Monday, November 20, 2006

It's probably the opposite

I was in the very middle of writing a brilliant and insightful piece on 1 Timothy 2:11, when KJS so providentially bestowed this and this upon us today. I would just like to hone in on that most excellent interchange:

KJS: About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise, but Episcopalians tend to be better-educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than some other denominations. Roman Catholics and Mormons both have theological reasons for producing lots of children.

Times: Episcopalians aren’t interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?

KJS: No. It’s probably the opposite. We encourage people to pay attention to the stewardship of the earth and not use more than their portion.

More than their portion, wow. And there’s no way 815 is using ‘more than their portion’ sitting in elegance in Manhattan spreading heresy around the globe like so much thick sweet junk food peanut butter.

But I digress.

The real crux of the matter, as any reasonable person can see, is her amazing assertion “No. Its probably the opposite.” That is, the opposite of having babies. And the opposite of having babies is not having them either by 1. not conceiving them in the first place or 2. killing the ones that have already been conceived.

Now, I know that KJS hasn’t probably read the whole Bible, and if she has, she doesn’t believe that it, but some of us have and do and thus it is incumbent upon us to deal with this assertion, however clunky it may be. And I intend to do so by looking carefully at this verse: But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety. 1Timothy 2:11

First of all, the law against contradictions is important (see post on WO below). Scripture does not contradict itself because God inspired and authored it and he does not contradict himself. So, we know, from the whole witness of scripture that we are saved through the work of Christ alone—men and women (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, Romans 10:13-17). In order to be saved it is necessary to put your full faith and trust in Christ who, through his own death and resurrection, accomplished the salvation of all those who believe. Because we know upon what basis all people, men and women, are saved from sin for eternity, we must be talking about something else.

There’s been much speculation about what that something might be, but I’ve some thoughts and observations of my own.

First of all, when Matt and I made the unconscionable decision to have as many children as possible as soon as possible (that is, upon being married), we observed an ill concealed horror behind the eyes of those we had to tell we were expecting our first (but they just got married, why aren’t they waiting, you could hear echoing silently in the air). But everyone got over it when our baby turned out to be the cutest baby EVER (I’ll try to contain myself). We continued happily along until the day we announced the expectation of our third, close on the heels of our second. Horror once again filled the silent air (they already have one of each! What do they want more for?) that should have been filled with congratulations.

Why the horror, I have wondered to myself. I like babies. Why shouldn’t have as many as I want? What on earth would I wait for, to become older and more tired?

And then I met a couple of young women—both married for about 10 years, both still without children. What, for me, is most curious, is that these are not ‘career’ women. They’re not picking a really good job over having kids, (one of them hates her job), and there aren’t any medical problems, they’re just not having kids. They’re just not ‘ready’.

Thing is, its not just these two women that I have met personally. The fact remains, more and many women in America, in the West, are choosing not to have children.

Now, I know, these same serene childless women look at me judgmentally as I shove my way hysterically through the grocery store. My extravagance in children is culturally insensitive and there’s no reason for it, in secular terms. I mean, what are children really for? They’re expensive. They might turn out badly. They make it impossible for me to ‘fulfill’ myself in any way. The moment I manage to sit down, even for a second, I’m back on my feet to arrest the desperate cries for milk and peanut butter ‘n’ sandwich. At the very moment of writing this I have a splitting headache from having held two simultaneously screaming children for a full 15 minutes, unable to convince either of them to stop crying.

And yet, more than ever in my life, I feel beautiful. At the very least, in bearing children, I have been saved from chronic spiritual ugliness.

Women, by virtue of their biological makeup, are given the gift of life in a way that men are not. They are able to hold within their own flesh, their own bodies, the soul and life of another person. However lightly they may take that other life, however pitifully they may understand what is happening to them, nevertheless, this very particular gift has been given to them. And when they choose not to accept it, when they make a conscious choice Not to have children When they are able, that choice carries spiritual consequences.

I’m not talking about women who are unable to physically bear children (and I know there are many) or choose a vocation of celibacy. Nor even those women who have made bad choices and are seeking the grace and mercy of Jesus to heal and forgive them. God is great and good and merciful and (to quote KJS) doesn’t exist inside a box. He not only saves and redeems, he sanctifies and makes beautiful all those who call upon his name.

But there are many many married women who are able to have children and, for whatever reason, decide not to. And it is this decision that carries the consequence of spiritual ugliness. The baseline of carrying a child to term and being delivered of it requires, at a minimum, moving over and making room for another human being. And that moving over is a choice. You either choose to deliver the baby or not. And the choice to deliver births in the woman herself not only selflessness, but great goodness that comes from God alone. The other choice—to not conceive, to not deliver—births selfishness. And when a culture, or in this case a ‘church’, corporately makes a choice against life, against the gifts God gives, that same church become small and selfish.


Father Nelson said...

Brilliant post! I'm beginning to be a huge fan!

After I had been a priest for 3 months, and after my wife and I had been married for 2, we conceived our first. People thought we were nuts - I think they still do. And then, with all the natural mothering - cloth diapers, slings, ecological breastfeeding, etc - I think they still do think we're nuts. Let alone the fact that she stays home and we stay poor.

What amazes me about KJS's comments is how systemic they are, how inextricable they are from a contracepting society. No one seems to be mentioning this. It is so blatantly offensive to say that anti-contraception families are trying "to have as many kids as possible." It is really quite different. Speaking for my family, we are trying to be faithful and open to the blessings of God. We also want to submit our marital sexuality to the command of God. In probably a more self-centered way, we want to be naturalistic and frugal. It is mere coincidence that we are being counter-cultural.

Father Nelson said...

I might add that through natural spacing, we are trying to be good stewards, not reckless breeders!

Anne Kennedy said...

Amen. Amen. There's no recklessness about it. Its just that the locus of control is not with me, its with God, who has it anyway.
I'm encouraged, though, by a small but solid number of young people who are rethinking contraception and its effect on marriage and society as a whole.

GrammaJill said...

Read a portion of this on Stand Firm and then found the link to your blog. Amen and amen from this mom and grandma (who experienced natural childbirth, practiced baby-led weaning, and NFP) who so appreciates this healthy world view among younger moms. Please keep being the solid witness that you are for life and His blessings!

Tito said...

Mrs. Kennedy,

I heard about orthodox Anglicans, but I never believed they existed until reading your blog. I especially love this quote from you:

"And yet, more than ever in my life, I feel beautiful. At the very least, in bearing children, I have been saved from chronic spiritual ugliness."

God bless you and your growing family.

From a true Catholic believer.

Katherine Hegyi said...

Amen, so long as medical issues are allowed as reasonable and sometimes necessary reasons to use contraception. NFP doesn't work for all women, and there are sometimes very serious medical consequences for pregnancy. But in general it's true that the Church in recent decades has given up teaching that married couples who can have children should do so. Women, men, marriage, and the Church have been immensely damaged by this failure.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for you post Anne. I am guilty of that childless snobbishness of which you speak. My husband and I thought we were too smart to have children right away--waiting for at least five years was the sensible thing to do. Now, 4 and a half years into our marriage, on the cusp of my 30th birthday, and at the beginning of marriage counseling because we can't figure out how to share a common life, I'm beginning to rethink that, well, thinking. Obviously one shouldn't have a child to try to "fix" a marriage, but if we'd been open to it in the beginning and had engaged in the task of childrearing together, maybe we wouldn't feel like two disconnected people sharing a house right now.

Anne Kennedy said...

I will pray for you. It certainly doesn't fix anything, but it takes you outside of yourself in such an amazing way. Plus, I always think being obedient is the best fix for everything--if you hear God calling you to have children, he will give you everything you need to accomplish his will. Happy Thanksgiving!