This past week Barack Obama and John McCain appeared together at Rick Warren’s church for a discussion of their beliefs. Although I was slightly weirded out that the event was hosted by a church, I was pleased that Warren pushed them on issues relevant to evangelical Christians, particular that of abortion.
For me, the topic of abortion is a very central one. One’s stance on abortion reveals a lot about one’s understanding of the value of human life. Period.
HOWEVER, just because you are opposed to abortion does not mean you are consistently pro-life, and that is what I want to discuss today.
To be pro-life is to value all life, across all ethnic and class lines. And while I don’t want to go into all the details of how that might play out, there is one instance that I want to highlight here:
How does one’s pro-life ideology relate to birth control?
Now before I dive into this, let me give you a little bit of background as to why this has been on my mind of late. You see, recently I’ve been seeing a commercial that irks me every time it airs. In the commercial, a woman stands in the foreground describing all that could happen to her in the next 5 years–she could get a promotion, buy a new house, coach soccer, move to Memphis or finally finish a book.
“But,” the commercial continues, “if your plans don’t include having a baby, then consider taking _______. ”
I then checked out the contraceptive’s website, and it’s all about having a worry-free, hassle-free life.
Now is it me, or are a lot of birth control commercials now sounding just like this? There’s another commercial that bemoans the hardship of having to take a pill every day and how inconvenient that can be. Why not simplify your life with a once a month shot? Or an IUD that you NEVER had to think about? Then you don’t have to deal with the annoyance of daily birth control. What a relief!
The language of these commercials is what gets me–worry free? Hassle free? That’s the same kind of thing you hear about vacations, buying a car, ab workouts, or 30 minute meals. But birth control? They talk about time and sacrifice as if it’s a bad thing, but when it comes to family and children, is “quick and easy” really the best approach?
It is clear from commercials like these that the culture has turned birth control into just another instant gratification means to getting the life you want. A baby is not convenient for me right now, so I’m gonna take a little pill that prevents the unpleasantness of an unwanted child.
And herein lies the problem: when we treat birth control that way, we find ourselves using the exact same language as the pro-choice camp. We treat children as being valuable on a conditional basis. Only when they come at certain, predetermined times are we really excited to have them. Otherwise, they can stand in the way of getting what we want on the time line we want it.
All of this is not to say that birth control is in itself wrong. There is something to be said for being responsible–I wouldn’t have unprotected sex with my husband anymore than I would drive without a seat belt. Trusting God doesn’t mean letting the chips fall where they may. There is a degree to which we must take responsibility for our own actions, and be good stewards of what we have.
But our motives for doing so should be distinctly different than the world’s.
And something else to consider–some birth controls affect the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for an egg to attach to the wall of the uterus. In such cases, it is still possible to get pregnant, but we are, in a sense, creating an inhospitable environment for our potential children. It’s like we’re saying, “I’ll take you, but only if you can survive in the hostile environment I’ve created for you.” That’s not exactly a pro-life attitude is it?
What’s more, artificial birth control requires the very least sacrifice and thought on our parts. Natural birth control demands that we be thoughtful and intentional about our bodies and our sex lives, in a way that taking a pill each day does not. When we take a pill, we don’t have to think about it quite as carefully, which I find a bit worrying. If we call ourselves a people who value family highly and want to discerningly protect it, such an instant gratification approach should cause us to pause and examine ourselves.
It is for all of these reasons that I will seriously have to pray through whether or not to take birth control whenever I get married. There are still natural methods of birth control, so if I don’t take a pill or an IUD, then I will certainly practice natural methods until we feel God calling us to intentionally expand our family. But in the meantime I’m trying to discern what it means to practice “pro-life” with my body and in my language about human life.
Please don’t misunderstand me to mean that taking a contraceptive is morally wrong or counter to Scripture, because that is not at all what I mean. There are certainly times when we are not yet able to provide the life that our children deserve, and in those cases I believe that contraceptives are warranted.
But if it’s simply a matter of inconvenience, if it’s a matter of not having the quality of life you would want to have, not being able to afford all the luxuries you would otherwise be able to have, then be wary. I know a lot of people who say, “We can’t afford to have a baby right now,” but in reality, that’s not really true. If they accidentally got pregnant, they would be just fine–they’d just have to cut corners a bit more. So when we find ourselves speaking about babies that way, we must be honest with ourselves and admit that we are talking about children using the same language as the world.
When it’s all said and done, I don’t have any prescriptive wisdom or a concrete answer to give. I honestly and sincerely believe that each couple should prayerfully make their own decision, and whatever position they come to is right for them. But be sure to ask yourselves how your language about that decision differs from the world. Ask yourselves how the orientation of your heart differs from the world’s. Is this an area of your life that you have totally surrendered to God, or are you wanting to hold a tight grip of control on it, under the guise of being responsible with your resources?
To be pro-life is to value life to the utmost, no matter when or how it comes. That is what I offer here, so let us be Christians who live out our beliefs in every corner of our lives, and lifestyles. Please pray about what that looks like in your own life.