Wednesday, April 22, 2009

'Forbidding to marry'

Laura from Pursuing Holiness wrote a post at the Hot Air Green Room that inspired me to respond at great length:
Christians believe that marriage is an institution ordained by God, and every marriage is thus blessed. However, in ordaining marriage, God commanded man to "be fruitful and multiply." This commandment has never been repealed or amended, no matter what any Malthusian population-control fanatic tries to tell you. One trend that has undermined marriage has been the rise of the Contraceptive Culture, which celebrates sterility as the norm and views fertility as a pathology requiring medical prevention.
How many Christians have embraced this false -- dare I say, evil -- worldview? How many young Christian married couples use contraception because "we can't afford children now"? And how many married Christian couples have unwittingly subscribed to the Zero Population Growth ideal of exactly two children per couple? Did you know that surgical sterilization (tubal ligation) is the No. 1 form of birth control for American women? It's the "two and tie 'em" mentality: Have exactly two children, then get yourself surgically sterilized. . . .
You should read the whole thing.

UPDATE: In the comments at the Green Room, Anna writes:
My husband and I were married at 21. . . .
What galls me is the anti-child atmosphere nowadays. We have 3 kids (including a set of twins), and we'd love to have another. We aren't really in a position to have another right this minute, but the door is not shut. However, mention this to my (devout Lutheran) in-laws, and they rant about how they'll kill my husband if I get pregnant, and how they don't 'need' any more grandchildren. We even hear from other members of their church about how we're too young to have so many kids - how are we going to pay for college/cars/etc for not only them, but for ourselves. We’re 26/27! How is that too young? There are only so many times that I can retort with "We're old enough/it's our family/you can take out loans for college, but not for retirement!" before I have to run to the bathroom to cry.
Anna, once you understand that their criticisms of you are actually a defense of their own decisions, this anti-baby attitude becomes more comprehensible. People can always justify their own behavior, and people who embrace the Contraceptive Culture typically display these attitudes. Negative conceptions of others -- the "trailer trash" stereotype of large families -- are a defense mechanism to enhance their own self-concept.

Believing that their way is the only way, they must necessarily believe that, by marrying young and having lots of babies, you are dooming yourself (and your children) to misery and poverty. The "how will you pay for college" question is meant to be the ultimate "gotcha." My daughter's working her way through college. Next question?

UPDATE II: More wisdom in the comments (here) from father-of-five Larry:
I cannot count the number of times we have been unintentionally insulted by well meaning, self-identified Christians, asking if we know what causes that (pregnancy) . . .
To which I always answer, "Yes, and we're very good at it." That shuts 'em up quick.


  1. All well taken points, perhaps, but they really mean nothing to a growing segment of the population --- people who can't have children at all.

    This group is put in an even more precarious position if they happen to be Catholic, since that Church forbids any artificial means of insemination.

    Thus, the command to "be fruitful and multiply" echoes over their heads as little more than a symbol of failure.

    Where, I've got to ask, do they fit in to this logic ?

  2. You know, Doug, that question comes up every time I discuss this issue. Despite the fact that I'm clearly talking about otherwise healthy, fertile people who purposefully avoid childbearing, there's always the objection: "But what about people who can't have babies?"

    Well, what about them? Tragic. I know couples, including people in my own extended family, who've suffered through infertility. But such medical issues are not the object of my discussion here.

    What intrigues me is how you refer to this "growing segment of the population." If infertility is more common now than it once was, why?

    I'm reminded of something I read once, by a woman writer, who talked about a friend of hers who -- after being a freewheeling single through her 20s -- finally settled down, got married and started trying to have a baby without success. Went to the doctor and discovered she was sterile. "All those years of being on the pill or using condoms, and it was all just a waste of money!"

    There is a saying among demographers that "fertility delayed is fertility denied." A woman's reproductive "peak" is between the ages of 18 and 24, and many women who might have been capable of having children at age 20 are utterly barren by age 30. Another good reason not to postpone marriage.

  3. Thank you for this outstanding article Robert, agree 100%. I read it at Hot Air, bit different to the usual posts one could say....!

  4. As a person who was married at 18, and is going on her 18th year of marriage (to the same man, no less), I have been through the marriage wringer. I have saddened seeing the way marriage has been treated, what with "starter wives" and the way having children is no longer the desire of some couples. I'm like you. I like to see people getting married. It's hard work, but I've been teaching my (4 almost 5!) children about the importance and beautiful thing marriage can be. Thank you for this article. I've posted it to my facebook page, and will be emailing it and printing it. You've said everything that I would like to say, but couldn't find the eloquence.

  5. I think it's more than just delayed marriage that is responsible for this. Fertility science is something that's really only 20-25 years old, so it's quite probable that these problems existed before and we just didn't know about them.

    And as far as delayed marriages go, all I know is that if I'd gotten married to whoever back in my 20s, when I definitely wasn't ready for marriage, I never would've met my wife.

    And that would've been tragic.

  6. There's another rebuttal to Doug's plaintive query - the fact that the use of artificial birth control may be causing the increase in sterility, especially as more and more women are using artificial contraceptives at a younger and younger age. The artificial steroids that make up the functional aspect of the pill cause a woman's body to change over time, so that, as Stacy says, a woman who may be fertile at 18, may after 10 years of pill usage be sterile.

    The reply Stacy posted at the green room is spot on, and really, I'd like to see this argument developed in more depth. He has hit the core of a very, very serious subject, one that most "Christians," Evangelical, main-line Protestant, Catholic, or other, cannot see, as they are so subsumed in the dominant culture of middle classism that all their basic assumptions are completely dominated by its presumptions.

    My wife and I have 5 daughters, and a boy on the way. I cannot count the number of times we have been unintentionally insulted by well meaning, self-identified Christians, asking if we know what causes that (pregnancy), or if we're going to stop now that "you've got your boy," etc. As if the sole reason I've put my wife through what they view as hell is to satisfy a masculine need for a male heir. What an insult. We always reply, very calmly and politely, that we leave the number of children we have up to God, and that our big family, while being a challenge at times, is also the greatest blessing we can imagine God giving us. It frequently leaves us flabbergasted that so many Christians (including the vast majority of our Catholic brethren) cannot see the forest for the trees, and put the idol of a middle class life ahead of all other considerations, Biblical or otherwise. I've tried to encourage some of my more devout friends to consider having more children, to being open to life, but haven't met with much success, yet. The pull of middle classism is very strong.

  7. For a Prot, McCain, you do a damn good Roman Catholic imitation!

  8. There was a karate school near where I used to live, and sometimes walking by in the early evening I would see a family there. They had four boys, and they were identical, I mean *identical* just in graduated sizes, all with red hair, from about 5 years old to about 12. I always got a big smile out of them.

    Steve Sailer talks a lot about the economics of this. I suspect a lot of people in the big just can't afford to have kids and resent those who do. God has not given me the opportunity yet but I hope he will not pass me by.

  9. Thanks for a great article!! My husband and I have been married for 26 years, have 5 kids, one daughter-in-law, a granddaughter and a grandson on the way.

    You are absolutely correct that those comments are defensive on the part of the commenter. People seem to either immediately respect you or immediately try to make themselves feel better by mocking you.

    And our answer to that question has always been, "And we LIKE it!!"

    It's also fun to tack on, with a look of pity, "So you just have the two kids then?"

  10. I married young (19), had my first child 15 months later and the second child two years later. The day after my son was born I had a tubal. Regret didn't set in for about five years but once it did the regret was (and is) profound. I have strongly counselled several young women I've known or worked with against the same short sighted decision. Sadly, most have not listened.

  11. Great post, and it was similar to another post you did a while ago about how our society has demonized young marriage, which I also really appreciated.

    I met my husband when I was 17 (senior in high school), we dated throughout my college years, and married the summer I graduated from college. For a couple of years, we worked, bought a house, traveled a bit,and I finally followed my dream and went to law school. Had our first child right after my law school graduation.

    So first, my comment is that young marriages can and do succeed, if both parties are willing to put in the effort and the commitment.

    Secondly, I'm about the only woman I know who has only slept with one man in her life. And I met him at 17. I can't tell you how many times my friends and even some family members would say - "why would you want to tie yourself down so young when you haven't had the chance to date (read: have sex with) other men? Aren't you afraid of what you're missing?"

    What did I miss? The sex and dating scene of the 80's and 90's? No thanks. I never looked back.

  12. Larry,

    All I will say in response is that, more often than not, the reasons for infertility are not nearly as simple as you would apparently like them to be.

    And, to be honest, we know several married couples who've chosen not to have children, they're happy, and I don't see anything wrong with the chocie they've made.

  13. This was so excellent I just had to link to it. Hope that's ok.

    And I thank Dad29 for leading me to you. I've been coming around here for quite some time but don't always comment usually because you've said it so well there is nothing left to say except, "Good job!"

  14. a woman who may be fertile at 18, may after 10 years of pill usage be sterileOr after one case of Chlamydia...

  15. My wife and I had four boys. The eldest is now 35 and the youngest is 26. We had plenty of folks give us the evil eye every time we went out in public with this crew. God bless you all.