Christian Family Planning

Our family recently took our adopted Chinese daughters back to China to give them an opportunity to see and experience where they came from.  Like all people, perhaps more so in adopted children (because the past can be so hidden), it can be beneficial to know where you came from, in order to better figure out where you are going.

While we were there, we visited the girls’ orphanages, reconnected with Hadassah’s foster family, which was quite a healing experience (especially hearing stories from her young childhood), and took the opportunity to speak with many of the Chinese people.  Since our girls came into our lives, mainly as a result of the tragic One-Child Policy of China, much of our discussion surrounded that issue.  God, ever good and just, turned this tragedy around to bless us with our girls.

In case you’re not familiar with this event in history, I’d like to give you some historical background. It gives all Christians something to think about, regarding how we see our children and how we relate to our Lord:

Mao Zedong was the leader that took over China after the Communist revolution of 1949.  He wanted a strong military and famously stated, “the more people, the stronger we are.”1 The Communist Youth League Leader said, “The force of 600 million liberated people is tens of thousands of times stronger than a nuclear explosion.”2  The population was encouraged to have many children and the population grew by 100 million people from 1950 - 1960.3

At the time, China was a very impoverished nation and Mao wanted to turn it into a world power, so he introduced the economic and social policy called “The Great Leap Forward” from 1958-1962, in which peasants’ land was taken away and they were forced onto communes (with the hopes of acquiring the efficiency of mega-farms).  People living in cities were directed to factories making steel and heavy machinery - things a powerful country would need.  It turned out to be a disaster.  Commune farmers saw the fruits of their labor shipped out to the cities without compensation, and city workers produced things that were great for projecting national power (think guns & tanks) but did little to provide for the growing population (think plows and grain harvesters).  The result was a famine of Biblical proportions – estimates range from 30-55 million people who starved to death.

Policy makers were quick to blame the famine on the growing population instead of their failed policies, so birth control was strongly promoted.  Marriage licenses were restricted according to age (Men - 30, women - 25) and college students were expelled if they married out of the guidelines.  Some violators were even sent to work camps.4

During this period, Mao felt he was being stifled by the growing bureaucracy, so from 1966 until his death in 1976, he led the “Cultural Revolution,” which was a violent counter-counter revolution to push the country back to its Communist “roots.” The Red Guards called for the destruction of the four OLDS”: old customs, old culturesold habits and old ideas. An additional 1-10 million people perished during this upheaval, and tens of millions experienced severe maltreatment, with millions more being both perpetrator and victim.  Historical sites were ransacked, libraries destroyed, clergy arrested, and professors sent to work camps.5,6  Reflecting the sense of the times to purge anything Western (the “old” capitalistic system),birth control restrictions were once again lifted for a time.7

After Mao died in 1976, policy makers who were once more facing a poor and growing population, again decided that the country’s woes were due to too many children.  So, in 1979 the draconian One-Child Policy was initiated.  It called for massive fines (the equivalent of 2-3 years’wages), loss of jobs, and forced abortions, in an attempt to keep the population under control.  Imagine a world without uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters.

Since there was no effective state provision for the elderly outside of family, many parents chose to only have a boy if they were only allowed one child, since a son would provide for them in their twilight years.  A girl, once she was married off, was mostly thought of as part of her husband’s family, so she would not be able to provide for her parents.  The result – if a girl was born, too often, she was abandoned (as may be the case for our girls, though children are abandoned for other reasons, including disability and poverty).  Furthermore, for every 100 girls allowed to be born, there are over 115 baby boys.  Currently, this amounts to 78 million more boys than girls for a population of 1.3 billion people!8  Imagine a group of males the size of the combined populations of Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky, and Iowa, all with no possibility of finding a wife. The solution to that problem?  It has been advocated to push homosexuality and polyandry (where a woman would have more than one husband.)9

China is also now a rapidly aging society, where a typical young man must provide for a wife, child, and 4 elderly parents - a near impossible task, especially considering that the divorce culture is also taking root.  So now seeing more such problems brewing on the horizon, China has eased up on the One-Child Policy, hoping to get a better outcome with the new, Two-Child Policy.  The result?  Young couples no longer want any children – perhaps one at best. They like the freer life style, and don’t want to dealwith the costs and career restrictions that accompany children.10,11,12  Chinese children, exclusively doted on by 2 parents and 4 grandparents are sometimes referred to as “Little Emperors” due to their self- focused attitudes.

Do you see a pattern?  One solution outside of God’s plan produces a myriad of unintended consequences which are often tragically horrendous, only to later be overcompensated by an equally disastrous counter-solution.  This idea that man is basically good and that he can alter the nature of himself in order to find solutions to the problems he produced in the first place is called “Humanism.”  Need more food? – Then make less people, so there is more food to go around.  Need to build up retirement for an aging population? – Then entice people to have more children with tax breaks, childcare benefits, and special parking spots.  

China’s not alone.  Germany’s population may implode from 80 million currently to 25 million by the end of the century.  This is why Germany feels it must now import many Muslim immigrants to compensate for their imploding population in order to maintain their standard of living.13  How do you think that will end up?  Ultimately, these efforts in every country will end disastrously, simply because they don’t recognize that man is sinful and that we need God.  The Bible says in Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, anddeath by sin; and so, death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”

The TRUE solution is very simple.  It’s this: God wants us to be faithful to Himnot successful in our own eyes (whether we define that by prosperity, national status, toys in the garage, or by any other measure). God said, in Genesis 9:7, “And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.” Do we believe God says what He means and means what He says?  Can anyone read Psalm 127 and not see that He gives children as a blessing? Can anyone read of Rachel’s yearning for children in Genesis 30 (“...give me children or else I die”), or Hannah’s “pouring out [her] soul” to the Lord in 1 Samuel 1 for a child, and deny that children were HIGHLY valued, and not just an accessory to make parents feel complete? When we sing Jesus Loves the Little Children and when He says, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”, can we see that the children really belong to Him and not to ourselves?

Can anyone read Genesis 20:18, 29:31, 30:22, 1 Samuel 1:5-6, Isaiah 66:9, or Luke 1:7 and still deny that God sees fertility as being within His domain?  Medically speaking, ALL hormonal birth control can act as an abortifacient, preventing implantation after conception (in addition to preventing ovulation, which is not always consistent). This includes the pill, the patch, the shot, and the implant.  Many IUDs primarily act as an abortifacient, preventing implantation.  Randy Alcorn has written a very good pamphlet that explains all of this in finer details.14  Doctors, especially many Christian doctors, are not keen on publicizing this information, likely under the assumption that if Christian women would continue using the pill, then this inconvenient truth would cause unnecessary feelings of guilt. Those couples who have used these forms of birth control should know that when acting in ignorance, God extends grace, but expects a sacrifice (Leviticus 4).  For Christians, the blood of Jesus is that sacrifice.  Then God expects obedience (rather than a sacrifice) after the Truth is known (Proverbs 21:3, Hebrews 10:26).

In my training, I was blessed to study under Christian doctors that had a great deal of experience with women who had delivered many children.  I’ve done cesarean sections on women whose uteruses were in very good condition after eight such operations.  I’ve also seen wombs in not so great condition after half that number. The same goes with normal deliveries.

Most doctors do not have experience with “grandmultips” – women who have had many children.  Because of the fear of the unknown (and sometimes out of a desire to project a worldly point of view), some will advocate sterilization or other forms of birth control.

But those decisions in our society, like the many decisions in Chinese history surrounding population control, arelargely based on fear: What would happen if we lose world dominance?  What would happen if we have too many elderly people?  What happens if there is a birth complication, will I get sued?  What would happen if there are too many people?  (You can run the numbers just like I did: China actually has the same population density as the beautiful state of New York, where I grew up, and a 30% lower population density than Switzerland, yet nobody cowers over the thought of hoards of the Swiss or of New Yorkers (at least outside of tourist season!)  Finally, could one also possibly conclude that there may also be a racial component to some of this fear?

What is the Biblical view to take on these matters of procreation?  Think of that word for a moment - it speaks volumes: “Pro - Creation.”  Should we strive to have as many children as possible?  Wouldn't that also be a Humanist response?  Or should we, submitting our will, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God’s”? (Matthew 22:21) 

We should seek His will for us - whether that leads to a large family (with its blessings and challenges) or a family without children (with its associated disappointments, but also its opportunities to serve Him in unique ways).  Ultimately, God gives us the free will to "go it alone", but if we desire a close walk with our Lord, we need to trust and obey, understanding that, "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).

Can parenting be a form of adversity (tribulation)?  Sure!  I learned things as a parent that I would have likely never learned otherwise.  The Apostle Paul says, “...tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; andexperience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Some have spoken about the “spirit of abortion.”  This is the idea that every reason given to use birth control would also be the same reason used to abort a child: no money, too many children, or life style issues.  When Lori and I were searching for a fellowship community, we visited many churches.  We came up with something we called a “van index.”  Before we stepped foot in the church, we could tell a lot about the congregation by the percentage of vans in the parking lot.  Vans often mean families that place a special emphasis on the value and blessing of having children – rejecting the “spirit of abortion.”  It’s certainly not fool proof, but was surprisingly accurate. We both grew up in churches that are now comprised of only a few elderly women. So, now when we hear the cry of a baby or a small child during church services, we have to a reason to smile.  It means new life in the church, parents who desire to teach and raise a family for the Lord, and grandparents who taught their children well.

Are there medical conditions in which prayerful discretion is Biblical?  Of course.  Ephesians 5:28-29 speaks about caring for our physical (and spiritual) bodies and that of our wives, just as Christ cares for the spiritual church body.  The important thing to remember is that we should not act out of a spirit of fear: “For God hath not given us thespirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7, but rather according to a godly fear and motivation: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Were there times when my wife and I had doubts?  Of course!  Such as the time when we had eight children under 12 years of age.  It was expensive and difficult to get sitters to watch our children, so we could have short periods of time together as a couple.  Our nearest family member was 1,000 miles away.  But times like those are an opportunity to build the body of Christ.  That is why we encourage our children to volunteer their time helping young couples who need help with their small children.  There should be no young families in our congregations who are struggling to find (affordable) help.  If we work together in this way we can make a great difference.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34- 35)  These are words we must live by - walk in faith (not fear), walk in love.

In conclusion, the world would like people to believe that the road to happiness is a matter of control:  Control your religion (megachurches without relationships or accountability), control your God (there are a thousand roads up the mountain), control your partner (through no-fault divorce - a "till love do us part" mentality, or "shack up" culture of fornication - "if it feels good, just do it!"), and control your fertility (having "trophy children" where "I now feel complete.")  How's that working out for the world?  Increased suicide, depression, loneliness, delinquency, divorce, and, most importantly and not surprisingly, an increased distance from God.    

Such worldly "self-control" is no substitution for a heart in which God is in control: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment." (Mt 22:37-8)  In His grace, He has provided for us a church body in which to bless one another, and to bear one another' burdens.  It is only through our love for Him and our brothers and sisters that we can find true happiness.  “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34- 35)  These are words we must live by - walk in faith (not fear), walk in love.

5  Merrill Goldman; Lydia Perry (December 5, 1995). "The Chinese Case: Was It Genocide or Poor Policy?"
6  Xing Lu (2004). Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The Impact on Chinese Thought, Culture, and Communication
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14 Alcorn, Randy (2007). Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?

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