Auntie Brigade

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Over the weekend I babysat two dear friends’ children. Well, I really wouldn’t call spending 2.5 hours with Penelope on a Saturday morning “babysitting.” I just sat and watched as she provided free entertainment. She kissed the dog, the dolphin, the duck, and the lion. Then she started over. And over again. She explained to me what several things were around the house (“That’s a clock! That’s a pen! That’s a candy! Candy, please? Penelope {which sounds like Pen-en-oh-pee these days}, ask nicely. May I please have-a some of the candy, please?”). When she fell off the piano bench, she tearfully exclaimed, “No, no, no! Be gentle!!” It was awesome.










{Alicia, do you even remember when she was that small?! Because I don't!}

Spending six hours with Verity, on the other hand, was definitely babysitting. She is four months old and has a smile that will melt your heart. She is so sweet. She also has a scream that will melt your ear drums. Wow. This girl has a serious set of lungs and a vibrant personality. And, apparently, she would rather die a thousand deaths than ride in the car. I thought all kids liked to ride in the car? Well. I thought wrong. :)














Anyway. I finished reading Committed as I watched Verity on Saturday afternoon. Somewhat of a sequel to Eat, Pray, Love, I was intrigued by what Elizabeth Gilbert would have to say about marriage. While I didn’t find it as enjoyable as EPL, I did like reading her follow-up novel that explored the idea of marriage in a global, and very personal, context. But what I’m posting about today, in conjunction with my weekend of babysitting, are a few of her thoughts on her (very much desired) childlessness.

All too often,” she writes, those of us who choose to remain childless are accused of being somehow unwomanly or unnatural or selfish, but history teaches us that there have always been women who went through life without having babies.”

Now, before my in-laws freak out, I will be the first to say that I’m young, and I may very well change my mind about not wanting children. But I will also say that I very well may not. Generally, I have never really wanted kids in the same way that I’ve seen other people want them. I don’t even think about children in the sense of “oh, maybe someday.” I just don’t think about them at all, at least in the sense of adding them to my own, very small, just-the-two-of-us family. Elizabeth Gilbert can relate:

As I got older, I discovered that nothing within me cried out for a baby. My womb did not seem to have come equipped with that famously ticking clock. Unlike so many of my friends, I did not ache with longing whenever I saw an infant. (Though I did ache with longing, it is true, whenever I saw a good used-book shop.) Every morning, I would perform something like a CAT scan on myself, searching for a desire to be pregnant, but I never found it. … I’ve witnessed this longing in other people; I know what it looks like. But I never felt it in myself.”
















Again, I’m 26. “You’ll come around,” people like to say. “You have time.” That may be true, but generally, most of my friends have kids at this stage in the game. I always say that if I’m going to have kids, I’m going to have them no later than 30. So I have four years left, I suppose, on my self-imposed timeline. We’ll see what happens. For now, I’m very happy being a part of what Elizabeth Gilbert calls the Auntie Brigade:

“[C]hildless women—let’s call them the “Auntie Brigade”—have never been very well honored by history, I’m afraid,” Elizabeth laments. “They are called selfish, frigid, pathetic. … But they are vital… and they can even be heroic.” She continues, “There are a whole bunch of Little League uniforms and orthodontist’s bills and college educations that I will never have to pay for, thereby freeing up resources to spread more widely across the community. In this way, too, I foster life. There are many, many ways to foster life. And believe me, every single one of them is essential.”











I’m sure that many of the leaders at my husband’s Seminary would tell me that I am wrong for not wanting children. Elizabeth uses the word “selfish” quite frequently to explain how childless women are made to feel, and I’ve definitely heard that adjective before. However, the Seminary circle, at least the one we run in, generally says that it’s ok not to have kids IF you have a really good, godly, unselfish reason. But would you like to know a secret? I don’t have a reason. Not a good one, at least. Any reasons I have are selfish, I’m sure. But would you like to know another secret? I’m okay with that. And let me tell you, it’s freeing!

So no, I am not afraid to be an Auntie. I love Penelope, and Verity, and Arthur -- and the many other children in my life -- well. At least I try to! I love their parents well by stepping into their lives and helping them along their way. Need a babysitter? Of course I can watch them. Need someone to do your dishes because you’re so tired you can’t move? I’m here! Need someone to snuggle that ridiculously cute, freshly-bathed infant? Oh, you don’t? Well. I’d like to help anyway. :)

“There are many, many ways to foster life,” Elizabeth says, and I truly believe that she’s right. Every single one of them is essential.




36 comments:

Kelly Irene said...

You are very essential! It's even nice for the moms to have Aunties around who will go to the grocery store with them *for fun*! Thanks for sharing your heart on this, and I am so honored to be your friend.

Jeremy Dys said...

Beth,

I wonder what you think of Tim Challies' review of this book?

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/10millionwords/2010/01/22/review-committed/

Beth said...

A good review by TC. As I'm "feeling around in the dark, bumping, stumbling, fumbling ... [trying] to get to the bottom of" my faith, as it were, I'm not totally sure what I think about what he said. It did seem well-thought-through from a Christian perspective. The only thing I didn't like was his sarcasm here:

"It may be cute when a twenty-year-old wonders whether she should marry and how it will change her life–when she goes on a quest to understand marriage. But by the time she is thirty-seven she really should have come to terms with it. It’s not quite so cute anymore."

I don't know why a thirty-seven year old, or a forty year old, or a sixty-eight year old, has to come to terms with anything. It's not cute; it's an honest search. I appreciate Gilbert for her honesty (part of the reason I liked EPL so much).

Those are my thoughts. :)

Jeremy Dys said...

I doubt that was the "only thing" you didn't like given your introduction to those words, but, what of this line:

"Without God she cannot understand marriage precisely because marriage is all about God. The closer she gets, the further she seems."

That would also seem to color her thoughts (honest as they may be) on, well, anything, let alone child bearing.

Beth said...

I'm not sure what you're meaning to imply with your first sentence, but I'm going to ignore it. :) We're friends here, are we not? I was honest when I said that was the only thing I didn't like about Tim's review.

And just because her thoughts on God, childbirth, anything, are colored a certain way, that doesn't mean they can't contain truth, does it? I'm certain you disagree with my thoughts on childlessness, and that's ok. But I think it's worth saying that truthful things can be found in many places -- even in places you'd least expect.

Just a thought!

Alicia said...

Awww. Look at my puppy.. I mean baby!! :)

Jeremy Dys said...

I wasn't implying anything. When you said, "I'm not totally sure what I think about what he said" it made me conclude that there was more than one area in which you would disagree or might have disagreement and, therefore, dislike. That's all.

Truth (absolute and from God) is, indeed, universal and where found I, like Francis Schaffer and many more wise men and women than I will ever be, will embrace it. However, that Truth must be consistent with Scripture; indeed, I believe it must be directly traceable to Scripture or else we may be greatly deceived by "fine sounding arguments."

Have whatever position you like when it comes to childlessness (Yes, we disagree, but so what!? It's not critical to your salvation; you just have no clue what you're missing out on! Frankly, not to sound mean or unkind, I don't really care about the reproductive habits - or lack thereof - of Beth Crouser.), but be certain that your position is consistent with, and ratified, by Scripture.

I'm not sure Elizabeth Gilbert is someone I would conclude holds Scripture in high regard, nor, as Challies notes, does she manage to get it even close to right in regards to marriage. If that's the case, then what can we say about her thoughts on childbearing? At a minimum, I'd label them suspect and proceed very cautiously.

Thus, personally, I would be overwhelmingly cautious in taking her thoughts as advice or allowing them to color your own.

From what you've posted here, and what Challies references, I would venture to guess that Gilbert's "thoughts" are more influenced by secular feminism than anything else. And, to the extent she professes any Truth, it would seem a mere accident, not an intentional act.

But, believe what you wish and read what you wish. I write only as a cautious reminder from a friend and brother in Christ to weigh what has been presented in what you've read against the unchanging Truth of God's revealed Word.

mollie said...

I support your decision to not have children 110%. The world is overpopulated enough without people feeling guilted into having children to add to the problem. :-) Actually, I guess I should say that I support YOUR decision to decide what you do with YOUR body and YOUR life 110%. Everyone has different callings in life, and not all of those calling center around procreation.

Emma C said...

I would be very happy if one day you were my children's Auntie Beth!

Jon said...

This makes me glad I'm not in a Seminary circle. Maybe you or Wes can send me an email explaining this guilt-mongering component of the seminary atmosphere. Before reading this, I literally never thought of childbearing as a Christian imperative.

If you look through Scripture, on what would you base such an attitude? The command to "be fruitful and multiply"? That was a specific instance and doesn't seem like something on which to base doctrine. Is it related to the extra-Scriptural opinion that God's only purpose for sex is childbearing?

I've never done a systematic study of what the Bible says on the issue (clearly). But if you care what I think, it seems like Scripture is silent on whether a couple should have kids or not, and thus it is completely between you and the Lord.

Laura Myers said...

Beth,
I have to say that I think that everyone has different passions that God has placed in them for different reasons. I have always wanted to be a mother, but because I have always felt strongly about that, I have always assumed that others feel strongly and passionately about something else. I do not believe that motherhood is purely selfless. I, at least in my current state, feel like wanting a child was a fairly selfish thing. It was what I wanted!

Maybe your in-laws don't feel this way about it, but I think it's best that if it's not what you want to do, don't do it. People that don't want to raise children should definitely not produce them.

Also, I love that picture of Verity, as I do all pictures of her. I know that the Martins (and I'm sure others) are very appreciative of their Aunt Beth that is so willing to bless.

KRISTIN said...

The social worker within me would love to know how your hubs feels about the subject. Also, this seems to be something weighing on your mind lately. What initiated the thinking and resulting blog post?

My husband and I have not always been on the same page regarding children/school/career. At 18, I was ready to be his wife and have his children. At that time, he wasn't ready. At 22, he was ready, but I wasn't. At 26, I was finally ready to be his wife; he was on the same page too!! Now, we're debating the right time to start a family (our timelines are about 10 months apart). When it likely happens, I'll be 30, and he'll be 37.

Time and experiences have a way of shaping us and molding us. Sometimes our desire for babies change and sometimes not. Really doesn't matter either way. There is nothing wrong with choosing not to have children. However, remember that abstinence is the only method that is 100% effective. *wink, wink* You're fabulous!

Alicia said...

Wow, so much to say here. Can I offer a personal perspective, then a critique of Gilbert's reasoning?

First the personal part: I have never personally felt any of the warm-fuzzies or the deep longings for children that Gilbert describes, either. And yet I am a mother three times over. I became a mother because as I grew and considered (and assented to) marriage, the idea of children became inseparable from marriage (Scripturally and common-sensically) for me. Now, when I say "Scripturally" many people might read that as "every married couple must strive for children." That's not exactly what I mean. A heavy-handed, simplistic imperitive is not what I have in mind, and is not (I think) what Scripture gives us. But it does give us an ethos, an attitude which I think is out of step with some of our contemporary culture's views of children. But I digress...

My point is, becoming a mother does not have to stem from some warm-fuzzy, primal yearning that overwhelms a woman. It has never been so for me. Motherhood simply became the next natural step in life for me, a logical step, and a meaningful step, yes, but not one accompanied by much deep longing or quivering of the inner parts. :-)

And now, having been a mother three times, and having buried two children, I can say that the absence of the warm-fuzzies beforehand does not mean a thing regarding what sort of mother you will be, or should be. I was never a "baby" person before, and I still am not overly interested in other people's children (except my darling nephew). But my daughter whom I held for only a few precious hours is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and I have no doubt that I was meant to be her mother. The attachment that formed without my even looking for it is real, and stronger than death.

So I would encourage you that just because you don't feel all the longings or ooey gooey stuff other mothers and pre-mothers talk about, this doesn't mean you aren't meant to be a mother. I wouldn't even consider that as evidence one way or the other.

And that leads me into my critique of Gilbert's reasoning: Her argument for her childlessness seems to rest entirely on this lack of warm-fuzziness toward motherhood and babies. But to that I must say, So what? The lack of the fuzzies is irrelevant, actually. There are good reasons not to have children, but I don't think, "I just don't feel 'motherly,'" is a very good one. Some people always dream about having children, and that's wonderful. Some people are mothers seemingly from childhood onward. But many people, like myself, become mothers, and this is a profound thing. Even people who always dreamed of motherhood have to become mothers. It's not something you are born; it's something you become. When you feel your child move inside you, and when you behold your own flesh and blood, in all their glory and shame, this changes you. Whatever you were before, you are a mother now.

So I would say to you and to Ms. Gilbert: You would do well to lose the concept that mothers are born. They are not, at least not in a great many cases. A mother is something you grow into, something you become. You need not (nor should, I think) wait for all the right feelings to be in place before you begin parenthood. The feelings come with the process. A parent is something you become.

Wesley said...

Jon,

Just for clarity, my understanding of the position that says that bearing children is the burden of the mass majority of Christians follows something like this. The story of the Bible is essentially broken down into 4 parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration/Recreation, depending on your terms. Therefore, because the mandate "to be fruitful and multiply" falls in the first part, creation, it has a special place. Generally, things found in the pre-fall world are the ideal. E.g., proper dominion over the earth (Gen 1.28), an unfoiled work environment (contra. 3:17-19), naked and unashamed in marriage (2.24-25; whatever that means), male/female relationships (with reference to complementarianism/egalitarianism), etc. So, because something goes a certain way in the pre-fall world, so it should go in the post-fall world. Therefore, the desire to go against the pre-fall mandate is one that is a result of sin.

What is interesting to me is that the same logic would seem to apply to marriage, that is, marriage is apparently mandated. But, because of Paul's comments in 1 Cor 7, they don't tend to go that route, even though the logic is seemingly parallel. Hopefully that helps to clarify where the other side is coming from.

Alicia said...

Alicia, YES. I couldn't quite put my finger on where Gilbert's argument fell flat for me, but you did. Her argument actually seemed a bit demeaning to me-- as if she'd ascended beyond some sort of weak and purely emotional yearning.

Anyway.

I wasn't a "baby person" before I had kids.. never been a big fan of babysitting. I cried when I found out I was pregnant, and not the happy kind. Mostly due to timing, but still.

Even the warm fuzzies I developed while pregnant had very little in common with the love a mother feels.

Back to the topic of hand-- Beth and baby-making. I don't think it is fair to make a virtue out of having babies, in the same way I don't think it is fair to make a virtue out of remaining childless. I think kids are a blessing, emphasis on the "you don't really have total control over the issue" part. Plenty of women who want kids can't seem to have them, while plenty of women who are trying to prevent conception end up pregnant.

Of course make a plan, but to make it some sort of life-defining decision (whether you're for or against having children) seems a little unrealistic.

That's all. Back to my regularly scheduled "TEAM CASEY" answer.

Jeremy Dys said...

@Wesley,

I believe you're simply reporting on what you perceive to be the argument and, it appears, you haven't offered a critique of that argument. So, it's difficult to tell whether you agree or disagree, but your final paragraph suggests you, at a minimum, have qualms over the argument.

It would apear, though, that any reference to Paul's singleness in I Cor 7 is inapposite as it concerns childbearing, wouldn't it? After all, Paul is instructing a debased Corinthians culture that their primary affection and duty is to God, not their own sinful passions. But, he recognizes that we have human desires that are not sinful when exercised correctly - and here is where he directs them to exercise their passions morally: within marriage. Yet, even in that, childbearing seems to be an implicit result and/or expectation(v. 14b). In short, the reference to I Cor 7 neither helps nor hinders the case for childbearing.

Still, the clear focus of Paul's admonition is that they (and by extension, we) will have an, "undivided devotion to the Lord" (v 35). So, whether in marriage or singleness, slave or free, the station of life matters little; devotion to Christ remains paramount.

All that to say, you seem to be separating childbearing from marriage in a way I don't think Scripture does (and on this point, I'd very much value hearing Alicia D. elaborate upon her reference above). What I am increasingly frustrated by in our culture - especially the Christian subculture - is our claim of right to "decide" to have a family. Sure, it may be part free will that is influenced by prayer and seeking God's true direction, but how much more often is it that we simply want what we want when we want it and how we want it?

That smacks more of secular humanism than Orthodox Christianity. In fact, I think it patently ignores Paul's direction in I Cor 7:35 because, at least in part, it divides our devotion between God and ourselves.

Though I still maintain childbearing has no impact on soteriology, it does affect one's orthopraxis quite significantly. In other words, whether the Christian does or does not have children does not qualify or disqualify them for salvation - salvation is by faith alone, through Christ alone, by grace alone. However, once a member of the household of Christ, being a Christian requires correct action according to Scripture - our orthodoxy must yield an orthopraxis. Not in some legalistic framework, but in a careful understanding of, to borrow from Paul, "the situation God has called him to."

Brian said...

As someone that used to be in your shoes, I can say honestly that you don't know what your missing until you have it. Seeing my brother in law with a child didn't do anything for me. In fact, being an uncle really doesn't seem all that enthralling and make me want to have more kids. But the very first time I held Elsie in my arms, you just change instantly. You suddenly realize there is more to life than answering questions about yourself and your lifestyle. When you know that child is yours and you have a true ownership feeling over its wellbeing, there is nothing else like it in the world.

Not always pure gravy, but not something I would ever give up. It is not a feeling you get babysitting someone else's kids, even if they are relatives. It is only a feeling that you get when you are holding your own child. Sure, you might have a very awesome life without kids - its just you don't really ever appreciate it fully until you actually have kids. You think you do, but you just don't know any better.

I would like you to find a few women who said "nah, I don't need kids" who went on to have kids that now regret that decision... :)

Jon said...

Wes,

Yeah, that's what I figured. But that seems like such a naive way to view things. There are plenty of commands in Scripture, and we of course use our common sense to figure out which ones apply to everyone, and which ones apply to the specific people that received them. When Paul tells Timothy to grab his cloak in Troas, I don't look for application points. Similarly, when there is an empty planet and God wants it to be full of humans, and yet there are currently only two... the command to multiply seems pretty contextual.

But simply because it happened pre-Fall, it becomes this universal principle to live by. I hate to open up a new huge can of worms, but that whole way of thinking is just off to me. There doesn't seem to be any reason to pine after or try to reproduce Eden to me. If God's purpose and grace were truly granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, then it seems like the New Jerusalem has always been the goal, not Eden. Eden seems like a stepping stone in God's plan. The Eden account is short, sparse, and frankly a little weird. I don't want to base my "orthopraxy" on it.


Aaaaanyway, it has also been mentioned that there is a seemingly a positive "ethos" in the Bible about having kids. I guess I agree with that, but I don't think people should be compelled to decide their lifestyles based on nuances and tones in Scripture. (Not to mention the positive ethos that can probably be found for polygamy and slavery, which is a product of the cultures in which the saga unfolds.)

Anyway, all that to say that I feel pretty confident about Scripture not compelling or pressuring anyone now to have kids. But also note that when I say it's between a person and the Lord, I actually mean that. Of course we should pray, look at Scripture, and carefully examine our convictions about such weighty decisions.

I miss you Wes. (Beth, sorry that I have taken this grave and important discussion as an opportunity to profess my love for your husband.)

Beth said...

Wow! I am loving these comments and the dialogue. Alicia D, I especially appreciated everything you have to say. Thanks for sharing something so close to your heart. You're right; motherhood doesn't have to be a felt emotion that drives a decision for (or against) children. It's not all a lack of emotion for me, although I suppose that is present currently.

I'm hearing, both here and on facebook (and in this Seminary culture, as I've mentioned) a lot of "you need a reason NOT to have kids." Do you not, as someone pointed out on fb, need a reason to have them? Can motives for having them be as "selfish" as motives for not? I don't believe that children have to be the product of a marriage. I don't believe God mandates that in Scripture. If you do, we might have to agree to disagree. And that's ok with me. :)

Just some thoughts that are swirling around in my head as I try to take in everyone's comments....

PS: Jon, your comment came in as I was about to post this. As always, I like the way you think. And I'm going to pretend that you miss me, too. At least half as much as Wes. ;)

Beth said...

And Brian, the interesting thing is that, in her book, Elizabeth Gilbert did find women who regretted the decision, in a sense. And she found women who thought they might, but didn't. And, of course, she found women who knew they wouldn't regret it, and didn't.

"Do you see a pattern here?" she wrote, after quoting several women with incredibly different reactions to they children they had (or hadn't) parented, including her own mother (who, in brutal honesty, confessed that the best years of her life came after Elizabeth and her siblings had left her home). "[There isn't] a pattern. ... Whether I myself should ever be a mother was clearly not a question that any of these women were going to be able to answer for me."

I loved hearing what you had to say about how having children impacted you. But you might be surprised with what the book demonstrated in terms of all of the varying emotions of women as it relates to their children!

I really do recommend the book. It's a fascinating read. :)

Laurin said...

Beth, your post is quite thought provoking indeed. I've skimmed thru the comments but not read them thoroughly, but I just wanted to give you some of my thoughts that may not really make sense. Just coming from a mom...First, you are precious with our girls in the few times you have been around them...and Wes is equally so! Second, having children has pressed me more than any other circumstance in my life...and the kicker: they don't go away! They just keep on pressing me...I pray to more of Christ-likeness and indeed more to the grotesqueness of my sin and my need for a Saviour. Moreover, our children give me more joy than I could have ever imagined that children could do. There is much truth to the Word when it says that women will be saved through childbearing if they continue to in love, faith and propriety (I can't find the reference to that)...there is such a picture of Christ as Redeemer in bearing children. Not to say that the Lord will not reveal Himself to you in distinct ways as Redeemer if you choose not to bear children...or sanctify you in deep ways...or give you joy unspeakable. Just some thoughts....

Jeremy Dys said...

Beth,

Ok, let's grant that you need a reason to HAVE children. How then does that reason square with Scripture?

Well, we're repeatedly told that children are a blessing, an heritage from the Lord, they bring fulfillment to women and joy to a father's heart, are the example of true faith, and so on.

What about the opposite? How does the reason NOT to have children square with Scripture?

Not so well.

If you want to play that balancing game, then, on the whole, the balance from Scripture is strongly in favor of childbearing.

If you want to agree to disagree, that's fine, but I am curious - and would ask you to elaborate your reason here - how Scripture informs your position that Children do not need to be "the product of a marriage" (which I take you to mean that couples can choose to remain childless, not that it is morally acceptable to produce children out of wedlock). What portion and/or example in Scripture are you thinking of here? For my own edification.

Jeremy Dys said...

@Jon -

You said, "I don't think people should be compelled to decide their lifestyles based on nuances and tones in Scripture."

Do these sound like, "nuances and tones?"

Psalm 127:3-5 ESV

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3 ESV

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.

Psalm 139:13-16 ESV

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.


John 16:21 ESV

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.


What the heck? The only "nuance" I'm hearing is from post-modern faux intellectuals trying to make Scripture relevant without actually reading it. "Positive ethos" for polygamy and slavery?! Wow! Study Scripture, not MacLaren.

Laurin said...

Re-reading my comment: when I wrote a/b my sin....I meant to say to the understanding of my sin.

Jon said...

Wow. "@Jeremy"

1. Chill out dude.

2. The verses you posted are great testaments that children are blessings from the Lord and they bring joy to their mothers' hearts. I agree whole-heartedly with those truths. To me, though, "x is a blessing from God and brings joy to people who do/receive x" is not equivalent to "you must do/receive x." For instance, the Bible often refers to wine as a blessing from God and states that it causes joy (Deut 14:26; Psalm 104:14-15; Proverbs 3:9-10; Isa 25:6). This shouldn't compel anyone to choose to partake in God's blessing of wine.

And since the wine analogy may cause you to label me some sort of heretic and allude to someone I've never heard of, let me just say in summary that those verses you posted are beautiful and affirm childbearing, but they don't command it. [And this gap between affirmation and command is suggesting what I was calling "nuance."]

3. Yeah, I'm sorry for the slavery/polygamy thing. I misunderstood what you and the other person meant by ethos and childbirth being assumed. All I meant was that in many verses, polygamy and slavery are assumed. In no way was I trying to say that God or the Bible supports or affirms those practices in the way it does childbearing. I merely meant it assumes them as natural in the same way it "assumes childbirth" in 1 Cor 7, and that the assumption of something in the Bible is not the same as a veiled command to do that thing.

4. Please forgive me for offending your theological sensibilities. And for being "faux intellectual," though I prefer the term "pseudo-intellectual."

Dave said...

Just wanted to add that I am finding this discussion very interesting, and had to dust off the dictionary a couple of times.

As a practicing Roman Catholic, my wife and I of course do not use any form of artificial birth control. But we do practice natural family planning and have to confront - albeit differently - some of these same questions. (i.e. does the prohibition on birth control mean that having children is the norm and abstaining from sex during fertile times the exception; should we form our hearts toward the inclination of having children rather than toward not having children)

Interesting discussion for me also because of the obvious paradigm you all seem to generally accept, made possible by birth control: that the decision to have children is yours alone, and God plays a secondary role by acting in the creative process or by answering your prayers, regarding whether to be procreative, one way or the other. This is not meant to be a judgment any in way, but an observation from someone who operates from a different procreative paradigm.

Jeremy Dys said...

@Jon,

Man, this is the second time in a week I've had someone make food analogies to me when debating about children! (At least you're not citing a cookie reference to defend a pro-abortion position!)

You make a fair point to say that because children are blessing does not mean that children are required. I reject (and have above rejected) that legalism. My purpose throughout here has not been to make the case for anti-birth control, but to react to Miller's unBiblical approach to childlessness. Further, I have attempted to point us to Scripture where, though not commanded, we are told that children are a blessing of marriage - infinitely more than wine could ever be. (And, I'd argue, on an entirely different plane.)

Our society constantly bombards us with messages that we are in control, that children are a pain, and that we should come first. All of that is both seen in Miller's work and counter to Scripture where we are told to "seek first the Kingdom of God" and "to consider others more important than ourselves," etc.

I simply don't see support in choosing to remain married and childless in Scripture. Perhaps I'm overlooking an example or explicit command. But, until I'm corrected in my thinking, I'm quite concerned that the pretext for justifying childlessness comes more from fallen man than a Divine God.

If you or Beth and Wesley determine God has called you to forego the joy of children, by all means follow His direction - even though I will admit readily that such discerning seems counter the many blessings God reserves in childbearing. But, in doing so, be careful that you have not been taken captive by the "fine sounding arguments" of this world, instead of those of Christ.

Finally, I recognize I reacted harshly to your post. I do apologize for harsh words. May I humbly suggest you not treat God's word so casually? Perhaps you don't do that as a practice, but referring to the inspired Word of God as, "a little weird" characterizing it in post-modern terms ("ethos" and "nuance") seems less than a dignified way of dividing the Eternal Word of God.

Jon said...

Jeremy,

This feels like a peaceful place to end our dialogue. Thanks for your thoughts. And I am also sorry for the snarkiness in my last post.

We don't know each other, and so it seems silly to defend myself, but I will anyway. My view of God's word, my study of it, my trust in it, are anything but casual. All my hope is in the words of that Book.

If I use words to describe it that are post-modern, it is only because those are words that I (and I think) my listener will understand. It's not in an effort to MAKE the Bible relevant -- it is relevant on its own -- but to be able to converse about it.

When I say a passage is "weird", I don't mean it's weird in the way a person is weird if he spends all his time reading Spiderman comics, I mean it is difficult to understand. From my perspective, I'm not casting judgment on it or being "less than dignified" with it. I'm saying "this is difficult to understand" in the way I always say it.

But I will, in seriousness, think about revising my language when I speak to people I don't know. Even if I and God know my heart and my reverance for Him and His Word, clearly my language could convey to others that I'm "treating God's word... casually".

And also, just by way of conclusion, I have no intention of remaining childless. I just believe in Wes and Beth's freedom to do so.

Jeremy Dys said...

@Jon,

Very good. We part as peaceful friends. Goodness knows how many countless times I've failed to exercise a slow and respectful tongue!

I too believe in their (or anyone's) freedom to remain childless. Just saddened at the potential loss of great joy.

Charles said...

i have not read the book... but this has been interesting dialogue. One thing has struck me lately about children... GOD is in control!! So many close friends/family LONG for children and are barren... some even seeking medical assitance. And so many friends/family are pregnant when they were totally not ready (financially, emotionally etc.) We can do some things here and there to promote/prevent getting pregnant but really God is in control.

My only suggestion would be to tell God the desires of your heart, but be open to HIS will and plan for your life.

If you weigh the 'pros/cons' and make a decision- if God answers that differently I would hate to see you being upset because you had originally decided differently for your life.

I had big dreams/plans to live with homeless people and live a crazy, radical life- so imagine my 'dismay' when God granted me a great seminarian of a husband, a nice 2 BR/BA apt and a good paying-job. Sounds silly, but we often get bitter/upset when God's plans play out differently than ours.

love and miss you B #1!!

Charles said...

That was Bethany, not Chuck...:)

Amanda said...

All these comments are too long for me to read, but since you know I read your blog, I have to say that I agree with what one of the Alicias (are there two?) wrote about mothers being made, not born. Just like warm fuzzies aren't constant during marriage, warm fuzzies aren't necessary (and certainly aren't constant!) in motherhood.

I have new, very recent convictions about birth control that I don't think apply to everyone. I just want to say that I respect this decision, Beth, and I really respect that you do realize your feelings may change.

I have a dear cousin who very much based her life around the conviction that she DID NOT want children, and now at age 32 she desperately wants them but may be unable. I think that, as long as you believe you know what God wants for you, then who are we to judge? But some in your situation may not really care what he has to say, you know? I don't get the feeling you are just being hard headed and stubborn.

Anonymous said...

I just read this because Wes told me about it at work, and I must say; it's a sin to not procreate. Genesis says to multiply and fill the earth! Also, it is a sin to neuter your pets because the exact command is given to them. ...... JK on both counts! I can't believe people try to debate you about such a personal issue. Keep on thinking.
Allie Shelton

Alicia said...

Allie, even the most personal issues can benefit from debate, since all of life falls under the jurisdiction on God's word. Nobody is an island, and we all need way other's help to interpret te Bible and apply it rightly. If Beth didn't want input or debate, she wouldn't have written a blog post about this issue.

Beth said...

Just for the record, I'm thankful for Allie & her comment, even though I don't mind the debate. :)

Anonymous said...

Hahahahahaha; oh no, it's a debate about debating, hahaha. But seriously, no one needs to defend themselves; that was merely my personal opinion.

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