A Christian pharmacist based in the UK recently refused to dispense emergency contraception to a female customer due to her religious beliefs, according to Rights Info. While some Christians permit the use of contraception, others are opposed to emergency contraception as it is viewed as a type of abortion. The Bible states that children are a gift from God, but nowhere in it does it cite that birth control is forbidden among Christians. However, one could argue that it doesn’t specifically permit it either. As such, each Christian group has their own views on how family planning should be conducted, while each Christian has their own tough choices to make.
Natural family planning
Many Christians believe that natural family planning (NFP) is the only way to follow God’s wishes. NFP is the only method approved by the Catholic church and it requires couples to track the female’s fertility and to abstain from sexual intercourse at the time of the month that she is considered to be fertile. Christian Bethany Patchin states that this is a healthy and effective way to enrich your spiritual life as it lets God control when a couple procreates. However, other Christians argue that modern birth control methods, including the pill, barrier methods, and intrauterine devices still allow God to make this decision. As none of these methods are 100% effective against pregnancy, if God decides that it’s a couple’s time to be blessed with a child, then He can make that decision. When contacted regarding their thoughts on NFP, Focus on the Family advised that “We recommend that husbands and wives approach the issue prayerfully and with open communication while seeking guidance from respected spiritual leaders and mature members of their faith community.”
Family planning in the modern world
Statistics released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that more American women are becoming first-time moms in their thirties than in their twenties. This demonstrates how modern society is having an impact on when couples are opting to start families. Women who are spending out on higher education typically wait longer to have children than those who don’t, and this is a sign that they want to pursue their education and career before motherhood. For example, MarketWatch reveals that the median age that a woman with a master’s degree becomes a mother is 30, compared to 24 for those who ceased education at high school.
This delayed parenthood option still follows God’s words as, although parenthood is ultimately his decision, He also places expectations on couples to plan wisely for their future. Proverbs 1:5 says “”Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” This phrase gives couples the strength and knowledge to make the best decision for them using information and sources that are readily available. God is imparting his wisdom and saying that he believes couples who use birth control methods do so for the right reasons, such as ensuring that they have the means to support each additional member of their family themselves. As such, when couples stay in education and build a solid career, they are more likely to be mentally and financially prepared for parenthood. Of course, God never judges and should couples add to their families without having the financial or social backing they require, they can be assured that God will always be there to support and guide their family.
One of the biggest factors couples face when planning for a family is the cost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that couples will spend $233,610 raising a child up to the age of 18. Meanwhile, one-fifth of parents give up work to care for their offspring full-time. As such, delaying becoming a parent can benefit these individuals as it provides them the opportunity to have a career before committing to parenthood. Timothy 5:8 states that “If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” It is, therefore, a church leader’s job to promote healthy financial planning to their congregation, just as Proverbs 22:3 states “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.” With this quote in mind, couples looking to expand their families can seek reassurance knowing that there are ways to be financially ready for parenthood. For example, buying used baby clothes instead of new ones benefits the couple’s finances, as well as the family or second-hand store they’ve bought them from. Additionally, encouraging couples to make their own baby food rather than using store-bought items will save cash and will ensure that God’s wishes of providing the body and soul with nutritional and spiritual food are met.
Newer forms of contraception
Following advice from a church leader, if a couple decides that contraception is right for them, then they’ll also need to consider which type to use. Progestin-only pills (POPs) are increasingly being prescribed as a form of contraception to women. They are considered safer for women over the age of 35, and are better for women with high blood pressure, at risk of developing blood clots, for breastfeeding mothers, smokers, and those prone to migraines. However, the Christian church is largely against the use of POPs as they increase the risk of an abortifacient effect. When asked about this, Focus on the Family advised that “we would still not recommend POPs because of their likelihood of acting, at least on occasion, by an abortifacient mechanism. However, other forms of true contraception, including barrier methods or NFP, may be acceptable to the couple.”
What should church leaders be promoting?
There is no one size fits all answer to family planning among the Christian community. Instead, church leaders should encourage church-goers to do what’s best for them. It is worth remembering that Colossians 3:17 states that “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” These powerful words should be read back to couples debating whether contraception is right for them as it will remind them that they need to think about God before making their choice. It will also remind the couple that God will be looking over them and guiding them, no matter what decision they make.
Family planning is a tricky topic to get to grips with. Every denomination of the Christian church has its own beliefs. Meanwhile, attitudes have changed considerably over the decades too. But regardless of a church leader’s own beliefs, it’s crucial that couples are encouraged to carefully consider their decision, including the consequences, while making sure that they adhere to God’s wishes at all times.