Are evangelicals ready to join the crowd in recommending that unmarried individuals use contraceptives? Adelle Banks of the Religion News Service says yes in an article, "Evangelicals Say It's Time for Frank Talk About Sex," that had the Q Gathering (see "Strange bedfellows" from this issue) as its primary piece of evidence.
Maybe it's time for some frank talk about the money trail from the pro-abortion Hewlett Foundation, to the contraception-for-all National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, to the National Association of Evangelicals, to the Q Gathering.
The NAE has more than 40 denominations as members, but its budget is small-about $1 million per year in 2009, 2010, and 2011-and its revenue constricted. Helped by the Campaign's $1 million grant, the NAE was solidly in the black in 2009 and 2010, but as that funding ran out, it had a deficit in 2011 of $336,467.
A combination of financial need and crowd-pleasing ideology may have contributed to the NAE's mixed message in regard to one of the Bible's clearest statements, "You shall not commit adultery." That's tragic, because young evangelicals are looking for guidance from their elders, not trendy shortcuts.
Immediately prior to the panel summarized in our page 9 news story, some 400 Q participants were asked what they thought of a local Christian church taking this position: "The Bible teaches that sex outside of marriage is wrong. But if you are going to be sexually active outside of marriage, we encourage you to use contraceptives to prevent an unplanned pregnancy."
Two-thirds agreed with the statement, "This would make it seem like the church was telling people it's OK to have sex with people outside of marriage." Most said, "This would be hypocritical-they can't say that sex outside marriage is wrong, then tell them to do it safely." Almost half said, "This would just encourage more unmarried people to be sexually active."
But almost two-thirds agreed with another statement: "The reality is that unmarried people are having sex, and the church would be dealing with the issue realistically." Many young evangelicals seem to be conflicted. Only one out of five, though, said that the church's position "wouldn't matter one way or another." What churches say does matter: The young need the Bible-soaked wisdom of their elders.
Their NAE elders, though, seem just as conflicted. "We never want to promote or condone sexual immorality," NAE President Leith Anderson wrote in response to my questions: "But, we are told that contraceptives can reduce abortions and we want to stop abortions." (For more of his response, see worldmag.com/webextra/19631.)
Evangelicals disagree on whether contraceptive use, since it enables more extramarital sexual activity, leads to more abortion. Birth control pills have an 8 percent failure rate during their first year of use, and many women who use them for years become pregnant, sooner or later. (Half of the women unhappily surprised by pregnancy used contraception during the month in which they conceived.)
Contraception among the unmarried, sold as liberating, has created a new slavery: Many young women feel pushed into sexual activity because guys want them to do what "everyone else" is doing, purportedly risk-free. Many young evangelicals understand that contraceptive use by unmarried individuals enables sinful behavior.
Most evangelicals understand that abortion breaks God's command regarding murder-so what if we were to find that contraceptive use among the unmarried reduces the number of abortions? Should evangelical leaders then urge this use of contraceptives, or should they focus on other options? Does God put us in a box where the only way to avoid one sin is to commit or condone another?
That's not what the Bible teaches. And even the Q pre-panel poll showed only 15 percent of respondents stating that "free contraception" is "the most effective way of reducing the number of abortions." Two biblical approaches-"crisis pregnancy counseling" and "abstinence based education"-received the most support. Many churches could also do a better job of showing the beauty of marriage-not in a scolding way, but in a way that rejoices in God's loving provision for us.
The NAE states that its mission "is to honor God by connecting and representing evangelical Christians," but how does it honor God to promote the anti-biblical doctrines of the National Campaign?