When I saw the announcement of our latest Supreme Court Justice nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, I couldn’t help notice that this practicing Catholic family had only two kids, daughters. As precious and cute as they were, I wondered why only two. Not too many years past, Catholic families were known for their large families, but in the 21st century two kids is the norm. In fact, 40 years ago the number of families with four children (40%) was the same as the number of families today that have two (41%). That is a striking turn around. Why might this be? One could point to any number of causes, but the triumph of secularism has to be at the top of the list, and Christians have too easily adapted to the secular norm.
It so happens that July 25 was the anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s “encyclical on the integrity of love and the appropriate means of family planning.” Not too many days prior to the 25th I read a sad, to me, commentary on the state of child bearing in 2018 America titled, “The Extinction of the Middle Child.” I’m a middle child, and I guess we’re going extinct. The author, from a strictly secular perspective, bemoans the implications of what one less child in a family means for American society. Some years back, I read an article about the implications for extended families that have two verses three children, and how fewer cousins means fewer significant relationships to support that family. And it’s not only relational issues in the family that feel the impact of fewer children, but in a liberal welfare state, fewer with younger people there are not enough income earners to take care of the old who can no longer earn.
It so happens when the sexual revolution came along in the 1960s, Evangelical Christians eventually got swept up in its assumptions about the nature of sexual and familial flourishing. Of cousre most conservative Christians didn’t become hedonists like their hippie friends, but through the 70s Evangelical leaders slowly bought into birth control as a fundamental good. I would say that’s fundamentally tragic. At The Stream, Julie Roys is writing a series of articled on “Why Evangelicals Should Rethink Embrace of Contraception.” You can read about how and why Evangelicals bought into the lies of the secular liberal establishment, but it’s time to take her advice and rethink contraception. BreakPoint has been writing a lot about this of late, and they currently have an article and symposium on it as well. Everyone agrees that in Humanae Vitae, whether one agrees with everything the Pope says, he was prescient and prophetic. Anyway you look at it, the sexual revolution as been a disaster, and Christians have not been immune from its deceits. Contraception and having fewer children are examples of these deceits.
Such a contention is still somewhat “controversial” among Evangelicals, but that’s thankfully changing. It won’t fully change, though, until pastors from pulpits consistently preach the blessings of children to Christian parents, and the biblical requirement to have them. I’ve had some Internet spats with people who claim that it’s okay for Christians not to have children because the Bible doesn’t command us to. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s the dumbest argument imaginable for that position. First of all, Children were not only an economic asset in the ancient world, they were a practical necessity. Nobody had to be “commanded” to have children. And ancient Hebrews and Christian Jews in the first century saw children as an unequivocal blessing. As Solomon says in Psalm 127, Blessed is the man (and his wife) whose quiver is full of them. And all throughout Scripture, the faith is always seen in familial terms (why I’m not a baptist), as when Peter says in Act 2 that the promise is for us and our children. I notice Peter didn’t add, if you choose to have them.
Another great argument for Christians having more than the 2.2 average (it’s actually lower now) is as a cultural statement against the enervating barrenness of secularism. I have no problem with children as a cultural statement, especially because the issues of family and life, as we’ve seen over the last 50 years, are central to the culture wars. And make no mistake, we are in a culture war not of our own making. We just as a matter of course we should out breed the secularists because for them children are not a blessing, but mostly a burden. When self because the sovereign of our existence, how could it be otherwise. I remember as we started going to our current church when we moved to Florida last year (a Presbyterian church), how impressed I was that so many families had at lest four kids, and some have more. That to me is the sign of a very healthy, conservative, orthodox, biblical church. So you young Christian parents, get on with it!