I very much appreciate Ellen’s willingness to open herself up to the question of why Christians have biological children. As she notes, many of her decisions around PGD vs. adoption were made as much from emotion as ethics (43). I think this is true for most people. We have developed strong faith-based reasons for or against abortion but many of us have not thought through what is a much more basic concern. Why have biological children in the first place?
The reason, as Ellen points out, is that people who get pregnant without thinking twice (people like me) are never forced to consider these issues. “People with genetic disease or infertility are asked to walk down roads that most parents never glance at on a map” (44). Complicate this reality with the promise of a child who will not suffer, the money-driven culture of the fertility industry, and very little consideration of the issue by most religious leaders and you get the perfect storm.
Ellen answers the issue of biological children with natural law. We want kids who look like us, and our bodies were created with a drive towards that desire. Ellen writes, “My body seemed to confirm that bearing children was something I was made to do” (43). We are “hardwired” to want biological children (46). She goes on to say that, “For those who believe in God, then, it makes sense to conclude that God has created us to want and to have babies” (47).
I appreciate Ellen’s attention to the biological drive to have children. I do think that God implanted in us the desire for children, and that we are designed to love and care for the children we bear. Yet, I also find something wanting in Ellen’s conclusion. I’m looking for something that goes beyond biology.
One of the most startling and shocking aspects of the New Testament is Jesus’ call to renounce what by biology or tradition comes naturally. In Luke 14 we see Jesus telling his disciples that the call to follow him will trump all other commitments including children and family. In other places Jesus asks potential followers to give up their careers, their money, and their aspirations. Eventually Jesus will ask his disciples to lay down their lives.
This past Sunday our son was dedicated to the Lord. We stood before our congregation and promised that we would help him follow the Gospel, even if it led to his death. We take this call very seriously in the Mennonite church, probably because of our history of martyrdom. And it’s something I think about often. Am I willing to renounce even my most basic instinct to protect my son if the call of Jesus demanded his life? This is a haunting question. It forces me daily to confront a biological and emotional drive that can be compared to nothing on earth. Were I not a Christian I would find even the possibility of such a commitment unthinkable if not monstrous.
Yet, every day I give Wick (and T) back to the Lord. Every day I wrestle with my biological instinct of protection and care, knowing that only by the power of the Holy Spirit could I ever overarch my most genetic desire to protect my children, a desire so deep that I would rip my own heart from my chest if I knew it could save them.
I don’t have the answer to why we have biological children, but I do wonder if the drive of our bodies is enough. Maybe we are asked to look beyond our biological drive to the call all Christians have placed upon them to care for the alien, the orphan, and the widow. Maybe there is something to be said about keeping our biological desires in check, of submitting them to the Lord, and asking the Holy Spirit to clarify for us the ways we each can find our way into the messy, upending welcome of children. Beyond childbearing, I hope this call will disrupt and displace all our desires, realigning them with the kingdom of God.