NASHVILLE (BP) — A rise in the single population and the emergence of employers paying for female workers to freeze their eggs may indicate that America has wandered further from biblical sexual morality.
“The sexual revolution is the governing principle of our time,” Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press. The refusal of many sexually active people to marry and bear children indicates that “ultimately it’s the god of eros that’s reigning today.”
The population of Americans over 16 who are single has eclipsed 50 percent for the first time since the government began compiling such statistics in 1976, Bloomberg reported. That includes 30.4 percent of American adults who have never married and 19.8 percent who are divorced, separated or widowed.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Apple have announced they will pay for female employees to freeze their eggs — a move The New York Times said “could be seen as paying women to put off childbearing.”
In January Facebook began covering up to $20,000 for female employees to freeze their eggs, the Times reported. Apple told NBC News it will begin covering egg freezing in January 2015, joining companies like Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Microsoft which offer similar benefits.
Walker believes the rise of singleness and employer offers of egg freezing are related, both reflecting a devaluation of marriage.
God has given some people the gift of singleness as described in 1 Corinthians 7, Walker said, yet a large number of singles are seeking sexual fulfillment outside marriage and refusing to channel their desires in a husband-wife union. The freezing of eggs may indicate that some people want to separate the bearing of children from a one-flesh union between husband and wife, Walker said.
“The main reason” marriage is “breaking down is that the goods of marriage” like children and intimacy are now “attainable outside of marriage,” Walker said. When those things “can be attained outside of marriage,” some may ask “why do you need to enter marriage in the first place?”
Additionally, Walker fears that employer-paid egg freezing could lead to the destruction of embryos. Often women who freeze their eggs later attempt in vitro fertilization, where sperm is used to fertilize the egg in a laboratory and then a tiny human is implanted in the woman’s uterus. Unless conducted within strict ethical parameters, in vitro fertilization can involve the indefinite freezing of embryos or even their destruction.
Although some reports have touted egg freezing as a way to delay child bearing, the Times reported that women under 35 have only a 10 to 12 percent chance of giving birth per egg, and women over 35 have a 6 to 8 percent chance or lower.
Egg freezing involves a two-week process of hormone injections and extraction under sedation, The Times reported. Generally it takes another two weeks for the patient to feel back to normal, and a cycle of extraction costs up to $15,000, with many doctors recommending more than one cycle. Storing the eggs costs about $500 per year.
Larry Mayberry, a pastor in New York City, confronts the issues of delayed marriage and child rearing on a regular basis. He told BP his church is attempting to teach singles that marriage is a covenant and not a consumer product.
A “consumeristic mindset” common among New York singles “makes it way more difficult to settle down because you only want a mate that can give you … what [you] think you want,” Mayberry, community pastor at Connection Church in Queens, said.
The oldest regular attendee at Connection is 45 and many worshipers are single, especially the women, Mayberry said. He does not believe many New York singles have the biblical gift of singleness but thinks they are distracted from the blessings of family by career, social life and a worldly approach to romance.
For one single woman at Connection, surrendering her life to Jesus as Lord and Savior led to a transformed perspective.
Before becoming a Christian, “her desire was to move up in her career. Her desire was to get to the top and to do it as quickly as possible. And she was delaying marriage because of that,” Mayberry said.
As the woman started to grow in her relationship with Jesus, “she began to see that if she really desired to be married, then she had to make sacrifices. It’s not just getting and getting and getting, but it’s about giving. So just in the last month she and a single man in our church have begun dating with the intent to marry,” Mayberry said.
While he did not comment on the bioethical implications of egg freezing, Mayberry said there can be legitimate reasons for Christian couples to delay child rearing, including the desire to provide adequate housing for a family.
“Having or not having a child is not a decision one should make solely based on your income,” Mayberry said. “However, if you live in a studio apartment as a young couple and you need to move into a one-bedroom — which may cost as much as $1,000 more a month [in New York] — one of the steps to getting there might be advancing in your career to one more promotion where you can get a raise.”
Determining whether delaying children is appropriate for an individual couple should always be done “in unity” within the marriage and “in community” with a local church, Mayberry said. He added that married couples should regard children as a blessing and not a curse.
Help for couples
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College, writes in his book “What Is the Meaning of Sex?” that it can be ethically permissible for couples to delay child bearing. But he notes they should never use a method of birth control that prevents implantation in the womb of a fertilized egg.
Burk offers several principles to guide Christian couples. Among them:
— “Christians must reject the contraceptive mentality that treats pregnancy and children as ‘impositions to be avoided rather than gifts to be received.'”
— “Each and every marriage act” of intimacy does not need to be aimed at conceiving a child as long as there is a general “openness to children over the course of a marriage.”
— “Scripture does not order married persons to pursue the largest number of children that could possibly be conceived.”
Like Mayberry, Burk condemns the worldly mindset that regards marriage as a commodity and children as burdens.
“A selfish, materialistic mind-set is often blind to the blessings that God offers through children,” Burk writes.