Well, it’s not a line item on our church budget called “Pastor family planning fund” or anything like that. So you can breathe now. But my health insurance through the United Methodist Church is what pays for my wife and me to have our IUD that keeps us from having more babies. And I think it’s time someone named the fact that family planning is a legitimate part of the equation of Christian sexual ethics rather than always being a demonic conspiracy against God’s will for humanity. Birth control is part of how my wife and I try to be faithful stewards of our bodies and our relationship for the sake of both our family and the ministry to which God has called each of us.
I’m very attracted to Roman Catholic theology for a lot of reasons. The Roman church’s theology of the body is derived in a lot of principles I agree with: a sacramental understanding of human existence, an affirmation of God’s sovereignty over against modernist individualism, a suspicion of the worship of science. At the end of the day though, I’m a pragmatist. My wife and I are at the age where we would risk having a child with serious health problems if we did not use birth control. We would receive a child like that as a blessing from God and love him or her with all our hearts, but it would result in our relative lack of availability for ministry beyond our family, which is why having an IUD is appropriate stewardship for us.
When you have two very active, socially demanding little boys, conjugal intimacy is something that happens when it can. In other words, when neither of you are sick and neither of the kids are, when the laundry and dishes are actually dealt with before midnight, when you got enough sleep the night before that you’re not exhausted after putting the kids to bed, when you’re not so buried in the blogosphere that you’ve forgotten how to be romantic (doh!), when you get around to replacing the doorknob on your bedroom door that you had to uninstall because it was sticking. Realities like these don’t lend themselves to keeping tabs on a biological calendar as the means of avoiding pregnancy. I respect people who use the natural family planning approach the same way I respect people who have never fed their children fast food and who have never used the television as a babysitter. As the Yardbirds sang, “Mister, you’re a better man than I.”
In any case, because I work for the United Methodist Church instead of Hobby Lobby or Wheaton College or a Catholic hospital, my wife and I are able to do the thing that makes our marriage worshipful without having to add another calendar to keep track of. And if our insurance didn’t pay for birth control, we would have enough money to pay for it out of pocket. But not everyone is as lucky as I am. What about a woman who works for minimum wage washing the linens at Georgetown hospital? Let’s call her Maria.