In 2002, after being married eighteen months, Sam (age 26) and Bethany (age 21) Torode wrote a book, Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception. In the book they endorsed natural family planning and rejected all other forms of contraception.
The Torodes wrote that Procreation is “the umbrella under which the other aspects of marriage are nurtured,” they wrote. Sex is “a joyous song of praise to the Creator,” and “having children (or adopting them) brings husbands and wives closer together and expands the community of love.” And that “with each child a couple has, their chances of divorce are significantly reduced.” [Emphasis added]
But in 2006 they informed people that they no longer believed in NFP. And in 2009 they divorced.
The article give two examples (the Torodes and one other couple) were not only crushed by the pious burden they chose to shoulder, but were driven away from conservative Christian thinking altogether. And there is a throwaway line along the way that unintentionally points to the heart of the problem, one I’d like to highlight.
The book she and Mr. Torode wrote two years into their marriage is quite short and quite sweet, an earnest work whose hopefulness one badly wants to share. [Emphasis added]
Viewed objectively, it is sheer insanity to take guidance on such a critical matter from a young, inexperienced, newly married couple with one eighteen-month-old child. But we do it all the time. Why? Because we want so badly for the principle to be true that we put discernment aside.
Why this yearning for principles? Why not just accumulate wisdom, apply it as situations arise, and accumulate further wisdom in the process? I don’t know the source of the impulse, but I think T.S. Eliot was right when he wrote that men “constantly try to escape / from the darkness outside and within / by dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.”
We don’t need systems. We need to be good.