The Holy Spirit and Birth Control

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the giver of life….

Either every conception is given by God, or it’s not. Then it’s just a random biological coincidence. In the former case, we have no right to meddle with it and should just accept, and if it is the latter case, we should be sensible & responsible and plan it all carefully.

I get the latter view–it is really easy to slip into. But there is a certain…. pragmaticness to it that ferments into a vague despair.

Once you start treating human beings as coincidences, as mistakes, as something other than the direct & personal creation of God himself… Than each human person’s existence is no longer the act of a specific divine intervention. And then… well, maybe some of us shouldn’t have existed in the first place….

And then the despair creeps in. The world becomes duller. If the Godhead does not reside in the human person, then where is it anyway?

I’m not saying it is this way for everyone. But in my own mind, that is how it works. Once I start thinking in the Malthusian, birth-control mode (and yes, I have), I feel myself full of a subtle but creeping despair. It is a kind of grey cloud, that obscures the meaning in this universe itself.

I remember reading a Presbyterian preacher’s book on marriage. He said couples must practice birth control, because, kids are like apples–you need to prune the branch of the buds, so that you get a few big juicy apples rather than a ton of small hard ones. There was something about that outlook that made the junior high me sad. So human beings have to be budgeted for quality. The world became a dry small place, all dusty supermarkets with flickering flourescent lights where we had to pull out the coupons and have no one but ourselves to turn to. Stressed, cramped, calculated. Where you buy your water in plastic jugs from the store. It does not rain out of the heavens, freely falling from God’s hands.

It isn’t that there isn’t a “middle ground” where plenty of religious folk dwell, balancing God with their own budgeting. But it’s a shifting sand. It’s not a stable middle ground. The only two systems that have an inner emotional logic to them are that either (1) every human being who exists is a specific act of divine intervention and thus irrationally, overwhelmingly matters, or (2) our existences are little biological mistakes, and maybe we shouldn’t be here at all, and who knows if this all matters at all and God fades into some passive, distant Deity, where we are left to our own smarts to stave off world hunger and make people nice to eachother. If He isn’t personally responsible for each of our existences, then what kind of distant, apathetic, impersonal God is He anyway? Fate? Karma?

To have hope about this world, about people, about my own life — I need to keep believing that God is in this: that no one is an accident, that every human existence is necessary, is wanted, is beloved, is planned by a personal God.


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