I can’t remember exactly who said it, what exactly was said, or even what the context was; but sometime in the late 1990’s something hit the news about it being the duty of all married Christians to procreate.
I know it was the late 1990’s because I remember where my wife and I were living at the time and we only lived in that flat for 3 years. I also remember raising this issue on a Christian newsgroup at the time, this was in the days before internet forums and blogs became the method by which opinions were discussed and recounted.
The source of this statement must have come from the Church of England, because it wouldn’t have hit theUKnews headlines if it had come from any other church demonization. A brief internet search has failed to find the source, but then searching for anything over ten years old on the internet is practically impossible these days.
At this time, my wife and I had been married for about 5 years, were childless through choice and were both very involved in our local church. I was involved in the youth work and my wife both the youth work and the worship group. Our commitments were to a level that would have been impossible if we had children.
Its unfortunate that I don’t remember exactly what was being reported on because that information would be helpful now in putting my reaction into context. What I do remember is not very much balance in the response of the Christian leadership that was interviewed on this story. They all seemed to make an effort downplay the potential offence of this dictum, while not actually saying it was a wrong thing to say. At least that’s my memory of the story, and it could by that my position at the time was slightly biased.
For me, the biggest issue was that it was not the message I had received from any of the churches I attended and no one I knew personally backed up this message. However, what was also clear, looking around me, was that my wife and I were most certainly in a minority, being married for so long and still being childless.
Offended, hurt and upset
I found the statements, as reported on the news, upsetting. How dare these religious leaders dictate how I should live my life when they know nothing of the context of my life. I also could not reconcile the instruction to procreate with any passage in the Bible. Yes there are passages about having children, but there was no insinuation that a marriage without children was an incomplete marriage.
I brought up my feelings on the Christian newsgroup I frequented, I remember it being a specificallyUKfocused one, but in reality I can’t be certain how many of the posters were actuallyUKbased orUKnationals.
In my post of complaint I recounted how my wife and I were devout and how we both enjoyed making ourselves available to the church and how we served it lovingly. The decision to have (or not have) children had not been made, we were simply enjoying the life we had as a couple and the available we had to our church, which would be much more limited if we’d had children.
The responses I got were even more hurtful. This is the only time I can honestly say that I have been hurt, upset and offended by the Christian community; the fact that it was over something so personal made it doubly worse. I think of the many people on that list, only two made a positive comment back to me, one describing our attitude and ‘lovely’, the rest backed up the premise that as married Christians, my wife and I had a duty to bring children into the world.
I have no idea if the on-line Christian culture at the time was mainly from the more is fundamental Christian or if this really was what the mainstream believed and I had simply missed it. Either way, it deepened my feelings of betrayal by those who I felt should have been understanding and supportive.
Still a dedicated Christian
In hindsight its easy to point to this event as a starting point in my move away from Christianity and in the narrative of this blog it probably gives that impression. The truth is, I don’t think that’s the case. That point was almost 10 years away still. What this event did do for me was form a distrust of entertaining on-line Christian discussions. It wouldn’t be long before I abandoned using that particular newsgroup altogether and I didn’t actively engage in any other Christian resources after that.