Protestant author: contraception is a “tipping point for the evangelical movement.”

A powerful quote from a source that might surprise some readers:

Beneath the issue of contraception is a question about the role ideals and norms play in our communal lives. Yes, they restrict our behavior in ways that are sometimes inconvenient. Yet in doing so, they intrinsically call us and our communities toward a life that we might not otherwise choose on our own. What’s more, they amplify the need for repentance and reconciliation, rather than watering down such a need through the “pragmatic” concession to the fallenness of the world. We may occasionally fail to meet them. But confronting our failures can be heroic and acknowledging our sins a moment of beauty. The only thing to be gained from lowering the expectations is greater secrecy about our sexual lives within our communities. And that, somewhat ironically, only stigmatizes unplanned pregnancies within our midst all the more by making them all the more rare.

At the same time, ideals can inspire. “The more transcendental your patriotism,” Chesterton once said, “the more practical will be your politics.” Communities where contraception is advocated as a solution (whether from the pulpit or in the counselors office) are communities free from the deadly burden of the cross, free from the sufferings and co-laboring that will inevitably come from caring for single mothers and their children. When I posed this idea to someone they suggested that no one would be with the single mother at 3 a.m. while the child is crying. That the possibility is ruled out before it can be considered says more about the extent to which we strive to keep our communities free from a bloodless martyrdom than it does about whether we should accept contraception.

There is no question that we need to reduce abortions, both inside the church and without. But as a church, we are not called to reduce abortions by any and every means available to us. Sin is compounding: error has a long train, and abortion is near the end of it. It is easy to turn to contraception in order to prevent abortions. But in doing so, we have not done what only the church can do: call people to repentance for our sins and exhort us toward the holiness that ought to mark us off as the people of God.

The quote is from an April 25th Christianity Today piece is titled, “Why Churches Shouldn’t Push Contraceptives to Their Singles”, and the author is Matthew Lee Anderson, an Evangelical Protestant. In a follow-up post on his “Mere Orthodoxy” blog, Anderson writes:

Someone asked me this past week why I was up in arms over this contraception business. From what I can tell, it’s something of a tipping point for the evangelical movement.

There is a strong pragmatist streak that runs through evangelicalism, an ideology that postures as a rejection or marginalization of ideas and theology. You can hear it every Sunday, as pastors seek to make their sermons “relevant” and “practical” because good theology and rigorous thinking simply doesn’t sell. Closer to the point, you see it most clearly in our appropriation of technology, in our video sermons and our online church. Whatever it takes to reach the lost, whatever it takes to “be effective,” principles and ideals of Biblical anthropology notwithstanding.

Yes, a tipping point. Because contraception is not a fringe issue at all, as I’ve written about before, but goes right to the heart of essential questions: What is man? What is his place in this universe? And, in the words of Dr. Joyce Little: “For contraception places before us the central issue of our age—who has dominion over man? Man himself or God?” These are, in the end, deeply theological questions; they cannot be answered by science or technology. And slowly, in fits and starts, more and more Evangelicals are realizing this, as Anderson’s piece suggests. So, rather than backing away from the matter of contraception, Catholics should see it as a focal point for fruitful discussion and fraternal challenge. And I write that from a personal, not merely theoretical, perspective: my wife and I stopped contracepting while we were still Evangelicals because we saw, after much reading and consideration, the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teaching about marriage, sexuality, and many related things.

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.