Does contraception undermine the case against abortion?
The last two weeks we’ve looked at the three purposes for marriage: portal, procreation, pleasure. Portal minus procreation leaves us with only pleasure. Marriage becomes any couple, heterosexual or LGBTQ+, giving and receiving pleasure to one other.
But pleasure divorced from portal and procreation is a diminished definition of marriage. Since her inception, the church has been unanimous in her opposition to erasing portal and procreation by separating marriage from God and the genitals from generating new life.
Then in 1930 the Anglican Church allowed for contraception. This sent a shudder throughout the world. Gandhi said contraception was like “putting a premium on vice.” A Washington Post editorial warned that contraception, “carried to its logical conclusions, would sound the death knell of marriage as a holy institution.” T.S. Eliot said the Anglican Church “is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail.” Now we must “save the World from suicide.”
Strong words. But if sex is only for pleasure, we reduce human beings to the level of animals. When animals are in heat, they gotta have it. They can’t wait. When we assume we cannot be patient, cannot exercise self-control (two fruits of the Spirit), cannot abstain from sex if we do not want to become pregnant, we’re saying we’re no better than animals.
Like the nation of Judah 2,500 years ago. God through the prophet Jeremiah warned that Judah had defiled herself. He likened her “a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her passion.” (Jer.2:22-23) Yes, scripture equates passion with nuptial union. Animal passion is unrestrained. Human passion should not be unrestrained.
A married couple for example should enjoy restrained passion. It’s restrained as married couples recognize procreation occasionally demands self-control (abstinence) as part of an agreement by the couple to avoid—not thwart—pregnancy. Contraceptives are used for thwarting pregnancy, astonishing given that life and death are in God’s hands.
[For more on this, read Christopher West’s excellent short book, Eclipse of the Body.]
It naturally follows if we have the right to determine when we conceive in the womb, and life precedes death, then we have the right to terminate life in the womb. Life and death are in our hands, so demand for a legal “right” to contraceptives and abortion logically follows. We see this with The Pill (1961). It led to an increase of sex outside of marriage. But no contraceptive is 100 percent effective, so this led to an increase in unwanted pregnancies, which led to a demand for abortion as the logical way of solving this problem.
I close with a few observations. The first is that many Christians undermine the purpose of marriage by not seeing it as a portal. It’s more a picture of love and pleasure. This shrunken purpose makes arguments against same-sex marriage sound irrational. Here’s why.
Our brain dumps massive amounts of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins into our body when we experience sexual pleasure. This chemical quartet bonds couples, heterosexual or LGBTQ+. The intense pleasure they feel overwhelms the rational faculties. It feels beautiful, so it’s good. If it’s good, it’s true. LGBTQ+ couples don’t reason their way into this. They feel their way in. Having forgotten portal and pleasure, Christians are trying to argue LGBTQ+ couples out of positions they never argued their way into.
Second observation. I know Christians who are pro-life but use contraceptives. They’re trying to have it both ways, against conceiving life but for life after conception. That’s a distinction without a difference. Kathy and I didn’t recognize this. We’ve always been pro-life but we used contraceptives. We didn’t know any better. Grace means we don’t always get it all right, but we do change our minds when we discover we’ve been wrong. T.S. Eliot was among the majority in the 1930s who felt the Anglican Church got it wrong on contraceptives. If these voices from the past are right, we’re committing societal suicide.
 Robert A. Burton, M.D., On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not (St. Martin’s Press, 2008)