Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity
“Rebel Without an Issue” first appeared in the November 2005 issue of Touchstone.
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Rebel Without an Issue
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., on Married Couples Who Won’t Have Children
Joe and Deb Schum aren’t worried about baby-proofing their house or buying a car seat. They don’t intend ever to have children. As a matter of fact, they are proud of their childlessness. According to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “The Schums are part of a growing number of couples across the country for whom kids don’t factor in the marriage equation.”
The nation’s birthrate fell in 2002 to a historic low of 66.9 births per 1,000 women age 15 to 44. That represents a decline of 43 percent since just 1960. “Many childless couples,” according to the report, “revel in their decision, despite badgering from baffled mothers and friends. Others struggle with the choice before keeping the house kid-free.”
The Schums just don’t want kids to get in the way of their lifestyle. They enjoy cruising to the Georgia mountains on their matching Harley-Davidson motorcycles. They love their gourmet kitchen, outfitted with the very latest stainless steel appliances and fashionable countertops. Deb Schum explains, “If we had kids, we would need a table where the kids could do homework.”
This pattern of childlessness has caught the media’s attention. The left-wing Internet site Salon.com actually published a series of articles entitled, “To Breed or Not to Breed,” featuring couples and individuals who have decided that children are not a part of their chosen lifestyle.
One woman wrote that motherhood just doesn’t fit her self-image or her schedule. “I compete in triathlons; my husband practices martial arts; we both have fulfilling careers; we travel the world . . . we enjoy family and friends; we have a fun, intimate relationship.” Another woman asked: “What would the return be on the investment? Are there any laws that would require my children to pay for my nursing home when I am old? Are they going to be a sufficient hedge against poverty and loneliness?”
Some who have chosen to be childless have actually formed organizations in order to band together. The group “No Kidding” was formed in Atlanta four years ago as a social outlet for couples choosing to have no children.
Traci Swartz, an occupational therapist in her 30s, joined “No Kidding” with her husband, Jeremy, a 32-year-old computer analyst. “When you don’t have children, you are not involved in any activities like a lot of other people, like soccer and ballet,” Traci said. She explained that “No Kidding” members are more likely to talk about pets, travel, or other common interests. Kids rarely come up. “People think we sit around and talk about how we hate kids, but we almost never mention kids,” Traci explained.
Another woman in the group explained, “You focus those motherly feelings elsewhere. For us, our dogs get all that love.”
Legal fights over apartment complexes and other accommodations come down to the claim that adults ought to be able to live in a child-free environment. Others claim that too much tax money and public attention is given to children, and that this is an unfair imposition upon those who choose not to “breed.” (Animals breed. Human beings procreate and raise children to the glory of God.)
Morally speaking, the epidemic of childlessness has nothing to do with those married couples who desire children but are unable to have them. It is the result of those who are fully capable of having children but reject them as an intrusion into their lifestyle. The motto of this new movement of chosen childlessness could be encapsulated by the bumper sticker put out by the Zero Population Growth group in the 1970s: “Make love, not babies.”
Modern Americans are determined not only to liberate sex from marriage, and not only to separate sex from the realities of male and female, but to liberate sex from procreation.
This rebellion against parenthood is nothing less than an absolute revolt against God’s design. The Scripture points to barrenness as a great curse and children as a divine gift. The Psalmist declares: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3–5).
“Make love, not babies” expresses a worldview the Scripture rejects. Marriage, sex, and children are part of one package. To deny any part of this wholeness is to reject God’s intention in creation—and his mandate revealed in the Bible. You can’t make love (though you can have sex) if you refuse to make babies.
The Scripture does not even envision married couples who choose not to have children. The shocking reality is that some Christians have bought into this lifestyle and claim that childlessness is a legitimate “lifestyle option” for Christians. The rise of modern contraceptives and sterilization surgery has made this possible for the first time in human history. But though willed childlessness may have been made possible by the contraceptive revolution almost every American thinks a perfect blessing, it remains a form of rebellion against God’s design and order.
Scripture does not give couples the option of choosing childlessness. To the contrary, in the biblical revelation God commands us to receive children with joy as his gifts, and to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are to find many of our deepest joys and satisfactions in the raising of children within the context of the family. Those who reject children want to have the joys of sex and marital companionship without the responsibilities of parenthood. They rely on others to produce and sustain the generations to come.
Some secular thinkers have recognized the problem of dropping birthrates, and some countries now offer couples financial incentives to have more children. But this epidemic of chosen childlessness will not be corrected by secular rethinking. In an effort to separate the pleasure of sex from the power of procreation, modern Americans think that sex totally free from constraint or conception is their right. The secular answer is to accept this assumption and try to mitigate its effects. It won’t work.
The Creator’s Pleasure
Without doubt, children do impose themselves upon our creature comforts, waking us up in the middle of the night with demanding needs and inconvenient interruptions. Parents learn all too quickly that children are not only the smiling cherub sleeping in the crib, but also the dirty-faced preschooler, the boisterous grade-schooler, and the headstrong teenager. Parenthood is not a hobby, but represents one of the most crucial opportunities for the making of saints found in this life.
The church should insist that the biblical formula is: Adulthood means marriage, and marriage means children. This reminds us of our responsibility to raise boys to be husbands and fathers and girls to be wives and mothers. God’s glory is seen in this, for the family is a critical arena where the glory of God is either displayed or denied. It is just as simple as that.
The church must help this society regain its sanity on the gift of children. Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex but not children is to defraud the creator of his joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising his children. That is just the way it is.
“Rebel Without an Issue” is adapted from an article written for the Baptist Press news service. Dr. Mohler has given his views on contraception in a First Things symposium on Humanae Vitae, which can be found at www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft9812/articles/contraception.html.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky (www.sbts.edu). He writes a weblog (www.albertmohler.com) and hosts a daily radio program for the Salem Radio Network.
“Rebel Without an Issue” first appeared in the November 2005 issue of Touchstone. If you enjoyed this article, you'll find more of the same in every issue. Support the work of Touchstone by subscribing today!
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