A Pepper Grinder Post

Blest be the tie that Binds

I read something recently about oxytocin.  Apparently scientists are seeing more and more evidence that this hormone produces strong feelings of attachment to someone.  And guess what the three activities that release the most oxytocin are?  Childbirth, nursing a baby, and having sex (for both men and women).

oxytocin moleculeNot surprisingly, if you read about oxytocin in many places, it will be presented with a very evolutionary spin.  The all-wise Evolution (or Nature, if you prefer) developed this awesome hormone because she wanted the man to stay with the woman he’d had sex with, and the resulting baby, so he could protect them from saber-toothed tigers and the like.  She also wanted the mother to keep close to her baby so she could nourish and protect it until it could grow up and reproduce.  So Evolution slips us this drug to trick us into doing what is best for the preservation of the species.

However, this is one of those issues you will think about very differently depending on what assumptions you start with.  If you start out assuming that there is no God, or at least no God who has any effect on the physical world, it is not surprising that you will embrace Darwinian evolution and be drawn to explanations like those in the last paragraph.  I have been corresponding with someone who has that starting assumption, and, to him, it just seems obvious that evolution is the only rational, scientific starting point.  To him, it doesn’t even feel like an assumption.  But it is.  You can either start out assuming that God exists, or that he does not, and I challenge anyone to tell me why the one assumption is more rational than the other.

rhododendronMy starting point is not only that God exists, but that he has revealed himself to us through Jesus Christ and through the Bible.  If you ask me why I believe this, I can only tell you that God drew me to this belief.  There were times in my life when I would say he was not only drawing me, but compelling me to believe.

Given that starting point, I have a very different take on oxytocin.  I believe it is no accident that a chemical that induces feelings of happiness and bonding is released into our bloodstreams during sex, childbirth, and breast-feeding.  The God who designed that hormone and its release mechanism is the same God who said in Psalm 68:6, “God sets the lonely in families,” and who remarked in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (both from the NIV)  If this is God’s perspective, what would make more sense than to encourage couples to be bound together and to be bound to their children?

mother and childThe saddest thing to me is the way we, in our culture, deliberately try to fight against God’s design.  Women give birth and get intimately bonded to their baby, only to hand over that baby to someone else for most of his or her waking hours after six weeks or so. After all, what family can survive on one income?  What would it do to the wife’s career prospects if she took too much time off from work?  What self-respecting woman wants to devote her life to something as mundane as raising children?

It seems to me that we fight even harder against oxytocin in the realm of sex.  If one believes that sexual practices in America are anything like those portrayed in Friends (of which I have watched a few episodes) or Big Bang Theory (of which I’ve seen quite a few episodes), to say nothing of Sex and the City (I haven’t watched ANY episodes of that!), people in the U.S. are routinely “hooking up” for a night or a few weeks or months and then going off to find someone else to experience oxytocin bonding with.  I even read something which warned about that tricky oxytocin making two people feel that they were in love after they had sex.  Horrors!

sad angelWe have refused to let the pesky hormone tie women to home and children, and we have certainly not let it bind us to one sexual partner for life.  But are we happier for it?  I hear people militantly asserting their freedom.  We have more money and we have more sexual partners, but are we happier?

Personally, I would rather try to play by God’s rules.  I don’t think making ME happy is God’s top priority, but I do believe that when I try to conform my life to God’s perfect design, I will be happier than if I try to fight against it.

*I am not trying to make some legalistic rule that women with children should never work outside the home.  I know there are some circumstances which make it very hard for a woman not to work.  We have also had female lawyers, eye doctors, dentists, and orthodontists we loved (all mothers).  What I think is sad is the number of Christian couples who seem to assume that the wife MUST work after they have children, and who do not seem to have given much thought to how they could get by on only one income.  As someone who worked for years with people with disabilities (NOT a high income career), and whose wife stayed home and had eight children, I would like respectfully to suggest that, while it might take some sacrifice and some creative thinking, living on one income is still possible!


*Photo Credits: Oxytocin molecule model from Wikipedia oxytocin article, mother and child by , angel statue by