Continuing my interview with childfree Christian blogger I.Am.Free:
Laura: Many childfree Christians have a hard time reconciling not having kids with their faith–you have. How?
Quite simply, during my formative years no one ever told me that such a thing was wrong! I attended church regularly from the time I was born, both of my grandfathers were ministers, my parents read me Bible stories and devotionals before bed every night, I went to a Christian school where I rigorously studied the entire Bible… I was completely immersed in Christianity, and yet I never saw anything in my Bible nor heard anything from the pulpit to convince me that there was something immoral about not having children.
I should probably add that while I attended churches that some might describe as conservative and fundamentalist, they were fairly mainstream Protestant churches. Individual opinions might have varied about birth control or family size, for example, but there was never a church mandate against birth control or a mandate to have children. As such, my personal experience with mainstream Protestantism is undoubtedly vastly different from the experiences of my Roman Catholic sisters and brothers who hear the opposite message from their pope.
Even now that I have been exposed to Christians who believe there is something evil or rebellious about purposeful childlessness, I have still heard no compelling spiritual argument against it. No one has been able to present to me clear, Biblical evidence that every (married) person must bear children. Even “be fruitful and multiply” is considered by some scholars to be a blessing to humanity and not a command; but if it were a command… well, humanity has been fruitful and multiplied to the tune of about 6.7 billion. I think we have fulfilled that directive.
Laura: How have you dealt with pressure from family, friends, and the church to have children?
I.Am.Free: I have always been a woman of my own mind, and I have been well-known for bucking societal trends in many areas, including my career, my marriage relationship, my gender role, my financial decisions, and so on. Though some of my family and friends have given me a little flack about not having children, they have come to realize that I think carefully about everything I do and that I will do what I know is right, regardless of what anyone else has to say.
Between that and about twenty years of me being matter-of-fact about not having children, most of my family and friends have seen no point in trying to change my mind. As for the church, I have experienced no direct pressure to have children. Whenever I do feel any indirect pressure, I focus on the relationship I have with God and the confidence I have that I am following the right path. I also seek out churches that welcome people from all walks of life, and I would not hesitate to leave a church if I found it to be intolerant.
Laura: What advice would you give to other Christians who are struggling with being Christian and childfree (or who are wanting to be childfree)?
I.Am.Free: The first piece of advice I would give is to know what you believe and why. Some of what is taught in church is not based on Scripture or even church history, but is completely the invention of some person who misinterpreted or added to the Bible. Read the Bible for yourself. Look at the historical and cultural context of what you read. Question your church leaders. Determine which aspects of your church’s teaching are from God, and which are nothing more than human tradition.
The second piece of advice is to listen to what God is telling you. I do not want to sound as if God is some sort of crystal ball or the great vending-machine-in-the-sky, but I do believe that when we are open and receptive, earnestly seeking God, and prayerful, that God does give us direction and a peace about what we should do.
Lastly, stand strong. Doing the right thing is not always easy and often does not please others. For heaven’s sake, I have even heard of Christian parents who tried to discourage their children from becoming missionaries! But I think it will be difficult to be content unless you live the life to which you were called.
I.Am.Free: Thanks so much for your thoughts and insights. This topic needs to be talked about more to help those who may be struggling with being childfree and Christian.
So to you out there: Let’s hear your thoughts.
From I.Am.Free re: online discussion: In my experience with the childfree community online, many are quick to criticize religious viewpoints. I am certain that to the nonbeliever, much of what I have said about my faith will sound absolutely ridiculous, and I can appreciate that. While I am happy to answer any follow-up questions or make clarifications, I am not interested in defending my faith to anyone who is merely attempting to make me feel foolish.
As some of my dear friends are atheists or agnostics, I have had plenty of time to engage in challenging philosophical discussions on the spiritual and to analyze my beliefs in the presence of great skepticism. I welcome this, but I have found that it does not translate well into the online world. I hope that discussion will not deteriorate into a debate about religion.
Me—I’m especially interested in sharing with others your stories about being childfree and Christian!