Birth Control: The Marriage Killer
Got any friends getting married soon? If your answer is yes, I’m willing to bet that the couple have been together a long time. I say this because the average age of marriage is much higher than it used to be. It’s not uncommon, even amongst Christian couples (who have incentives to be married sooner, you would think), to date for three, four and even five years before ever getting engaged. Around pagans it’s worse. In my experience, young secular people are hardly getting married at all.
Who Killed Marriage?
Whether it’s pagans first or Christians lagging behind them, we as a society don’t value marriage as highly as we used to. What is the reason for this?
Marriage is bleeding out on the floor. Who is holding the smoking gun?
If you live in Brisbane like me you might be inclined to say sky high house prices are to blame. Nobody wants to bring the new wife home to mum’s basement. Its seem like a faux pas today, but multi-generational living never hampered marriage in the past; and in fact it was the norm up until the industrial revolution.
Perhaps the killer is is pornography. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk online for free? We’re getting closer, but porn is simply the decay moving into marriage’s corpse. Somebody had to do the dirty work before porn moved in.
Alas, the killer is much more innocent appearing than porn. He is not preached about in pulpits, we don’t warn our children about him and he lives unsuspected in many faithful Christian households.
He comes in many forms; latex, a little pill and even devices that live in your body for years at a time. His name is Birth Control and he holds the smoking gun. He is the marriage killer.
The Great Sex Switch
It’s the great sex switch. Birth control has totally changed the way we think about sex. Before birth control, every act of sexual intercourse could plausibly result in a pregnancy. To this day, pregnancy makes women vulnerable and requires them to be given some level of care. Sure, prostitutes and harlots existed in the past, but it still stands that going through pregnancy and birth alone is a very rough time. So then, if you were a woman living in a time before birth control you could only afford to have sex with a man who was committed to caring for you and any potential offspring.
Boom. We’ve just invented marriage by mere necessity without so much as opening the bible. What’s more, sex has such gravity to it because it creates life. To borrow a metaphor from Toby J. Sumpter, sex is (or was) a nuclear reactor that creates human souls that will live forever.
Five Words That Change the World
It is a subtle change: Sex results in children (when I feel like it).
Those fine words in parentheses have utterly transformed society. With no possibility of a child attached to sex there is no reason a woman’s sex partner need to committed to caring for her and certainly no reason that a partner should be one man for life. The practical reasons for marriage have melted away before our very eyes. Sex is now just a fun activity to do with other consenting parties.
You can see this is why pornography is not the root cause of the issue, only a symptom. Porn could not be as prolific as it is without birth control. A society that held sex in reverence, as the soul creating nuclear reactor, would never stand for porn. How could this beautiful life giving act of the utmost intimacy be so trivialised by being but on a screen for a stranger’s pleasure?
So clearly pagans aren’t marrying because there are now no obvious reasons to. But why are christians delaying marriage? We have a better understanding of marriage than the world because we have been given the Word of God in the Bible, yet the marriage drought has still hit us.
Conception: My Guardian Angel
At the time of writing this, I am engaged. (All going well) we will be married 1 year and 5 days after our first date. We have made the commitment not to use any form of birth control in our marriage apart from natural family planning which we have left open to use if necessary.
I am a fallen man like everybody else and so I have sexual temptations just like everybody else. I happen to be quite attracted to my fiancee so sometimes my mind asks the question, “why can’t we just have sex now?” After all, we are getting married very soon and we are very committed to each other, so why do we have to wait until the wedding night?
The very first thought that comes into my mind is not ‘because God said no,’ or any other lofty theological reason. The first thought is ‘no, we could get pregnant and she has a wedding dress to fit into.’ Don’t get me wrong, ‘God said no’ is a good enough reason for me. Nevertheless, risk of pregnancy is a very practical guard against sin that I am very thankful for.
I can only imagine how much greater the temptation would be if my fiance were on some sort of hormonal birth control now, in order to make sure it has kicked in by our wedding.
An Open Secret?
In every church community I’ve spent time in, very long periods of dating are the norm. Asking questions about this norm is awkward for me because at my age of 22, many of my friends are the very people who are in these prolonged dating relationships. I think it is time for pastors to start asking some tricky but valid questions. How chaste exactly is everybody being?
The de facto teaching of the church is that saying ‘I do’ magically tells the testes to start producing testosterone and the man’s sex drive suddenly appears on his wedding night. Don’t think this is true? Take this example.
A Christian couple has been dating for 5 years, has just got engaged and set a wedding date for 10 months in the future. Whats the pervasive assumption? Everyone assumes they are a happy upstanding chaste chaste couple who are never seriously tempted. He’s a good christian, so he won’t find his fiancee sexually desireable until they’re married.
That’s not true though is it? The reality is, assuminmg they have been chaste thus far (and that should be our assumption in a spirit of charity), they are having a tough time! Its not easy having a close companion for years and years and not be able to know them in the ultimate way.
Me and my fiance are waiting for marriage and have been successful thus far, but i’ll tell you: waiting for marriage is difficult! We have put boundaries and measures in place to make this happen and sticking to these has been difficult, annoying and inconvenient. Waiting for marriage is not something you accidentally do.
I dated for 6 months before getting engaged and at the time of writing this first draft have been engaged for 4 months with 2 months approximately until my wedding day. Even in my situation, temptation comes and knocks at my door, how much more for people who have been together for years?
The Death of Marriage
My greatest fear is that people are trapped. Birth control came and turned sex from a nuclear reactor into a fun activity, the church bought the lie, people are now in long term relationships, they’ve stumbled into sin, they don’t want to bring it up out of shame, and pastors are too afraid to ask. There’s no one to help, and there’s no way out. God forbid some have stopped trying to resist.
All is not lost. I’m just some guy so I don’t really have the wisdom to find the solution or the authority to implement it. My prayer, rather, is to promote action from those in spiritual authority, and promote consideration from fellow believers so someone may be able to guide us out of our current culture and pave the way forward.
Yes, birth control killed marriage, but we worship a God who rose from the dead.