The Reality of Religion and Family Planning

Rev. Elizabeth Kamara, a recent graduate of the USHAPE Family Planning Level 2 Course and the Chaplain at Bwindi Community Community Hospital shares with us her views on the controversial relationship between Religion and Family Planning.

Rev Elizabeth enjoys a Family Planning Counselling Role Play with other USHAPE participants
Rev Elizabeth enjoys a Family Planning Counselling Role Play with other USHAPE participants

As a write this, I am well convinced that there could be many people who share the same thinking as mine as far as family planning is concerned. There is need to realize that there is a very big gap between what really is and ought to be. The reality is that family planning is a living need for Uganda and Kanungu in particular. This makes the use of contraceptives inevitable among both males and females of Child bearing age. Contraception, by definition, is merely the opposite of conception.

Much as we religious leaders have shunned this idea, we are faced by this reality from time to time. The closest that Scripture comes to condemning birth control is Genesis chapter 38, the account of Judah’s sons Er and Onan. Tamar was given in marriage to Er’s brother, Onan, in accordance with the law of levirate marriage in Deut 25:5-6 Onan did not want to split his inheritance with any child that he might produce on his brother’s behalf, so he practiced the oldest form of birth control, withdrawal. Gen.38:10 says, “What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so He put him to death also.” Onan’s motivation was selfish; he used Tamar for his own pleasure, but refused to perform his legal duty of creating an heir for his deceased brother. This passage is often used as evidence that God does not approve of birth control. However, it was not the act of contraception that caused the Lord to put Onan to death; it was Onan’s selfish motives behind the action. Therefore, we can find no biblical admonition against the use of birth control in and of itself.

Rev Elizabeth and a USHAPE colleague learn about different modern Family Planning M
Rev Elizabeth and a USHAPE colleague learn about different modern Family Planning M

In the congregations we lead as Christians, Anglicans in particular, a lot of teenage pregnancies’ manifest not only in Christian families but also in clergy and lay readers families. At least a good number of church leaders, be it clergy, Canons, lay readers have grandchildren in their homes and mostly these are from un-married youths. Our teachings and guidance to the youth have quite good results but the success rate is still low. The reason is simple “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”

My comrades in ministry, our bodies are weak! Bodies of our Christians are so weak that they cannot do away with the sexual activity. The bodies of our teenagers are even weaker! The call to abstain almost falls on barren ground. The excitement at young age makes it even worse! But the jealousy and the greed of the old can’t be left like that! The old always take advantage of our young girls and abuse them sexually put them at very great risk.

This makes the need for contraceptives a reality, our Christians must be encouraged to use them! We should not assume anymore that this is evil! I strongly believe the evil of burying teens as they give birth is far greater than the evil of using contraceptives. The noticed and un noticed abortions taking place in church institutions is not a less evil compared to the use of contraceptives. The death of young girls who commit suicide after detecting unwanted pregnancies!!! Even the death of parents aftershock of the bad news!!!. This is enough for us to act.

Rev Elizabeth proudly receives her USHAPE Family Planning Certificate
Rev Elizabeth proudly receives her USHAPE Family Planning Certificate

It is not the use of contraception that is wrong or right. As we learned from Onan, it is the mind behind the contraception that determines if it is right or wrong. Married couples use contraception for a variety of reasons. Some feel called to put off childbearing until they are in a better position to care for children. Some, such as missionary couples, may feel their service to God overrides the desire for children at a particular point in time. Some may be convinced that God has a different plan for them. Ultimately, a couple’s motives for delaying childbearing, using contraception, or even having numerous children, are between them and God.

Putting aside the married couples, as I underwent the course in advanced family planning under U-SHAPE programme. It tickled my mind that the use of family planning should not be condemned even among the youth, young as they could be. It should be talked about as an option for those who are incapable of abstaining till marriage. Cases of rape and defilement are at a rise. Our children should be given this knowledge of contraceptives empowering them to demand for safer sex when there is no option. Use of emergency contraceptives, use of condoms for both pregnancy and STIs infections should not be hid from them.

Friends ! Life is one and there are no rehearsals!. The saying that “experience is the best teacher should not apply to issues of life” especially on the youth. Having a manageable family even gives Christians much to give for God’s work.

I personally see no harm and no contradiction to God’s law in advising our Christians to use contraceptives.

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