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[COMMENT: Two good articles below explore this theme.
Yes, we need to keep a sense of humor (see below), but Western Civilization is committing spiritual (and therefore moral and social and political) suicide. And that is not funny.
We are a heavily sexualized society which is at the same time in rebellion against the very thing sex is about -- marriage and children. That is a flat contradiction of the nature of things. Our quest for pleasure and comfort has been just successful enough so that we have inebriated ourselves to the point of feeling no pain. We say, "I feel your pain...." That is a joke. Our pain, in most cases, is so sedated and sugar-coated by our addictions and idolatries that we are incapable of honest empathy. I mean the average American -- the average Christian.
That is having fatal consequences, the most serious of which is blindness to our own condition. And all that abetted by a government-run school system, the leaders of which would just as soon keep it that way.
Ancient pagans were also sexualized, but their sexualized fertility cults, as bad as they were, pointed toward more children, not less (well, when it was convenient). Our current sexualized, "enlightened-narcissistic" society is strictly for self-centered pleasure-seeking. Children be damned. They just get in the way.
The Hebrews (as Rabbi Dennis Prager tells) were the first to put the sexual genie into the marital bottle, and Christians (until recently) uniformly carried that tradition out into the world. That self-discipline made the glories of western civilization possible -- the rise of science, an enormously powerful economic engine, and the development of due process in civil government. A society undisciplined in its sexuality will never have the self-discipline to form a free and productive civilization.
And the only tradition in human history which has accomplished this is Judeo-Christian religion. No other can, or even sees the point of it.
We are fast losing the ability to keep Western Civilization alive, now living off the capital generated by nearly 4000 years of Judeo-Christian history, a capital which we are spending, attacking, and eroding -- but not replacing. We are watching, acted out right before our eyes, Jesus saying that He is the Vine and we the branches, so that without Him we can accomplish nothing. Pretty good description of what Western Christians are accomplishing today.
I see no hope, short of an intervention by God, for the near future. Christians in the West are, for the most part, oblivious. There is not a single public issue to which our present spiritual or political leadership (with just a very few exceptions) can reasonably address itself. Almost every Christian denomination is locked into its own sump hole of internal strife and cannot get a focus on the real issues attacking us. The Pope's recent statement on Islam is a stunning exception. Pray for him. His life is in danger. Pray for God to raise up more truth-speakers like the Pope. Become one yourself. Put your life at risk for truth and for Jesus, the Lord of truth.
America has been, since the American and French revolutions, about 50-75 years behind the intellectual, moral, and spiritual self-destruction going on in Europe -- i.e., the secularization -- then repaganization, and now jihad. Christians have lost their intellectual credibility, and are only very slowly getting it back. So we had better settle down for a long, cold, and dark winter.
The largely Calvinist theology which came out of the Reformation failed to deal with the secular Enlightenment. And the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions have done little better.
Without deep spiritual renewal, we will lose this war. The whole of Biblical theology must be rebuilt, from the ground up. New intellectual, moral, and spiritual capital must be generated. Emmaus Ministries and the Road to Emmaus, with other small ministries here and there, exist to help promote that rebuilding. There are signs of small green shoots coming up in the West, but they will take decades to refresh, regerminate, and bring forth sturdy oaks and other abundant resources.
The Church of God must produce persons who can take the
offensive, wield the Two-Edged Sword of the Spirit. So pay off your debts,
stock up, get on your knees, and get ready for the long haul. The Spirit
of God will well up from deep within.
Aug. 23, 2006 — It is one of the more unusual battle lines in the culture
Liberals, it is said, have a baby problem. They don't have enough of them, compared to conservatives. And this failure to replenish their ranks is a reason why they lose elections. Call it a fertility gap.
"The political right is having a lot more kids than the political left," Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks says. "The gap is actually 41 percent."
Studying numbers from the General Social Survey — a government survey of social trends — Brooks found that 100 unrelated liberal adults have 147 children, while 100 unrelated conservatives have 208 kids.
That makes a difference, Brooks says, because "80 percent of people that express a political party preference are voting like their folks."
Hence, more Republicans.
Why the Baby Gap?
There are many possible reasons for these lopsided numbers — conservative opposition to birth control, the fact that city residents are more likely to be liberal and have smaller families.
Nevertheless, conservatives such as pollster Kellyanne Conway relished this theory about depleted Democrats.
"They're for abortion policy, they're for same-sex marriage, they're for many of the agenda items that eventually mean you probably don't have children in the household," Conway said.
And Democrats such as Jenny Backus — doing her small part by expecting her firstborn this October — looked for the silver lining.
"It's something that you can always encourage your friends when you're doing a little matchmaking, to say, 'Hey, we got to make sure we close the fertility gap,'" she said.
Republicans Do Have Sex After All
Conway saw another good side to the story for conservatives.
"It completely demystifies the fact that Republicans aren't having sex," she said. "Unless every Republican is procreating in a petri dish, ah ha, we too know how to have fun."
And it could mean another area of competition between the two parties.
"They have laid a baby gauntlet and we're going to pick it up and go with it," Backus said. "I think this is going to be great talk in intern happy hours all over Washington D.C."
Brooks is dead serious about this. He says the baby gap will influence future elections. His message to liberals dismayed with his findings: "Have babies! Forgo the cat, have kids."
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
What lies "beyond babies"?
That's the question Newsweek raises in its latest cover story on the looming depopulation crisis in Europe and Asia. But Newsweek (I kid you not) says it means "good things for restaurants and real estate":
"Powerful social and religious taboos (in Greece) labeled childless women as barren spinsters, and cast suspicion on the sexual preferences of single, middle-aged men. No longer. In the space of a generation, that tight social corset has largely vanished, thanks to an array of factors, including better education and job options for women and Greece's entry into the cultural mainstream of the European Union. The result: a marriage rate below the EU average, and a birthrate among the world's lowest, at 1.3 per woman."
So Newsweek tries to stuff perhaps the biggest story of our time -- the sudden collapse of childbearing to below-replacement levels in virtually every free, democratic and affluent nation on this Earth -- into a happy tale of a new generation's lifestyle liberation from that old ugly "social corset" of marriage and family.
In Japan, says Newsweek, 56 percent of 30-year-old women are still childless, up from just 24 percent as recently as 1985. About a quarter of German and Italian women appear headed for childlessness. It takes just under 2.1 children per woman to replace population. As European demographer Francesco Billari has explained, at the European average of 1.5 children per woman, the population will be cut in half every 65 years. At a birthrate of 1.3 children per woman, (think Austria, Italy, Spain, as well as Greece and Japan), the population will be cut in half every 32 years.
And no one knows how low birthrates will go. For as Newsweek points out, the anti-child bias of European societies can only be expected to grow, as children from small families appear to grow up to be adults who anticipate even fewer children themselves.
What lies beyond babies? Death. Death of the individual, and of his or her family. Death of the nation, tribe or culture that adopts a set of beliefs, practices and institutional arrangements that fail to respect and support generativity.
Adoption is a wonderful thing. New reproductive technologies may or may not be. But they won't replace a culture capable of cultivating the attitudes, values, norms and practices that lead men and women to want to give themselves to each other, and to their children, the process which makes the future happen. Every single one of us is alive today because in an unbroken chain stretching back into the dawn of prehistory, in famines, war, and unimaginable poverty and hardship, some man and woman came together to make life happen.
In contemporary America, as Syracuse University Professor Arthur Brooks points out in The Wall Street Journal, that cluster of values increasingly gets denominated "conservative." Analyzing the 2004 General Social Survey, Brooks reports that self-identified liberals have 1.47 children, on average, compared to 2.08 children for self-identified conservatives, a "fertility gap" of 41 percent which (he says) is widening at a half percentage point a year. Even after controlling for age, income, education and religion, he says "the liberal will still be 19 percentage points more likely to be childless than the conservative."
But beyond liberal or conservative, America is a special case. Between 1980 and 2000, while Europe, South Korea and Japan's birth rates plunged, the U.S.'s fertility climbed from 1.85 back up to 2.06. Immigrants, who bring their "less developed" family values to our shores, are a part of the explanation. But American college-educated white women (to name one of the least fertile groups) have birthrates that would be the envy of Europe.
Something is different about America. Consider this both a reassurance and a warning: The future belongs to the people and peoples who dare to give themselves to love.
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