Saturday, June 25, 2011

Children and the Church

Birth control has been popular from of old. It is documented as far back as 1900 BC and even up to the Roman empire of the apostolic age. There were many different methods, such as wool that absorbed sperm and animal skins used as condoms, as well as poisons and potions that made the uterus hostile. Abortion was common. Witches and witch-doctors performed abortion, and this action was one of the main proponents of the witch-hunts of the 1600s. Women often-times bound their bodies in order to expel fetuses. Infanticide was also rampant. Documentations of practices such as leaving unwanted babies on street corners and sacrificing babies to pagan gods were wide-spread.

In the secular world of this age, birth control is more widely used than ever before. The 2002 Census by the CDC says that the percentage of women who used a form of contraception at their first sexual intercourse has risen from 43% before 1980 to 79% in 2002, and that 98% of sexually active women have used contraceptives. The same study states that more than 50% of women receiving family planning services were younger than 25 years of age.

Contraception has taken on an ever more serious progression. The versions of contraceptive use have multiplied. We see women losing their true femininity and becoming instead asexual sex symbols with birth control options that cause a woman to only have an ovulation from four times a year to never in five years. These hormonal methods of contraception work by injecting hormones into the uterus that also morph the lining of the uterus into a hostile environment that kills a joined sperm and egg when the fetus enters through the fallopian tube. This, in effect, is an abortifacient. Oral contraceptives have also been found by the National Cancer Institute to increase the risks of breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer, especially for women who began to use oral contraceptives in their teens. With the constant use of contraceptives that alter the woman's hormones and uteran function, the rise of barrenness and conceptional dysfunction also increases.

This is the world's way, and yet the Church of God has accepted these things as 'socially acceptable', and do not even question what God would have us do. We find, meanwhile, that in the Bible children are called by David a 'treasure in the womb', a 'heritage from the Lord'. He says, 'Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!' - Psalm 127.

Jesus most strongly praises children and childlikeness. 'In truth I tell you, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter into the kingdom of Heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.…Anyone who welcomes one little child like this in my name welcomes me. But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck.' - Matthew 18

In the book of Genesis, the sin of Onan, who spilled his semen on the ground rather than bring forth children by Tamar for his brother's lineage, was killed by Yahweh-God. The early Christian church continued this view against contraception in the tradition of the Pentateuch. Here are some quotes from the early church fathers.

'We Christians marry only to produce children.' - Justin Martyr, 100 AD

'Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted.' - Clement of Alexandria, 101 AD

'Some complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife.' Again he says, 'God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital (generating) part of our body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring.' - Lactantius, 307 AD

'Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility, where there is murder before birth? …Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his laws?…The matter still seems indifferent to many men––even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks…' - John Chrysostom, 391 AD

'You may see a number of women who are widows before they are wives. Others, indeed, will drink sterility and murder a man not yet born.' - Jerome, 396 AD

'When [procreation] is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels.' Again, in 419 AD, 'I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility.' - St Augustine, 400 AD

'If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman.' - Caesarius of Arles, 522 AD,

'[Contraception] does injury to God.' - St Thomas Aquinas

'[T]he exceedingly foul deed of Onan, the basest of wretches . . . is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime. . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore, God punished him.' - Martin Luther

'[Birth control is] the murder of a future person.' - John Calvin

'[Contraception is] unnatural and destroys the soul of those who practice it.' - John Wesley

Even after the Reformation, the Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and Dissenters were against birth control. It was not until 1930 that the Anglican Lambeth Conference of bishops accepted the use of birth control, and even then it was only accepted in certain medical circumstances. As the secularized culture grew with the hardship experienced in the Great Depression, the beliefs of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), the rise of Darwinism, the propagation of a two-child family promoted by Rockefeller and the government, the restructured family ideal that arose during the '50s, and the Green movement influenced most Protestants to embrace birth control. Instead of viewing contraception as a deliberate violation of God's natural design, the church of God accepted a sexuality of death.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches, however, continued to hold the early church view. In 1997 the Catholic leadership said that, 'The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.'

So how ought the Church of God live?