Sunday's Chicago Tribune ran a fascinating article by Vincent J. Schodolski taking a look at the rise of childlessness among married couples. According to the article, a whopping 18 percent of women age 40 to 44 do not have a child. Schodolski quotes Emily Connolly, a 24-year-old Chicago retail saleswoman, who says, "Babies have just never interested me. My husband and I didn't get married to have children. We got married for us." As an aside, one hopes that Connolly's parents married for her.
Echoing Connolly, novelist Carole Matthews says that in the Western world, having children has become a mere lifestyle choice.
Such sentiments are increasingly widespread, and the cribs of the West are increasingly empty as a result. A look at fertility rates in Europe shows that only Islamic nations like Albania, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan are producing enough children to replace the existing population (note: the so-called "replacement rate" is 2.1 children per woman).
Even these numbers are deceptive. For in nations like Sweden and France, the birthrates of the foreign born far outpace those of native populations. In short, the people of the West are being displaced. Having swallowed the presuppositions of the contraceptive mentality and the culture of death, White Christians are in the midst of committing suicide as a people.
Establishing a Christian culture will first require Christians to reestablish the centrality of the family, and the primacy of family life. The family is the only institution of Paradise, and it is the preeminent institution in God’s economy. Indeed, we cannot understand God’s plan for us until we understand His plan for the family.
Consider, for example, the Ten Commandments. There is nothing pertaining directly to church or state therein, but several explicitly address family life. The imperative to honor our parents, and the prohibition of adultery and covetousness are intended to preserve the integrity of the family.
Moreover, the Bible often uses family terminology to describe the mysteries of the faith. For example, salvation is described as God’s adoption of His people. We see that Christ’s relationship to the Church is described as a marriage. The Trinity contains in part a relationship between a father and son. The Bible compares relationships in the church to relations between brothers and sisters. Idolatry is frequently associated with adultery, and the idolater is synonymous with the harlot. Such examples could be multiplied.
The point is that the family is important. And the primary function and duty of the family is to produce children. As Albert Mohler says in Schodolski's article, "God's purpose in creation is being trumped by modern practices. I would argue that it [not having children] ought to be falling short of the glory of God. Deliberate childlessness defies God's will."
Mohler is right, but such thinking is alien to American culture, including "Christian culture."
A few statistics will demonstrate that the family is under withering attack.
In the contemporary United States, children frequently aren’t even born into intact families—34% all births are to unwed mothers. 68% of black, 59% of Puerto Rican, 40% of Mexican, 50% of Hawaiian, 60% of American Indian, and 28% of white children are born to unwed mothers. (In 1950, 4% of births were illegitimate).
If kids are born into an intact family, there is a good chance things won’t stay that way. Fully 43 percent of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years and ultimately nearly ½ of marriages fail.
Of course, many babies don’t make it out of the womb at all.
There are about 1.3 million abortions per year, down from 1.6 million in 1990. There are 674 abortions for every 1000 live births. Somewhere between1/2 and 1/3 of women alive today have had at least one abortion.
Why are there so many abortions? I think James provides some insight: "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder" (James 4:2).
We want more. More money, more security, more education, more job opportunities, more sex without consequences. We crave absolute autonomy. Such godless views of man now even shape our laws.
Read just a portion of Justice O’Connor's opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
"The Roe rule's limitation of state power could not be repudiated without serious inequity to people who, for two decades of economic and social developments, have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail. The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”
"At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."
We have made a god out of self-enhancement, out of autonomy, out of our rights. The Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, provided a list of reasons that women provide for having abortion:
25.5% Wants to postpone childbearing
7.9% Wants no more children
21. Cannot afford a baby
10.8% Child would disrupt education or job
14.1% Relationship problem or partner does not want baby
12.2% Too young to have baby
2.8% Risk to maternal health
3.3% Risk to fetal health
2.1% Other reasons
But the problem, as I've said, isn't confined to the abortion mill. The nation as a whole has a weak commitment to childbearing. Just 10% of American families have 3 or more children—making matters worse is that a quarter of those families are single-parent families. In the 1980’s a milestone was passed—more than 1/2 of American families (52%) have no children under the age of 18.
One of the reasons we are having fewer children is that we are marrying later. In 1970, just 36% of women ages twenty to twenty-four were unmarried. By 1995, 68% were in the "never married" category. Women are not just waiting longer to have children, but are conceiving fewer of them as well. 44% of all women of childbearing age (15-44) are childless.
Feminism has liberated women from the "narrow" and "constricting" roles of wife and mother. Meanwhile, the siren song of the marketplace drowns out God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. In 1950, 88% of women with children under six stayed in the home. Today, 64% of American women with children under six are in the labor force.
With their new status in the work world, fewer women marry. In 1970, just 36% of women ages twenty to twenty-four were unmarried. By 1995, 68% were in the "never married" category. So women are not simply waiting longer to have children, they are conceiving fewer of them as well.
For Christians, children are not to be merely an accessory, a "lifestyle choice." The Bible describes conception as an act of God (Ps. 127:3, Ruth 4:13, I Sam. 1:19-20, Gen. 16:2, Gen. 17:16, Ps. 22:9, Jer. 1:5, Gal. 1:15). Moreover, life begins in the womb (Is. 49:1-2, 5; Job 10:8-12; Ps. 139:13-16) and that child is created in the very image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). God commands us to be fruitful and multiply, for the purpose extending His dominion (Gen. 9:7) and producing Godly offspring (Mal. 2:15). Children are to be received as a gift from God:
3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD ,
children a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate
Do you wish to receive a heritage from God? Do you wish to receive a reward from God? That includes having children.
Does the correlation between happiness and children seem strange to modern ears? Moreover, consider the analogy of children to arrows. How many arrows do you want going into battle?
That children are given to parents also implies a range of familial duties. Through parental neglect, children can become a curse rather than a blessing (Prov. 29:15, Prov. 17:25), and it is the duty of parents to rear their offspring in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Deut. 6:1-9, Eph. 6:4).
There is also an implied obligation for churches. A few years back, the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life reported that 88% of the children of parents in SBC congregations leave the church at 18, never to return.
In most evangelical churches, parents and children are rigidly segregated by Sunday School, youth groups, and a panoply of other programs designed to replace dad as the center of Christian education.
Where in the Scripture do we see the kids being shuckled off away from their parents? Why do we think that is normal? Aren’t we denying our children the bread of life? Worship in Scripture appears to generally include children (Deut. 31:12-13, Ezra 10:1, Joel 2:15-16, Joshua 8:35, Matt 19:13-14, Eph. 6:1).
Commenting on similar trends in his own day, Charles Spurgeon said:
"I begin to feel more and more that it is a mistake to divide the children from the congregation…. If our preaching does not teach children, it lacks some element it ought to possess. I like to see the congregation made up not all of the young, nor all of the old, but some of all sorts gathered together."
What I have written may shock and even appall your average Christian. In Schodolski's article, we're introduced to Amy Showalter, 44, and her husband, Randy Boyer, 45, who decided not to have children and consider themselves devout and conservative Christians. They attend weekly services at the Crossroads Community Church in Cincinnati, billed as "a real place for real people." "Nobody has ever told us this is a sin," Amy says. "It just does not come up." Showalter says that after 11 years of marriage she and her husband have concluded that they would be bad parents. "We didn't feel we would be qualified," she said. "It was not that we wanted to be rich or anything like that."
I'm not surprised that such things "just don't come up." We wouldn't want to cause any discomfort. Instead we're fed pabulum by the likes of Rick Warren, who can write about the "Five Purposes of Marriage" and never mention children. Instead we are peppered with silly cliches such as, "God's plan for your marriage is wider and deeper than anything in your wildest, craziest dreams," "You and your spouse were both planned for God's pleasure," and "Life is about relationships, not achievements."
Ms. Showalter can keep Warren. I think I prefer Luther:
The purpose of marriage is not to have pleasure and to be idle but to procreate and bring up children, to support a household. Those who have no love for children are swine, stocks, and logs unworthy of being called men or women; for they despise the blessings of God, the Creator and Author of marriage.