Joy Pullman at The Federalist is At It Again: This Time, She’s Promoting ‘Bedroom Evangelism,’ Which is Not Biblical
As a moderately conservative individual, I agree with much of the content published at The Federalist, but certainly not all. This is one of those times when no, I don’t agree.
The name Joy Pullman looked familiar to me, and sure enough, a few years ago, I did a post or two criticizing (Link): one of her other articles.
This time, I am disagreeing with this following piece at The Federalist by Joy Pullman;
I will put some excerpts in, and below that, discuss where my areas of disagreement are
(and it’s a super long excerpt – my comments will be way, way below):
Like just about every other Western Christian body, as well as the United States, the SBC is left to squabble over shrinking slices of a dwindling pie.
by Joy Pullman
The New York Times put out a lengthy preview of the Southern Baptist Convention’s top controversies heading into their annual meeting this week in Nashville, Tenn. Members of the nation’s largest evangelical denomination are weighing the future of their religious body amid numerous theological controversies.
… Decline Stems From No Babies, Not Being Too Trumpy
The Times reports that one of the SBC’s concerns is “15-year decline” in members, both through potential theological schisms intertwined with politics, such as critical race theory, and through an aging and thus declining membership.
….While the Times makes much of contrasting the SBC’s political conservatism with its forecast of demographically decisive American leftism, it doesn’t note that the SBC’s decline is directly related to following broader American culture, instead of Christian beliefs, on a keystone of institutional vibrancy: fertility.
It’s relatively well-known that American Christianity is declining as a percentage of the nation’s total population. Increasing percentages of Americans, most of whom once called themselves Christians, are now calling themselves “spiritual but not religious,” “nones,” and other similarly apathetic labels.
…Instead, like just about every other Western Christian body, as well as the United States itself, the SBC is left to squabble over shrinking slices of a dwindling pie.
As The New York Times highlights, such demographic pressures increase theological pressures to water down the faith in an effort to market the religious body to people who may be harder to reach than children raised within the denomination and with the resulting familial, historic, friendship, and philosophical ties.
[She goes on to argue that Christians should not expend as much time and energy trying to evangelize outside their immediate vicinity. She goes on to use a shepherding analogy to try to defend “bedroom evangelization”]
Shepherds — the antecedent of our word “pastor” — don’t go around rustling sheep. Shepherds tend an existing flock that grows almost exclusively organically, from within the herd. Shepherds cultivate those they are given; they don’t go around trying to convert goats or leaving their flocks to search for others.
… Why is it that evangelicals constantly cite the Great Commission but not the original it echoes from Genesis, which commands people to “Be fruitful and multiply”?
… Being Sex-Positive Means Being Fertility-Positive
Among evangelicals, the gift of sex has been widely framed as what not to do while failing to embrace its natural positive drive toward family formation, which requires the biological complementarity of male-female differences.
Human beings’ good and natural desire for sex has a fulfillment point: making babies, and a stable family in which to raise them well. Even evolutionary atheists know that. God made us male and female not just randomly, because it’s fun (although it is), but so that we can be fruitful and multiply.
…As Mary Eberstadt has documented, family disintegration and the failure of family formation are strongly linked to apostasy. If that is the case, then Christians need to be doing things like countering the cultural insistence that people wait until they are financially comfortable before starting a family and stay artificially infertile indefinitely to help that happen
—- end excerpts —-
I just wanted to point out that human beings are not sheep.
Sheep are sheep. Humans are humans. I therefore find her sheep / people / shepherding analogy to be way off mark.
I mean, lady, if you are really that fond of sheep analogies, here’s another one which works against your point: Jesus didn’t limit the Kingdom of God to only the “lost sheep” of Israel – he said he was opening the sheep pen to the Gentiles (which he did):
I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
If you enjoy tree analogies, the apostle Paul said that the Gentiles would be like branches grafted into the tree of Israel.
Is The Federalist a Roman Catholic site? I know for many years the Roman Catholic Church has had a stick up their collective ass about birth control (they are very “anti birth control”).
I mention that because Pullman goes into a bit of a fear-mongering anti-hormonal birth control rant in her piece that I did not excerpt above – but as I was brought up Southern Baptist, I was not brainwashed into being “anti birth control” or with the idea that sex was meant only for procreation and never for pure enjoyment.
Southern Baptists back in the day did emphasize being a virgin until marriage and unfortunately held the sexist, dehumanizing view that a woman’s only worth, or highest calling in life, was to marry or have babies (views that are NOT taught in the Bible (re: pregnancy / motherhood), and which needlessly exclude infertile women, or women who cannot marry or who choose to stay single).
But I don’t recall in all my years being exposed to “you should not use birth control when married” messages from Southern Baptists – that seems to be a unique Roman Catholic hang up, which a lot of rank and file, American Catholics ignore anyway.
I don’t believe people should at all times be hedonistic about sex, but I strongly disagree with Pullman that being “pro sex” or “sex positive” also means being “pro fertility.” No, it does not.
The “be fruitful and multiply” comment in the Old Testament’s book of Genesis was nullified by teachings in the New Testament, where Jesus, and later his apostles, stressed that new converts were to be made by Christians going out into “all the world” to spread the Gospel.
At no time did Jesus say, “to increase the number of Christians, I want two Christians to marry and make babies.” -Sorry, that is just not in there.
Even if you marry and have babies with your Christian spouse, there is no guarantee that the babies will grow up to be Christian – or they may initially accept Christ, only to become atheists later in life.
Jesus of Nazareth never married and had biological children.
Jesus of Nazareth did not prioritize his biological mother and brothers over non-blood related individuals, when given the opportunity (see Matthew 12:46-50
– Jesus actually taught that you are to prioritize Him and His spiritual matters OVER and ABOVE your “nuclear family,” your spouse, your children: see also Luke 14:26).
The Bible says it is through faith in Jesus a person is saved – not via marriage and natalism / pregnancy.
The Bible does not say that a solution to fix a society’s problems is to defend and promote marriage and parenthood.
There are people who want to marry but for whatever reason, remain single by circumstance – they never marry. That is the group I fall into.
I am too old now to get pregnant, even if I do marry now. How dare Pullman, and conservative Christian authors like her, pressure, lecture, or shame and guilt trip women who had wanted to be married but were unable to (such as myself). Ditto on the “having kids” bit.
How dare Pullman shame and guilt trip all the married women who’d love to be mothers but are unable to because they or their husband are infertile.
If Christianity cannot work by spread of the Gospel message, and can only “work” if it is passed on father to son or mother to daughter – then it deserves to die out.
But your Bible does not present a scenario in which the Gospel message depends on the formation of passing the faith on via nuclear family, marriage, or natalism.
The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is better to remain single than to marry. The Bible simply does not say, “It is better for God, American Christianity, and the world, if people marry and have a lot of babies.”
Pullman also advocates for “early marriage” in her piece (i.e., getting married at a young age, even if it is not financially feasible to do so), which I’ve addressed on this blog previously – see links below.
I have gone on and on in previous blog posts as to why Pullman’s views are incorrect.
Rather than rehash it all here, I will direct the reader to some of those older posts:
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
(Link): Why Christians Need To Stress Spiritual Family Over the Nuclear Family – People with no flesh and blood relations including Muslims who Convert to Christianity – Also: First World, White, Rich People Problems
(Link): Hypocrisy: Conservative Christians / Catholics Pressure Women To Feel Their Only Worth is in Becoming Mothers, But If Women Try to Use Medical Technology to Get Pregnant, the Women Are Condemned by The Same Groups
(Link): How Christians Have Failed on Teaching Maturity and Morality Vis A Vis Marriage / Parenthood – Used as Markers of Maturity Or Assumed to be Sanctifiers – Also: More Hypocrisy – Christians Teach You Need A Spouse to Be Purified, But Also Teach God Won’t Send You a Spouse Until You Become Purified
And I have many, many more blog posts than that which critique views similar to Pullman’s.
If people want to get married and have children, that is fine by me – but Christians are in error to keep insisting, pressuring, shaming, or brow-beating others to marry and to have children to ensure a future, large tax base, to “save” culture, to try to increase church membership numbers, etc.
It’s revolting that they mis-use marriage and parenthood in that way.
I don’t think the reason my parents had me was to boost Southern Baptist membership numbers, or to give the American government another, future tax payer. Or to somehow “fix” culture.
The Bible simply does not point to marriage or the nuclear family as “fix-its” for a society.
I am so repulsed that conservative sites keep promoting these marriage- and natalism- idolizing editorials, where they often shame singles for being single, or childless (or childfree) adults for not having, or for not wanting to have, children.
I am just so tired of the constant promotion of marriage and the nuclear family by conservatives (and no, I also do not support being “anti nuclear family,” as some far left groups are into – the far left are revolting in their own way).
(Link): The Selfish, Lazy Husband Who Kept Blowing Off His Stressed Wife to Go on World War 2 Reenactments – Male Entitlement in Relationships: Why Women Divorce Men – and Churches and Culture Support This Male Entitlement