American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873-1973
In an ironic twist, American evangelical leaders are joining mainstream acceptance of contraception. Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873-1973, examines how mid-twentieth-century evangelical leaders eventually followed the mainstream into a quiet embrace of contraception, complemented by a brief acceptance of abortion. It places this change within the context of historic Christian teaching regarding birth control, including its origins in the early church and the shift in arguments made by the Reformers of the sixteenth century. The book explores the demographic effects of this transition and asks: did the delay by American evangelicals leaders in accepting birth control have consequences?
At the same time, many American evangelicals are rethinking their acceptance of birth control even as a majority of the nation’s Roman Catholics are rejecting their church’s teaching on the practice. Raised within a religious movement that has almost uniformly condemned abortion, many young evangelicals have begun to ask whether abortion can be neatly isolated from the issue of contraception. A significant number of evangelical families have, over the last several decades, rejected the use of birth control and returned decisions regarding family size to God. Given the growth of the evangelical movement, this pioneering work will have a large-scale impact.
“[E]xplores the path taken by evangelicals from ardently opposing the dissemination and use of contraception in the late 19thcentury to acceptance by the mid-1900s… Recommended.”
—B. F. Le Beau, Choice
“Godly Seed: American Evangelicals Confront Birth Control, 1873-1973 examines the history and process by which evangelical leaders eventually moved from being against contraception to accepting birth control and even briefly abortion. It uncovers a relatively little-known segment of evangelical history and Christian religion, exploring shifts in arguments and interests in the early Church and following the religious movement's influences and changing interpretations of the Bible. Any Christian collection strong in Christian social history will find this a scholarly survey that fills in many gaps.”
—The Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review
“[A] fascinating history of sex, contraceptives and abortion… Godly Seed is more than a history of abortion, spotlighting those who opposed it and others who defended it. It is also a book of the rich history of the church, both catholic and protestant… Godly Seed should be in the library of all, no matter what side of the debate you stand. It is remarkably non partisan, offering all views respectfully, even showing the negative conduct of Chrisitan leaders along with abortion proponents who misuse Scripture verse to make their point.”
—Reverand Austin Miles, http://cc.org/blog
"Opposition to birth control is widely perceived as a 'Catholic issue.' Historian Alan Carlson demonstrates that as a matter of historical fact, the Christian churches were united in their opposition to contraception until 1930. Carlson deftly shows how the change occurred, through a combination of 'divide and conquer’ tactics by the population control lobby, intellectual exhaustion among the Mainline Protestants, and anti-Catholicism among the Evangelicals. Highly recommended."
—Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president, Ruth Institute
"This provocative volume by one of the world's foremost family-issues scholars suggests that perhaps American Evangelicalism unwittingly traded the Blessed Virgin Mary for Margaret Sanger. The arguments are hard-hitting and unrelenting. Reading this book is like seeing an unwelcome reflection in a mirror. But it might just start a conversation that is well worth having."
—Russell D. Moore, dean, School of Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary