Going Catholic? Evangelicals and birth control: Evangelicals and birth control

Amid the various responses to the White House mandate requiring insurance plans to cover birth control for employees—including those working at Catholic institutions—one statistic caught my eye. A Pew survey found that 56 percent of white evangelicals disagreed with the government mandate, but only 47 percent of white mainline Protestants and only 37 percent of Catholics did. Evangelicals, some suggested, appeared to be more in tune with Catholic teaching than Catholics are.

Though these figures may simply reflect evangelicals’ long-standing de­fense of religious liberty against government intrusion, some observers, such as Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times, have suggested that a shift is under way in evangelical views on birth control. Oppenheimer points to the evangelical Quiverfull movement, which opposes birth control and celebrates large families; the popular reality television show 19 Kids and Counting; and figures like theologian Russell Moore at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who assails America’s “contraceptive culture.” Taken together, Oppenheimer argues, we can see evangelicals gradually adopting a more Catholic view of birth control.

There are two questions to consider here: whether or not a shift is taking place among evangelicals and, if it is, whether it is bringing evangelicals closer to Catholic thinking. On both issues, the answer appears to be no.