Tied Up in Our Own Preferences
While the contemporary ability to determine one's family size is heralded as a mark of Western progress, that freedom carries with it moral and spiritual responsibility. Some branches of Christendom (most notably, the Catholic Church) have well-documented doctrinal positions about issues of reproductive technology and artificial means of birth control, many in the evangelical world default to silence on the issue of permanent sterilization.
When Hobby Lobby and others made headlines for seeking exemption from the Affordable Care Act on religious grounds, most of the coverage and conversation focused on birth control pills and abortion, though some businesses also opposed the sterilizaton requirements. Vasectomies and tubal ligations were an afterthought, if they were mentioned at all.
As an antidote to evangelicals' silence on the issue, I am not in any way advocating that church leaders direct couples about the number and spacing of their children. Instead, I see the value in coming alongside couples in search of godly wisdom in sharing stories and being willing to explore in prayer what God may be asking of them.
As Susanne Burden suggested in the recent Her.meneutics post When We Close Our Wombs, churches should "offer safe spaces for individuals to discuss the theological and personal reasons for ending our reproductive years." I wish my husband and I could have been a part of such a conversation when we were considering permanent sterilization ...1