Contraception and the Standard Bearer's Battle Hymn

Without strong leadership, the standard bearer becomes just another easy target.

(photo: Codex Manesse, UB Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 848, fol. 18r, Herzog Johann von Brabant, between 1305 and 1315)

Armies everywhere used to march into battle with their standard bearer (the guy with the flag) right up front. He was the visual proclamation of who an army was. He was absolutely essential in warfare, and darn near a required part of battle.

He did not fight the battle himself—rather his job for the army was to bravely march forward announcing to everyone who saw him, “this is who we are and what we stand for, by golly!” There was no mistaking allies or enemies in a time when a contingent unfurled their colors and lifted them high for all to see.

Those of us with large families are the modern-day standard bearers of the Church Militant. We are an obvious physical symbol of the Church in the modern world. Our presence loudly proclaims that we believe in the gift and value of life. After all, we have surrounded ourselves with it.

Many times in recent years, the parents of large families have been left wondering where the army has gone that we are representing. As we face increasingly vocal and hostile opposition from a world which values self over sacrifice, our churches and pastors are silent in the face of the onslaught.

Many pastors have chosen fear over bravery. Instead of loudly condemning contraception for the evil that it is in the world and teaching the proper place of sex in society, our spiritual leaders have chosen to remain silent rather than be unpopular. It is easy to rail against the evil of abortion from the pulpit; it’s not hard to be against killing babies. It takes a much stronger man to call out the evil of the Pill and the creeping destruction it has had on society.

Their example of cowardice has taught their flocks that such things are not truly important. They have left us, the flag bearers, unprotected. When we meet with hostile looks and unkind words at the store; nasty comments and resentment within our parishes (even from our clergy); the unceasing pressure from doctors, friends, and even strangers to contracept; or disbelieving stares and ugly anger within our extended families, even in front of and to our children, there is very often no one to contradict them. There is no cavalry riding to our defense.

When representatives of our modern culture condemn us to our faces for “overtaxing the planet’s resources” or ridicule our “irresponsible breeding”, our fellow Christians more often than not will simply turn away. They are afraid of confrontation and so they back away from the battle, either because they are ill-equipped to fight it, they are scared, or because they quietly agree with the aggressors.

We, as a Church, need to do better than this. We need to protect those who are so visible, and we need to better equip those we are sending into the world. We need our priests to teach about sex, not just abortion, but all the moral issues wrapped up in that three-letter word. We need to be taught about the cancer of contraception, not just once every few years when a guest speaker shows up (if he comes at all), but often and with frank honesty.

The people in the pews need to be told that this is a battle for our very souls and we need to be taught to recognize the weapons of the enemy. There is a reason for the decrease in the number of larger families in the modern world. It is a failure of leadership. The faithful are not being taught that children are a gift from God and are to be treasured and welcomed that way, and so even the faithful weekly churchgoers have fallen into the trap of ease and convenience. They have been allowed to go forth in ignorance because many priests and bishops fear public condemnation, but their silence condemns us to what they fear. Their people, the Church Militant, could be marching happily to Hell because there are too few people willing to stand in front of them and speak the truth.

We desperately need our leaders to lead. We have read the Bible, heard the Truth and answered the call. We are here, eagerly standing firm against a culture which it often seems is beginning to hate us. We have answered the call. Where is the rest of the army? They have left us to face the Enemy and his cohorts alone.

Without an army, the guy with the flag is no longer a proud member of anything. With no soldiers to back him up, “standard bearer” is nothing more than a fancy name for “target.”