You may have heard of Ben Shapiro. He’s an American conservative political commentator, lawyer, and author. Shapiro has a podcast that I sometimes listen to. A podcast is a digital audio recording that can be listened to after it has been downloaded from the internet onto a computer, iPad, iPhone, or other digital device.
Shapiro is a millennial — someone who was born between 1981 and 1996. He is very popular with other millennials. He is youthful, humorous, witty, talks fast, and is very smart. Shapiro is in his early 30s and is married. Both he and his wife are Jewish and are faithful to their religion — Orthodox Judaism. They have two children, a daughter and a son.
During his podcast, Shapiro sometimes answers questions from people who subscribe to his podcast. Most of the questions are political in nature; however, he is sometimes asked for advice concerning marriage, religion, and raising children. He usually offers very good advice that is based on the same Judeo-Christian values that I was taught when I was growing up during the 1960s and ’70s.
Here’s one of the questions Shapiro recently answered on his podcast:
I’m a stay at home mom of a six- and two-year-old. My husband and I have pretty much decided we’re not going to have any more children, but lately, I’ve been having some second thoughts. Not because I want more kids. It’s a challenge handling the ones I have now, and I feel like we’ll be able to offer more attention and opportunities to our kids since there’s just two, but I almost feel like we have some sort of responsibility to have more since we’re a stable Christian home. We have a great relationship and my husband is putting in the hard work, so I can be home full time. I’m just curious about your thoughts on this. Thanks.
Here’s how Shapiro answered the question (I’m paraphrasing his answer because he adds a lot of off-the-cuff comments when he talks; however, the actual words, phrases, and sentences are his):
Well, I do believe that people should have more than two children. I believe people should have lots of kids. Listen. You’ve got to make the judgment for yourself. I’ve suggested that I think that healthy, able-bodied people who are responsible with their lives should definitely have kids. I think that it is selfish not to have kids if you can provide a kid with a good home because the next generation is significantly more important than your pleasure for the rest of your life.
But that said, I have two kids who are under five. Is it rough sometimes? Absolutely. Are they little terrorists? One hundred percent. Are we going to have more kids? You bet. Will it be a little more stressful? Yeah, but I’ve also heard that the peak stress is three and then four. Then it starts to decline again because then you have number one taking care of number four and you have some helpers around the house. I think that if you can sustain more kids and it’s not going to hurt your relationship, then why not? Children are wonderful and terrible, and wonderful at the same time.
Shapiro’s response to the question was actually pretty good, but there was one very critical point that he left out. Can you guess what he left out? He didn’t say anything about considering what God’s plan may be for the couple’s family.
Devout Catholics, Christians, and Jews all believe that prior to their conception, God had a plan for each of their lives. His plan included what gender they were going to be and whether they would remain single or get married. If they were to be married, His plan included who their spouse would be. Within the marriage, God had a plan as to how many children they would be blessed with, their children’s genders, and their children’s roles in the world.
God gave each of us a free will to make our own decisions. Because of our fallen human nature and our tendency to serve ourselves, we have all made decisions that have been contrary to God’s plan. As Catholics, if we are serious about following God’s plan, we need to pray, abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church, and keep ourselves open to His grace and guidance.
Of all the religions, Catholicism is the only religion that prohibits all forms of contraception (e.g., condoms, withdrawal, sterilization, the pill and other chemical “medications”). The use of contraceptives interferes with God’s plan for a marriage and cuts off the grace that would otherwise come to the couple and their family.
The Catholic Church has always taught — and will always teach — that married couples are required to, at all times, leave themselves open to the conception of a new life.
I once got into an argument with a Catholic lawyer who was a leader in the community about the Church’s teachings on contraception. At one point, the lawyer barked, “The Catholic Church says that you have to crank out a baby every year.” I was stunned at how uninformed this highly educated Catholic professional was when it came to the teachings of the Catholic Church. A lot of Catholics have the same mistaken belief that the Catholic Church requires Catholic couples to have as many children as possible.
Despite the Catholic prohibitions against contraception, married couples are allowed to use natural forms of family planning to space children and, in situations in which there is a serious physical, financial, mental, or emotional reason, couples are allowed to use natural forms of family planning to avoid a pregnancy.
I’ve written before about how I grew up in a family of 17 children — nine boys and eight girls. For the majority of the time my parents were having children — from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s — the only approved methods of family planning for Catholics were complete abstinence and the Calendar-Rhythm Method. The Calendar-Rhythm Method was developed in 1930 by a Catholic physician (the same year latex condoms went into mass production).
Prior to that time, another doctor had discovered that women only ovulate once per menstrual cycle. It was also discovered that for most women, ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before the next menstrual period.
Unfortunately, the Calendar-Rhythm Method was only effective about 87% of the time, because approximately 13% of women did not have regular cycles every month; however, at that time, latex condoms also had a failure rate of around 13%. The mucus-only methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP), which include the Billings Method and the Creighton Model, along with the Sympto-Thermal Method of NFP, came later and did not gain popularity until the 1970s. Those methods allow women to track morning temperatures, mucus, and other symptoms to determine when they are ovulating. My wife and I used NFP to space some of our children. The method proved to be very reliable.
The Church teaches that the primary difference between NFP and contraception is that unlike contraception, NFP does not directly interfere with the procreative aspects of sexual intercourse.
When a couple uses contraception to avoid a pregnancy, they cut off all grace from God. When a couple uses a natural form of family planning, the grace of God continues to flow to them and through them to their children. This means they can be inspired by God’s grace to have another child when they may actually believe that there’s a good reason to avoid a pregnancy.
Because they are open to God’s grace, they may decide to take a chance and engage in sexual intercourse, even though they realize that a pregnancy may occur. At that moment, they are putting their complete trust in God’s providence and His plan for their marriage. If a pregnancy occurs, they accept it as being a part of God’s plan for their family. They can then look forward to the joyful occasion when they will be able to meet their new son or daughter.
While I was growing up during the 1960s and ’70s, my mom had a handful of three- and four-word phrases that she constantly repeated: “offer it up; children are a blessing; God will provide; and isn’t God great?”
When we weren’t allowed to do certain things because our family was so large, Mom told us to “offer it up” as a sacrifice. Whenever anyone made a negative or sarcastic comment about the size of our family, Mom’s response was, “Children are a blessing.” If someone made a comment about how expensive it was to raise children, she always responded, “God will provide.” When she brought a new baby home and we all stood in awe of God’s new creation, she would say, “Isn’t God great?”
Yes, God really is great.
I’m thankful that my parents followed God’s plan for their marriage.