term effort to undermine contraceptive rights.”  (Pro-life activists have known for years that contraception feeds the abortion mills.)

In a New York Times Magazine article from May 7, 2006, “Contra-Contraception”, Russell Shorto writes:

As with other efforts — against gay marriage, stem cell research, cloning, assisted suicide — the anti-birth-control campaign isn’t centralized; it seems rather to be part of the evolution of the conservative movement.  The subject is talked about in evangelical churches and is on the agenda at the major Bible-based conservative organizations like Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition.  It also has its point people in Congress — including Representative Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey, Representative Joe Pitts and Representative Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania and Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — all Republicans who have led opposition to various forms of contraception.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is considered one of the leading intellectual figures of evangelical Christianity in the U.S. In a December 2005 column in The Christian Post titled “Can Christians Use Birth Control?”[*] he wrote: “The effective separation of sex from procreation may be one of the most important defining marks of our age — and one of the most ominous. This awareness is spreading among American evangelicals, and it threatens to set loose a firestorm.  ... A growing number of evangelicals are rethinking the issue of birth control — and facing the hard questions posed by reproductive technologies.”

Of course, RH Reality Check is ready to trumpet a different tune.  On June 1, 2010, they reported on Opposing Views that the National Association of Evangelicals, representing over 40 denominations, “noted results of a Gallup poll of evangelicals that ‘Significant majorities of (evangelical) respondents indicated support for a wide range of possible methods for decreasing the abortion rate — from parental consent and waiting periods before abortions to efforts at making adoption, pre- and post-natal care, and contraceptive services more accessible.’”

(Simply as a Catholic apologetics point, this merely illustrates that, in the absence of true human religious authority, religion devolves to the individual rationalizing his self-assertion, reinterpreting God’s will to suit his personal needs.)

However, the collapse is not complete.  In the same year, Bryan C. Hodge, a graduate of Trinity Evangelical and former Presbyterian minister (now an Orthodox Presbyterian layman), published The Christian Case Against Contraception: Making the Case from Historical, Biblical, Systematic, and Practical Theology & Ethics

Another critic of contraception, according to Kristen Moulton of Religion News Services in Christianity.com, is James Tour, a Rice University chemist specializing in nanotechnology and a convert to Evangelical Christianity from Judaism.  Tour endorses NFP “but wonders if Christians ought to forgo even that measure of family planning.  He says young lustful men who have had unfettered access to their wives actually welcome a message of self-restraint.  ‘The women are looking for relief. The men are looking for relief. … They’re like, “I want that. I want to live in peace. I want to live in fulfillment.”’”

Now, just because we have our 28-30% of women not practicing contraception doesn’t mean we have the 10% vocal critics of contraception needed to get the domino effect going on the rest of our culture.  If anything, it’s like ten thousand lawyers at the bottom of the ocean … that is, a good start.

We’re starting to see the pro-abortion culture being pushed back.  The next generation of Christians is going to be pro-life.  But we need to get more of our separated brothers and sisters back on board the anti-contraception bandwagon.  We need to convince them that the “pregnancy is bad” mentality is what drives both contraception and abortion, that a sexual morality based on the traditional family has no room for pills and condoms.

However, things aren’t looking so bleak anymore.