Saturday, November 14, 2009

Be Fruitful & Multiply

The religion of reproduction.

So, I don't know what prompted it, but for the past few weeks, perhaps months, the whole sticky issue of my religion's teachings on reproduction and birth control have been meandering in and out of my thoughts.

I'm Catholic. I guess I ought to tell you how I became Catholic, so you can properly put my thoughts into context. My parents were Catholic and baptized me Catholic as a very young child. When my parents divorced and remarried, I was raised from about age 3 on by a WONDERFUL woman, who I call my mom as well, who was Lutheran. For a good part of my childhood, we attended the Lutheran church. Then, I'm guessing around the time I was in middle school, my parents couldn't find a Lutheran church they liked in the area we lived. So, we began to visit many different churches, and if memory serves me correctly, I think we ended up attending non-denominational churches for the remainder of my unbringing. My (step) Mom is a deeply spiritual woman who I look up to with great admiration. She is also an apologist and fervently studies the Bible in detail and thinks critically about the purpose and teachings behind each passage. So, this is how I was raised on "religion."

Bible study for me is, while primarily a spiritual exercise, it is also very much an intellectual exercise as well. I dissect and compare and juxtapose until I usually end up with more questions than I have answers.

My husband and his entire family is Catholic. I followed my husband (only my boyfriend at the time) to Mount Saint Mary's University for college and took several courses in theology there. I was left with a deep impression of the spirituality and tradition of the Catholic Church while I was a student there, and decided to be confirmed a Catholic. I went through RCIA under the spiritual leadership of an amaaaazing Sister, who was also a professor of the school. I wrestled with a lot of the doctrine of the Catholic Church, but always seemed to find an explanation that somehow satisfied me. Apparently, heresy is out and prayerful dissent is "in."

So, back to the subject matter... Shortly after we got married, we decided to follow Church doctrine of not using artificial birth control. It was kind of an easy decision to make, since we decided to start trying to get pregnant pretty much on the plane back from our honeymoon. Since then, I've only taken birth control for very short periods of time when I needed to for medical reasons. As it also turns out, I don't get pregnant very easily. So, the more natural methods of birth control work rather well for me.

But, the Catholic Church takes the doctrine even a step further. Aside from abstinence, any efforts to prevent procreation is a sin. A mortal sin. Yikes. That's a tough bit of information for a 21st century woman to swallow. As the website explains, the doctrine is derived from the following Bible passage:
Coitus interruptus, was used by Onan to avoid fulfilling his duty according to the ancient Jewish law of fathering children for one’s dead brother. "Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him also" (Gen. 38:8–10).

I guess my hang-up here is that this passage seems to be to be more about breaking an ancient Jewish law that required a brother-in-law to father children for his deceased brother's wife than about reproductive practices between a married couple... I mean, no one follows that law anymore (right???)! So, I'm having difficulty making the jump the Church asks us to make.

I do believe God wants us as Christians to increase his kingdom by bringing Christian children into the world. I guess, I just want to do that on my own timing. And with the number of children my husband and I believe works well for our family and our plans.

But then, I think about the quiverful movement, which has been widely publicized lately by the Duggar family. Its easy to judge the sanity of such people, since very few of us could ever imagine having more than a few kids ourselves. But, what if they are on to something?

The Bible does say, "be fruitful and multiple" (in several different places, in case you missed it the first time). Thinking in mathematical terms, this means you should have more than two children right? Because two children merely replaces the parents and does nothing by way of multiplying. So, what is the appropriate number?

Yes, I know, I think too much. I don't expect to find an "answer" nor anything remotely reaching a consensus among thoughtful Christians. Its just one of the ponderables I ponder and try to iron out for myself. But you, my loyal and faithful blog readers, are always very thoughtful and have a wide range of views - so what do you think about all this?


  1. (This might be a little bit long...)

    I am Catholic and grew up catholic. I was raised that sex was something that was suppose to wait until your married to be shared with a husband and wife. I was fine with that until I was 24 and not married yet. I then decided that I didn't have to wait for marriage I just needed to wait for the right person. I think that sex is important and should be shared with two people that care for eachother and that are in a commited relationship. I have never read the bible but from what I have heard and noticed is that women and men from biblical times were usually married very young and were having kids well before their 20ies. Having kids back then was thought of differently then it is now. People needed big families to help maintain their farms, a famiy business, to make sure that the family name was carried on or to care for elderly family members. The need for many many kids is not needed anymore. People are also waiting a lot longer to get married and to start having kids. People also may not have one partner their whole life and need a birth control so that kids are not produced when not wanted. This is why I think that using birth control is necessary. It does not have to be in pill form, even a natual birth control can work to not have accidental kids. I think that in this day and age people don't get married just to reproduce. More and more people get married and then still wait years before having kids. I think that it is responsible to use some sort of birth control until a married/commited couple is ready for kids. In some ways I think that the bible can be outdated and not always reflective how to we should/can live our life now. I agree with some points of the church but not every detail.


  2. Also... I love the Duggars and love their show. If you read their story they used birth control at the beginning of their marriage and it wasn't right for them, they had a miscarrage that they doctors said could have been blaimed on their birth control. They decided to let God give them as many children as he wanted them to have. It has worked for them but its not what everyone wants. I work with a guy thats wife is pregnant with number 7 b/c they are not going to use birth control for religious reasons. I think its amazing, just not for me.

  3. I'll make mine as long as Erin's lol and I am sure I won't put my thoughts out there as eloquently as you, Chantelle, but I will try......

    I agree with what Erin is saying with regard to multiple children are not 'needed' anymore, life changes and so do we, as do our needs, as does our ways of life.

    Once upon a time, I believed in BC, once upon a time I wasn't a Christian so I believed in it AS a form of BC. On the other hand, I suffered horrible periods and PPMd and also relied on BC for the hormonal medicinal benefits.

    I too was raised Catholic. I was also completely turned off by the thought that my spirituality was forever going to be conforming, and lived by rules, regulations, laws and pretty much dictated within my religion. There never felt like there was ever any room for interpertation, no room for a personal relationship - a private 'conversation' with God - that my decisions needed to fit the flow of a Catholic family, a Catholic lifestyle, the guidance and direction from a Priest and only heard through confession.....

    So, years later, when I found my faith again, I was able to let go of those issues I had and thought outside of the box, got real with God, questioned him, paid more attention to TODAY - to real life, to these days and times and took whatever knowledge I had of what God and the Bible has taught me, and applied it to today.

  4. And, when I did that, I came to beleive in a few things, now that I have really dug deep into my morals and spirituality.
    I beleive that we are given free will. I believe we are given a life to live and decisions to make, with the guidance of God, with all of our decisions made having put 100% faith and trust in Him, as to what is right, what is pleasing, what is going to serve His purpose. Bottom line is - we are all sinnners, we all fall short of the His glory, we all make mistakes. Our world is different than it was those hundreds of years ago, but the issue is still the same - are we doing what we need to do in our world, today, to serve the purpose of God? For some people, that may mean having more children - raising little armies of kids, like the Duggars, to carry out Gods will and purpose. For others, it may mean devoting your life to missionary, may mean adopting less fortunate kids and raising them as a Christians.... there is a calling for us all. We have to have faith in God that we'll find it. And when we think we found it, we need to think about how we go about achieving it, and if it really our calling from GOD, or our own selfish desires.... are we doing it because we want to? or is it really going to benefit and please God? Does God want me to have 4 more kids if i know i can not fully commit myself 100% to raising them and teaching them and making them the 'best christians' that i possibly can? i mean, if that is his goal with children - to be fruitful and multiply - then we should do it and dedicate ourselves 100% to it to please HIM, not just because we have a serious jones for a cute, cuddly little baby. not to say that any of us are not good moms - but dont we gripe about lack of time just to do the dishes - can we really say that we are doing our duty as Christin parents to the fullest extent of our ability?
    So I kinda follow that train of thought - that I am given free will to make decisions that are based on my faith in Him and what is pleasing to him, and that if i keep my lines of communication open with Him, he'll let me know when it is right or isn't. he will guide me to either make the decisions in my life to PREPARE me for the next kid, or guide me to wait until the time is right, or just throw it at me when he feels like and then help me through it - that i'll also know that if it DOES happen (God, please, that was a little prayer there lol... i AM baby-jonesing lol!!!) that I have faith and trust that I'll survive and that whatever troubles lie ahead (expenses and stuff) that it's in his hands. But I think that he expects us to use our common sense, to live our lives in a structured way, with great thought into our futures, finances, our child raising abilities in order to live the life that will be ost pleasing to him.
    did I ramble? did i make sense? lol

    now, throw in the whole literal sense of not actually PHYSICALLY preventing a pregnancy with the use of contraceptives - that is one i struggle with. i have no thoughts on that really, and that sucks because i also wish i knew...... but i feel the same way about alcohol, tattoos, secular music, dirty humor - i feel like i can find so much concrete evidence that says NO - but so many openings that leave me like uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..... and mayyyyyyyyyybe that was his goal too - leave us wanting to know more which keeps us coming back to him for more....... hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..... lol well, i have sucessfully spent the last 1/2 hour of my work day doing something other than work so off to the humble abode i go!!!!! thanks for the really thought provoking post! i hope i didnt offend anyone, it sure wasn't my intention!

  5. Great responses ladies!!!

    I do think that we have to accept that the realities of modern living do not necessarily facilitate nor require oodles of offspring. But, I think we have to tread carefully there, not forgetting God's direction.

    I think Lizzie summarized pretty well the end-results of my thoughts (for now). I don't think we're going to find a concrete answer. But rather, this is an issue which will require a lot of prayer and reliance on God to ultimately control. I think that by not making procreation impossible, and being open to the possibility, while not necessarily making it likely, we are at least headed in the right direction.

    Lizzie - you know I'm praying for a yummy squishy baby to bless your home very soon!!!!

  6. thanks because i neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed one. my bank account doesnt, my commute doesnt, my job doesnt lol but i neeeeeeeeeeed one!

  7. A priest mentioned to us once that people should not use man made birth control and use the natural way. Be fruitful and multiply. For me, I think man made birth control means a person is preventing and deciding what to do for a baby's life while the natural way means let God be the one to decide. It is still up to the couple to have as much children they want as long as they use the natural way if they are catholics.

  8. Let's all get knocked up! How is that for a detailed, educated response?