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By David Bachelor, PhD
Pastor, Pearsall 1st Methodist Church
This week the Thanksgiving holiday will see families gathered to eat and celebrate. In most cases, more than one generation will be present. Grandparents, parents, and children will share love, food, and stories about God’s blessings to their family. Yet, according to some of the headlines, there is a growing trend that (if universally embraced) will end such multigenerational events.
Sunday was the last day to watch “My So-Called Selfish Life” featured by the St. Louis International Film Festival. The documentary is about people who choose to be “child-free.” The film will form the backbone of a virtual panel discussion on December 2 called “How To Survive The Holidays As A Child-free Person.” Sunday was also the same day the New York Times ran an article titled, “To Breed or Not to Breed?” The article featured people (troubled by climate change, the pandemic, societal instability, and possible war) who decided to spare their progeny the troubles of this planet by never birthing them. Half a world away the Nepali Times also chose Sunday to publish, “Childless by Choice.” Its writer declares, “To have a baby or not is a personal decision, or that of a couple, the third party doesn’t have a say in it.”
Each of these works push back against family and friends’ inquiries about the fertility intentions of childless couples. The Nepal Times poses this question to its readers, “Can you imagine being asked why you do not have a child if you have been trying unsuccessfully for years?” There is no doubt that the inability to conceive is a painful and private matter, but infertility is only a smokescreen to the real issue of these commentaries. The actual objective is illustrated by use of the term “child free” instead of “childless.” The lack of progeny is not a negative but a positive. These authors advocate for voluntary infertility. To them, the decision to discontinue the human race belongs to each mating couple.
The Bible takes a different position on fertility. God did give people control over climate change, but he did so in the same verse where he talked about procreation. God told Adam and Eve, “Have a lot of children! Fill the earth with people and bring it under your control” (Gen 1:28). The decision to conceive or not is a power God reserves for himself, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Deciding to replace God with themselves (Gen 3:5) is how humanity’s first couple got us kicked out of the Garden in the first place. This expulsion (Gen 3:17-19) launched the human race on the road to the miseries listed in the New York Times.
It is true that asking people about their fertility intentions is a privilege most people do not have the right to ask. And folks who are unable to conceive do not need to be reminded of their grief. However, for the rest of the family, part of our Thanksgiving celebration needs to be gratitude to God that the generations will continue.