This article first ran here 4 years ago, but seemed timely given Pope Francis’ comment last week, “Some think — and excuse the term — that to be good Catholics, they must be like rabbits.” So we found this article and as a bonus, all the links still work!
This is the second of two blog posts inspired by subjects covered by Ken Gallinger, ethics columnist for The Toronto Star. This one, at this writing, is still available online under the self-explanatory title: It’s Time to Rethink Call To Go Forth and Multiply.
Back in the days when my wife and I were spawning our three kids, that was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Indeed, back then, couples who failed to produce were looked upon with suspicion; we wondered “what was wrong with them,” even opining, if only in private, that if they were “able” to have kids and chose not to, that was pretty selfish.
But today’s truth is self-evident: There are enough of us. Likely too many. And if there aren’t too many now, there soon will be.
The reason for this discussion of course, is the sheer size of the number of us that populate this planet vis-a-vis an ever decreasing stock of natural and physical resources.
Gallinger is concerned about this, but equally concerned about the ones, “judging those couples and individuals who choose not to spawn their own replacements.” He finds both positions somewhat untenable.
I remember feeling that judgment one time about a dozen years ago when, after explaining that my wife and I had two sons, was told by an individual, “So you replaced yourself.” He meant those words in the sense of, “You’ve accomplished nothing so far.” We had clearly violated “Go forth and multiply” in his eyes, I’m not sure that our two offspring constituted having gone forth and added.
There are still denominations of Christianity wherein people are encouraged to have large families, and I’m not simply referring to old-school Roman Catholics or Mormons. In typical tongue-in-cheek style, Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like notes that “fundies” (i.e. conservative fundamentalist Christians) join the Amish in this category. (Of course, he points out that this becomes more cost-effective as the kids get older if they all learn to play a musical instrument.)
However you smile as you read SFL, there is another view, as stated by Craig Carter, professor of theology and ethics at Tyndale University in Toronto, that God has never rescinded “go forth and multiply.” He bases this on the idea that the Genesis commandment predates Israel, and is thereby not Old-Covenant specific. (In an earlier blog post, he speaks in terms of what he calls “The Contraceptive Mentality.”)
So the question — with the paragraph below notwithstanding — that I intended to ask today is this: In light of the population stats and the depletion of scarce resources; but also in light of the command given to Adam and Eve; should Christians keep making babies to the height of their ability, or is there a time when we say, “enough is enough?”
…And now the twist.
Views on this subject in the last couple of decades have been moderating lately because of data showing that the Muslim population is expected to double worldwide in 20 years. There is an us versus them mentality that would want to suggest we must continue to procreate lest we be outnumbered.
Should this be a factor in our thinking as we try to answer the “How many” question?
About the first chart: Not all experts agree. Some see an industrialization of the rest of the world contributing to a slowing of birth rates with a peak population of about 9.5 Billion.