Reproductive Technologies, Sexual Ethics, and ‘Jon & Kate Plus Eight’

tlcJulie Vermeer Elliott has a hard-hitting article in Christianity Today on “Evangelicals and the Making of Jon & Kate Plus 8.” She argues that evangelicals have been undiscerning in placing “Jon & Kate” on a spiritual pedestal. Long before marital infidelity was alleged, evangelicals were willing to overlook Jon and Kate’s “materialism, narcissism, and exploitation of children.”

Elliott also questions the propriety of the reproductive technologies that were used to produce the eight children who star in this reality show. She writes:

“We evangelicals tend to be easily impressed. We cheered on Jon and Kate’s decision to carry all six babies to term but rarely considered the prior question: Was it right for them to undergo risky fertility treatments in the first place? They had been married only a matter of months when Kate, who was in her mid-20s at the time, took fertility medication to stimulate her ovaries for intrauterine insemination and became pregnant with their twins, Cara and Mady.

Elliott writes that a few years after the twins were born, Kate’s ovaries were “hyper-stimulated” with the result that she became pregnant with seven babies (one of which miscarried a short time later). Elliott writes,

“Six babies were growing in a space designed for one, posing great risks to the life of each baby as well as to the life of their mother. Faced with this unintended but preventable situation, Jon and Kate were right to carry all of the babies to term. But this decision is not enough to warrant their status as models of Christian faithfulness. That most evangelicals were satisfied to celebrate the end—six miraculous lives—rather than assess the morality of the means whereby those lives were created, betrays the thinness of evangelical reflection on reproductive ethics. Too often our ethics have focused so singularly on the question of abortion that we have given comparatively little attention to the morally-significant issues surrounding infertility, reproductive technology, childbirth, and parenting. As such, we have a hard time challenging the assumptions of our consumerist culture or those who, like Jon and Kate, seem to be beholden to it. . .

“The breakdown of Jon and Kate’s marriage is but a symptom of the larger weaknesses of ethics in the evangelical community. We are easily seduced by wealth and fame. We are easily contented by the shallow rhetoric of hot-button issues. In short, we are easily deceived by cultural values painted in Christian veneers.”

This one is a must-read: “The Gospel and the Gosselins: Evangelicals and the making of Jon & Kate Plus Eight.”

10 Responses to Reproductive Technologies, Sexual Ethics, and ‘Jon & Kate Plus Eight’

  1. Matt Svoboda June 2, 2009 at 12:12 am #

    Amen and Amen! I appreciate writers who are willing to point out some of the ignorant silliness of evangelicalism.

  2. Scott June 2, 2009 at 1:04 am #

    I’m particularly interested as to why CT decides to just now publish this article. I’m not disputing the concerns regarding their use of reproductive technologies, only questioning why they haven’t been addressed far earlier. The article seems to be riding the wave of the secular media’s attention on the family & appeals to evangelicalism’s “silly” obsession with all things popular media.

  3. Tom 1st June 2, 2009 at 10:01 am #

    I agree with Scott. It’s not that these things are untrue, it’s just that the timing is so bad. We needed a prophetic critique of these folks years ago. But now it’s just adding to the noise – especially at a time when they need Christian support, not criticism.

    I don’t watch the show, anyway, but I find this article both true and frustrating.

    Good word, Scott.

  4. Matthew Staton June 2, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    “The breakdown of Jon and Kate’s marriage is but a symptom of the larger weaknesses of ethics in the evangelical community. We are easily seduced by wealth and fame. We are easily contented by the shallow rhetoric of hot-button issues. In short, we are easily deceived by cultural values painted in Christian veneers.”

    I don’t watch much TV, only heard about this show recently from a friend. I see Scott’s point that perhaps CT is benefitting from the very publicity they condemn, but OTOH, perhaps they are offering relevant commentary on a current cultural phenomenon.

    The line I requoted here is a great line and very true. Conservative Christian culture has done much good for culture at large. But it is just as guilty of group-think as any group out there and I wish it were easier to nudge people out of the comfort of the group and get them to think and interact with the complex world and the real people in it.

    Another example of this for me is the Patriot Bible. Good people will love it, good people will hate it. But an unfortunately large group of people will draw battle lines over it and accept or reject others as persons worthy of respect using the litmus test of whether they defend this Bible or not.

  5. John Holmberg June 4, 2009 at 12:29 am #

    Denny,

    What do you think of the Patriot’s Bible? I would like to know your take on it.

  6. Denny Burk June 7, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    What’s the Patriot’s Bible?

  7. Darius T June 7, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    A themed Bible is the new sacrilegious fad… from the “Wild about Horses” bible to the Patriot bible… ugh.

  8. John Holmberg June 7, 2009 at 11:04 pm #

    The Bible published by Thomas Nelson publishers that tells the story of American history and how it is founded on “biblical principles”, while relating the Bible to American history. You should check it out and let us know what you think sometimes. I would be very interested.

  9. Denny Burk June 7, 2009 at 11:10 pm #

    John,

    It sounds like a really bad idea to me. I don’t think such a study Bible would be very helpful at all. In fact, I would say that there would be great potential for distortion.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  10. Lindy June 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm #

    Thank you for this article. We have arrived at a stage where we are playing God. Christian couples “pray and have faith in God for children” until they don’t get the answer they were looking for. Then they head on down to their local fertility clinic and put their faith in medical technology. Fertility and abortion are in the same category. If God creates life, then he also ends it when a miscarriage is involved. So we have decided to create life (fertility) and end life (abortion) all by ourselves. I’m tired of Christians and their profession of faith. There is no fertility in the bible. People actually had to trust in God. And all this rubbish about Christians being all for these people who choose to keep all their babies. As Kate likes to say, “Every child is a blessing from God.” Well actually, no. For some reason, God did not bless you with a child, so you decided to play God so you could get what you wanted. And then have the nerve to say it was a blessing from God?

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