One of the latest medical contributions to the world has not been a step closer to the cure for AIDS or Parkinsons or cancer or Alzeimer’s or gluttony. The science world has introduced a new series of birth control pills that will cause women to never have a period again. How should Christians respond? After all, it seems like a convenience for those who are tired of buying tampons and Midol. While it could be helpful for those who have severe cramping and want relief, those who have introduced the new pills seem to taking a different line. They tout the benefit of not having agonizing pain, but they go further in saying that we can do away with the inconvenience.

Listen to this obstetrician, “We weren’t supposed to have 13 natural periods year after year after year,” said Linda Miller, an obstetrician/gynecologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We as a society have already changed what nature intended for us.” First of all, how does she know what ‘nature’ intended for us? Secondly, does nature have a personality so that it can plan and design for us? Thirdly, there is an arrogance to such a statement that bleeds of self-centeredness.

Not to say much about our proclivity for comfort, this movement towards sexual liberation has done more harm than just to our culture. How many of the drugs on the pharmacy’s shelves are beneficial for us? How many doctors have maligned the Hippocratic Oath they swore not so long ago? There has been a right reaction against such a drug. Some of these reactions stem from the desire to not tamper with the way God made us. Some reactions are aimed at the pretension of science to think that it has mastered ‘nature.’ And the third has to do with something I align myself with more. That is, there are those of us who react against pumping our bodies with hormones and chemicals that do more harm than good.

So much of what we have in the medical field is not for health as much as for convenience and laziness. Erectile dysfunction pills, birth control pills, sleeping pills, diet pills, etc. Truly we are a legally drugged-up society. We have not thought much about what we are putting into our bodies because it takes too much work. And besides, that Cherry Coke is awfully tasty. Have we depended upon drugs more than the better work of eating healthy foods? It takes ten minutes more to fix a bowl of oatmeal than to drive up to McDonald’s and order a breakfast sandwich. However, if you factor in the waiting in line, payment, and driving (gas!) to the store…then it is cheaper and quicker to fix that bowl of oatmeal – not to mention healthier.

Enough. My point is just to challenge us to think through these issues with Gospel in our eyes. It is more than just a convenience for people that is driving this drug. It is convenience that has become the end-all-be-all of our American culture.

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This post has 4 Comments

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  1. I’d get at the underlying fact of what Dr. Miller said. What is the reason women are having 13 periods, year after year? It’s because we proactively prevent conception from occurring, and we have fewer children in this brave new world. Once we’ve made the moral decision to prevent conception because children are somehow inconvenient, the same logic can be applied to menstruation. Miller points out the moral similarity of the two positions. I kind of get her point.

    What I’d like to know about this form of contraception as a Christian, is whether it is abortifascent. (sp?) If it stops ovulation cold, it would seem that this may be a form of contraception that might be far more acceptable to Christians who choose to go the contraceptive route.

    Should Christian mothers in the pains of childbirth have epidurals withheld from them? That in my mind is a far more significant question theologically than a pill that can stop menstruation. I guess what I’m saying is that this is not the heart of the debate, but nobody wants to talk about the greater underlying issues, so instead we discuss this peripheral issue because it is novel.

  2. A good word, Matt. I agree entirely on the aspect of the complete over-drugification of America (HELLO PROZAC).

    Also, this has nothing to do with the post, but I just saw the new look here, and I’m diggin it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading, just with RSS instead of coming here ;-)

  3. It would seem that this drug would not be abortifacient. You make a good point in the end of your comment G.F. – that Christians like to talk about peripheral issues. However, I don’t think that we should not talk about peripheral issues since they do revolve around the heart issues. I try to pose the question for us that is different than the one you pose. That is, why is there such a surge to stop what ‘nature’ intended? I believe the underlying issue is that we live in a culture where ease is king. As for you epidural issue, I will ponder and post later. Thanks for visiting. I would like to hear your take on why it would be okay for Christians to take birth control pills.

  4. Matt, this is one issue where we might actually agree! :)

    You mentioned the issue of some birth control being abortifacient, but I’m under the impression that all birth control includes some level of abortifacient medication. Is this incorrect?

    This relates to G.F.’s point about how the pill works. Some research shows that women on birth control for long periods of time will have “breakthrough ovulation,” where they ovulate at times it’s supposed to be prevented. Hence, if a pill doesn’t include medication to thin the lining of the womb (thus preventing successful implantation of a zygote, resulting in abortion), then it’s not going to be quite as “effective” as the pills that do.

    My thing is, while breakthrough ovulation isn’t thoroughly documented right now, it shouldn’t come as any surprise. Virtually every medication carries with it the risk that our bodies adjust to the presence of the drug, requiring higher doses over time. But the dose can’t be raised too much before it become lethal, which should give any self-respecting woman cause to question taking a smaller amount of something lethal.

    Concerning the relief of menstrual pain, for which birth control is often prescribed, I read the other day that calcium can do just as good a job. Sounds a lot healthier, but it won’t be as profitable for the pharma industry.

    All that said, from a macro-theological point of view, the issue at hand isn’t the incidental risk of causing an abortion or the side effects of birth control and messing around with our hormones (respecting our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit comes to mind). The issue is causing division between sex/marriage and conception/raising children. Marriage is designed to create a loving environment for children that reflects Trinitarian love. Just as Divine Love is made flesh in Christ, spousal love is made flesh in children. What happens when a couple decides children are optional? When a couple isn’t completely open to a marriage that is fruitful in every way, do they not risk worshiping gods of comfort and selfishness?

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Less Hype. More Humility.

Please. Embedded in our consumeristic culture, there is the assumption that newer is better than older–though I prefer aged beef and cheddar to new. There is the assumption that grand and renovated and powerful is preferable to meek and lowly and weak.

The church often adopts this form of communicating in an effort to gather people into its doors. “God is doing awesome things here at Church _______.” The fact is that God is doing awesome things everyday and everywhere. He’s sustained your life. He’s given you sight and hearing and legs. And if you have none or only one of these, he’s still given you life and a mind to engage the world around you. Truly miraculous. What is more, is God not also doing something in the old, decrepit church that meets faithfully every Sunday? Is God not at work in the mundane? Is the changing of laundry and washing of dishes and working through an argument devoid of God’s presence?

I see so many churches trying to drum up excitement about the latest outreach or project, when what our culture needs is the staying power and sobriety of faithfulness in the ho-hum drudgery of going to a job you hate or a marriage that is contentious. What we need is not more hype, but more humility. More service and less heavy-handedness. We need more gentleness and less power grabs.

If we don’t, what then becomes of the senior citizen who is tired? What becomes of the baby who is sleeping? What becomes of the unemployed and outcast and burdened? They are forgotten. They are seen as less valuable because they aren’t producing the kind of energy requisite for assumed faithfulness to the disciples’ call.

In reality, we need less loud voices and red faces and sweaty brows and more silence and calmness and a deep well of contentment.

“The Time is at Hand to Leave and Cleave”

Yesterday I preached on the allegiances the Gospel of Jesus challenges us with from Mark 1.10-20. While there may be times that Christ’s call to us may be an utterly radical call to hop on a plane and give the rest of our lives in service on the mission field, more often the call to radical discipleship is in the everyday stuff of life. This season of Epiphany we have been focusing on the fact that God is everywhere and is always revealing himself. The task is for us to have eyes to see his work. This doesn’t just happen, but we need to train our minds, hearts, eyes, ears, noses, tongues, and hands to feel and experience his presence–as we live and move and have our being in him (Acts 17.28).

Yesterday we considered that Christ’s call to a new allegiance is more often a reappropriation and reorientation of our lives–a line which he draws in the sand and bids us to step over that line, turn around and see the grandeur of the ocean.

The Allegiance of Livelihood

When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, notice that he did not say to these fishermen, “Follow me and I make you become makers of tents and tabernacles…or stonemasons…or anything other than what you’ve known all your life.” Have you considered that God has placed within you, indeed, knit you together, with gifts and talents and passions that he wants you to use in reference to him in the service of others. We minimize our lives and worlds when we strive for our own building up. But when we use these passions and desires for the service of others, we have the opportunity to see God’s glory and our joy multiplied. Don’t shirk the person he has made you to be. Don’t run from the things you love to do because it seems harder. Rather, challenge yourself to re-purpose your loves and passions in service to others, and thereby seeing God’s face more clearly.

The Allegiance of Family

The family in the Ancient Near East determined much of who you are–your profession and your very existence. We get a glimpse of how Jesus reconfigures and challenges the identity and covenantal headship of the nuclear family when he says that those who do the will of his Heavenly Father are his mother and brothers and sisters (Mark 3.31-35). In this, Jesus reorients and challenges the notion that family determines your life. What is more, he is calling his people to a new family based upon faith and apprenticeship to him. To follow him and learn from him.

We long for our children to know Jesus. We believe that parents are the primary disciples in their children’s lives. But we still affirm the call of Jesus to each of our children to repent and believe to be a child of the family of faith.

This reconfiguring of the family can also be seen in the way the Apostle Paul challenges this notion of having to be married and have children to be complete. Not only was he single all his life, and laser-focused on doing what pleased the Father, but our Savior Jesus was single. This challenges the popular notion, and shuts the mouths of those who would ask a single person, “When are you going to get married” or to the married couple, “When are you going to have children.” Relationships and children are gifts and are good. But they are not the definition of wholeness.

The Allegiance of Self

At root of both of the explicit allegiances is the implicit challenge to the gravitational pull of allegiance to our self. Our desire to gather around us “yes men” who merely affirm what we want to be true. Jesus’ first words of public ministry were words of power, words of stark harshness, words of utter grace. Grace in that he offers us freedom from the slavery to our self and our passions. He offers us freedom to experience his world and see him in his world…once we turn from our navel-gazing to see the vastness of his love. Not just at one moment in time, but verily at all points in our existence. If we will have eyes to see.

His call to repent does not come from a call to shape up or ship out. Rather, it stems from his having conquered Satan in the place of judgment and of human weakness and frail and failure–the wilderness.

Consider these questions to guide you in your application of this passage into your life:

1. Your skills at fishing were never meant solely for you. They were intended for and are made even greater when used in the service of others. How has God gifted you? What do you find you are most excited about?

2. How can you make the family of Christ more of a priority in your life? What areas of welcoming others into your life and being open to being known is God calling you to?

3. What allegiances is God challenging you to question and forsake?

 

The New Economics Will Be People

So I went to a coffee shop this morning and was struck by the utter efficiency they were churning out drinks. In fact the team lead said this much as encouragement to the six other workers behind the counter.

I walked in. Smiled at the barista. Was greeted with a blank stare as he continued to froth the milk and deliver the piping hot skinny latte with extra foam to the drive-thru. I walked to the register and was passed with nary a glance…even when the team lead said “Hello.” No she didn’t look at me, but made sure that her metric of greeting a guest in the first ten seconds was met. A box that is checked. That’s what I was. A large dark roast with no room for cream and sugar. And surely there was no saccharin here. There was utility and efficiency.

In all our pandering for growth our marketing of environment is nothing more than a marketing tool. The timers and grids for efficiency have crowded out the thing that matters. The only thing that matters in products.

You see, the products that are pushed are labeled as though they were made for you. In reality, the products being sold to you have (for the most part) been made for the manufacturer. People have merely become a means to the end of bigger, faster, better.

In the new economy, people will matter more.

They won’t matter because they need to matter to grow the business. Too often companies tell you that you’re important because they want your money. They don’t want to make a difference as much as they want their new car or luxury vacation.

I want to say this loud and clear. In the new economy, people will be the end in themselves. They will no longer be viewed as a metric or a number. In the new economy, mom and pop will be sought after. Because, after all, we all know that the verbiage of how you matter to company x is just verbiage. It’s merely eliciting a response for another end.

In the new economics, people will want to matter. They will flock to the place where they are known by name. And not just to tout the “community” of an establishment. Did you notice the subtlety of that one? No, people will know your name because they know you and you matter. Your name is not known just to brag that you matter and sell the belonging you too can have if you buy your next skinny latte with extra froth…hold the pandering.

We are not there yet because executives are still measuring. Measuring people. Yet, what the new economy will have to embrace is not a spreadsheet or a graph. They will be forced to embrace people. Not to grow their graph. But to grow their own soul.