Thursday, May 14, 2009

From the Inbox

Brian writes (my response in blue):

I read your essay - and felt moved to reply. You sound like a lovely lady with a lovely family.

Why thank you. And thank you for this email and respectful disagreement.

I've never lived in the south, but my impression is that kudzu is a nasty invasive parasite that kills desirable native plants. When you liken "contraceptive culture" to kudzu, you are clearly judging. And pruning.

I think you misunderstood Father's and my own position here in that we are NOT calling PEOPLE Kudzu. The "contraceptive culture" was born in the 1930s with the first widespread use and public acceptance of highly effective contraceptives. It is composed of ideas, mentalities, expectations and presuppositions about family life and the roles of men and women within families and society. We say that those ideas have pervaded the natural family structure and weigh on husbands and wives and good citizens of this country in ways they may not even be aware. We believe those ideas are harmful to people, to families, and society as a whole.

These lines are completely artificial and only exist in our heads. You chose to practice natural birth control. That's wonderful, you have a lovely family. I am sincerely glad for you. Other people practice "artificial" birth control. Does that distinction really justify comparing them to "kudzu"? Can't we just allow people to be different?

NFP is not birth control. It does not approach a woman's fertility like a medical problem that needs treatment. Avoiding a pregnancy through communication of spouses and self sacrifice while observing the natural law for the common good of the family is a very different thing than engaging in a natural process while at the same time actively thwarting that process.

I do not say this to say that anyone is better than anyone else, but that these distinctions are not just in our heads. They are real and they have real consequences. We should be aware of those consequences.

Again, we do not compare PEOPLE to Kudzu, but the harmful attitudes and ideas contraception promotes.

I am sorry that some of the women in your neighborhood treat you poorly for having a large family. They are in error (and maybe even envious). But honestly, don't you think any group of people (including men) will find things to gossip about? It's the human nature that we all wrestle with. And if it wasn't the size of the family, it might be one's ethnic origin, or religion, or social class, or taste in music, or the model of car, or the style of clothes, or the way "their kitchen" doesn't smell like "our kitchen".

I don't think the women in my neighborhood treat me poorly at all. I think when my neighbor said that it was the least my husband could do to give me flowers, she meant to show a kind of strange friendship or sisterhood. She was standing by my side and helping me protect my rights and make my demands of the man in my life she assumes owes me on account of my having all his babies.

She's wrong, of course. My husband is not the demanding person she must imagine and we love these babies, but I think she sincerely thought she was standing up for me. What she didn't know was that I don't need her to stand up for me. I don't need to stand up for myself. There is no warfare here. What she revealed is that there is some kind of warfare between man and woman in her mind and I could see the other women agreed. It is in our culture. It has been a big motivation behind and reason for the continued widespread promotion of contraceptives. I don't think it helps women to think this way at all.

I promise you, many couples are criticized for *not* having "enough" children. And that criticism and judgement hurts just as much as yours. Furthermore, that criticism is directed from ubiquitous talk radio shows, bumper stickers, even employers, political leaders and especially church leaders.

I know couples are criticized for not having enough children. I agree that this is not anyone's business and such comments are nonsense and show no charity or subtlety of thought. It is a small minded person that assumes all people and families must look like her own.

Choosing if and when to have children is a very personal matter. When community authority figures discuss it (especially in church, from the pulpit) it makes it a public topic, divides people into groups, creates a false dichotomy, frames the world as black and white, instead of the (sometimes crazy) rainbow of colors it really is. Maybe the world would be a better place if we all just accepted each other.

Sexuality is at once a very personal matter and a very public one. The intimacy between spouses should not be unnecessarily encroached upon, but the bonds between spouses are also the ties that hold a society together. The family is the basic unit of society much like cells in the body. Society depends absolutely on the health of the family. If the natural bonds within family structures are weakened, then the society that is built upon those structures is also weakened. For this reason it is not only appropriate, but necessary to address these issues publicly.

blessings to you and your family
from me and mine

And many blessings in return. Thank you, again, for this respectful reply.