Both Chastity and Contraception: A Scandalous Capitulationhttp://blogs.christianpost.com/guest-views/both-chastity-and-contraception-a-scandalous-capitulation-9667/
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Nigerian woman warns Gates against pushing birth control in Africa
By Michelle Bauman
Washington D.C., Aug 19, 2012 / 06:09 pm
A Nigerian woman is asking philanthropist Melinda Gates to reconsider her push for birth control in poor countries, explaining that African women neither need nor want contraception.
“Growing up in a remote town in Africa, I have always known that a new life is welcomed with much mirth and joy,” said Obianuju Ekeocha, a biomedical scientist who is currently working in Canterbury, England.
In an open letter published Aug. 10 by the Catholic Free Press, Ekeocha told Gates that “we, as a society, love and welcome babies.”
“The first day of every baby’s life is celebrated by the entire village,” she said, describing the dancing, clapping and singing that greet each new life.
Ekeocha explained that with all the “challenges and difficulties” that come with living in Africa, people “lament their problems openly.” Yet growing up this environment, she continued, “I have never heard a woman complain about her baby,” either before or after birth.
In the midst of affliction and instability, she said, “our babies are always a firm symbol of hope, a promise of life, a reason to strive for the legacy of a bright future.”
The 32-year-old Nigerian woman voiced dismay at Gates’ recent announcement that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was securing $4.6 billion dollars to promote contraceptives in poor nations, including numerous African countries.
Many of the nations that will be targeted by Gates’ initiative are Catholic countries, where sex is highly regarded as “sacred and private,” she said, explaining that unlike the Western world, many people in Africa are happily complying with Church teaching on sexuality.
But spending billions of dollars to present sex as “a casual pleasure sport” with no consequences will “undoubtedly start to erode and poison the moral sexual ethics that have been woven into our societal DNA by our faith,” she said.
She cautioned that providing “unlimited and easy availability of contraceptives” will lead to a rise in infidelity and sexual promiscuity, along with an increase in sexually-transmitted diseases as people feel free to take up multiple sex partners.
“I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery,” Ekeocha said. “I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children.”
“I see it buying us disease and untimely death,” she added. “I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.”
Furthermore, she warned, complications caused by contraceptive drugs – such as blood clots – could easily result in death in countries without access to emergency health care.
She also observed that the lack of advanced sewage disposal in Africa means that the safe disposal of the drugs would be a problem.
Ekeocha begged Gates to “listen to the heart-felt cry of an African woman” and give her money to resources that the people truly need.
Chief among these needs is a good health care system, she said, especially for prenatal, neonatal and pediatric needs.
High rates of postpartum and neonatal deaths are often cited as reasons for promoting contraception in African countries. However, Ekeocha explained, women “are not dying because they are having ‘too many’ babies but because they are not getting even the most basic postpartum care.”
Without adequate medical personnel and equipment, a complication in childbirth can prove fatal, she said.
In addition, she said, the people of Africa need food programs for young children, better educational opportunities, support for micro-businesses and aid for nongovernmental organizations that protect women from prostitution, forced marriages and domestic violence.
There is also a need for programs that emphasize chastity, since Western influences have already confused many African girls about sexual morality, she added.
A gift of $4.6 billion dollars “can indeed be your legacy to Africa and other poor parts of the world,” Ekeocha told Gates. “But let it be a legacy that leads life, love and laughter into the world in need.”
Both Chastity and Contraception: A Scandalous Capitulation
Should churches educate their singles on how to use contraception?Jenell Paris thinks so. In an opinion piece at Christianity Today called "Both Chastity and Contraception: A Sacred Compromise" (responding to this article), she recommends that churches “uphold premarital chastity as the biblical ideal, and encourage and educate unmarried singles about the effective use of contraception.” In other words, we ought to “educate” unmarried singles about contraceptives without “affirming” their use.
Paris admits this sounds like a compromise, but apparently “abstinence absolutism” hasn’t worked out so well. To reduce abortion and unwanted pregnancies among young evangelicals, we ought to at least consider encouraging contraception. She writes:
Advocating contraception for unmarried churchgoers certainly is a compromise, but consider what that really means. Com- means with, and promise means to agree, or to make a pact. To compromise is to work toward agreement or commitment with another. Like compassion, community, or companion, com- is about being in relationship with others. Unipromise isn’t even a word; without compromise, you’re just alone, speaking your ideal into thin air. It’s fine to have ideals, and to proclaim them with perfect phrases in perfectly planned church services. Contemplating perfection is a holy exercise that lifts our aspirations. Lived experience, however, is far from perfect; when I consider ideal parenting, ideal marriage, or ideal teaching, my life pales in comparison. I count on my gracious children, husband, and students to make daily compromises—as I do for them—as part of healthy relationships in the real world.
So, it’s a compromise. But compromise isn’t that bad, is it?
Actually, this line of thinking is far worse. The idea of “both chastity and contraception” is not a “sacred compromise.” It is a scandalous capitulation to the unfettered sexual mores of 21st century American society.
This idea does not maintain the “ideal” of chastity in singleness alongside the “compromise” of contraception. Instead, it devalues the struggle to remain chaste while legitimizing sexual expression among Christian singles as something unavoidable. It trades the sumptuous feast of covenanted sexual expression for a mess of pragmatic pottage.
Let’s apply this line of reasoning to other illicit sexual activity. Imagine that survey results come in showing that one in four evangelical men admit to having extramarital flings. Young evangelicals perplexed by this state of affairs (no pun intended) gather to discuss an appropriate response:
Well, centuries of absolutism regarding marital fidelity sure haven’t stopped men from cheating on their wives! It’s a shame some of these affairs produce unwanted children. It’s also devastating when the wife and kids find out about dad’s indiscretion. We don’t want anyone plagued with guilt and shame, now do we?
Here’s an idea! Let’s maintain the ideal of marital faithfulness while offering some information to these husbands about how to do their side business a little more discreetly. Let’s educate these men (not affirm them, mind you) on using contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Let’s encourage them (not push them, of course!) to learn new ways to maximize the moments with their mistresses without causing pain and heartache for the family.
The sense of revulsion you feel when reading this imaginary scenario is probably rooted in your God-given, biblically informed, gospel-sanctified idealism regarding the exclusive nature of the marriage bed. And as Christians who believe in the good gift of sexual expression within the beautiful confines of the marriage covenant, we ought to be repulsed by any proposal that cheapens, threatens, or denigrates that ideal.
Encouraging contraception among Christian singles is one such proposal. Surprisingly, Paris wants to ground her argument in the gospel:
After all, “just saying no” to premarital sex, important as it is, is not the heart of the gospel. The heart of the matter is saying yes to God. Maybe we often rely on shame and fear because it’s hard to believe that people would say no to something as tantalizing as sexual pleasure if they didn’t stand to lose something extremely valuable such as honor, the affection of family and church, or even eternal life. If people knew they were loved, no matter what, and that God and God’s people would have their backs even if their own sin is the cause of their troubles, wouldn’t they just sin freely because grace abounds? Perhaps some would, but even then, love can be a kindness that leads to repentance. Others may find the real reason to reject immorality: not for fear of shame, disgrace, or hell, but for love of the right and the good. Right loving—full of compromise, compassion, and companionship—is the best encouragement for right living.
But just change out the sin to see how gospel-denying this argument really is:
After all, “just saying no” to adultery, important as it is, is not the heart of the gospel. The heart of the matter is saying yes to God. Maybe we often rely on shame and fear because it’s hard to believe that people would say no to something as tantalizing as adultery if they didn’t stand to lose something extremely valuable such as honor, the affection of family and church, or even eternal life.
I am flabbergasted that evangelicalism has come to the place where such a scandalous capitulation to a sexualized culture could be considered a “sacred compromise.” Apparently, once you’ve winked at sin enough times, you can no longer see straight. Matthew Lee Anderson is right:
Contraception as a pragmatic concession actually contributes to the conditions where Christians can sin without consequences for themselves or their community… It is well known, or at least frequently stated, that evangelicalism’s public witness has been frequently undermined by our lack of integrity and our hypocrisy, especially on sexual issues. I fail to see how more contraception for our unmarrieds will do anything except deepen such a culture of hypocrisy by making it more comfortable and convenient to sin sexually while remaining in unbroken communion in our churches.
Are evangelicals hypocritical when it comes to premarital sex? Absolutely. We’re hypocritical in all sorts of ways. Every one of us is guilty of sexual sin. But Christianity hinges on repentance. We agree with God about our sin, and we turn from it and turn toward Jesus.
Telling singles they ought to turn toward Jesus and contraception is an implicit denial that repentance is integral to the Christian life. It’s like Jesus telling the woman caught in adultery: "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin some more."