Sunday, January 4, 2009

Marriage and Children

(Previous installment in this series: From My Father's House to My Husband's House )

I embarked on the sea of matrimony with high hopes that my husband and I could raise the kind of happy, Godly family that I had grown up in. At the same time, I was aware that the Watchtower organization had, over the years, discouraged married couples from having children. Back in 1941, when my mother was in her early 20s and before she had ever met my father (who was a new Navy seaman at the time), in a book paradoxically titled Children, Joseph Rutherford proclaimed (on pages 311-313, emphasis mine):


Marriage and childbearing are the means
of carrying out the divine mandate to multiply
and fill the earth. This mandate was
given to righteous man and woman in Eden,
and even so the mandate must be carried
out by righteous men and women on the
earth after Armageddon and who have received
righteousness and the right to life
from God, by Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:23;
John 17:3)
From Eden to Armageddon it
was not possible for the divine mandate to
be carried out
, for the reason that no righteous
human creatures appeared on the earth
qualified to carry it out. ...

... Clearly the men and women
of the “great multitude”, because of their
being righteous and having the right to life,
will marry and bring forth children without
hindrance. They will occupy and fill
the place that no human creature
could fill from the time of Eden to the Kingdom.
Should men and women, both of whom
are Jonadabs or “other sheep” of the Lord,
now marry before Armageddon and bring
forth children?
They may choose to do so,
but the admonition or advice of the Scriptures
appears to be against it. ...

The prophetic picture seems to set forth
the correct rule, to wit: The three
sons of Noah and their wives were in the ark and
were saved from the flood. They did not
have any children, however, until after the
flood. They began to have children two years
after the flood. (Genesis 11: 10,ll) No children
were taken into the ark and none were
born in the ark, and hence none were
brought out of the ark. Only eight persons went in
and eight came out of the ark. (1 Peter 3 : 29;
Genesis 8: 18) That would appear to indlcate
it would be proper that those who will
form the “great multitude” should
wait until after Armageddon to bring children into
the world. It is only a few years from
the time the “other sheep” are gathered to the Lord
until Armageddon. That entire period is a
time of much tribulation, concluding with
the greatest tribulation the world will ever
have known. Speaking of that very time,
Jesus says :
“Woe unto them that are with
child, and to them that give suck
in those days!“-Matthew 24: 19, 21.
That would seem to mean that those
who would have infants during Armageddon
would suffer much greater woe because of
their care of the same.
It is a great
responsibility to rear children and care for them
now, and it would be far greater difficulty
to care for them during the time of the
great tribulation upon the earth."

So first Judge Rutherford talks about childbearing from Eden to "Armageddon" while making absolutely no reference to Jesus Christ and His redemption of fallen man through His incarnation and death on the Cross. Then he tells young people in 1941 that the Great Tribulation is so close that they should wait until after Armageddon to marry and have children. Finally, his implication is that if these folks are so weak that they cannot wait to marry, they certainly should not have children because by doing so they will suffer "greater woe".

This is the kind of book my father studied when he was becoming a Witness in the 1940s. It is not surprising, then, that he originally told my mother that he did not want to have any children. He completely believed that he was living so close to Armageddon that he and mom could safely wait until after Armageddon to have children.

My mother disagreed. She was her mother's daughter, and my grandmother had ten beautiful children and announced to anyone who would listen that she "would have had ten more if the Good Lord would have given them to me". Finally, another Witness informed my father that children were part of the "marital due" mentioned in the Bible. My father was told that if my mother wanted to have children, he must give her children.

So, it being rather of a miracle that I and my sister exist at all, I always (from my earliest memories) wanted to have children, and entered marriage with that as my dearest intention.

You would have thought that the passing of more than thirty years from the Children book would have caused my father to realize that there was something wrong with its reasoning. After all, my father was a very intelligent man, a professional man, who exhibited good judgement in other areas of life. He was also a wonderful father to my sister and I. But my dear father repeated the "logic" of the Children book to me when I married. "Woe to those suckling a babe in those days", he would say. And "If you must get married, for goodness sake do not have kids!"

Of course, the year being 1974, the Watchtower folk had invented a new reason for believing the end was at hand -- the fact that, according to their calculations, 6,000 years of human history would end in the fall of 1975. Some even said that this meant that Armageddon would be over by the fall of 1975, because they felt that the Millenial Reign of Christ must commence in that year.

I'm certain that my father's fears for me and my potential children were quite real fears. He was a true believer, and he loved me very much. However, I did not follow his advice. Rather, I found the words of another friend to be quite comforting:

"If you believe that God can take care of you and carry you through the Great Tribulation, why would you doubt that God can bring your children through it as well?"

Why indeed?

Thursday, January 1, 2009