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Matters of faith and reproductive health

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Several faith issues bother many believers. Some of them include the presence of evil which prompts some believers to question why the wise, mighty, caring and loving God allows evil to flourish. Some even wonder why God does not just annihilate Satan.

The suffering of the righteous, babies, children, the aged and even clerics from pain, poverty, persecution, discrimination, illnesses or even natural disasters also confuse some believers. Some faith groups teach their followers answers to these questions, but some denominations never touch on these subjects.

Another field that generates questions from believers is sexual and reproductive health and rights. Ask believers whether it is acceptable to use condoms, natural or modern contraceptives, or access to safe abortion; divergent answers will pop up. Instead of using the Scriptures to answer these questions, all they will do is condemn or even describe such a discussion as evil.

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I believe that regardless of the different positions we hold on these issues, it is important to be discussing them because they affect believers directly or indirectly. We should also remember that knowledge is power. Proverbs 24:5 says, “a wise man is strong. And a man of knowledge increases power.”

Believers who are not knowledgeable will likely fall into the trap of misunderstanding issues. People’s opinions on reproductive health issues often reflect the clergy’s openness or opaqueness in teaching such matters.

I have heard my fellow clergy quoting some verses in piece-meals. One such quoted Scripture is “be fruitful and multiply,” as a justification for opposition to family planning or contraceptive u s e . Unfortunately, by focusing on ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ most believers conclude that intentionally preventing pregnancy through contraceptive use is evil.

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But an examination of the whole verse gives a clear picture of God’s intention. Genesis 1:28 reads: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” There are several powerful words in this verse, so it is not just about fruitfulness and multiplication.

In my opinion, blessed is the first powerful word in that verse. Are you blessed or not? Are those who are not blessed going to claim the gifts and opportunities of those who are blessed? The second powerful word is ‘fruitful’. What is to be fruitful? Fruitful in what way? The third powerful word is multiply. Multiply what? And how? The fourth powerful word is ‘replenish’. What are you going to replenish? The fifth loaded word is ‘subdue’. How are you going to subdue it? The final word is ‘dominion’. What can enable you to have dominion? Does having many children give you dominion or power? What gives people power? Is it children?

One school of thought considers this verse as a basis for discouraging family planning and contraceptive use. The school of thought strongly contends that the instruction is straightforward: be fruitful and multiply. God ordered people to increase their population by having and raising children. The obligation to populate the earth was a part of God’s plan. Interestingly, most of the time, members of this school of thought often refrain from discussing the second aspect of verse which dwells on ‘subduing’ and ‘having dominion.’

The second school of thought explains that this verse is part of the Scriptures discussing how God has given humanity stewardship over the world. This group observes that the verse has nothing to do with birth control as the Scriptures offer direct guidance on many topics of morality but not on contraceptive use, and any inferences from the Bible are mere opinions and not Biblical evidence.

The clergy and believers who embrace the second school of thought emphasise that children are a gift from God and not just a product of sex. “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

In the article “To Conceive or Not Conceive: A Christian Perspective on Family Planning”, one scholar, Elise Newcomer, observes, “children should be highly valued, and should be seen as gifts to us. Seeing children as just the by-products of sex is very detrimental and violates the spirit of such biblical texts.” Continued next Thursday

Should believers use contraceptives? Why and Why not? Share your feedback email editor794@gmail.com.

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