Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Natural Family Planning: Rebelling Against the Sexual Revolution

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops have declared July 19-26 to be Natural Family Planning Week in the US. I can't find much info on NFP Week in Canada except this page on NFP Week in Alberta and Saskatchewan. There is nothing on the Archdiocese of Toronto website about it. Of course, Christian Churches other than the Roman Catholic Church have given up on the fight against artificial contraception and you won't find then promoting NFP.

But that may be beginning to change. In some conservative Evangelical circles (eg. Southern Baptist, Focus on the Family, etc.) questions are increasingly being raised about the negative impact of "the contraceptive mentality" on contemporary society. Mary Eberstadt published an excellent article on the prophetic nature of Humanae Vitae in First Things on the 40th anniversay of the publication of that encyclical. She notes that everything Pope Paul VI predicted has come true:

1) an increase in marital infidelity,
2) a general lowering of moral standards, especially among the young,
3) husbands viewing their wives as sex objects
4) governments forcing massive birth control programs on their people.

Within a year of Humanae Vitae's publication another Paul (Paul Ehrlich) published a book entitled The Population Bomb in which he predicted massive famine worldwide in the 70's due to the "population explosion." None of Ehrlich's predictions came true. Instead, worldwide programs of contraception and abortion have led us to the brink of demographic winter and economic disaster. One of these two Pauls was a false prophet. Read Deuteronomy 18:21-22 and tell me which one you think it was.

At Tyndale University College, the Evangelical liberal arts college where I teach a number of students have expressed great interest in the traditional view of marriage including contraception. Many are rebelling against the "Pill" for a number of reasons including health, ecological and moral reasons. Many are surprisingly open to NFP. I know of at least three young married couples at Tyndale who have started using NFP instead of artificial contraception and two or three more engaged couples who are seriously considering using it when they marry.

A good book on NFP from a Catholic perspective is The Art of Natural Family Planning by John and Shiela Kippley. Another book, from a non-religious perspective, is Taking Control of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. Several Tyndale students are using the latter one.

One of the most intriguing things about NFP is the extremely low rate of divorce in couples using NFP consistently. For example, one study of 500 NFP using couples as compared to artificial contraception using couples found a divorce rate of 0.2% in the NFP using couples. It also found that NFP using couples had deeper levels of intimacy, better husband-wife communication, more frequent sexual activity (!), more happiness in their marriages and with life generally, attend church more often and have more conservative moral views in general.

Students have showed a high degree of interest in rethinking the theology of marriage and I'm offering a new course "Marriage in Theological Perspective" this Fall. I will be using two textbooks one conservative Evangelical by Andreas Kostenberger et. al. entitled: God Marriage and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation and one by Pope John Paul II entitled: Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. The secular view of human sexuality is all around us and Liberal Protestantism seeks to accomodate itself to this dehumanizing, degrading and ultimately destructive view of human beings. So in this course we will take a look at the alternatives.

Many students today are not happy with the understanding or practive of marriage handed down to them by the baby boomer generation that came of age in the 60's and now runs society. The legacy is the tripling of the divorce rate, the separation of sex from procreation, routine abortion as birth control, loneliness, high suicide rates, materialistic hedonism and depersonalized sex. They are ready to rebel against the revolution. The old sexual revolution is dying and a new revolution has begun. Conservative is the new radical. I have great hopes for a new generation and its search for love, fidelity, trust and virtue. We all should be praying for them.


Anonymous said...

Paul's Predictions:

"1) an increase in marital infidelity,"

Not really sure about this one. Has marital infidelity really been increasing? It's possible, but I doubt it's really increased significantly. As far as I can tell, marital infidelity is as old as the institution of marriage and has been common through all the ages. You can't even really call saying that married people are going to cheat a "prediction."

"2) a general lowering of moral standards, especially among the young,"

The moral landscape is changing, as it does, and has, continually forever. Especially among the young. Older generations always see the young as being morally deficient, that's just the way it is, but are people's morals really declining? People may be more promiscuous, but promiscuity isn't the worst thing in the world, except perhaps to people clinging to ancient traditions and warped notions of morality from days gone by. Slavery is another great ancient tradition if you're that into those. So is public beheading.

I would say that people, the people you're talking about, the "young," are becoming increasingly socially conscious, they're becoming more tolerant, more peaceful and I think that by and large, people are actually becoming BETTER people.

"3) husbands viewing their wives as sex objects"

Again, what evidence is there really that this is any different today than it ever has been?

"4) governments forcing massive birth control programs on their people."

Nowhere in the world are governments "forcing massive birth control programs" on their populations. This just isn't happening, you're paranoid, and in my opinion way too uptight.

Craig Carter said...

You have your facts wrong. Divorce has tripled since the 60's. I suppose that is irrelevant to rates of infidelity?

As for #4, you have heard of China's one child policy, I presume? They go beyond enforced contraception to enforced abortion.

I presume from your comment in #2 that you are a moral relativist - or else you are committed to defending promiscuity as a good. Promiscuity is an objective moral evil except for those who are blinded by their own lusts.

Anonymous said...

Ok fair enough I'll give you a few points for China but don't pretend to be on the side of "reproductive freedom."

I don't think you can claim an increase in infidelity just because the divorce rate is increasing.

I'm not saying promiscuity is good (or bad necessarily) but I don't think it's evil. it certainly isn't the worst evil that could be out there. I wouldn't say it's eeeee-vil. The world has seen a lot worse. I would have to say, of all the evil that the world has seen (and it's seen it's share) the church is responsible for most of the worst of it.

Let me ask you this, what's worse, contraception or abortion? No cop-outs like "it's both the same in god's eyes" either.

Craig Carter said...

You may be assuming that they are alternatives. I don't. I assume that more contraception leads to more abortion.

To answer directly. Abortion is worse than contraception because it involves killing a human being. That does not make contraception as a way of covering up fornication or adultery right. Rape is even worse than adultery, but that does not mean adultery is neutral or benign.

As for promiscuity: it can be less evil than dropping a nuclear bomb on a city and still be evil. Bush invading Iraq was less evil than dropping a nuclear bomb on a city. But that did not make it good, indifferent or a minor little problem to be waved aside.

Promiscuity is soul-destroying. Sex without commitment always involves using the person as a thing and sometimes both partners use the other as a thing (ie. as a means to get something they want). Only sex within a marriage relationship is really personal. We are not talking about legalism here, but about behaviour that contradicts our deepest identity as persons designed for love. And sex is not love apart from commitment.

Anonymous said...

I would question the assumption that contraception leads to abortion but I agree with you that dropping nuclear bombs on cities is bad.

I would also question the notion that we are "designed" the way you think we are. Technically I would deny that we are "designed" at all, but that's not really important here. I don't think people are naturally monogamous for life, there's plenty of evidence for this but I think it's enough to recognize the fact that we're not very good at it as evidence enough.

Creatures that are "designed" to be monogamous, through evolutionary or divine means, are VERY good at it. They mate, they do it for life and if their mate dies they wander off into the woods and stop eating until they drop dead. That's just not in our nature.

Of course, we're a bit more evolved and this lifestyle works for plenty of people. There are people who are either lucky enough to find someone they can connect with on that level or who are just content to pair off and settle down with whatever comes along

Other people are just natural born swingers. So why can't you live your way and they live theirs? Nobody is trying to take marriage away from you. Strange promiscuous people aren't going to break into your house and start making out. No one will force you to go to burning man.

I guess that's not really good enough though. Everyone should live they way you live right? The government, of course should be built around this principle and see to it that everyone follows your rules. No other way will do.

Until the day some other fundamentalist wackaloon comes to power and decides he doesn't like the way YOU live, that YOUR religion is wrong and you have to live according to HIS twisted version of it, starts telling you who you can marry.

I wonder though, if what you said is true, that "Only sex within a marriage relationship is really personal" and that we are designed for love and commitment, why would you deny the right to fulfill that nature to a gay couple?