Like it or not, contraception is a twenty-first century moral issue which evangelicals must face.
As many among the Christian Left champion birth control without regard for its harmful effects on women and stand ready to offer over religious liberty in exchange for tax-payer funded contraception, abortifacients, and at times, abortion, it’s time for our faith community to reevaluate alternatives. It’s time evangelicals start talking about Natural Family Planning (NFP).
If you’re like me and never heard NFP uttered in your evangelical circles, then here is an explanation offered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops:
NFP methods are based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. No drugs, devices, or surgical procedures are used to avoid pregnancy.
Before you dismiss NFP as solely “Catholic,” consider what evangelicals have missed: a top-down effort by evangelical church leaders to openly discuss contraception’s physical, social, and spiritual effects as well as why couples have a moral obligation to do their research and avoid potentially abortifacent birth control methods, and mention NFP as a practical option.
Avoiding these tough discussions has left many evangelical men and women I know susceptible to the contraception mentality, which views children as a problem solved with chemical drugs. It also leaves women vulnerable in the hands of a medical community fervently pushing those risky drugs even when totally unnecessary.
I’ll never forget while in graduate school sitting around the dinner table with my evangelical girlfriends, all between the ages of 22-25, who confessed to taking chemical contraception, or more commonly called the Pill. Before you jump to conclusions, know that none of these women had boyfriends, much less were sexually active at the time. I know first-hand that the second a young woman walks into a gynecologist’s office, the doctor starts listing a whole host of reasons —including something as trivial as acne control— as to why we should inhale the Pill. Sexually active or not.
What was disturbing about my friends’ discussion was that it circled around their experiments with numerous birth control brands until finally landing on one that didn’t make their hair fall out, cause them deep depression or result in physical pain.
Within the church, contraception is all my generation knows as approved methods for planning family sizes, or in some cases, clearing teenage acne. But contraception’s so-called “perks” are not outweighing the tremendous risks involved. That’s why evangelicals would do well to include NFP into our vernacular.
I won’t lie. The charting, temperature monitoring and class instruction required for NFP comes across as overwhelming. But with those challenges also come unique benefits.
A married guy friend of mine shared, “When a married Christian couple practices Natural Family Planning (NFP) and the husband shares responsibility for charting, it helps him to know and appreciate his wife’s body a lot more than he may have otherwise.”
The idea of a husband sharing in this responsibility struck me. With all the national talk about tax-payer funded contraception, there is no argument that sounds so sweet to a young woman who hopes one day, Lord willing, to be married and conceive than the idea of sharing in such intimate care.
Perhaps our Catholic neighbors are on to something. Researching a little more, I found that NFP requires a period of abstinence that can range from 5-8 day per month. Catholic married couples have explained to me that this time allows for a husband to re-woo his wife with simple actions, gestures and words of affirmation. Birth control can never come close to offering something so relationally intimate between husband and wife.
Evangelicals are still learning when it comes to contraception. We must continue learning by doing our research and start questioning the status quo. It’s time to start talking about Natural Family Planning.