(This is the transcript from part two of the podcast series on militant fecundity vs seeing children as a blessing and originally aired in August 2008.)
As I write this week’s podcast, we are waiting for the announcement of the birth of our latest grandchild. Joining his two brothers and one sister, this tiny blessing that is being bestowed on our family is a most wanted and precious treasure and, Lord-willing, he will soon be in his mama’s arms, secure and loved by his mommy and daddy, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandmas and grandpas.
This newest baby Campbell has a most interesting heritage and one he uniquely shares with only three other people in the entire world. His mother’s parents and grandparents traveled to America from the country of Cuba in the 1950’s, escaping persecution, and living their dream of becoming citizens of the United States. This little one can proudly say that his ancestors made sacrifices so that he could live in a country where he can now be free and able to worship God, as can his children in coming generations.
His daddy’s family, on his grandpa’s side, came from strong Scottish stock, while his great-great grandmother’s most notable ancestor, Edward Fuller, arrived on the Mayflower. Being adopted, his daddy’s mama (that’s me) has a more mysterious background. She likes to imagine that she came from the loins of an exotic explorer who traveled across the Mediterranean Sea to the Island of Sardinia in search of an African Bride. But, alas, her freckles and blue eyes belie a more northern European heritage no doubt. Nonetheless, this little child who is soon to be born has a rich ancestry and he will be his own individual, created in God’s image, whose sole purpose in life will be to bring His Creator glory. He is truly a blessing from the Lord.
As I continue in part two of my podcast entitled Militant Fecundity verses Seeing Children as Blessings, I want to encourage you, if you haven’t already done so, to listen to the August 1 podcast where I explain what I believe are some basic tenets of the militant fecundity ideal. And then, this week, as I present what I believe the Bible teaches us about seeing children as a blessing, I pray that you will seek to examine your own attitude regarding children and compare your perspective to the examples given to us in Scripture.
Sadly, many people today do not value all children as special gifts given by God. In fact, the abortion rate in this country is staggering. Though it has consistently declined over the past 14 years and has fallen by 25% since 1990, 1.21 million abortions were performed in this country in 2005, the latest year that statistics are available. There are 572 abortions for every 1,000 live births for unmarried women, the single largest demographic group. Typically women give three reasons for choosing abortion: about 75% of them say that having a child would interfere with work, school, or other responsibilities, 75% of them say that they cannot afford to have a child and about half of them do not want to be single parents or are having troubles with their husbands or boyfriends, all reasons that show us that children are not considered first in making the choice to abort nor are they valued members of society, so they can be disposed of at will. I spent about 10 years volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center and could tell you any number of other reasons that young women have given me as to why they could not give birth to their babies, reasons that were unbelievable, like not wanting to miss her senior prom and being able to fit into her dress, or not knowing which of 3 or 4 boyfriends fathered the child, thus rendering that baby unwanted and disposable.
Another phenomenon, though more sophisticated, is that of the rampant use of prenatal testing with the sole purpose of discovering handicapped children so they can be aborted. It is a routine procedure to recommend these tests to expectant moms during their first pre-natal examine and to have moms who refuse these tests sign a waiver so the doctors cannot be subsequently sued if a less than perfect baby is delivered. How many little ones have lost their lives because they did not meet the criteria of either parents or physicians?
And then add to these abortions, the growing numbers of women who now use the morning after pill to end unplanned pregnancies, a method whose accurate statistical numbers are hard to come by. Methods of birth control that cause abortions also increase the number of abortions each year, though we have no way of knowing exactly by how much. Approximately 10.7 million American women now use the pill and it is still the most popular method of non-surgical birth control, though it does not prevent conception, rather, it renders the lining of the uterus hostile to an implanting egg, thus causing it to be expelled from the mother’s body. The intrauterine device, or IUD, works in a similar manner, its very goal being to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Both of these popular ways of avoiding live births are abortive and should never be used by any Christian under any circumstances. Sadly, the number of Christians who have this information but continue to use these forms of birth control, thus aborting their children, also shows that the value of little ones created in God’s image does not trump the priority of avoiding parenting. We live at a time in history when the choice to not give life to children by these methods is widely accepted, even among those who profess Christ.
But what about those people within various groups within the homeschooling community who would equate all methods of contraception with abortion? Those who claim militant fecundity or even many within what is known as the quiverfull movement would claim that doing anything to prevent pregnancy, including abstinence for natural family planning purposes or prolonged breastfeeding, some even condemning nursing an infant past a few weeks of age, are attempting to thwart God’s plans to bring children into the world and thus are sinning by not proactively trying to conceive. These people are said to have the “spirit of abortion” and are often judged as sub-Christian and lacking in faith. Today, I would like to address what I believe is at the heart of the controversy that I call militant fecundity and its opposite view, that of seeing children as a blessing from the Lord. Though these comments are certainly not exhaustive regarding this issue, there are several key factors that, as Christians, I think need to be looked at in this ongoing debate within homeschooling circles. Let me begin by sharing my own story with you.
When I was a young mother of a 3 year old and a 1 ½ year old, I went into the doctor because I was suffering from exhaustion, which, in retrospect made complete sense because I was the mom of little ones and living on a military post where my husband worked long hours and routinely was gone on field exercises for days or sometimes weeks at a time. Having no family nearby, my life was pretty overwhelming on most days. So that morning I was in shock when I was told that my blood test showed that I was pregnant again. Even more stunning was the German nurse, whom I now realize had grown up in Nazi Germany, who sympathized with my less than excited response to the news by offering to make an appointment for me to have an abortion. I quickly dressed, declining her offer, and went home to think about my situation and how I could muster up enough energy to face pregnancy, childbirth, and another baby within the next 7 months.
A few weeks later I found myself in a doctor’s office after my first pre-natal exam, looking at the tiny sonogram photos, crude ones by today’s sonogram standards, and starting to feel excited about adding a new tiny child to our family. But I also purposed that this would not happen again and began talking with the doctor about my desire to have a tubal ligation after this baby’s delivery. Patiently he listened and then looked at my medical charts, nodding when appropriate but with a concerned look on his face. When I was done presenting my case he said, “Mrs. Campbell, you are 25 years of age. You do not know what your life may bring. What if, God forbid, your children were all taken from you in a terrible accident or in illness? You might be a very young woman who could no longer bare children. I believe that this would be a terrible tragedy to you and I do not want to see you make this choice. And what if one day, when your children are a little older and life is not so overwhelming, and believe me, that day is coming, you might want to have more children. Truly, you would be sorry that you made this decision. So I must tell you, no, I will not do this surgery.”
I came home, devastated and very angry that this doctor would not comply with my wishes. Surely I could find someone else who would give me what I wanted, but, in the back of my mind, I kept wondering what I would do if I actually could never have another baby. That was the beginning of the Lord prompting me, asking me this question “Karen, do you love children?” Of course, I loved My children, but could I honestly answer the question “Do you love children?” meaning all children, with a yes?
Not long after that, the movie Joni came to our area and people in local churches were encouraged to see it. The story is about Joni Earekson Tada, the young Christian girl who became a quadriplegic in a diving accident and it tells how she came to accept God’s sovereign plan for her life. Watching that movie caused me to think about what my own response might be if something similar happened to me. And it also made me think about my own children and how I would respond to them if something like that ever happened to them. Again, God prompted me to ask myself “Karen, do you love children?” Meaning, children with handicaps, either your own or others?
Then a few years later, we heard a homeschooling dad share his own testimony of how God called their family to homeschooling and how in the midst of it all, he was also prompted by the Lord to ask himself if he really loved children. You see, his wife had also been overwhelmed by having two small toddlers and had found a doctor who would perform a tubal ligation and now they were grieving over that choice because they had come to understand that, in their own lives, loving children meant welcoming any little ones the Lord would give to them, being content with the two that they had, but wanting to welcome any others he might have for them. This man’s wife had undergone reversal surgery and they were praying that God would once again open her womb.
As I listened to that presentation I was greatly moved because I had recently discovered that I was, indeed, pregnant with my 4th baby, 8 years after sitting in that office in Germany, begging the doctor to take away my fertility. You see, God had moved in my own heart and in Clay’s heart. He had given me a reversal of attitude. He showed me that His sovereign plan for my life was to bare more children and He gave me the grace to love children, all children, as the unique and special and precious individual souls that they are. Since that day in that doctor’s office, I have often thanked God for that man who was used in my life to protect the precious gift of my fertility that I had so taken for granted. I have thanked God that He used this man to begin a process in my life where I could, nearly 30 years later, rejoice in the 3 children we have added to our family as well as the 3 little ones who are now waiting in heaven for me, children I never would hold on this earth but who are loved anyway. You see, welcoming children in Jesus name is an attitude, it is an issue of the heart, not one of works. It is embracing God’s grace in your life, seeing children in the same light that Jesus sees them. It is graciously accepting what God gives to you, not racing after it or defiantly proclaiming what you are doing in your own strength and for your own cause. It is joyously opening your heart and your life to everything, good or bad, that God wants to give you, knowing that His plans for us are for our own good and for His own glory.
I love the story in Matthew 12 of Jesus welcoming the little children to himself. Can’t you just imagine what that must have looked like? There they were with their families and there was most certainly an excitement in the air because their moms and dads had been talking about this great man they were going to see. I am sure they told their children that Jesus was going to hold them and pray for them, preparing the littlest ones so they wouldn’t be afraid, as little ones often are of strangers, and asking the older ones to be polite and well-behaved and not to use words like “poopy” and to be sure to go to the bathroom BEFORE we see Jesus. And aren’t children so fun to take along when you are going someplace you are personally excited to be going? We teach our children so much by how we live and they quickly become excited by the same things that excite us, don’t they? And here are these little children, in all their excitement, probably doing the things little ones do, wiggling and jumping around, whispering and giggling, taking it all in. And, I am sure that as they approached Jesus, they saw the sharp contrast between this man they had come to see, the Son of God, the Messiah as no doubt their parents had told them he was, and the look on the faces of the disciples.
I have seen those same looks, the disapproving older ladies who murmur and shake their heads that because our whole family is coming into the pew we will certainly disrupt their true worship, never mind the fact that their tittering and gossiping is far noisier than a sweet little one asking for crayons and paper. The greeter who thinks he is helpful for offering to escort us to the nursery or children’s church though we have declined the previous 52 Sundays. The other mothers who can’t believe anyone in this enlightened day and age would have the nerve to bring that many children into the world. The church elder who asked Clay “don’t you know what causes that?” and looked stunned when Clay replied “Yes I do. God caused this,” as he pointed to the newest baby. The stony silence that accompanied that same expression when we announced yet one more baby to disapproving relatives all seated around a dining room table on Father’s Day, of all days. Yes, I am all too familiar with how the disciples looked and with what they said. I have seen the looks on the faces of weary parents who long to be accepted and understood but who are dismissed by well meaning leaders who say with their mouths that children are a blessing but do not behave as though they really do.
I will never forget when a young couple approached Clay and me one Sunday and asked if they could talk with us. They had three small children and had just learned that they were expecting their fourth. The man’s father was a leader in the church and had already warned them that they were being irresponsible for having more than 2 children. How were they ever going to tell him about the 4th? Though this elder dearly loved his grandchildren, he did not want to welcome any more. This couple singled us out to share their news first because they knew we would greet it with excitement and thanksgiving and they said they needed that before they faced the pain and criticism from their family. Another time I saw a young mom at church with her little ones, cowering inside the building while her husband was being lectured by a family member who was also a church leader. She was in tears, having spent the evening with a mother-in-law who openly railed against them and stormed out of the room at the announcement of a new baby on the way. It was heartbreaking. And I have seen the faces of the children, too, crest-fallen and sober, being dismissed and rejected, told that they were noisy and that they didn’t belong with grownups in worship. I have seen them quickly whisked from the church sanctuary and spanked into compliance for being wiggly and chattering toddlers, the dozens of strikes on their little bottoms in rhythm with their wails of terror in the back of the room while all the rest of the congregation sang “Gentle Shepherd, come and lead us.”
Yes, I know what Jesus saw that day and why he said “Let the little ones come to me and do not hinder them.” He knew that these precious children were rejected simply because they are children, needy and frail, and that our thoughtless and selfish attitudes and behaviors often hinder them from coming to Him. In the most stunning of statements, He tells the disciples that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like little children. He has come for those who are needy, who are unlovely, who disrupt our lives, who are fragile and in need of constant care. Jesus was in essence asking the disciples, “Do you love children?” And in reality he was also asking them if they loved others, since we are all just as in need of the Savior.
If we genuinely believe that children are a blessing from the Lord and we will honestly answer “yes” if we are asked if we love children, we must also be able to discern the difference between seeking children as a blessing from the Lord and viewing them in terms of how they can advance our earthly agenda.