CTBHHM: The Question of Birth Control

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 247—248

Debi starts this section with a letter:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Pearl,

Our family is in despair. I have stood on the promises of God against all counsel, and it appears it was not enough. I have six children and one on the way. My husband told me if I got pregnant again, he would leave me and I would never hear from him again. I guess he meant it. We have not heard from him for three months, and he left us without any means of support.

My oldest two boys were caught stealing bad magazines at the local country store last month. They are only 10 and 11 years old! This is not hte first time the boys have been in trouble with the law. Since the Child Protection Services got involved, the neighbors have come forward ocmplaining about my other children running wild and unsupervised. It is just because I homeschool. It is like the Devil will not be satisfied until he steals them away!

I thought my husband was a good man when we married. He worked hard and went to church and loved choir. I was careful to marry a man whom my parents approved of. Right form the first, he said he only wanted two kids at most. He is not very tolerant and cannot stand noise or mess. It was fine with me until I heard from the Lord in the sweetest way about how precious littel children are to the Lord. I knew I could not use birth control any more when I learned how many of the so-called birth control methods cause murder! I begged my hsuband to listen to the Lord and consider his seed, but every time I got wiht child he seemed more distant and more remote. He went for months wihtout having intercourse with me, and I think he just did not want another child! How could a man who says he is saved leave his own family? I love all my sweet babies. I truly believed my husband would repent.

I need help. Except for the state, I have no income and no one to protect me and my precious children. Where do I go from here? How can God have forsaken us? All I ever wanted to do was obey him. Please pray for us. If you have any counsel or place where we could go to find a sure refuge, please write me soon.

Diana

I have no idea whether this is a real letter or whether Debi wrote it herself to illustrate her point, but I can say that these things do happen. Quiverfull is actually more a women’s movement than a men’s movement—it was founded by a woman and it is generally the women who become convicted of going without birth control, and who then convince their husbands. This actually isn’t surprising, as it spreads in a culture that already severely limits women’s options, and it offers power and influence through one of the things women are allowed to do—procreation and childrearing.

Debi begins her response by talking about what a blessing children are and praising big families:

God tells us in I Timothy 5:14, “I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” It is clearly the will of God for young women to get married and have children.

Oh dear. This is wrong.

First, Debi gives the King James Version’s translation of this verse, which is actually a bad translation of the Greek. When translated accurately, the verse says this:

So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.

The verse comes in a passage talking about widows who pledge themselves to the service of the church and receive a stipend in return. It seems some of the younger widows were not content leading that life, and that this was creating some trouble. Therefore, the author of Timothy suggests that these widows should remarry rather than dedicating themselves to the service of the church.

Here’s another passage, this one from I Corinthians 7:

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

The Bible does not, in fact, state that it is God’s will for young women to marry and have children. In fact, at several points in the New Testament writers suggest that not marrying is preferable. The New Testament, which was written over the course of nearly a hundred years by a variety of individuals, seems to waffle a bit on this, but it absolutely does not say what Debi says it does. This is actually one of my ongoing beefs with Debi—for someone supposedly so devoted to the Bible, she’s constantly twisting or misinterpreting it, or even flat out lying about what it says.

And with that, we return to Debi:

There is nothing more precious to my husband and me than our five children. They are all married adults and are now having their own children. When I hear little feet running in the house and hear the glad call, “Big Papa . . . Mama Pearl,” my heart just melts with joy and gladness. When I see my children carefully training their little ones to cheerfully obey, or when I see the light in their eyes as they hand me their newest baby, it stirs a deep well of pleasure. God tells us in III John 4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” I hope all my children have a house full of children. My husband says, “I would like to hold forty grandchildren on my lap before I become just an occasional memory in a three-dollar picture album.”

I know we haven’t gotten there yet, but Debi is going to tell Diana that she should have obeyed her husband. Obeying her husband would have meant having only two children. Why, then, include this part praising the benefit of having five, eight, or more children? Debi’s basically telling Diana that having a large family is wonderful, but that too bad she shouldn’t have because her husband said not to. That does not seem very compassionate to me.

We have noticed that big families are more likely to produce children who are emotionally stable and less self-centered, with a better-than-average probability of growing up to be dependable, balanced adults. The most selfish people I have known were an only child, or a last child who came along ten years behind the other children and grew up like an only child.

Actually, there used to be a lot of concern about only children, but then actual research was conducted and it seems they turn out just fine. I suspect that in this case Debi’s predetermined ideas about only children may influence how she interacts with the world around her—she will likely remember a selfish act by a friend who is an only child, but overlook the selfish act of another friend because it does not fit into the structure she has built. This is called “confirmation bias.”

I know that I grew as a person with the birth and training of each of my children. The burden of caring for a child, worrying, praying, and training them will cause maturity in young mothers and fathers.

It is true that many people grow through parenting, but I think it is dangerous to say this without also pointing out that people should not have children until they feel they are ready for children. Some people treat their children badly, and are very selfish parents. For these individuals, parenting clearly did not grow them or make them become more mature.

Without children, teenage brides often remain immature, with little thought about the needs of others.

And here is Debi’s endorsement of teenage marriage and teenage childbearing! And note the overt suggestion that having a baby somehow makes a person’s immaturity disappear. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have this thing called “child neglect.”

Husband and wives are not always in agreement on this issue of family size. Sometimes, as in the letter above, husbands express to their wives that they do not want to have a great number of children. His wife takes what she sees as the high ground in believing that using birth control (a form that does not abort a fertilized egg) or spacing their children through careful planning is not trusting God.

This actually touches me very personally. My father, you see, was ready to be done having children before my mother was. My father said there was too much noise, there were too many children, there was too much responsibility. He said he needed to call it quits for the sake of his sanity. My mother told him that he needed to trust God more, that He would take care of them and provide.

When Eve sinned, God cursed her with multiplied conception—having more babies more often—with a few miscarriages along the way. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorry and thy conception” Genesis 3:16.

Here, again, using the King James Version means that Debi doesn’t have an accurate view of what the original Hebrew says. Here is more accurate translation:

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe.”

God did not in fact curse Eve with “multiplied conception.” He only cursed her with painful childbirth.

Diana refused to follow her husband’s leading, essentially becoming the head of the household on this one issue. When a woman takes what she believes is the high ground (as Eve did) and disobeys her husband, that woman is blaspheming (speaking evil of) the Word of God. There is no command in Scripture concerning family size, only the strong promise of God to bless the “man” whose quiver is full of children. God clearly states that the man is the head and that a woman is to submit to her own husband.

My mother believed that it was her duty to submit to my father. She cried and cried over it. She talked about the children she wanted to have but would never be able to have. But in the end, she submitted to my father. And that, dear readers, is why there are only 12 children in my family.

Interestingly, my mother went to an Above Rubies conference not long after this, and the women there were very impressed by how many children she had, and praised her up and down as such a wonderful example. But then they asked her if she was open to more children, and she told them that no, they were done. The women at the conference turned against her after that. My mother talked to me about it afterwards, and told me that it was wrong for them to treat her that way, because women must submit to their husbands first, just like the Pearls say.

Anyway, back to Debi:

I have no answer for Diana, whose husband left her with an overflowing quiver of children to rear alone. There is no sure refuge for all the families who have split over this issue—and judging from the vast amount of letters like this that we receive, there are many. I can only tell her that God did not forsake her; she forsook God, his written word, and his clearly spelled-out plan for a woman. This is what happens when the Word of God is blasphemed.

Yep, Debi definitely isn’t being very nice to Diana. Remember how Debi earlier talked up and down about how wonderful large families are? Now she’s telling Diana she forsook God by having a large family. Then why bother talking about how wonderful having large families is, rather than talking about how wonderful it is to have exactly the number of children your husband wants you to have?

On occasion, it will be the wife who hesitates having more children. She is usually concerned with her health. This issue looms large in a woman’s mind, but is really minor compared to eternal issues. In any event, the answer is the same. The husband is the head. He decides, although the woman is free to appeal (not nag) to her husband to reconsider.

You’re worried about your health, Debi asks? Get over yourself!

Seriously though, this is part of why Michelle Duggar kept having children even after doctors told her it was becoming dangerous. There are actually some in this movement who describe women who die in childbirth as martyrs. Yes, that is exactly how much value individuals like Debi put on women’s health—exactly none.

A woman stands before God for her willingness to honor her husband; a man’s place is one of much greater gravity. He will stand before God for the way he has led his family and the decisions he has made. Be thankful you are a woman with an uncomplicated, clear-cut command.

Oh, lucky women! Our job is so easy—just obey! Poor poor men, with all those big hard decisions to make!

I mock this idea, but I once shared it. I remember telling my brother how bad I felt for him, because he would have to be responsible and make big decisions and take the fall if something went wrong, while I would never have to do any of those things—my husband would. Life is sure simpler that way, but it comes at a price—obedience in all things. That’s not a price that’s worth paying.

So, there you have it—Debi Pearl on birth control. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. So far this book can be boiled down to exactly four words: Obey your husband, always. Listening to God on your own—or forming your own ideas apart from any divinity—is not allowed.

Note: I have no idea how this happened, but my computer burped and posted Friday’s post—this one—today (Wednesday). Since you all jumped right in and started commenting, I’m leaving it up! When my computer burped, though, it also unpublished the post about social services that I had already posted, and then put the 12 comments it already had here. I have literally no idea how in the world that could have happened, but it did. I found my social services post in my drafts folder and just posted it, and it posted without those twelve comments. It seems they are stuck over here. Please carry out further conversation on the social services issue on that post rather than here so that this space can be used for discussing the CTBHHM birth control post. Thanks!

CTBHHM: What "Companionship" Means in Pearl World
CTBHHM: Blessings and Vessels
CTBHHM: Playing Telephone with God
CTBHHM: Why Was Marian's Husband So Loving?
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


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