Episcopalians vs Islamists

This is more from my hero, Mark Steyn.


Which brings me to our second Jill: the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the first woman to run a national division of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Kate gave an interview to the New York Times revealing what passes for orthodoxy in this most flexible of faiths. She was asked a simple enough question: "How many members of the Episcopal Church are there?"

"About 2.2 million," replied the presiding bishop. "It used to be larger percentage-wise, but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations."

This was a bit of a jaw-dropper even for a New York Times hackette, so, with vague memories of God saying something about going forth and multiplying floating around the back of her head, a bewildered Deborah Solomon said: "Episcopalians aren't interested in replenishing their ranks by having children?"


Birth Control, Youth, & the ipod.

Our 5 week preaching and teaching series continues to bear fruit. This last Sunday night at our High School Youth Group I did a question box night. (We are between Bible Studies.) The week before, they had written out questions and put them in the box, and this Sunday as they arrived more questions went in the box.

I do this about once a year and affording them this opportunity is a blessing to me in return as it acts as a great barometer of the different thoughts, beliefs, and even storms that are moving through their lives. Normally the questions range from the comical and hardly serious, to the dead serious, to the scandalous.

I do preview the questions ahead of time but I give no preference to them. After a quick shuffle of the cards right before the youth I pick one out and we then consider it in the light God’s Word.

This Sunday, the first question I pulled out, and the only one we got to this night was, “What does God/the Bible have to say about Birth Control?”

In the 5 weeks preceding this question we had certainly talked about marriage and procreation, but never at any point did I bring up the topic of Birth Control. Yet our discussion of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood had prompted this question.

We again approached Genesis 3. We looked at Genesis 38 (I presented to them the historic church position on Onanism and the modern interpretation – they were largely unimpressed with the modern interpretation. Of course they also found the concept of a kinsman-redeemer to be quite scandalous). We looked at Malachi 2, Ephesians 5… We talked about the churches historic stance on the topic and the changes within the last 100 years. We considered Humanae Vitae and the Pope’s prophetic predictions concerning the effects of the contraceptive age upon the culture and world at large. We covered a lot of territory and they were very interested in it and very receptive to it.

At one point, one of the youth called for a thumbs up, thumbs down vote – What does God think about birth control? I looked around the room and thumbs were down all around. Interesting.

I thank the Lord for the opportunity to have this discussion with them. As others have noted on this blog - it was one more chance to gently and not coercively or heartlessly bring this before them. It is a beginning, a starting point. There are still discussions to be had. After all, this is the i-pod generation, if I can say that. Where as past generations reinterpreted scripture or even ignored it, I believe I see in this generation that finely honed consumer skill to pick and choose. No longer do you have to buy a whole album of music. Instead, you can simply choose the songs you want…

Thumbs were down all around the room, but the question remains: Will they be moved and normed in their lives by the whole of scripture or will they pick and choose.


Quiverfull Christians in the News

In light of the Roman Catholic dearth of followers of Humanae Vitae reported by Pr. Curtis below, I thought I would point out that the media is picking up on the growing movement among the rest of Christendom against family planning of all types. It seems to be getting a lot of press lately. Granted, some of these people take a works-righteous stand on the issue, but it shows the backlash to the sinful anti-child, feminist, free-love movements of the middle of the last century. Natural Law, the law written on our hearts, tells us family planning is wrong!

Here is a great Newsweek story from Monday: "Making Babies the 'Quiverfull' Way"

And here's one that caricatures the worst of the movement: "Arrows for the War".

Hat tip to fellow LCMS blogger Mollie at Get Religion, where these articles, and her post, Cheaper by the Dozen, are getting some good discussion. (Mollie, an outstanding journalist who just got married this year, has served on the LCMS Board for Communication Services, and the board of Higher Things.)

Four Percent

A word to Lutheran pastors who, like myself, have become convinced that the traditional Lutheran (and universally Christian down to 1930) teaching against contraception is correct: Don't expect super fantastic results when you start preaching and teaching this and don't be discouraged when you don't get them.

The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States are meeting this week in Baltimore. To their credit, the Roman Church has stood steadfast in the traditional Christian teaching regarding contraception (the teaching Luther, Chemnitz, and the Missouri Synod down to the mid-20th century shared with them). As this story details, according to the bishops' own survey, only four percent of American Roman Catholics are living out this teaching.

Four percent! Only one in every twenty-five people who have heard this teaching their whole lives from their church have accepted it. How much "success" should we expect when our folks are probably hearing it for the first time?

So don't be discouraged. Be patient. As opportunity arises teach on the topic slowly. But don't be put off by a slow "conversion rate."



No Red Meat?

Once again we hear of another risk factor for breast cancer. Red meat is just the latest one put forth in the current news reports. What they don't want to talk about is that having more children and nursing them for two years each would likely make this and other risk factors so negligible that they may be ignored.

The relative risk of breast cancer decreases 7.0% for each child born by a woman and by 4.3% for every 12 months of breastfeeding. The incidence of breast cancer in developed countries would be reduced by more than half, from 6.3 to 2.7 per 100 women by age 70, if women even just had the average number of births and lifetime duration of breastfeeding that had been prevalent in developing countries until the middle of the last century. [
Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50,302 women with breast cancer and 96,973 women without the disease - Lancet 2002; 360: 187‑95]

Why is there this benefit to motherhood? Well, first of all I would say because there are earthly consequences to not following God's will. But scientifically, I can tell you that it is because breast cancer is caused by exposure to high levels of estrogen. This happens every month near the end of a woman's period. The more children one has and the longer one breastfeeds them, the fewer periods one has, and therefore the less exposure to the harmful effects of high estrogen levels.

There is an additional benefit to having the first child early in life. When a woman has her first child and breastfeeds that child, the milk-producing cells of her breasts are permanently changed into a more cancer resistant type ("type 3 lobules"). The longer one waits to obtain this important cancer resistance, the longer these more cancer-vulnerable cells are exposed to high estrogen, increasing the risk of cancer later on. And it is these cancer vulnerable cells which are at risk for the factors like a high intake of red meat, etc.

God obviously built in physical consequences to the behavior of delaying and reducing childbearing. Breast cancer used to be considered the "nuns' disease." Now most women avoid children like nuns but don't live like nuns, making themselves not much different than prostitutes. They even increase the levels of estrogen they are exposed to by taking birth control pills that artificially trick the body into thinking it is pregnant, though there is no baby born or nursed. The same damage happens with abortion. These sinful actions actually make the breast tissue more susceptible to cancer than that of a nun by a process that would take more time for me to explain.

These are the real reasons for the epidemic of breast cancer in our modern age, not red meat. Those who delay and reduce childbearing for careers, personal freedom, or whatever reason, are not ever going to entirely reverse the damage they cause to their health simply by avoiding red meat. Likewise, women likely don't need to avoid red meat if they follow God's will and have as many children as he wants to bless them with and nurse them as God provided them the natural ability to. That's not a guarantee that one won't get cancer. Everything in moderation, except childbearing and breastfeeding. In that area of life it's hard to overdo it. Be fruitful and multiply!!!


Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

As a Lutheran pastor who has some thoughts on the topic of the contraception contraceptive age I have often been asked by friends, peers, acquaintances, and protagonists how I go about bringing this into parish life. It is a good and right question to ask and it is one that I have wrestled with since my arrival in parish life. For over two years, the answer to the question has been quite simple yet uncomfortable: I don’t. I haven’t.

Thankfully, Pr. Heath Cutis and Pr. Jon Conner have both offered great materials for use in pre-marrital/marrital counseling. Yet, with as few marriages as take place at the church I now serve this has hardly become any kind of public discourse among the Lord’s people here.

I am glad to say that in recent days I have been blessed to bring the topic before our Sunday morning adult Bible class. Finally, Lutherans and Contraception has gone the way of public ministry!

We have just completed a 5 week preaching and teaching series on 'Biblical Manhood & Womanhood'. It was kicked off when we were blessed to have Dr. Joel Biermann, of Concordia Seminary - St. Louis, come and preach and teach on Genesis 1-3. In the following weeks we meditated on the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary, & Jesus), the Samaritan woman at the well & Ephesians 5, divorce and the Lord's love of Marriage (Mal. 2, Matt. 19, Rev. 22), and more.

What was consistently born over and over was the faithful recognition and reception of Christ, the Bridegroom of us, His Church: Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. What was further rejoiced in and received was the faithful recognition and reception of our roles as Men & Woman as gifts from God - icons - that when lived out under the Cross of Christ - wonderfully icon/image/profess/confess Christ and His Church to the world.

On the last Sunday of the series, during the Adult Bible class, we were wrapping things up. I asked the class what concerning the topic of Biblical Manhood & Womanhood was still a difficult pill to swallow. There was not a large response – thankfully there wasn’t much of any objection to the Good News of Christ the Bridegroom of His Bride the Church.

I simply then asked what the outcome is of Christ and His Church. Offspring, was the reply. Do we ever prevent these offspring? Do we lock the doors on Sunday morning? No. Does the Lord, or do we, contracept the Gospel? No.

We did not spend a great deal of time on this. I then simply shared with them how I struggle with the contraceptive age. I question how healthy it is for the church to take part in and commend such a practice that contradicts the marital union’s mysterious participation in the Gospel itself.

We talked a bit more about it. Certainly I could have said more, and I might have, but I didn’t. It was a beginning. And it was a beginning that was well received because of the groundwork of the four weeks leading up to it. What fruit will it bear? Time will tell. I am, however, excited to report that already there is a women’s Bible Study that wants to take up the topic in their study of the Word.

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!