Skip to comments.Sex in the City of God - A couple make the case for contraception-free marriage.
Posted on 08/09/2002 11:40:46 AM PDT by gubamyster
A couple make the case for contraception-free marriage. And, no, theyre not Catholic.
August 9, 2002, 9:00 a.m.
One morning in my freshman biology class, the professor was scheduled to talk about something or other regarding the human reproductive system. His usually dull monotone was gone; he was animated, even making cracks about his large numbers of siblings. (If you're Catholic, you've probably heard them: "What do you call a family that uses natural family planning? Parents.") His parents, you see, were very Catholic, he told us. They used the "rhythm method."
That class was at the Catholic University of America, which happens to be the only school chartered by the U.S. Catholic bishops. For many of the students in that lecture hall, that morning could have been their one and only shot at hearing a good word or two about natural family planning (NFP)-or at least to hear it outright and not needlessly bashed. But in a scene that often plays itself out inside Catholic-school classrooms, even in marriage-preparation classes, legitimate reasons for not using birth control were taken about as seriously as they might be on a late-night comedy show. Increasingly, Catholic couples looking to receive easily accessible Catholic instruction on birth control find themselves out of luck.
So where should a young couple wanting to know, practically and theologically, what the Catholic Church has to say about natural family planning go these days?
To a Protestant couple.
In particular, they should look for Sam and Bethany Torode.
The Torodes are the authors of a new book, Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception.
The Torodes take the Word literally when it comes to the meaning of marriage: Remember, for instance, this: "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it" (Genesis 1:27-28). And this: "He answered and said, 'Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate'" (Matthew 19: 4-6).
Artificial contraception, the Torodes say, puts up a barrier that doesn't belong in a Christian marriage.
The Torodes write that "Respect for the one-flesh mystery of marriage gives us serious qualms about the use of contraception. To invoke St. Paul's analogy, would Christ ever withhold any part of himself from the Church, or sterilize his love?" As they understand it, "anything less than a true one-flesh union fails to represent the completely self-giving love of Christ for the Church. This is why we believe that when a husband and wife have serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, it's better to abstain for a time than to diminish the meaning and mystery of sex."
The premise of their book, that artificial contraception has no place in a Christian marriage, is an admittedly Catholic one. (And one that is not particularly popular in some Catholic circles, never mind Protestant ones.) What they refer to as "evangelical sex guides" heartily embrace the contraceptive culture. It doesn't fly with the Torodes. And they have some words of caution for fellow pro-life evangelicals, most of whom routinely use contraception, many, they say, without giving it much thought. Like the current pope has written extensively, the Torodes believe that contraception is not consistent with a "culture of life." But they believe that most pro-lifers haven't even thought through it. Both the Bible and Catholic thinkers, the Torodes contend, have much to teach couples about married life and, well, life whether they're Catholic or not.
Giving up contraception goes against everything our culture tells us about sex and marriage, and sometimes Christians have a hard time thinking outside of the surrounding culture's assumptions. As G. K. Chesterton once quipped, "I suppose that even Jonah, once he was swallowed, could not see the whale."
Evangelicals are known for engaging the culture. Contemporary Christian music, for example, often mimics the sound of "secular" music while adding Christian lyrics, as though the music conveys no message of its own. Problems arise when we begin engaging the culture and end up marrying it.
Our culture tells us that sex is really about pleasure, not spousal unity and procreation. Thus, in order to stay culturally relevant, many Christians stress that it was God who designed sex to yield pleasure. From this legitimate starting point, however, some Christians end up elevating pleasure above the procreative and unitive aspects of sex. In so doing, they unconsciously buy into our culture's hedonistic pursuit of pleasure as an end in itself. That sounds strong, but check out the shelves of most Protestant bookstores-you'll find books on sexual technique that rival the pages of Cosmopolitan.
The Torodes' take is not necessarily a growing trend in evangelical circles, but it's a voice loud enough to get the attention of the country's largest evangelical publication, Christianity Today. And it's not the first time that they have published an anti-contraception point of view. Editor David Neff says that it's "a persistent minority view and one that has a strong internal coherence. It is a viewpoint that I believe needs to be represented from time to time in CT just to keep people aware that this is a plausible option."
Furthermore, Neff points out, it is a viewpoint that many young Christians who have chosen contraception do not want to hear. Of course, it's also one not a lot of Catholics want to hear, either.
But it's one that many couples who have tried it back religiously. And not just for religious reasons. This book, while coming from an unabashedly Christian couple, is written with tenderness and sound reasoning, and will appeal to any couple interested in learning more about why NFP is a valid alternative. The Torodes argue that not putting up barriers in a marriage is at the very essence of the marital union, allowing for the oneness that all married couples seek. Couples in recent years who have "gone natural" speak of its myriad pluses-more intimacy (think about it, the husband has to know his wife's cycles), no pills to screw up her cycle, to mention just a few.
Sam and Bethany quote a marriage counselor, Gregory Popcak, who thinks NPF can be a marriage saver. He's not the only one, either. Popcak says,
It has been my experience that couples who use NFP are actually challenged to work harder on having good marriages. They are challenged to communicate better, to overcome their personal weaknesses more willingly and generously, and they are forced to nurture their friendship more because they can't just "throw sex" at their problems. By way of example, I have witnessed hundreds of non-NFP couples who couldn't communicate their way out of a paper bag, who had lost common interests over the years, who did not really like each other and were often outright abusive in their treatment of one another, but then were completely surprised when their partner wanted a divorce. "I thought everything was great! After all, we had sex almost every day!"
The book is about much more than the contraception question though. Bethany makes a beautiful argument in favor of stay-at-home motherhood, and other choices the Torodes believe are keys to successful matrimony.
The Torodes' arguments are not going to be embraced by all their readers, but they do invite everyone into their home to share what they've learned. They write in a touching, faith-filled, loving way about the essence of marriage. It's a slim volume that's a perfect engagement gift, regardless of religion. (If you were in that Catholic U. class that morning, though, especially if you're Catholic.)
Sam and Bethany (26 and 21), by the way, are proud parents of son Gideon and have another blessing on the way.
Click here to read more from the Torodes. (An NRO Q&A)
I hope Christians from all denominations, both Catholic and Protestant, sincerely look at their lives and question their dependence on contraception as their "savior". Because that is what artificial contraception has become to far too many people, and it is damaging them both physically, and emotionally.
Well thought out, logical and to the point. Man, are you in for it.
The Torodes write that "Respect for the one-flesh mystery of marriage gives us serious qualms about the use of contraception. To invoke St. Paul's analogy, would Christ ever withhold any part of himself from the Church, or sterilize his love?" As they understand it, "anything less than a true one-flesh union fails to represent the completely self-giving love of Christ for the Church. This is why we believe that when a husband and wife have serious reasons to avoid pregnancy, it's better to abstain for a time than to diminish the meaning and mystery of sex."F.Y.I.
I think you forgot a "not" in there somewhere, because the sentence makes no sense as written.
But this is not done. Granted, the couple may strive to avoid having sex during fertile periods but -- if their conjugal relations are free of contraceptive implements or abortifacient chemicals -- there is always the potential for life which will be welcomed by the couple who recognize conception as a matter of God's will making their co-creative ability fruitful.
Best laid plans and all.
As a rule, nature is very good about spacing pregnancies ... where breastfeeding and other natural aspects of birth and childrearing are practiced. I see nothing wrong with abstinence as a further help to allowing parents to give each child his full measure of attention upon birth.
Then it's the fact that conception might still potentially occur that renders NFP acceptable? The fact that the possibility of conception still exists?
There's also the potential for life if the condom fails. Is there some difference between the failure of birth control and failure of NPF?
No flame intended, just curious.
Anal sex -- aside from its obvious implications for the normalizing of homosexuality among heteros as pushed by pornographers -- has nothing whatsoever to do with human sexuality.
The disordered desire for anal penetration by the penis is neither procreative nor unitive (in the sense that man is made for woman and vice versa as evidenced by the sexual organs).
In fact, it has little, if anything to do with sex and far more to do with domination and violence.
It is not surprising in the least that pornographers today find a ready audience for anal sex among men who are emasculated in public by women and wish domination in private (or who view women in some Henry Miller Sadean fashion whereby they're nothing but a collection of orifices for semen affording varying degrees of physical gratification).
Besides, with the homosexual as "Ideal Citizen", it's to the State's benefit as well to condition heteros not only to homosexual practices of "sex" but also homosexual rights to "procreate" via the artificial reproduction practices which provide President Bush the "excess" human lives on which his hopeful research hinges.
I realize you probably meant this in jest but it's important you realize how critical is our ability to think clearly on this issue rather than serve as useful idiots to help propel the Agenda.
Abstinence by its very nature is an act of Self-Governance that is critical to the human psyche and evidences absolutely the uniquely human ability to foresee consequences and govern one's passions.
Naturally, in addition to the real "benefits" they presume to achieve through population control, the most critical win for the state where birth control and licentiousness are concerned is the unleashing of Passions by which folks can be rendered absolutely predicatable ... masses operating on the lowest common denominator that is animal urges.
There is a method to the madness, then, of a State that upholds "faked" cyber child sex as "Free Speech" on the one hand yet excuses all sorts of invasions of privacy and ursupations of civil liberties on the other on the basis that some individuals can't properly "manage" their addictions to child porn and act on same.
Bottom line: the use of contraceptives treats the human being as a Thing and conditions a person to manipulation. It disrupts the natural order whereby man has dominion over creation and all creatures by applying that dominion to himself in lieu of the Restraint which is the better part of his Natural Liberty.
So they not only want to saddle parents with an ever-expanding brood, but they want it supported by a single income, which is no longer commonly possible in modern society.
That's what renders it morally acceptable. In NFP, every conjugal act retains both its procreative and unitive aspect.
For thinking human beings, this removes the necessity for abortion as fail-safe insurance against the failure of the implements or chemicals with which one divorced sex from its procreative nature or engaged in sex with a person to whom one really did not wish to give themselves in toto.
Primarily because women work and have ratcheted down the man's ability to bring home wealth even as they've ruined the workplace and invited in Uncle Sam to settle their every dispute and even -- or slant, rather -- their every playing field.
I agree, but the situation unfortunately isn't likely to change anytime soon.
They, and my wife, are my life.
You call them "nonexistent," since nobody has used calendar rhythm since the mid-1960's. ST or Billings NFP is not the "rhythm method". It's extremely reliable if used correctly.
By the way, my wife and I have used NFP for 8 years. Zero surprises, which is one less than we had using ABC. Your joke just doesn't reflect reality, at least not the reality I've experienced.
But I agree with you about anal sex being VERY unhealthy. All moral implacation aside, the digetive track is full of bacteria that are more than happy to take up residence inside the urogenital track. In the ER where I go to school they see more and more bladder and kidney infections because of this.
As to what is ok or not ok between a man and women inside of the marrige, Heb. 13:4 tells us that the marrige bed is undefiled. I think one could make a case that whatever goes on between a married man and woman sexualy is fine.
However, my question was because of your reply to drjimmy:
Granted, the couple may strive to avoid having sex during fertile periods but -- if their conjugal relations are free of contraceptive implements or abortifacient chemicals -- there is always the potential for life which will be welcomed by the couple who recognize conception as a matter of God's will making their co-creative ability fruitful.
It appears that you differentiate between rythm (natural) methods and unnatural methods, based on the fact that natural methods hold a chance for conception. However so do unnatural methods. But then you speak of abstinance. But those who practice natural methods aren't abstinant.
Aren't those who practice natural methods equally guilty of being not abstinant? I'm just wondering exactly what makes them better. It can't be that they have a possibility of conception because so do those who use condoms. So, what is the difference?
Again, no flame intended. I'm genuinely curious and you seem well informed on this topic so I respect your opinion.
It was Karl Marx, not Jesus of Nazareth, who said that the ends justified the means. Christian moral teaching is that one must pursue morally right goals by morally right means.
Merely pointing out that the "end aim" is the same does not establish the moral equivalence of ABC and NFP anymore than pointing out that robbing a liquor store and investing in the stock market both have the same "end aim," increasing one's wealth.
Heb 13:4 says "Let the marriage bed be undefiled". It's an admonition. That one can be admonished to "let it be undefiled" implies that it can be defiled.
The Greek actually doesn't appear to have a verb, so it's ambiguous. It's something like: "Marriage held in honor among all, and the bed undefiled: fornicators and adulterers God will judge." I think concluding from that that anything goes between married couples is a jump of huge proportions.
I'm not exactly taking that position, but merely pointing out that one could possibly make a case.
I wish I would have taken greek when I had the chance.
You'll forgive me, I hope, for failing to get with the Program.
You are overlooking the point that NFP isn't about what a couple does; it's about what they don't do.
What's the alternative? Would you have the Church mandate marital relations happening only during fertile periods? Or every night? Would you have the Church forbid sex during infertile periods?
Don't you see that in refraining from such controlling measures, it's the Church that introduces authentic freedom into the marital embrace, rather than a spurious license that reduces each partner to the status of object and a slave to appetite?
Is it your complaint against the Church that she is authoritarian, or that she is not authoritarian enough? Could it be that the Church is the true liberal, and the contraceptors are the true dupes and thralls? You need to clear your mind of cant; you need to re-think what you think you know.
Like the current pope has written extensively, the Torodes believe that contraception is not consistent with a "culture of life." But they believe that most pro-lifers haven't even thought through it.
Well, THIS pro-life Charismatic protestant has thought about it.
Our culture tells us that sex is really about pleasure, not spousal unity and procreation.
Sex is about pleasure and unity between a man and wife. And *occasionally* procreation. If it was as fully about procreation as it is about pleasure and unity, women would come into heat like other animals do. The Designer of both humans and other animals was quite capable of making it happen that way. Instead, He gave humans the ability to enjoy sex WITHOUT it resulting it pregnancy at least most of the time. That suggests that, since "rhythm" contraception is certainly viable and OK, then other forms - not including killing a living, growing child within its mother's womb - are acceptable as well.
Abstinence by its very nature is an act of Self-Governance that is critical to the human psyche and evidences absolutely the uniquely human ability to foresee consequences and govern one's passions.
That's a good example of philosophy.
Something that sounds OK on paper, but has little bearing on the real world.
Oh for Pete's sake ... are you blind? Look around you and see it in action!
All of these "rights" gifts of the State emblazoned with "Choice" and "Free Speech" wrapping paper are the very tools by which we're dumbed down to stupid animals suitable for subjugation and ready control.
Only the man who retains in action and in thought the ability to govern himself and discipline his passions enjoys the detachment and absolute sovereignty of will that makes him impervious (save by deadly force) to the State's coercion and force.
If you wish examples, I'm happy to provide some.
It's certainly incredibly selfish for one spouse to coerce or otherwise encourage the other to have more children than he or she can handle. I don't hear anyone advocating that.
Having a lot of kids is not "incredibly selfish" if you can take care of them. In fact, it's the opposite of selfish, as any parent who's been there can tell you. But it's not for everybody.
But the topic of this article is using NFP. How can it possibly be "unGodly and incredibly selfish" for a married couple to abstain from sex when they've mutually agreed they don't want to conceive? Incidentally, Paul mentions this "unGodly and incredibly selfish" action with approval in 1 Corinthians.
One thing!!! You said one thing!!! Nanny nanny, everybody - SHE SAID ONE THING!!!!!!!
Have you ever thought about the reason why fornication is wrong? (It has nothing to do with either pleasure or unity.)
This was something that the Founding Fathers knew in their marrow, and if we're ever to guide this nation back to something like what they intended, we'd better start to rediscover it.