If I had to pick the number-one aspect of The Act of Marriage that situated it in the 1970s, it would be the LaHaye’s attitude toward birth control and abortion. Namely, that they’re not categorically opposed to either. Let me reiterate: The best-selling protestant Christian evangelical sex manual of the 1970s was not anti-abortion or anti-birth control, even hormonal birth control (aka “The Pill”) which today has so many fundies up in arms.
Tomorrow, I’m going to be posting, verbatim, the passage in which The Act of Marriage takes up the question of abortion. I think it deserves its own post because there’s so much interesting stuff going on vis a vis contemporary abortion politics within it. But for now, we’re going to take a brief look at chapter eleven, “Sane Family Planning,” which deals exclusively with pre-conception solutions for controlling pregnancy while sexually active.
“Almost all Christians today seem to believe in limiting the size of their families” (185)
The LaHayes start out with the observation that, given the number of years the average woman is fertile, the vast majority of Christian couples are self-evidently practicing some sort of family planning strategy. And they do not disapprove — nor do they believe God disapproves. The distinction they make is not between contraception vs. no contraception, but rather between parenting and not-parenting. “Christian couples should, if at all possible, have children, they assert” (183). Intention here matters. If one is delaying childbearing, or spacing out children, or deciding that [ideal number] of children is the limit of persons your family resources can provide for, then this is an acceptable (“sane”?) orientation toward parenting.
What’s not acceptable? Deciding that your ideal number of children = 0.* Because “the chief enemy of personal happiness is self-interest” (185) I’ve honestly never understood how realizing you don’t have the resources (material, emotional, or otherwise) to be a good-enough parent is the selfish route while having little ones because they are “a tangible expression of your [marital love]” or because “children fulfill the psychic design of your mind” (I shit you not!) is the unselfish way to go (183-85). But apparently that’s the truth of things, and who am I to argue with God?**
I lose MAJOR lady-spouse points for this (I figure double ’cause I’m getting hitched to someone who’s completely comfortable with the non-parenting state of affairs. More so than I am, actually. So, you know, clearly I went the way of satanic and self-centered temptation there.
What can I say. She has a really great ass.
IN SUM: Adequate Lady-Spouse Metric Returns!
-20 –> for coming to the conclusion that the answer to the question “how many children does God want me to have?” is “Zero” and
-20 –> for getting myself hitched to a partner who believes this even more strongly than I
-20 –> plus the whole “two eggs can’t make a baby” thing, which is surely a strike against us
+15 –> still, I do agree that human being are a pretty awesome “gift of eternal creativity”
+10 –> and that even couples wanting to create babies should have access to family planning tools
Chapter 11: -35
Chapters 8-10: 0 (n/a)
Chapters 6-7: -62
Chapters 4-5: +30
Chapters 2-3: -33
Chapter 1: -50
Cumulative ALSM Score: -150
* Maths people! What would the equation for that look like … “solve for X if x > 1”?