WORLD Magazine is going to press tonight with our full dispatch and column on the National Association of Evangelicals and its strange bedfellow, but the response to our WORLDmag.com articles already has been strong. (See "The money trail," June 21; "Conflicted," June 22; and "'Threats' and 'changes,'" June 23.)
One of my heroes, Paul Lin, a plastic surgeon I shadowed for an afternoon at an Ethiopian cleft palate clinic (see "Communion with St. Paul,"WORLD, May 31, 2008), sent this note:
"Thank you for reporting on this development with the NAE. I hope the following is beneficial to this discussion. Here's a quote from the fourth paragraph of Pastor [Leith] Anderson's response: 'The Church is understandably reluctant to recommend contraception for unmarried sexual partners, given that it cannot condone extramarital sex. However, it is even more tragic when unmarried individuals compound one sin by conceiving and then destroying the precious gift of life' [from the NAE Board of Directors' Abortion 2010 resolution].
"It might clarify things to substitute in this quote a behavior that doesn't have quite the emotional baggage of sex. I suggest driving as an illustrative behavior, specifically drunk driving. One way to reduce the risk of the drunk driver injuring himself is for him to wear crash garments (like what race car drivers wear): a full-face crash helmet and a flame retardant, body-armor suit/gloves.
"'The Church is understandably reluctant to recommend full racing armor to protect the drunk driver, given that it cannot condone drunk driving. However, it is even more tragic when a drunk driver compounds one sin by crashing and then destroying the precious gift of life.'
"Although protective gear does not completely prevent harm in case of a car crash, neither does contraception always prevent pregnancy. If anything, recommending racing armor for those who might drive drunk implicitly condones and encourages such behavior by providing a false sense of 'safety.' Saying something like, 'You shouldn't have extramarital sex … but I know you probably will, so here's how you should do it so you won't have a bad consequence' implicitly condones and encourages extramarital sex while giving a false sense of 'safety' against pregnancy. This also encourages a harmful misconception of sin-that only the outward/public consequences of sin matters and not the sin itself. It is not loving, compassionate, or wise to do such a thing.
"So, the loving, compassionate, wise thing to do about drunk driving is not to recommend protective devices to reduce the risk of unwanted consequences, but to try to convince drivers that driving drunk should not be done. This advice is not for the harm of the driver, but for his good. It is not a 'law' that must be followed simply to be thought of as a good citizen, but it is for the benefit of the driver. Driving sober is a good thing.
"Similarly, the loving, compassionate, wise thing to do about extramarital sex is not to recommend protective devices to reduce the risk of unwanted consequences, but to try to convince the Church that extramarital sex should not be done. Included in the biblical argument would be that this is not to reduce pleasure, but to increase joy. Marital sex is a good thing.
"On another point, I would be very interested if Pastor Anderson has any data supporting the crux of the NAE reasoning for condoning extramarital contraception: (paragraph three of his response) "But we are told that contraceptives can reduce abortions. …" Told? By whom? The NAE board is willing to make a policy statement based on speculation?
"Even if there is some scholarly research paper that supports this, it does not discount my earlier argument. However, and more importantly, if there is no data and this is truly just speculation, the behavior of the NAE board should be condemned. In the future, they would do less harm by not making public resolutions and, instead, just presenting polling data (and labeling it as such).
Well said. Other creative analogies are welcome.