Having children, multiple amounts of them, will make your families outliers in the culture. In this late modern age having children—and plenty of them—is an increasingly outrageous, if not to say subversive and scandalous act.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court. (Psalm 127)
Well maybe not in actual court, but in the court of public opinion? If you want to demonstrate how selfish you are these days just have more children – to the point of it costing you more money, time and energy than you every imagined. Do that and the court opponents of Twitter, Facebook and the secular mainstream media will soon pronounce you guilty.
So if your church wants to demonstrate how dangerous and edgy it is, then it doesn’t need to placard for a cause down the main street of your city. It doesn’t have to instagram or tweet its social justice policies, or take a stand against the hard secular culture. All it has to do is be populated by large families.
That’s right. Having children, multiple amounts of them, will make your families outliers in the culture. In this late modern age having children – and plenty of them – is an increasingly outrageous, if not to say subversive and scandalous act.
I say that because two recent, and fascinating, news articles, one in The Times of London, and the other in The New York Times, have highlighted both the fact of the shrinking, ageing population of the West, and the ideologies and fears shaping that fact. Put simply we’re not replacing ourselves at a sustainable rate, and we seem to have neither the desire nor the means to do so.
Well when I say “we”, I mean westerners in general. But Christians, and other faith communities? Well, they’re bucking the trend. We’re the radical ones. If demographics shapes the future, then the future looks more religious and less secular, even across the West.
Now there are other factors shaping all of that, for sure, but as I look around our small church of 150 people, I am struck by the number of large families, for this era at least.
At lowly Providence Church Midland, in Western Australia, there are six or more or so Boomer or X-Gen couples with four or more children, There are several Millennial couples with three or four, plus a few younger couples with two already, and plans more.
On top of that we have families with multiple children who are long term foster carers, and one couple who are unable to have children of their own who are on to their second adoption process. Indeed my wife and I – with a mere two children, well below replacement levels – are the radical outliers. We are surrounded by children, and lots of them!
No mistake about it, we Christians are bucking the trend. The trend in the West is less and less children, and having them later and later. The West is defined by its incredible shrinking families.
And its incredible shrinking hopes. And there’s the link. The New York Times article is provocatively entitled “The End of Babies”, but as you read it that end is merely the symptom of an even graver and deeper end: the end of hope, or at least the shrivelling of that hope to a less transcendent one.
And it’s not confined to those countries, such as the USA that are less “parent friendly” in terms of parental leave and education costs etc. Hard capitalism and the various bogeymen attached to it are ascribed some of the blame, and I can see that.