Family Planning And Religion: How Clerics See It
In Genesis 1:28, there is an injunction of God that says: “Go and multiply and have many children…,” which in essence connotes that married couples should have as many children as they possibly can. However, it is agreed by many that the present global and social situation dictates that couples have fewer children so that together with their children, they can enjoy high quality living. The recognised and effective means of achieving this, however, is family planning, which to all intent and purpose runs contrary to the Lord’s command. So, what do clerics, especially those men and women of God that wouldn’t subscribe to anything that isn’t Bible-based, have to say about this? Do they endorse the idea of Christian couples embracing family planning? How does the Muslim community view this? Is abortion part of family planning? Clerics that spoke to CHRIS IREKAMBA and KENECHUKWU EZEONYEJIAKU on the issue said since not everything is dealt with in the scriptures, wisdom is the word.
‘Church Approves Natural Family
Planning Without Contraceptives’
(Rev. Fr. Joseph Nwanua, Parish Priest, SS Joachim and Anne Catholic Church, Ijegun, Ikotun, Lagos)
I CANNOT really tell you where it is written in the Bible now, but to answer your question family planning is advisable. It’s a prudent thing to do, especially with the economic situation in the country. If you have 11 children and your income is not enough to take care of two, what are you going to do? God has given us the wisdom to know how to manage our resources. But if you don’t use that wisdom and you decide to have many children simply because God said ‘go and multiply,’ you know you are looking for trouble. It also means that one is not making use of his facility as a rational being. One should be able to think and rationalise that having two children would enable you cater adequately and conveniently for them. You are thereby able to send them to good schools and provide other necessities of life. Doing this do not negate the ‘increase and multiply’ injunction. Family planning is biblical. I think it is in one of the letters to St. Paul.
The church does not support artificial insemination and such other methods as contraceptives. But there is what we call natural family planning and discipline in marriage. In such case, the couple would agree, for example, on what they want and what they know they can manage. So, they discipline themselves to the extent that there will be no such thing as an unwanted pregnancy. There is also a natural way of knowing when your wife is likely to conceive and you avoid that period, if you don’t want unwanted pregnancy. This is what the church approves. Abortion is not part of family planning. Couples should conduct their affairs in such a way that they avoid it. We condemn abortion vehemently. Where natural family planning is adopted, you don’t even use any drug. People are taught how to do that and it requires a lot of discipline on the part of husbands and wives.
‘Wisdom Tells You To Do Family Planning’
(Evangelist (Mrs.) Elishama Ideh, President/Founder of Christ The Ever-present Ministry, CTEM, Lagos)
THE Name of the Lord we serve is also Wisdom and that same wisdom has been given to all of His creation. He expects to use our heads when it comes to certain issues. For instance, wisdom should tell that if you just had a child this year, then you should space the next one for the sake of your health, financial responsibility, environment and upbringing. Family planning has nothing to do with being biblical or not. It’s only wisdom that will tell you to do what is right as a family. The Bible says that wisdom is profitable to direct. So, that word alone answers a lot of issues of life that are not even written in the Bible. If you are faced with an issue you ask wisdom to direct you.
As a man, when you decide to have numerous children, are you taking into consideration your income, your wife’s health, the social implication, as well as the economy of the country? But by applying wisdom, you’ll be able to plan your life. So, you cannot say it is not Bible-based.
It’s only wisdom that will tell you the need to do family planning. So, if you look at it from that angle, yes it is Biblical to do family planning and you do it by wisdom. God has given every one He created wisdom, which tells you to use your head to make the right decision concerning certain issues in your life. So, even if God says ‘go and multiply’ does it mean you should not use wisdom when multiplying? Wisdom produced Adam and Eve and the whole creation made everything we are seeing today such as aircraft, furniture and structures among others. People that are into family planning have not committed any sin. Everything about life is planning and even God planned when He was creating man. He didn’t create everything in a day. It took Him seven days. He would create one situation today, create another tomorrow for six days. He created man and on the seventh day and rested. He had a plan. So, human beings must also have plans for their lives. God does not do things haphazardly.
In fact, you will be a foolish person not to plan your life. The Bible says write down your vision and make it clear so that whosoever will read will know what you want to do and run with it. So also as a family man, you should plan and write the vision of your life. Abortion is not part of family planning. It is taking a life. If you don’t plan your family properly and pregnancy occurs, you cannot commit abortion.
‘What Islam Prohibits Is Limiting The Number Of Children Deliberately’
(Prof. Dawud O. S. Noibi, Executive Secretary/CEO Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN)
FAMILY planning is permissible in Islam, but it depends on what you understand as family planning. Islam teaches that Muslims should have as many children as possible because of the need to have more people who would live their lives in accordance with the directives of God on earth. So that they would be more than those who reject the guidance from God, when we are all gathered on resurrection day.
However, it also guides us not to undertake anything that is beyond our ability to see through. As a Muslim, when you have growing male and female children, you should separate their sleeping arrangement. They should not sleep in the same room, but if they must do so, then you are still expected to separate them. In other words, they should sleep separately.
If a person does not have the means to provide that kind of facility for his children, he is likely to breed people that will live in a manner contrary to what God decrees, which is not good for them. It is for this reason that Islam directs that we should space the ages of your children. For example, you can only have a child after weaning the first one. The mother is urged to breastfeed her child for two years (Qur’an 2:233). If that is the case and the husband has only one wife, certainly they would want to enjoy sexual relationship during this period. In order for the family to enjoy this God-given pleasure whilst at the same time carrying out the divine directive suitable to their children during this two-year period, when the woman is not expected to have another conception, then both husband and wife are allowed to have means of preventing another pregnancy, while this child is yet to be weaned.
However, there are good and safe ways of preventing pregnancy. Family planning should not be done in such a way that either husband or wife gets harmed. It should also not be a permanent kind of prevention.
For example, the method whereby the woman or man is made permanently sterile is prohibited. Secondly, the means of prevention should not be so popularised to the extent that it encourages unmarried young people to become promiscuous, as is being done presently that it is broadcast on radio, TV, and even published in the newspapers. What Islam actually prohibits is deliberately limiting the number of children. For example, in the case of a couple saying ‘we don’t want to have more than two children,’ when they have the ability to cater for more children, is not permissible. However, spacing of children and planning for new conception is encouraged in Islam. If a woman is not healthy enough to bear a new pregnancy for whatever reason, it is also permissible and with the advice of a believing physician to prevent new pregnancies. For example, if a woman is likely to run into trouble with a new pregnancy and the couple can still have sex, then it is permissible for them to have a way of preventing new pregnancy, which is a kind of family planning. There could be other reasons, but what is not permissible is when they want to do it for the sake of running away from the responsibility of having many children. Abortion is not at all part of family planning. On the contrary, it is prohibited, as it is both sinful and criminal (Qur’an 6:151; 17:31). It is permitted only if the life of the mother is surely in danger.
‘We Should Be Wise As Serpent’
(Rev. (Mrs.) Olayemi T. Aderibigbe, Minister in-charge, Ijero Baptist Church, Ebute Meta, Lagos)
THE Bible says we should be wise as serpent, and I tell you wisdom cuts across every aspect of human life. Concerning family planning, do you know there are some people that are aware of their ovulation period and so know when conception is possible and they avoid having sexual relationship at that period? That is wisdom and in such a case, they are doing family planning without using drugs. They just study the nature of their body and key into it.
It is not advisable for one to have as many children as possible, especially if you cannot take care of them because at the end of the day, these children, whom God says are your ‘heritage’ get abandoned. In that wise, you have not fulfilled God’s commandment of training them in His way. So, family planning is good even though God said: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…”
For instance, if we are two and we’ve had four children, I have contributed my own quota. Let others also contribute theirs. What I’m saying is that in everything we should allow wisdom to prevail. Those who are doing family planning have not sinned. If you can’t feed more than two and simply because God said ‘multiply and increase’ you decided to have 10 children, then you are not being wise. What if at the end of the day those children become dropouts or become a problem to the society? You are not going to see everything in the Bible, but you are guided with prayers. The Bible says if any lacks wisdom, s/he should ask God to direct him/her. When I’m counseling intending couples, one of the first questions I always ask is: how many children do you want to have? With this, it becomes easy to know what they have actually agreed upon in this regard. God said ‘I will fulfill your heart desires if you delight yourself in Me.’ Sometimes you discover that after you have taken measures to prevent more conception, you still have children coming. You don’t get rid of such child, but endeavour to apply wisdom to ensure that such does not happen again.
‘Family Planning Is Carrying Out God’s Will In A Way To Avoid Chaos’
(Bishop (Dr.) Chris E. Kwakpovwe, publisher of Our Daily Manna, ODM/General Overseer, Manna Prayer Mountain Ministry Interdenominational, Lagos)
IT is true that when the Bible says, “go and multiply…” in most cases, God gives us the command, but He does not specifically tell us how to go about it. As a pharmacist, I know that most of the drugs today are from plants, just like the current anti-malaria, which replaced Chloroquine. When God says do something, He may not write it in black and white how to do it. For example, He didn’t tell us to go and use the mobile phone like we are doing now to propagate the gospel. But He says ‘go to the world and propagate the gospel’. So, family planning is the scientific extension of obedience to God’s word, the scientific extension of the fulfilment of His word. It is human beings trying to discover how to bring God’s will to pass, as long as it is not abortion, which is a clear case, ‘thou shall not kill’. Family planning actually means you are planning. It will be irresponsible for you to have 10, 20 or 50 children just because your wife is very fertile.
Let me give you another example. When Jesus Christ was to feed thousands of people with bread and fish, the first thing He told His disciples was to arrange them in groups. That is planning. God could have made the world in one day, but He made it in six days and rested on the seventh day. There are so many examples of this. So, family planning is the scientific extension of carrying out the will of God in a way to avoid chaos. If a man should have a number of children he cannot plan for, they will suffer. Some of them may even become robbers.
The Bible did not say ‘do it or don’t it,’ but it takes wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 says, “wisdom is the principal thing.” We should apply wisdom given to us by God. We are already 180 million people and we don’t have light and water. And you want to produce without planning. If you can’t plan for your family, how do you plan your local government? How would you plan for the state? To plan effectively for this nation begins from the family. If you don’t plan for your family that means the country is in danger. Those doing family planning have not contravened God’s will. But in churches there are different doctrines. For example, while some say women must cover their hair, others say they must not wear trousers. All these are controversies and family planning is one of them and they won’t disappear until this world ends. Abortion is not family planning. Therapeutic abortion is legal, but can only be used when the mother’s life can only be saved via abortion. That is not family planning.
‘Consider Your Income Before You Start Having Plenty Children’
(Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Olusola James Odedeji, Diocesan Bishop, Diocese of Lagos West, Anglican Communion)
IN the creation account, God created man and gave him this instruction: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” That word ‘subdue’ means a lot. And I want to say too that everything has limitation. You must consider your income before you start having sexual intercourse with your wife. It’s part of the package for Christian marriage. But there can be a way to put a boundary, and this is what I believe God meant by that instruction, which He gave to man to subdue the world.
If you marry and you don’t apply common sense or family planning, you can end up having 10 or even 15 children. But for the health of the woman, who is not a baby machine, family planning is acceptable.
Human nature is controversial. If you are told this is the only time you can sleep with your wife to avoid conception and you are counting days or time she will be free, you are only tempting the man. For your information, there is limit to human ability to control self. The idea is that you can apply that one, but at the same time, if there are other means that are Godly, that are not diabolic, that are not against the faith, you can equally apply it. I’ll tell you that it is when a man is trying to abide by that natural means of birth control that he won’t feel the urge, even when the wife is free. That is human nature. It is when she is not free that the human nature will surface and be pressing the man to go there. And it is better to go in to your wife than going to total stranger(s), who will cause you everlasting destruction.
So, as far as I am concerned, and as a man of God, I feel that those who started the issue of family planning might have been directed also by God. My wife is the Chief Matron in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja. We have discussed this extensively. We have also made some research in this area and we have realised that there is nothing bad, if people control the number of children they can properly raise, pay their school fees, feed, and so on. We have prostitutes in large numbers around now. Many of them are products of poor homes with many children. Look at those who are enlightened, some of them will even have just two, and they will give them the best. Why would you have several children that you cannot cater for? We have area boys all over the place. Go and do your investigation and you’ll discover that many of them are products of ‘I can use my organ the way I want without any control.’ This area is very key and fundamental.