Roman Baptist Convention, Part Five…

I had originally intended to post the full and final conclusion to my multi-part series on the eery similarities between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Roman Catholic Church. Upon returning home this evening, however, I realized that the post was far too lengthy. So I am breaking the final points up into three posts, scheduled for tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow evening. For starters, please read

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

And now for the next installation:

7. Eccentric and perhaps repressive views on birth control and “family planning.”

When it comes to birth control, Southern Baptists have yet to find our center. On the one hand, we are a convention frustrated by the diminishing returns of our attempts to reach the under-40 generation. Most in this generation have grown up, gone to college, entered the workforce, and delayed the bonds of holy matrimony until later in life.

The majority from that demographic who still identify as Southern Baptists are from two-income families with rarely more than two children. They are Sunday-morning only Baptists, and their children are more likely to be involved in many more extra-curriculars than the Baptist youth group. Their parents have lived the hard reality of college preparation: competitive admissions have driven college-bound students to market themselves with every possible social, athletic, and community service activity possible.

Their parents have used birth control without hesitance. Southern Baptist youth who grew up in the 1980s are unashamedly pro-life, but they don’t think of contraception as a pro-life issue. Of course, like the Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist laity are not necessarily a good indicator of what the “official position” is on any issue. If you want to know what Southern Baptists believe, ask the laymen. If you want to know what Southern Baptists are supposed to believe, ask the clergy.

While the greater likelihood is that Southern Baptists — for the most part — use birth control and “plan their families,” some in the denominational magisterium have escalated their ideological war against contraception.

First, you have the president of Southern Seminary, Al Mohler, arguing for the moral repugnance of contraception. In an article for the New York Times Magazine, Mohler is quoted as saying:

“I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill.” And later: “I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation.”

Second, you have Dorothy Patterson, who in a recent article on contraception had this to say:

“…Replacing the natural with the artificial has a history of consequences that are anything but beneficial–monstrosities, deformities, deficiencies, modern medicine and science—[and] the world shows an unwillingness to learn from the past.”

And then:

“To refuse to accept life in the womb is to violate God’s very purpose for the womb, i.e., receiving, nourishing, and protecting fetal life.”

Southern Seminary Dean Russell Moore believes that Southern Baptists’ lower baptism numbers might be explained by our openness to contraception. Liberal theology, Moore argues, goes hand-in-hand with declining birthrates.

While I was a student at Southeastern Seminary, a professor and seminary administrator caused a buzz across campus every semester when he would launch into his rants and tirades about birth control. At one point, he even explained his own “repentance” of his wife having used “artificial means” to conceive their only child. Fortunately, this professor found his exit from seminary employ soon after Paige Patterson’s departure.

I’m not trying to suggest that Southern Baptists should use birth control, though I must admit a certain cynical side that could wish that some of the brethren’s parents had. Neither am I suggesting that Southern Baptists should not use birth control, because that same cynical side could wish that some of the brethren will.

All I’m suggesting is that Southern Baptists must come to terms with the fact that narrowing views on these areas are consistent with narrowing trends nurtured in other areas of convention life. Beliefs and practices once regarded as beyond our confessional and cooperative concern are increasingly brought to the center of our Baptist identity. We should not be surprised, therefore, if our convention is asked very soon to turn our prophetic witness against condoms, sponges, diaphragms, vasectomies, and tubal ligations. And nevermind the fact that there’s more rubber in the married housing of a Southern Baptist seminary than there is in a Michelin plant.

And while I’m on the subject, it bothers me that few people seem willing to admit that Southern Baptist women aren’t the only ones taking pills to exercise a little more “control” over their bodies and their sex lives. Viagra and Cialis – I’m willing to bet – have made quite a profit off of the Southern Baptist Convention. Whether or not we’ll get an encyclical from Dorothy Patterson assessing the ethical questions raised by those pills has yet to be seen.

11 thoughts on “Roman Baptist Convention, Part Five…

  1. the issue, bottom line, is “does it cause abortions?” if it does then I can’t see how we can support it…in fact, if it does, I can’t see how we shouldn’t condemn its use. if it does not, cause abortions, however, well, then it certainly should be left the conscious of the believer.

  2. Fox:

    The arguments about birth-control are not only about the pill. There is a culture being nurtured in the Southern Baptist Convention that thinks sex minus the procreative potential is immoral. Expect a resolution on onanism very soon. :)


  3. Ben,

    Times have changed. Years ago children were $$ because they worked in the family business or farm for free. Now children will cost $$. I love mine to death but I couldn’t afford anymore.

  4. Actually I was in a class at a Baptist seminary in which the professor taught against birth control. He said kids are a blessing and not a curse, we should not worry about our financial situation when considering how many kids we should have, and that we should trust God because he will give us the amount of kids we should have.

  5. Oh one note of clarification. In the above comment I was not saying that the teaching I received in that class was the teaching of the seminary I attended. In fact another professor taht I spoke to about it was not in favor of such teaching. However I am not saying it is not either. I am just saying that I had one class at the seminary where one prof. spoke against birth control.

  6. I always found Exodus 21:22-23 to be disturbing to my pro-life sensibilities.

    The NIV cleans it up, by saying “she gives birth prematurely.” However, if you notice the note, it aparantly can be read as “she has a miscarriage.”

    So, if I’m reading this correctly, if the unborn child dies, thru a miscarriage; then the offending party needs to pay a fine. If the woman dies, the the offending party suffers the penalty for murder…aka, he looses his life. I would like it better if the offending party looses his life for “murdering” the unborn child. But, scripture just doesn’t seem to have it that way.

    Since this is the only scripture that I can find which speaks directly to the death of an unborn child…what am I supposed to be able come out of it with?


  7. man…I think it is immoral to separate procreation form recreation…I don’t think God ever intended ‘family planning’ or any other such nonsense…if you’re not ready for kids then you are not ready for sex/marriage in my always articulate yet humble opinion…I really do believe that…BUT…I’m not ok with passing some kind of resolution against it for crying out loud! when will see that just because you win a battle does not mean the war is being one…good grief!

    the only way I could justify such a resolution would be if it can be demonstrated that the pill or any other form of birth control causes an abortion…then it leaves a gray area and enters the black and white.

  8. Your pastoral duties are really cutting into your blog time. What’s up with that? We were supposed to have two more posts by now … or so the intro to this post says. Really, those Parkview people take up too much of your time, if you keep taking care of widows instead of writing about SBC convention matters, it is seriously going to hurt your tough guy rep.

  9. I may get in trouble for this, but it’s important to note that an obsession with controlling women’s reproductive systems and considering sex only as a means for procreation is characteristic of almost every fundamentalist movement around the world. And of the Mormons.

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