Russell Shorto contributes the cover article for The New York Times Magazine this week — and his article is sure to attract attention and controversy. In “Contra-Contraception,” he looks at the emerging discussion and debate over birth control and sexuality among American evangelicals, among others.
Mr. Shorto cites me in his article, and he raises some very important issues. I will return to those issues in coming days. In the meantime, read his article.
Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, explains the evolution of modern evangelical thought on contraception this way: “When the pill came out, evangelicals were very much a part of mainstream American culture, and like others they saw technology as a gift. There was a vaccine to fight polio. The pill was seen in the same light. I think evangelicals thought, Catholics can’t use it, but we can: aren’t we lucky?”
But then, from this perspective, the pill began to do terrible damage. “I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill,” Mohler continued. “It became almost an assured form of contraception, something humans had never encountered before in history. Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation.”
That may be a distinctly minority position, but some who work in the public health field acknowledge that the social conservatives have a point. “I think the left missed something in the last couple of decades,” says Sarah Brown, president of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which positions itself as a moderate voice in the heated world of reproductive politics. “With the advent of oral contraception, I think there was this great sense that we had a solution to the problem of unintended pregnancy. But that is a medical model. I think the thing that was missed was that sex and pregnancy and relationships aren’t just a health issue. They are really about family and gender and religion and values. And what the right did was move in and say we’re not just talking about body parts.”