Earlier this month evangelical leaders from every sector of the culture gathered in Washington DC for the Q conference. One of the panels focused on the staggering number of abortions among single women within the church. Panelists discussed the problem and how churches could begin to turn the tide. At the close of the discussion the audience was asked to respond to an instant poll: "Do you believe churches should advocate contraception for their single twentysomethings?" 70 percent responded "Yes."
While affirming God's intent that sexual activity be confined to marriage, those attending Q recognized the greater evil presented by abortion. While still affirming the ideal of pre-marital chastity, pragmatism led 7 in 10 leaders at Q to embrace the wisdom of preventing abortions by those who don't reach the sexual standards of Scripture. Many were likely persuaded by the undeniable statistics showing the failure of "abstinence only" sexual eduction to prevent pregnancy and lower abortion rates.
But should the church be swayed by these practical arguments? And can we truly hold up the biblical sexual ethics and simultaneously encourage singles to "sin safely"? Matthew Lee Anderson says we cannot.
His thoughtful article for Christianity Today explores the debate more deeply, and he argues that pushing contraceptives undermines the church's higher calling. He writes:
There may be no easy answers to these problems. And the most convenient—advocating for contraception for sexually active single people in our churches—may temporarily reduce abortions. Yet whatever good consequences it might have do not mitigate the fact that such advocacy will inevitably further engrain into our communities the broken understanding of sex and community that is at the heart of our predicament.
To those who say contraception is a means of preventing evil not unlike installing filtering software on one's web browser, Anderson strongly disagrees. He says, "Contrast the person who buys a contraceptive with the fellow who needs an internet filter. In the latter case, the technological remedy sets up a barrier between him and his addiction. It is not sufficient for repentance, but it might give him a bit more time to think things through. The man who buys a condom, on the other hand, is making certain preparations... Those preparations are not morally neutral: they are an act which inclines the will in a particular direction."
Anderson recognizes that contraception may well reduce unplanned pregnancies and abortions, but in the process the church will be abandoning its moral authority in matters of sexual abstinence. He calls for the church to maintain it's culturally unpopular position even if it results in more abortions or teen mothers. It is a tension between the practical and the ideal; between the highest good and a lesser evil.
- Tablet and PDF editions of every issue
- Web exclusives and archives on Leadership Journal.net