May 25, 2006

Being Christian and Childfree

The decision not to have children brings even more animosity when it is a Christian couple who makes this choice. Though infertility brings about sympathy and understanding, if the decision is deliberate, then the couple is viewed strangely. Some even go so far as to consider the choice sinful. After all, did not God command us to be fruitful in the book of Genesis?

The scripture - "Be fruitful and multiply" is used to support the argument that married Christians are to have children if they are able. Yet this Scripture, in the original language, is actually a blessing, not a command. Here's an article about Genesis 1:28 - Be fruitful and multiply. Children are a blessing. And many couples grieve the lack of this blessing in their lives. Perhaps this is why many find it hard to believe that couples would voluntarily choose not to have any children.

This can be a volatile topic and quite controversial, especially among Christians. There are those in Christian circles who believe that a married couple who chooses not to have children are sinning against God. Here's an article from that standpoint Deliberate Childlessness: Moral Rebellion. Obviously I don't agree with that viewpoint. Here's an article from Christianity Today with a different perspective Is It All Right for a Married Couple to Choose to Remain Childless?

What are your thoughts on these articles?

Technorati Tags:


Rooshie said...

Haha! I have a draft on just this topic in my Drafts folder! I'll try to post it today.

But basically, it used to bother me, and doesn't any more. To me the verse no longer means "Go have children."

I read the articles, and the first one scares me- reminds me of people I know who think that they could possibly know God's will for someone else's life. It is arrogant to think that way. The second one was much easier for me to take, but still- so often people who are CF are urged again and again to think seriously about the decision, and seldom are those who plan to have children urged to consider their choice nearly as much. When we were planning to have children I was never once asked to give it serious thought before decided, or to consider our motives... Parenthood is generally forever, and a huge responsibility. I would love to see more people urging as much thought in the decision to be a parent as we hear for our decision not to be parents.

AlphaGirl said...

As a devout agnostic, I can't relate to the hardships that CF Christians go thru, but I have a friend who is Christian and CF....what she encounters from her fellow congregants regarding her decision is anything but "Christ-like" in terms of embracing everyone.
My heart goes out to those who struggle with their churche's disdain for their CF decision. Even the "New Age" churches have a feel-good backhand way of encouraging procreation...bad news!

s said...

I imagine a conversation I might one day engage in with a fervent Christian who takes the "be fruitful and multiply" verse literally, and who scolds me for not doing my wifely duty and providing my husband with offpsring.

To which I would say: "I'm just following Jesus's example, He was childfree, too."

Boxing Tomboy said...

I've read the Mohler article before. I'm not surprised at his stance, esp. considering he's part of a denomination that regularly ignores women's rights. I first saw that article on an extremely fundamentalist web site--Vision Quest was the name of the organization, I believe. When I balked about that article as well as another similar article written by the Vision Quest president, their response was to send me a book about the glories of having children.

The "Be Fruitful and Multiply" article made good sense to me. It highlights how people often take God's Word out of context to fit their own narrow views. The Van Leeuwen article has a pro-breeding slant, but at least takes into account that some people choose not to have children.

Tiara Lynn said...

This is one of the major hurdles in coming out to my family and the in-laws. Both grandparents especially on either side are very religious, and share that viewpoint.

. And many couples grieve the lack of this blessing in their lives.
This is the other hurdle. With several family members who had multiple miscarriages, stillbirths and fertility issues, our choice is especially unacceptable and viewed as spitting in their faces.

We're prepared for the God card to be played hardcore when the time comes to tell them, and it will be soon. The hounding at family gatherings is getting too much, and subtlety has proven completely ineffective.

Lady Cooper said...

I feel that some things placed in the Bible are purely a reflection of the time they were entred (anti-gay and pro-large family). At that period in time, the Hebrews were a small tribe that were continually on the verge of getting wiped out by the next tribe over, or later, the Egyptians. Of course you needed to have lots of kids, your tribe needed to survive, so people weren't seen as useful then if they weren't contributing to making more Hebrews.

Looking at the problem of overpopulation nowadays, I don't think it's much of a problem anymore.

NikkiJ said...

I agree with all the comments here. The Bible is time and again taken out of context to suit the narrow views of a few, ususally when those few want to control or direct what people do or how they live. The Old Testament is about judgement, the New Testament about freedom from judgement.

It's funny they never refer to the New Testament, where a (childfree - yes!) Jesus clearly says we shouldn't judge, lest we are judged and that we should treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. The implications of just those two things are significant... less likliehood unfairly scaring or condemning others because they make the right choice for their lives, nor trying to inflict your particular world view on them.

As a Christian, the reality is that you are not going to change the majority of your church's view, (you will be the outsider and in a very small minority) so you have to be very strong and prepared to stand against the group think (and it is very powerful) and do what's right for you. You will find it exhausting and more. I speak from some experience. I was a regular church goer for roughly 12 years, (twice a week) and I attended a variety of churche types, from High Anglican, Church of England to very Charismatic and Evangelical. I stopped going to church as it began to endanger my faith... I simply wasn't prepared to check my intelligence at the door,didn't like the increasing influence of the religious right, and I got tired of people who had not walked in my shoes preaching at me and telling me how to live my childfree decision came well after I stopped going to church, had it been earlier, no doubt I'd have been on the end of recrimination from the church community. I'd probably have been dragged off for counselling at the very least!

NikkiJ said...

And by the way... nowhere in the Bible does it say that choosing not to have children is a sin. If we are talking about commandments, there are 10 and "thou must have kids" is not one of them. The writer clearly doesn't know what he is talking about and is twisting lots of things to scaremonger. Maybe he's panicking - interesting he calls the childfree a "movement" Christians are "buying into". He sounds like a fundamentalist to me. His ..."raise girls to be wives and mothers" should say it all.

LauraS said...

Thank you for posting these links. What conservative christians fail to realise is how many childfree folks they are driving out of their congregations by their harsh judgements. I have spoken to many childfree people over the years who describe themselves as recovering catholics or tell stories of being marginalized, judged or isolated in their churches or synagogues. These are people of faith who have to find other places to find fellowship. Some have sworn off organized religion entirely. What would Jesus do? He found his own church.

Anonymous said...

Ahem, Jesus was childfree...I think, but I haven't seen the DaVinci Code yet...

Okay, I couldn't resist that!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

My heart is broken at the attitude of Christians with regard to the "requirement" of reproduction. There are two things to think about.... 1) God has forgiven me of all my sins, so, if not having children ever was a sin (which I believe it's not), then God has already forgiven me for it by accepting Jesus. 2) If other Christians claim that if a Christian couple doesn't reproduce and those opinions cause that Christian couple to backslide and maybe even walk away from God, doesn't that put those Christians in a far worse position than the Christian Couple who didn't reproduce?

God doesn't belong in a box. Scripture is always taken out of context and besides that, isn't a person's relationship with God between them and God, sins and all? Should the Christian sect just accept the fact that God is perfectly capable of convicting someone to do something differently if that is what He wants them to do? Does God go around and tell everyone that I should have children but fail to tell me?

This topic is destroying my husband and I. But God has put it on my heart to pray for these ignorant Christians. They will be in for quite a surprise one day.

Anonymous said...

My dear husband and I are Christians, and have been since we were young. We were both raised in churchgoing families (DH's mother is even a Disciples of Christ minister), met through a multidenominational organization in college, were married in the Episcopal church and currently are active in our local Methodist church. We lead an adult Sunday School class and do much work for our church.

And we are childfree. We made this decision after much discussion, prayer and soul searching after being married five years. Neither one of us want for me to balance my work at a university with raising a child, and my work with college students is so fulfilling that I don't want to give it up to be a SAHM, even though I could do that financially because we live simply and could pay all of our bills on one income. DH is also fulfilled in his work as a teacher and can't see being a SAHD. In addition, I have a chronic health problem that will probably make it difficult for me to be pregnant and take care of a child - babysitting our nieces and nephews for a few hours is enough for me.

We just believe that God has called us to do different things besides have a child or children of our own. I feel that I'm making a difference in the lives of others' children by working with them at the university.

DH and I also believe that by being childfree, we have more time to devote to our church work and Bible study.

We also have three siblings who have children, and we're involved in our eight nieces' and nephews' lives - something we may have less time to do if we were raising our own children.

And, in the next few years, it will probably be DH and me caring for our aging parents, since our siblings are busy with their children. In fact, I've already started caring for my parents, who are 76 and 80. I was the one who was there when my mother was in the hospital last year. We're glad that we will be able to care for our parents without having to worry about caring for children at the same time.

I have been pleasantly surprised that not one of our fellow church members has shunned DH and me or expressed disdain for our decision to not have children. We have never felt anything but welcomed by them, and they seem to truly care for us. It saddens me to learn that other so-called Christians don't act the same way toward the childfree - when childfree/childless couples and singles have just as much to offer Christianity and a church as couples with children and empty nesters.

Maybe our church friends believe, like us, that God gives us free will to decide what is best for us in our lives and what we believe he is calling us to do. In our case, the calling is to do other things than have children.

Amanda Rout said...

I feel much the same as you guys.

I just wanted to ask a question: Do you ever get the "Oh, you'll change your mind after you get married" line?

Being only 20, I get this too much (in my opinion). I decided a long time ago that I didn't want to have children, but since I'm still young, people don't believe me. Now, mind you, I also have reproductive issues - but I decided not to have children before I knew about those.

I find it appalling to think that some people can say that God's Will is the same for everyone. God has a different plan for each of us, and they don't all include having children, or even getting married.

Honestly, to pervert God's word in such an obvious way is ridiculous. Jesus taught acceptance and love, not judgment.