This is perhaps a question best left for biblical scholars and theologians but it’s one I feel there isn’t necessarily a theological basis for a right or wrong answer, but more so a personal interpretation of scripture or a demonstration of your walk with God. This question came to mind as I looked at a new report from the CDC which found that about 37 percent of births in the United States are the result of unintended pregnancies. The breakdown is that between 2006 and 2010, approximately 23 percent of married women had an unintended pregnancy, compared with 50 percent of unmarried women who were living with their baby’s father, and 67 percent of unmarried women not living with the baby’s father. Though it can be assumed married women who accidentally get pregnant fair better than women who are just living with their child’s father, who likely fair better than a woman who appears to be on her own, thinking about the enormous mental, emotional, and financial toll parenthood takes on mothers and fathers, it’s questionable how healthy it is for anyone to have an unplanned pregnancy at any time.
Birth control among married couples isn’t a common topic of discussion but my thoughts around this news took me back to a chat I had about a year ago with a male friend of mine who is married. I don’t remember our initial topic of discussion for sure but I recall the moment the conversation went left of center for me. It was when he said that Christians who were married shouldn’t be on birth control or take precautions to avoid getting pregnant. Thinking about that statement I’m pretty sure I must have been telling him I wasn’t sure that I wanted children ever and if I did I wanted them about five years into my marriage. That’s when he hit me with his two cents that I did not appreciate at the time. I asked him how he came to that conclusion and he said trying to prevent pregnancy in a marriage is like saying you don’t trust God to sustain you and provide all your needs should you get pregnant. I likened his explanation to getting in a car without a seat belt and expecting God to keep you from flying through the windshield should you get in an accident. I understood his point but I felt as a creation with a higher level of brain activity than God’s other creatures we also have an obligation to not put ourselves in situations that aren’t good for us. If you know that you don’t have the financial means to provide for a child or even the mental stability at the time, should you not avoid bringing one into the world as opposed to relying on a cliche scripture of “God will provide”? If that’s not the case, then what’s so different from a non-married woman having a child out of wedlock—aside from the fornication aspect. Surely, it takes more than the presence of a man to provide a good home for a child.
I took this interesting point of view, which I had never heard from a non-catholic Christian before that point, to an older friend of mind who regularly studies the word and is a devout christian. She agreed with my male friend’s take, adding that the main purpose of sex is to procreate and therefore trying to prevent that from happening inside the institution of marriage, which God created, was wrong. I don’t recall whether she thought it was an outright sin, but from her view, it wasn’t a demonstration of being willing to accept whatever will God had for your life which could very well include becoming a parent if you are consistently having sex with your spouse.
You’ll have to pardon my “Jackson 5: American Dream” movie reference at this point if you’re not a hardcore fan of the film like I am but when I think of following that line of thinking, all I see is Angela Bassett as Katherine Jackson crying hanging clothes on the line tearful and embarrassed that she was pregnant with child number eight (Michael) and the family was barely surviving as it was. Then, at the slight mention of perhaps trying to avoid a ninth child, Joe (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) crept up behind her talking about “I don’t believe in no birth controls.” At that point I always thought, I guess you don’t believe in eating either. The thing is, I’ve gained a new understanding on having faith in God, particularly since I quit a job last fall, moved back home to freelance, and literally placed my career and financial future in God’s hands, unsure of what would come next. But I didn’t do those things without at least having some sort of base plan and asking God for some guidance and assistance along the way. I didn’t put in my resignation and somehow think I could still live in my apartment partially employed without paying rent and Sallie Mae breathing down my neck and nothing but ice cubes in the fridge, I adjusted my circumstances as far as my line of vision could take me and asked him to do the rest.
I understand God’s plan for us to be fruitful and multiply and that if he will take care of the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, then surely he will take care of us. But I still believe we have a responsibility to not unnecessarily put ourselves in situations that we’re not ready to take on. The phrase “family planning” exists for a reason and I don’t believe it’s necessarily outside the will of God to engage in it. I personally don’t view birth control in a marriage as sinful prior to wanting to conceive, I think it’s smart.
What are your thoughts? Is it okay for married Christians to use birth control?
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
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