Oh Mr. Gothard!

As you probably noticed, my computer glitched and posted my weekly Friday post on Wednesday. Oops! If you haven’t read that post, CTBHHM: The Question of Birth Control, feel free to do so now. For today, I’m going to turn to some of Bill Gothard’s thoughts on procreation, drawing from his Advanced Seminar Textbook. Trust me, it’s ever bit as good as Debi!

What would we have lost if Jesse had had a smaller family? If Jesse had had one less child, David would not have been born. Jesse had eight sons. If he would have decided that seven sons were enough, we would be deprived of the Psalms and key portions of the Old Testament. Jesse’s eighth son was David. How would we have been affected if Jacob had had a smaller family? If Rachel had had one less child, Paul would not have been born. Jacob had twelve sons. If he would have decided that his family was complete after eleven sons, the apostle Paul would not have been born. Paul was a descendant of Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin.

Okay, so, I was conceived before my parents got married. They were already engaged and had a date set, so they moved the date up so my mom could still wear the dress. But now, every time I read things like Gothard’s statements here, I remember my own conception—If my parents had not had premarital sex, I would not have been born. This clearly means we should endorse premarital sex, right? I mean, it’s the same logic! If A had happened (or not happened), X would not have been born.

But that’s the problem with this logic, isn’t it? My grandmother miscarried her first pregnancy, and then quickly conceived. If my grandmother had not miscarried, my uncle would never have been conceived. Should we be grateful for that miscarriage? Someone (I forget who) once told me that her grandparents would not have met if not for the Holocaust. Should we be grateful, then, for the Holocaust?

This if/then/therefore logic is flawed because it breaks down into absurdity.

Absurd or not, this sort of logic is used to convince people to have child after child after child, whether they want a big family or not. If you don’t have another child, you might prevent a world leader or brilliant musician from existing! Then we would never have those treaties or that music! The conclusion seems to be that you should have as many children as possible, to ensure that you’re not accidentally preventing someone from existing.

But wait! There’s more!

What if I had waited three months to conceive Sally, instead of conceiving her when I did? I would have a child around the same age today, but it would be a completely different child. I will never meet that child, because I prevented her conception by conceiving Sally. I may have prevented the conception of the child who would grow up to cure cancer, for all I know! But then, if I’d waited and conceived that child, I would not have conceived Sally. Oh the dilemmas!

Can you see how ridiculous this is?

Let’s look at the next section before we call it quits:

Selfish reasons for not having children include: 

Are you ready for this? It’s going to be good, I promise!

1. We will lose our freedom. 

Couples with larger families have experienced more freedom than others have imagined. As the first children grow older and are properly trained, they assume many responsibilities in assisting the parents to care for the younger ones. Susanna Wesley, for example, was to have two hours a day of undistracted time in private devotions while the older children taught and cared for the younger.

Parenting a large family isn’t hard, because at that point you can just hand the parenting over to your older children! See! Easy! Except that I remember being on the receiving end of this, and it’s not actually all that easy for either parent or child. Even when parents outsource the parenting of the younger children, they still have a ton of responsibility on their shoulders, and yes, this limits their freedom. I’ve seen the weight of responsibility of large families drive parents to depression. And then, speaking from the perspective of one of the older children, all of that childcare and cleaning and cooking and laundry cuts down on the time available to study, hang out with friends, or just have fun.

2. We cannot afford them. 

God pays for the things He orders, and He delights to hear the prayers of children for their daily needs. The testimony of God’s faithfulness in providing for any size family is given in Psalm 37:25: “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, or begging for bread.”

Oh so that’s why Christians never struggle with poverty. Oh wait. They do.

As children get older, the potential for home industry is significant, especially in our computer age. Many sons and daughters have more than earned their own way by developing productive skills.

So wait. Gothard is flat-out endorsing exploiting children for their labor, and not just for constant childcare or housework either. Wow. I’ve rarely seen this stated so explicitly.

3. The wife will lose her physical attractiveness. 

When God’s guidelines of proper nutrition, Biblical fasting and abstinence, and other proper health measures are followed, God renews our youth like the eagle’s. (See Psalm 103:5.)

And if you do lose your beauty, you clearly must not be godly enough.

4. They might rebel against us. 

By training up sons and daughters to be mighty in spirit and removing them from the destructive influence of peer dependence through home education, parents are able not only to avoid rebellion, but to enjoy the fellowship of their children as they grow spiritually.

See! See! I told you! These leaders promise parents that if they homeschool their children and raise them just so, they will not have to deal with rebellion. And then when they do have a child rebel—like me!—they’re not even sure what to do, because they were promised that wouldn’t happen. What went wrong? How did the child end up defective? Not cool, people, not cool.

5. They will grow up in an evil world (Noah). 

Our world has become as evil as it was in the days of Noah. (See I Peter 3:20.) Yet Noah had a family and through the help of his three sons, he was able to escape the judgment of God upon the wickedness of his day.

I’m not even sure what to say to this one.

6. The world is overpopulated. 

This destructive myth has already been discussed and refuted.

In an earlier section, Gothard argued that India does not suffer hunger because of overpopulation but rather because they have two hundred million “sacred cows” that go around eating up all the food so there is not enough left for the people. He also states that “The alarmists who use statistics to try to prove that there is a population problem fail to account for God’s judgement on nations that violate His principles.” He then talks about the importance of avoiding contact with the wicked, which rather makes it sound like he doesn’t like foreign aid, since countries with famines are (presumably) just being judged by God.

7. There may be medical complications. 

It is not wise to make decisions on the basis of probability. God deals with us as individuals, and He delights to show His power to those who obey His commandments. ” . . . No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

If complications do come, God will give grace for them. However, many complications can be avoided by proper knowledge and careful discipline.

So which is it? Does God save his children from pregnancy complications, or does he give them grace to handle pregnancy complications? It really can’t be both at once. Either way, Gothard is throwing around some pretty big promises here, and echoing Debi Pearl’s willingness to laugh in the face of pregnancy complications and female medical problems.

So, there you have it. Have lots of children because otherwise you might be preventing the birth of a future author or evangelist, have your older children raise their younger siblings, ask them to do their part for the family budget, and seriously, you’re worried about medical complications? Ha!

I do have a question for Gothard. Why is it that he never married or had children? Is he not at all concerned about the dozen or so children he prevented from being born by not marrying? Or are his rules only for other people, and not for him?

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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