12.31.2008

The Family of God

This is my first attempt at a post here, so I'm not sure if it properly falls within the parameters of the site, but it is something that has struck me with some interest recently.

I've simply observed that — in addition to the one true God being Father and Son (not to discount the Holy Spirit, who with them both is one) — the Church is also identified in distinctively familial terms. That seems significant and not at all accidental. It coincides with St. Paul's description of the Church as the household of God in the pastoral epistles.

The natural relationships established by God within creation — that is to say, in contrast to the voluntary relations of friendship and the coincidental associations of mutual context or shared activities — the natural relationships are that of husband and wife (the original human relationship, out of which all others emerge), father and mother and child, brother and sister. These relationships belong to the Lord's creative design, and, I would argue, reflect the image and likeness of God in man. By that I mean to suggest that, as marriage is iconic of Christ and His Bride, the Church, so do parental and fraternal relationships signify the life of the Church as the family of God.

Thus, pastors are spiritual fathers to those whom they beget and nurture by the Gospel. Not only that, but they are to regard older men as fathers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters (1 Timothy 5). Likewise, Christians are bound to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. The Church collectively is the Bride of Christ and the Mother of His Christians.

So, what does this mean for us? At least a few things, I think. First of all, it indicates the significance of marriage and family as confessing the Gospel of Christ and His Church, and precisely in that way manifesting the creative intention of God. Especially in the face of sin, death, the devil and hell, entering into marriage, being faithful in marriage (and remaining married!), and welcoming children, each and all of these things confess the faithfulness of the Lord as our Creator and Redeemer. Even under the cross, marriage and family are not meaningless or pointless, but gracious gifts of God to be received with thanksgiving.

Second, though, as significant and important as marriage and family are, these human relationships point beyond themselves to that which is ultimate and eternal, namely, to those relationships in Christ which belong to His Church. His Father is the one Father by whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named. Christ Himself is the the true and heavenly Bridegroom of all His Christians. United to Him, we belong to a great company of many brothers and sisters, to whom we are more closely bound, even here in time and hereafter in eternity, than we are by human flesh and blood to our kindred here on earth. Thus, we are not to make idols of spouse, parents or children, but defer all fear, love and trust to God above them all.

Third, those who are not given the gifts of marriage or children in this life on earth may rejoice with special comfort and peace in the family and household of God. Those who bear the blessed cross of celibacy, for example, may rejoice in the Bridegroom of the whole Christian Church; and those who are widowed, abandoned or divorced (irrespective of fault), may likewise rejoice in His undying love, His unfailing promises and eternal faithfulness, and His gracious reconciliation of those who have been unfaithful. Orphans may rejoice in their heavenly Father, who hears their cries and cares for them. Grieving parents bereft of their children may rejoice in the salvation of Christ for the tiniest infant, even in the womb or yet at the breast. And childless couples may rejoice in the opportunity to love and serve the children of God within His Church on earth, wherein no one is alone or without a family.

12.22.2008

Intelligent Life: Faith and Fertility

Demographics. It is a fact that populations who are more "religious" tend to have more children. In this story in the Winter 2008 issue of INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, Anthony Gottlieb suggests that something else might also be going on [HT: Christopher G.].

Does having more children also tend to make people more religious? I confess that the more children we have had, the more important church and theology have become. I think this author might be on to something. He cites anecdotal evidence that secularization tends to follow demographic declines in fertility, not visa versa.

But what, then, causes the decline in fertility? In a previous post here, Oswald Spengler offers some historical insight. Cultural attitudes about children come first. Cultural attitudes tend to infect even the religions themselves. Look at what happened over the past century in Christianity, and what happens to Muslims who live in post-modern cultures. And, even though the Roman Catholic church maintains its official position against contraception, the majority of those who claim to be Roman Catholic tend to contracept right along with the rest of the culture they live in. Gottlieb suggests that the resultant decline in fertility then brings about a population's gradual abandonment of religion.

Now, other religions aside, let us consider what correlation faith and fertility could have for Christians. Does having more children make one more faithful? I think not. Faith comes by hearing, not by procreating. Faith is created, maintained, and strengthened by God's Word and Sacraments. Children certainly are blessings, but they are not a means of grace. Scripture would even suggest that those who have the gift of celibacy can be even more devout. However, consider this: perhaps contraception and faith are not very compatible. Unrepentant sin chases away faith and the Holy Spirit. I should hasten to add that I do not mean to imply that all use of contraception is unrepentant sin.

12.20.2008

Katharina Luther

Today we remember a charter member of the Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Parturition,
Katie Luther.

Katharina von Bora (1499–1552) was placed in a convent when still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523 she and eight other nuns were rescued from the convent and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and blessed with six children. Katharina skillfully managed the Luther household, which always seemed to grow because of his generous hospitality. After Luther's death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died in an accident on December 20, 1552, while traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague.

12.16.2008

Dignitas Personae

The Vatican's first authoritative statement on reproductive science in 21 years, Dignitas Personae, approved by the Pope on June 20 and published on December 8 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has triggered intense debate about some of the most contentious issues in surrounding procreation, including stem cells, designer babies, cloning, and a host of techniques widely used as birth control and to help infertile couples have children.

Links for summary and Q&A: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Regarding what weight this carries for Roman Catholics, the following statement is made in the Vatican Summary:

The document is an Instruction of a doctrinal nature, published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and expressly approved by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. The Instruction therefore falls within the category of documents that "participate in the ordinary Magisterium of the successor of Peter" (Instruction Donum veritatis, n.18) and is to be received by Catholics "with the religious assent of their spirit" (Dignitas personae, n.37).

Especially of interest is the following excerpt (emphasis mine), which doesn't beat around the bush the way some do regarding abortifactient methods of birth control (i.e. IUDs and all hormonal contraceptives such as the Pill and so-called "emergency contraception"):

23. Alongside methods of preventing pregnancy which are, properly speaking, contraceptive, that is, which prevent conception following from a sexual act, there are other technical means which act after fertilization, when the embryo is already constituted, either before or after implantation in the uterine wall. Such methods are interceptive if they interfere with the embryo before implantation and contragestative if they cause the elimination of the embryo once implanted.

In order to promote wider use of interceptive methods,[43] it is sometimes stated that the way in which they function is not sufficiently understood. It is true that there is not always complete knowledge of the way that different pharmaceuticals operate, but scientific studies indicate that the effect of inhibiting implantation is certainly present, even if this does not mean that such interceptives cause an abortion every time they are used, also because conception does not occur after every act of sexual intercourse. It must be noted, however, that anyone who seeks to prevent the implantation of an embryo which may possibly have been conceived and who therefore either requests or prescribes such a pharmaceutical, generally intends abortion.

When there is a delay in menstruation, a contragestative is used,[44] usually one or two weeks after the non-occurrence of the monthly period. The stated aim is to re-establish menstruation, but what takes place in reality is the abortion of an embryo which has just implanted.

As is known, abortion is “the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her existence, extending from conception to birth”.[45] Therefore, the use of means of interception and contragestation fall within the sin of abortion and are gravely immoral. Furthermore, when there is certainty that an abortion has resulted, there are serious penalties in canon law.[46]


I found it interesting that the document takes the position that vaccines which have been developed using cells from aborted fetuses are acceptable, while questioning the morality of adopting embryos to give them life through implantation. They warn that the latter action could help perpetuate the creation of more embryos. Here's the document's statement:

According to this criterion, the use of “biological material” of illicit origin would be ethically permissible provided there is a clear separation between those who, on the one hand, produce, freeze and cause the death of embryos and, on the other, the researchers involved in scientific experimentation.

Simple Irreversible Sterilization for Women

Essure--a newer, cheaper, faster, scalpel-free alternative to tubal ligation that is irreversible. Story in this week's Time Magazine.

<--An Essure device is seen in the tubal opening

Their advertising slogan:
"When your family is complete, choose Essure."

12.08.2008

"What I do with my body doesn't affect you!" Oh, Really.


From the British publication, The Independent, we read this headline:

It's official: Men really are the weaker sex
Evolution is being distorted by pollution, which damages genitals and the ability to father offspring, says new study. Geoffrey Lean reports

The article, published on Sunday, December 7, 2008, begins:

The male gender is in danger, with incalculable consequences for both humans and wildlife, startling scientific research from around the world reveals.

The research – to be detailed tomorrow in the most comprehensive report yet published – shows that a host of common chemicals is feminising males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people.

Backed by some of the world's leading scientists, who say that it "waves a red flag" for humanity . . . .
What does this have to do with the subject of this blog? Read on. In a part of the article dealing with the impact on fish, the writer informs his readers:

Female hormones – largely from the contraceptive pills which pass unaltered through sewage treatment – are partly responsible, while more than three-quarters of sewage works have been found also to be discharging demasculinising man-made chemicals.
In other words, contraceptive pills are entering the water supply, chemically emasculating fish, as well as males of other species.

Not only are we males less fertile than our ancestors, there are proportionately fewer of us:
Communities heavily polluted with gender-benders in Canada, Russia and Italy have given birth to twice as many girls than boys, which may offer a clue to the reason for a mysterious shift in sex ratios worldwide. Normally 106 boys are born for every 100 girls, but the ratio is slipping. It is calculated that 250,000 babies who would have been boys have been born as girls instead in the US and Japan alone.

And sperm counts are dropping precipitously. Studies in more than 20 countries have shown that they have dropped from 150 million per millilitre of sperm fluid to 60 million over 50 years. (Hamsters produce nearly three times as much, at 160 million.) Professor Nil Basu of Michigan University says that this adds up to "pretty compelling evidence for effects in humans".
Contraceptives are not the only factor, of course. But it turns out that what you do with your body does affect me.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?'" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."


We never learn, listening again and again to the same old serpent, who whispers in our ears that we can be like God, knowing good and evil, if we just ignore His injunctions, and that no harm will come of it.

See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/its-official-men-really-are-the-weaker-sex-1055688.html

12.03.2008

L&P Book of the Month


From Redeemer Press, by Rev. Kurt E. Reinhardt

My Light and My Salvation

Here is a sample:

Lost in the Terror of the Night
by Kurt Reinhardt c. 2008

Lost in the terror of the night,
The thorns had caught me in my flight,
My bleating cries would soon be still,
The wolf was circling for the kill.

But then His voice came on the wind:
"My precious Lamb, I know you've sinned,
Yet I have come to seek the lost,
To rescue them at any cost."

He traced my path into the wild,
His heart set on His wayward child,
Until He found me where I lay,
His foolish sheep that went astray.

Into the thorns He stretched His arm
With boundless love, enduring harm,
His hands were cut and pierced for me
To break the snare and set me free.

With tender mercy I'm held fast;
Around His neck, now safe at last,
My shepherd bears me through the night
Towards the joy of dawning light.


What a great Christmas present idea!

12.02.2008

Trivia

My second oldest daughter's "Page-a-Day" trivia calendar had this entry for Friday, November 28:

What popular performer, in accepting an Oscar for Best Actor, said, "I'd like to thank my parents for not practicing birth control"?

Answer: Dustin Hoffman, when he won the Oscar in 1980 for
Kramer vs. Kramer

Contraception and the Innocent Spouse

An interesting ethical Q&A submitted for your consideration from the Winter 2008 One More Soul Update, Volume 13, Issue 2, page 6 - just received in the mail:

Question:

May a husband engage in the marital act when his wife is using the Pill, even though he knows that contraception is wrong? Would not the innocent spouse need to refrain from the marital act when the Pill or other hormonal contraceptives are involved because of the abortifacient capacity of these birth-regulating methods? --JMJ


Answer:

Dear JMJ,

This is a tough question, because there is clear teaching from the Church that contraception is intrinsically evil and sinful. Despite this, there is massive moral non-compliance among Catholics. Eighty-five percent of Catholic couples of childbearing age are contracepting or sterilized. Yet many of these receive the Eucharist on a regular basis without using first the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Very seldom do Catholics hear anything from the pulpit about the moral evil of contraception.

This leaves the impression that the teaching church is clear about the immorality of contraception, but is not prepared to put that teaching into pastoral practice. If there is silence from the pulpit, then the unspoken message is that couples can continue in their contraceptive lifestyle and not be concerned about the morality of what they are doing.

A very different situation would arise if an entire diocese, with all the priests in a united front with their bishop, were to take a clear position on the immorality of contraception. Then all engaged couples would be strongly encouraged to learn NFP. The intention to use contraception would be grounds for a priest to refuse to marry a couple. For already married couples, pastors would teach that contraception is a serious moral evil, and must be confessed and repented of before receiving the Eucharist. All couples would be strongly encouraged to learn morally acceptable ways of planning their families. Some proportionate form of restitution would be recommended for those who have sterilized themselves. Catholic doctors would be warned that they cannot receive the Eucharist if they are prescribing contraception, performing sterilizations, or making referrals for these.

It is in the present situation of massive moral non-compliance that I make my comments. What follow is not Magisterial teaching; rather, it is an informed theological opinion. I speak to what an innocent spouse can do on his own to rectify the abuses of his marriage. At this point in time, he is largely on his own, without the explicit public support of the clergy. The innocent spouse must continually pray and work for the conversion of the offending spouse. This requires understanding what the spousal act was designed to express and accomplish. It means talking about these important matters. It means making sacrifices for her. The innocent spouse should remind the other of the total immorality of contraception, and the possible abortifacient factor in using the Pill, and encourage her to move in the direction of NFP. A good husband should encourage his wife to transfer her trust away from the Pill and place it in God’s providence, in her husband’s willingness to share with her the burden of family planning, and in God’s inexhaustible love for us. Our Lord took people where they were, and pointed them in the direction they should be taking. He appealed to their good reason and to their better selves. He respected the freedom of their conscience. He proposed God’s plan for us, while never imposing it. He gave people, and continues to give us, a little time so that we could freely come to our senses. Eventually, however, the time will come when we will have to give a thorough accounting for all our choices and deeds. The Lord warned us that we are responsible for how we use our freedom.

What can an innocent spouse do if the other refuses to move away from contraception? Could he decide to forego the marital act? Since we are not to cooperate with sin, and contraception is sinful, the innocent spouse has a right and a duty to refuse to cooperate with evil, insofar as that is possible. A contracepted act is not a marital act, since it has separated the unitive from the procreative dimension. Now it is simply a sexual act. It is an act of conditioned self-giving, with many reservations. Such an act does not enrich the relationship; rather, it tends to unravel the fabric of their bonding. Rather than make a lie with their bodies, a couple should simply remain silent.

Such a choice will bring tensions to the marriage, but unnecessary tensions already exist. The only proper solution is to cease doing what is evil, and begin doing what is good. If nothing else, simply do nothing!

Many divorces can be traced back to the damage done by contraception. The high divorce rates in this country took off at the same time that the Pill arrived. If we are to address the problem of a 50% divorce rate among Catholics, then we must get to the root cause. And if this requires a change of attitudes, values, and practices, then that is what must be done.

Doing good for our neighbor also includes helping them resist evil.

Cordially yours,

Fr. Matthew Habiger OSB, PhD

11.27.2008

Abortion a universally recognized human right?

I haven't researched this, but it rings true. Unfortunately.
October 20, 2008

Dear Colleague,

On December 10th, radical pro-abortion groups will present petitions asking the UN General Assembly to make abortion a universally recognized human right.

We have met the challenge and you can help.

We have initiated a petition drive that calls for governments to interpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as protecting the unborn child from abortion. Along with a coalition of pro-life groups from around the world, we will present our petitions at a press conference at UN headquarters.

So far, in only three weeks we have generated 46,417 names endorsing our petition; that is 15,000 a week! I now fully expect that we will present 100,000 names on December 10th, the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In order for this to happen, though, I need your help and I need it now.

If you have not signed the petition, do so now HERE or by going directly to
http://www.c-fam.org and clicking on the icon "UN Petition for the Unborn Child." Then, after you have signed the petition, send this email or one of your own to ALL OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS!

If you have already signed the petition, send this email or one of your own to ALL OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS and urge them to sign it.

What we are trying to do is create a real global internet campaign that will shock the pro-abortion radicals at the UN on December 10th! To help you, the petition has been translated into 11 different languages and each can be found HERE or by going to
http://www.c-fam.org

So, please act now. Go HERE or
here and sign the petition. Then send this message or one of your own to ALL OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS.

Yours sincerely,

Austin Ruse
President
C-FAM

PS We absolutely must submit more names to the UN than the pro-abortion radicals. They are bigger, richer and stronger than we are. So, act now; sign the petition
HERE or go here. And send this message to everyone you know!

11.25.2008

More Wisdom From Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch

Excerpt: "The ground-zero problem is the presupposition that children are a choice. Every disagreement, every frustration, every poor decision (because there are choices and decisions to be made), and every fear pertaining to family size either stems from this presupposition or is exacerbated by it. Christians should know better, but they may be misled. They confess that God is the "Maker of the heavens and the earth," the "Author and Giver of life," but their decisions and actions may profess something else. Perhaps it derives from an imprecise and sloppy way of speaking, but the rhetoric has shaped thinking and solidified opinions contrary to the Creed." ~ Rev. Stuckwisch

Read the whole thing: Musings on Having a "Big" Family [RickStuckwisch.jpg]

11.11.2008

The Leprosy of Lust

Consider with me some of Luther’s thoughts from a marriage sermon from 1545.

Today marriage is constantly talked about: Is marriage truly a Christian estate? Is marriage only one man and one woman? Is there really a need for marriage? What about people just living together?

Before the fall of man into sin God did indeed institute marriage:

Genesis 1 [27-28]: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’”

Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Luther says, “There it is; these are not my words nor those of any other man, but God’s Word. This is the way he created and ordained it.”

For this wedding, Luther’s primary text is Hebrews 13:4: “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.” In his explanation to the sixth commandment he writes that “we lead a sexually pure and decent lives in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other.”

This is difficult for human beings, as we sin and this sin Luther identifies as “leprosy of lust.” Because of our sin, marriage does not entirely and solely fulfill its original purpose, this we will never know and experience. The “leprosy of lust” is immoral and in all of us.

This issue of sexual immorality was just as big of an issue in Luther’s day as it is now (and has been throughout history). Luther addresses the issue of an unmarried couple living together. “It is like putting fire and straw together and commanding that there shall be neither smoke nor fire.” It is a dangerous situation and gives opportunity to fall to the devil’s temptation. And there are temptations for those who are married to sin in thought, word, or deeds. It is this “leprosy of lust” that leads to despising the gift of children and seeks only after selfish desires.

God granted the gift of marriage even before the fall into sin. And by his grace he continues to preserve marriage as he instituted it despite our sinful lusts. This is possible only by his love and grace and is shown to us in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5 declares that the Church is the bride of Christ. We see how a marriage is to be through Christ. Jesus loves his bride that he “gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” We, the Church, are not perfect in ourselves, we have the leprosy of lust; but Christ gave himself up for us so that we can be “presented in splendor” and through the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism we can be declared “holy and without blemish.”

11.10.2008

A Petition to and a Prayer for Our New President


Please consider signing the petition against the Freedom of Choice Act.



While I did not vote for our soon-to-be new president, I hope that everyone will remember our duty to pray for him:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 (ESV)

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
A Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority.

O LORD, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favour to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Or this.


O LORD our Governor, whose glory is in all the world; We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and to all in Authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness; and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

11.07.2008

"We have met the enemy...

...and he is us." ~ Walt Kelly

Regular commenter Greg Laughlin left this excellent comment on the post "Hope vs. the Culture of Death." I thought it was so good I'd give the comment its own post.

Where were all the pro-life voters? Maybe they were never born because "pro-life" Christians have been using artificial contraception for going on 80 years and with a vengeance for the past 40 years.

How many pro-life voters would there be by now had "pro-life" Christians not used contraception during the past several decades and reared the children conceived as a result to believe the word of God that children are a blessing and, what follows as night follows day from that Scriptural teaching, that limiting one's family size shows profound lack of faith in the veracity of His word.

Read again Erich's quote from That Hideous Strength:

"Sir," said Merlin, "know well that she has done in Logres [England] a thing of which no less sorrow shall come than came of the stroke that Balinus struck. For, Sir, it was the purpose of God that she and her lord should between them have begotten a child by whom the enemies should have been put out of Logres for a thousand years."

Perhaps it was "the purpose of God" that Christians "should . . . have begotten . . . child[ren] by whom the [the scourge of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, etc.] should have been put out of [the United States]." But, instead, we have proven to be like Jane.

If we want to end abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, and a host of other horrors, then instead of spending our time politicking, perhaps we should be spending it conceiving and rearing children in the faith. If we put first things first (i.e., demonstrating our trust in our Lord by obeying Him), then all these things (i.e., ending the culture of death) will be added unto us.

11.04.2008

Hope vs. The Culture of Death

"Und wenn morgen die Welt unterginge, würde ich heute noch mein Apfelbäumchen pflanzen."

"And if the world should end tomorrow, I would still plant my sapling apple tree today."

Blessed Dr. Martin Luther

Our oldest boy was about a year old when I came across this quote. I was with a friend from work in a CD store in Mannheim, Germany. He bought me a CD by Reinhard Mey called "Mein Apfelbaeumchen" or "My little apple tree" as a belated gift for the birth of our first child. Mey wrote the song for his daughter - it is actually more about fatherhood than his daughter - and to my joy I found the above quote by our beloved Dr. Luther on the back of the CD cover.

No the quote isn't scripture, but it has become one of my favorite "patristic" quotes in a way - maybe if I was Pr. Weedon, I would call it the "Old Lutheran Quote of the Day." It is truly a sentiment that trusts in God to order and direct all things, even when all appears lost.

We teeter on the edge of once again having a pro-abortion President in office. This brings the threat of more pro-abort justices to the nation's highest court. The nation has expressed its will and it has by some slim margain embraced the culture of death in its most hideous form - the destruction of life in the womb.

Where is hope? Will hearts remain hard and unchangeable?

In Christ we find our hope and our dear Luther gives us these words that could only come from the mouth of one who has the Gospel - plant your apple tree, even though all seems hopeless.



Jon Townsend

Mother murdered her "inconvenient" baby


Reuters:
LONDON (Reuters) - A mother who smothered to death her three-year-old son because she saw him as an 'inconvenience' to her social life, was jailed for life on Monday. [...]
It is all starting to sound the same to me.

10.30.2008

Engaging the Culture

Here is a portion of yet another magnificently lucid post by Pr. Rick Stuckwisch, very pertinent to the mission of Lutherans and Procreation. In fact, I don't think anyone has ever articulated the message of this blog as eloquently as these words do. Thanks be to God for such faithful pastors as Rev. Dr. Don R. Stuckwisch!
Instead of focusing on the culture of the world, the Church ought to focus on her own culture. Not to escape the world, but to be who she is in the world. After all, Christians live here on this planet; they live and work in the place where God has put them; they interact with the culture of the world all the time. What they need, therefore, is not an education in the ways of the world, but to be formed and shaped, encouraged and strengthened in the Church's proper and peculiar culture, which does not come naturally but only by the grace of God through His Word and Spirit. They need to be cultivated by the ongoing catechesis of the Church's liturgical life. It is imperative, then, for the Church to be herself. When the focus is shifted to the world's culture, the Church becomes less and less able to engage that culture, because she has less and less of herself with which to engage anything. The more she is making it her aim to accommodate or adopt the culture of the world in which she lives, the more passé and pathetic she becomes.

A particularly tangible example came to the fore in the data that Dr. Rast discussed with us. Along with various indications of cultural changes and demographic shifts throughout the United States, there were the usual statistics of declining church membership and a loss of confessional identity (or "denominational loyalty," as some would say it). The Missouri Synod has followed general trends in this regard. The downard turn in church membership roughly coincides with the introduction of the birth control pill in the 1960s. That was the turning point, and I maintain that the rampant acceptance of birth control among Christians, following societal norms, remains the single most significant factor. If I heard the numbers correctly, there were 250,000 youth in the Missouri Synod at the time of the first "national youth gathering" (in the 1970s?), but only 95,000 youth in the Missouri Synod as of this past year. That goes to show rather dramatically where the heaviest losses have been. It's not surprising, frankly, when the national birthrate is barely at maintenance level; and Christians, by and large, have emulated that trend.

Not every man is given a wife; not every woman is given into marriage; and not every marriage is given the blessing of children. Our Christian confession is not that husbands and wives are obliged to maximize their offspring, but that God is the Author and Giver of life, and that we receive by faith whatever He gives (or withholds) according to His grace. I'm not suggesting or implying any blanket rules that govern everyone in every circumstance. But the deliberate avoidance of children, or the deliberate attempt to limit the number of children, has largely been driven by the cultural values and expectations of the world, in a way that is counterintuitive to the Christian faith. It belongs to a larger complex of developments that have not only reduced the number of children to begin with, but have also reduced the amount of time that parents spend with the children they do have. Marriage is postponed for the sake of career, for the sake of wealth, for the sake of personal comfort and pleasure. Couples go into debt, and moms and dads both work full-time jobs, often for the same reasons. Many children spend their days in public school, where they are indoctrinated with societal agendas, and then go either to a day care for the rest of the afternoon or home to an empty house. Its not only moms who sacrifice time with their children for the sake of their careers; dads, too, are often working long hours every day for the sake of higher income and promotion, in order to support and sustain a lavish lifestyle, excessive in every way except in family time.

Fewer children of Christian parents means fewer new Christians, naturally, but the consequences are exponentially greater than that. Parents who are driven by "the deceitfulness of riches" are not only neglecting their children; they are exemplifying priorities held more dear and precious than the Church and the Christian faith. Their children are being "catechized" in the culture of the world instead of Christ. Too many fathers do not pray with their children even at meals or at bedtime. They do not teach their children the Catechism or basic Bible stories. They do not instill within their families a reverence for the Lord's Day, nor demonstrate by example that the preaching of God's Word is sacred, gladly to be heard and learned. Instead, they give preference to school assignments and activities, extracurricular projects and programs, sports and recreation, arts and entertainment. Indeed, almost anything takes precedence over the Church's life of prayer and devotion.

There's no real mystery as to why we find ourselves diminished in numbers and influence. Too many Christian parents have purposely avoided having "too many" children, and then they have failed to catechize their children in the culture of the Christian faith and life. As a result, there are far fewer young Christians to engage their peers and their culture with the confession of Christ and His Church. Well-catechized children and youth are the most eager and natural cross-cultural evangelists, but there are less and less of them out there. Instead, we've got 40-year olds trying to look 18, and it's all so contrived and artificial that no one is really fooled, and no one is converted.

Christian youth don't have to pretend to be Christians, nor do they have to pretend to share the culture of their peers, because all of this belongs to them (by grace through faith in Christ) in the place where God has put them. They wear the culture of the Church like their baptismal garments, as their Christian heritage, birthright and identity. They wear it well within the world, neither taking it off nor covering it up, because they know by faith how to receive and use their daily bread from their Father's open hand. The walk and work and live and play within the culture of the world, neither afraid of it nor enticed by it, but willing to embrace what is good and right, always ready to contend with what is wicked and perverse. They actually do engage the culture, because they interact with it in faith, meeting it with the Word of God and prayer, by which all things are sanctified, received with thanksgiving, and used to the glory of His Name.

If the Church would engage the culture of the world with Christ, she has only to be faithful to her Lord and to His calling. She would best devote herself to the apostolic doctrine and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and prayer: to the Ministry of the Word and the Liturgy of the Supper. She would catechize her children (young and old) in the words and promises of God, teaching them to be fruitful and multiply, as the Lord gives life and growth, health and strength. She would teach young men and women to value marriage over money, to cherish children over careers, and to love the liturgy more than luxury or leisure. She would catechize, commune, and care for all her members, young and old, male and female, married and single, parents and children, orphaned and widowed, with Christ and His Gospel of forgiveness. He is the One with all authority in heaven and on earth. All things are His, and He is ours, and we shall not perish forever. Statistics rise and fall, and all the data in the world shall pass away, but His Word remains. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come, whose Architect and Builder is God.

10.06.2008

That Hideous Strength

C. S. Lewis was a bit prophetic in his Space Trilogy. In That Hideous Strength, the third book, the character Merlin refers to the character "Jane" as the “falsest lady of any” for her use of contraception. I have quoted this before, explaining the "Balinus" connection, but reading the book again to my 11-year-old son I found more context I'd like to quote. First, is the bit when Merlin is questioning Ransom to see if he is who he says he is:

The Stranger mused for a few seconds; then, speaking in a slightly sing-song voice, as though he repeated an old lesson, he asked, in two Latin hexameters, the following question:

"Who is called Sulva? What road does she walk? Why is the womb barren on one side? Where are the cold marriages?"

Ransom replied, "Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned toward us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would be he who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages are cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place."


Shortly after this, when the others in the house meet Merlin, the following discourse occurs:

… the Stranger [Merlin] was speaking and pointing at her [Jane] as he spoke.

She did not understand the words; but Dimble did, and heard Merlin saying in what seemed to him a rather strange kind of Latin:

"Sir, you have in your house the falsest lady of any at this time alive."

And Dimble heard the Director answer him in the same language:

"Sir, you are mistaken. She is doubtless like all of us a sinner; but the woman is chaste."

"Sir," said Merlin, "know well that she has done in Logres [England] a thing of which no less sorrow shall come than came of the stroke that Balinus struck. For, Sir, it was the purpose of God that she and her lord should between them have begotten a child by whom the enemies should have been put out of Logres for a thousand years."

"She is but lately married," said Ransom. "The child may yet be born."

"Sir," said Merlin, "be assured that the child will never be born, for the hour of its begetting is passed. Of their own will they are barren: I did not know till now that the usages of Sulva were so common among you. For a hundred generations in two lines the begetting of this child was prepared; and unless God should rip up the work of time, such seed, and such an hour, in such a land, shall never be again."

"Enough said," answered Ransom. "The woman perceives that we are speaking of her."

"It would be great charity," said Merlin, "if you gave order that her head should be cut from her shoulders; for it is a weariness to look at her."

...[Dimble] thrust Jane behind him and called out,

"Ransom! What in Heaven's name is the meaning of this?"

"...And his appalling bloodthirstiness."

"I have been startled by it myself," said Ransom. "But after all we had no right to expect that his penal code would be that of the Nineteenth Century."

..."The Pendragon tells me," [Merlin] said in his unmoved voice, " that you accuse me for a fierce and cruel man. It is a charge I never heard before. A third part of my substance I gave to widows and poor men. I never sought the death of any but felons and heathen Saxons. As for the woman, she may live for me. I am not Master in this house. But would it be such a great matter if her head were struck off?"

Two chapters later, Merlin is asking if they can't enlist the Christian kings and knights of the day in their fight against "That Hideous Strength," and Ransom informs him, quite prophetically, of our present reality:

Ransom shook his head. "You do not understand," he said, "The poison was brewed in these West lands but it has spat itself everywhere by now. However far you went you would find the machines, the crowded cities, the empty thrones, the false writings, the barren beds; men maddened with false promises and soured with true miseries, worshipping the iron works of their own hands, cut off from the Earth their mother and from the Father in Heaven. You might go East so far that East become West and you returned to Britain across the great Ocean, but even so you would not have come out anywhere into the light. The shadow of one danrk wing is over all Tellus."

"Is it then the end?" asked Merlin.

Indeed, do we not in this year of our Lord, 2008, stand on the precipice of the end of the age?

[Quotes from the first Scribner paperback edition, 2003, C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 1945, pp 270-271, 275-278, and 290]

9.22.2008

The Hausvater Project


The website for this new organization just went live. Visit it and examine it's mission and vision. I am greatly encouraged by this organization and believe it holds great potential. Also check out their FAQs. Here is a sample pertinent to this blog:

What's our view on "family planning" (abortion, contraception, etc.)?

We are convinced that God has the best plan for everyone's family. Imbedded in our created natures as male and female is a message that Luther identified as a "divine ordinance," namely, "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28; LC, Sixth Commandment, 207; cf. Luther's Commentary on Genesis). The Creator's design for husbands and wives to procreate remains in place today just as much as in biblical times (Apol. XXIII (XI), 7-8). Ultimately, it is God who opens and closes wombs (Genesis 20:18, 29:31, 30:22), and we should remain open to his blessings of children while also remaining patient if He chooses to withhold that blessing. We are deeply concerned that not only the secular world, but also many within Christendom, have devalued the vocation of parenthood, particularly during the twentieth century, when marriage rates dropped, divorce rates rose, and abortion and contraception became routine.

We recognize that surgical abortion as well as chemical abortion (via hormonal and mechanical birth control methods, such as the pill and the IUD) fall under the Fifth Commandment's prohibition of murder. Although barrier methods of contraception (condoms, diaphrams, etc.) do not cause the abortion of newly conceived life, some Christians have raised concern that these methods physically separate the two fleshes that Scripture speaks of as "becoming one" (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5; 1 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:31).

We therefore find ourselves sympathetic to the long-standing consensus of Lutheran church fathers from the Reformation through the mid twentieth century that neither abortion (Fifth Commandment), abortifacient birth control (Fifth Commandment), nor barrier contraception (Sixth Commandment) should be practiced, and we encourage our fellow Lutherans who are exploring the history and theology behind these viewpoints (see, for example, the Lutherans and Procreation blog). For our part, we hope to produce resources that will address the questions that well-intending Christians raise, such as:

  • What are the proper roles for Scripture and natural law in our efforts to identify God's moral law?
  • How can both licentiousness and legalism be avoided?
  • How can both Law and Gospel be properly applied?
  • How does the principle of Christian stewardship properly apply to the topic of family planning?
  • In what ways does Natural Family Planning differ from contraception?
  • What about those rare cases in which some form of artificial family planning -- and perhaps even an abortifacient form -- seems necessary for the preservation of the mother's health?

If you would like to contribute to our ongoing research, please contact us.

9.20.2008

The Role of Women

This presentation by Pr. Rolf Preus is absolutely the best essay on the role of women that I have ever read. Pr. Preus has an awesome handle on this issue and is quite eloquent and pastoral in the way he presents it. The essay is also very complimentary to women who are fulfilling their legitimate vocations. You might be surprised at the issues that Pr. Preus touches on, and the attitude he understands Scripture having toward them. The issue of procreation is spoken of in a wonderful context. I strongly encourage you to read the entire essay, but here's a tickler:

...And that is why God did not make a woman to preach. For a woman to become a preacher is for her to deny what God made her. The highest honor that God bestows on Christian women is to make them faithful wives and fruitful mothers. (Genesis 1, 28)

God blessed them and said to them to be fruitful. He did not curse them with children. He blessed them with children. He did not give them a list of options from which to choose, depending on their own self-understanding and personal preferences. He made them male and female, he joined them as one flesh, and he blessed them to have children.

To deny that children are a blessing from God is to distort the very nature of woman and to steal from her the honor God gave her. (Psalm 127, 3-5) To argue that there is a higher calling for a woman than to the divinely instituted office of Christian wife and mother is to demean womanhood, to despise children, and to hold God’s creative work in contempt.

While the Christian Church scurries here and there for any tiny shred of biblical warrant for extending divine calls to women to do this or that activity in the church – anything by which the service of women may be glorified – she stands in mute acquiescence to the demeaning of true womanly glory by adopting the standards of the current culture of death as her own.

...A few years ago, my wife got into a conversation with an ELS pastor’s wife who told my wife how blessed she was to have so many children. My wife agreed. The woman then shared with my wife her desire for more than the two children she had, but her husband did not want any more children. Naturally, this ELS pastor taught his parishioners that it was a sin for a woman to vote in the voters’ assembly of the congregation. Is not the hypocrisy too obvious to deny? A man denies to woman what God blessed woman to do, and then, should she desire to do what a man is given to do, he denies her that as well. So what purpose then does a woman serve? Is it to please the man? Or is it to serve God? To assert the headship of man while deliberately disconnecting it from the blessing of the fruitful womb is pure male chauvinism.

There are women who, for one reason or another, do not marry. There are women who marry and are physically incapable of having children. There are women who can have children but might put their lives at risk if they did. There are many ways that a woman can fulfill her womanly nature without having and nurturing her own children. The fact that God withholds a blessing from one of his children does not diminish the blessing. God only knows why God does what he does and does not do what he does not do. We do know that having and nurturing and providing Christian instruction for children is a high honor given by God to women to do and it is an ungrateful and perverse generation of Christians that treats what is holy as if it were common and of little value.

The Psalmist speaks for God and sets forth God’s values when he describes in these words how the man who fears the LORD is blessed: "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the very heart of your house, your children like olive plants all around your table." Psalm 128, 3

Children are true wealth. This is not merely a socially conditioned opinion. It is God’s infallible declaration, as the Psalmist also writes:

"Behold, children are a heritage from 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. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; they shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate." Psalm 127, 3-5

Many Christians have wondered over the years why God appeared so tolerant of polygamy during the times of the Old Testament patriarchs. That God is patient should not be misconstrued to mean he is lax. The account of the family life of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is sufficient biblical proof that God disapproves of polygamy. Nowadays, with the exception of a little sect presently being persecuted by the State of Texas, polygamy is practiced consecutively rather than concurrently. Marriage is in disrepair. Christian couples divorce at a rate as high as those who don’t confess the faith. Also among church goers men and women live together and enjoy the marital bed without first getting married. Fornication is celebrated by the popular culture. In the name of helping the poor, the Welfare State subsidizes illegitimacy. As the culture decays the Church appears more willing to conform to it than to challenge its assumptions and governing principles. You know the old saying, “When the church marries the culture she soon becomes a widow.” When the Church herself is a widow she can hardly depend on the Church for assistance.

The theoretical rejection of our identity as men and woman created in the image of God may be expressed by the adoption of the doctrine of evolution, but the real rejection takes place in the practice of planned barrenness. Despising the fruit of the womb is to despise the One who gives it and the one who bears it. When the motherhood of woman is despised, the fatherhood of God falls with it.

...Indeed, the best way for women to serve the church is not by seeking out an office in the church. The best service women can do for the church is the service they provide to their own husbands and children in their own homes. This is the service that God loves. It is certainly more valuable than whatever monetary remuneration is gained by hiring others to take on the domestic responsibilities while going out to compete with men for jobs, thus depressing wages while depriving children of their mothers. When a Christian wife and mother of small children leaves the children in someone else’s care in order to accept an allegedly divine call to an alleged ministry of the church this is no service at all to anyone but is rather a burden upon the home and the church.

...Is this solely a matter of who has authority over whom? It is hard to argue that a woman usher is exercising authority over the men in the pews, but there is something unseemly about it nonetheless. It just doesn’t look right. She should not be acting as a representative of the congregation. It is also difficult to conclude the case against women’s suffrage solely by an appeal to the authority of voters over voters. What authority does a voters’ assembly have over the typical male parishioner who does not attend such meetings and pays no attention to what they do and say? A better case would be made, I believe, by pointing out that the domain of a woman is in the home and that it is not proper for men and women to be thrust together in situations where this woman and that man are required to interact with one another without the protection provided by the intervening institutions of marriage and family. To put it simply: It is unnatural. This woman is with that man. They belong together. God made them one flesh. And he made her the mistress of the home. He placed her at the center of domestic life. He gave her children, entrusted her with their care, and gave her womanly gifts by which she can serve him and the whole church by raising Christian children. Why would such a woman leave her children at home in the care of a baby sitter or a henpecked husband so that she can go off to the voters’ meeting and do what the men do?

Men and women have been segregated from each other throughout history in a whole host of social arrangements. Why segregate them? When men and women are thrown together to do things together without marriage and family defining the way they are to interact with one another the result is conflict, confusion, adultery, and the consequent degeneration of the family. When marriage and children are at the center of the woman’s life, she finds her identify where God himself has established it in creation. Women without husbands and children are also benefited greatly by this stability and they require a stable family life as much as anyone.

...The service of women for the church begins at a very young age. A young girl in her teens can offer the greatest service to the church by keeping her virginity for her future husband and choosing as a husband a man who is sincerely devoted to the pure teaching of God’s holy word and faithfully attends an orthodox congregation to receive it. A man honors his wife by cherishing her not only as his woman but as the mother of his children.

Are there certain offices the church may create that are especially suitable for women more so than for men? Yes, there are. I am thinking specifically of the office of deaconess. It is not necessary, probably not even desirable that a deaconess be given her theological training by an institution of a synod. It certainly isn’t appropriate for men who are studying to be pastors in the church to be sitting next to women during their seminary training as these women receive instruction to be what God forbids them to be. A church that does not have a pastor competent to give a deaconess the theological training she needs is a church that should not have a deaconess.

But a deaconess can be a tremendous benefit to the church specifically in serving women in a way that a pastor cannot. While private confession and absolution is a great blessing to the church, there are matters that are simply inappropriate for a woman to discuss with a man who is not her husband. God only knows how many pastor / parishioner relationships that began with a woman confessing her sexual sins to her pastor were concluded by the two of them sinning sexually together.

A woman can speak from within herself to another woman in a way a man cannot. No, this is not the ministry of the word, but it is a blessing from God. A woman can listen, understand, and give woman to woman counsel that no pastor can give.

But such service doesn’t even need a formal position. Women do what God gives them to do. A mother’s wisdom is not to be despised. One man’s wife can help another man’s wife to be a faithful Christian wife. Pastors should encourage women to go to women to get the kind of help that a woman can give.

9.09.2008

"The Sterility of Civilized Man"

"When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable." - Oswald Spengler

The following excerpt is taken from Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, Vol. II. Perspectives of World History, New York: Alfred Knopf, 1928, pages 103-105:

And then, when Being is sufficiently uprooted and Waking-Being1 sufficiently strained, there suddenly emerges into the bright light of history a phenomenon that has long been preparing itself underground and now steps forward to make an end of the drama - the sterility of civilized man. This is not something that can be grasped as a plain matter of Causality (as modern science naturally enough has tried to grasp it); it is to be understood as an essentially metaphysical turn towards death. The last man of the world-city no longer wants to live - he may cling to life as an individual, but as a type, as an aggregate, no, for it is a characteristic of this collective existence that it eliminates the terror of death. That which strikes the true peasant with a deep and inexplicable fear, the notion that the family and the name may be extinguished, has now lost its meaning. The continuance of the blood-relation in the visible world is no longer a duty of the blood, and the destiny of being the last of the line is no longer felt as a doom. Children do not happen, not because children have become impossible, but principally because intelligence at the peak of intensity can no longer find any reason for their existence. Let the reader try to merge himself in the soul of the peasant. He has sat on his glebe [an alotted parcel of land] from primeval times, or has fastened his clutch in it, to adhere to it with his blood. He is rooted in it as the descendant of his forbears and as the forbear of future descendants. His house, his property, means, here, not the temporary connexion of person and thing for a brief span of years, but an enduring and inward union of eternal land and eternal blood. It is only from this mystical conviction of settlement that the great epochs of the cycle - procreation, birth, and death - derive that metaphysical element of wonder which condenses in the symbolism of custom and religion that all landbound people possess. For the "last men" all this is past and gone. Intelligence and sterility are allied in old families, old peoples, and old Cultures, not merely because in each microcosm the overstrained and fettered animal-element is eating up the plant element, but also because the waking-consciousness assumes that being is normally regulated by causality. That which the man of intelligence, most significantly and characteristically, labels as "natural impulse" or "life-force," he not only knows, but also values, causally, giving it the place amongst his other needs that his judgment assigns to it. When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard "having children" as a question of pro's and con's, the great turning-point has come. For Nature knows nothing of pro and con. Everywhere, wherever life is actual, reigns an inward organic logic, an "it," a drive, that is utterly independent of waking-being, with its causal linkages, and indeed not even observed by it. *The abundant proliferation of primitive peoples is a natural phenomenon, which is not even thought about, still less judged as to its utility or the reverse. When reasons have to be put forward at all in a question of life, life itself has become questionable. At that point begins prudent limitation of the number of births. In the Classical world the practice was deplored by Polybius as the ruin of Greece, and yet even at his date it had long been established in the great cities; in subsequent Roman times it became appallingly general. At first explained by the economic misery of the times, very soon it ceased to explain itself at all. And at that point, too, in Buddhist India as in Babylon, in Rome as in our own cities, a man's choice of the woman who is to be, not mother of his children as amongst peasants and primitives, but his own "companion for life," becomes a problem of mentalities. The Ibsen marriage2 appears, the" higher spiritual affinity" in which both parties are "free" - free, that is, as intelligences, free from the plantlike urge of the blood to continue itself, and it becomes possible for a Shaw to say "that unless woman repudiates her womanliness, her duty to her husband, to her children, to society, to the law, and to everyone but herself, she cannot emancipate herself."3 The primary woman, the peasant woman, is mother. The whole vocation towards which she has yearned from childhood is included in that one word. But now emerges the Ibsen woman, the comrade, the heroine of a whole megalopolitan literature from Northern drama to Parisian novel. Instead of children, she has soul-conflicts; marriage is a craft-art for the achievement of "mutual understanding." It is all the same whether the case against children is the American lady's who would not miss a season for anything, or the Parisienne's who fears that her lover would leave her, or an Ibsen heroine's who "belongs to herself" - they all belong to themselves and they are all unfruitful. The same fact, in conjunction with the same arguments, is to be found in the Alexandrian, in the Roman, and, as a matter of course, in every other civilized society - and conspicuously in that in which Buddha grew up. And in Hellenism and in the nineteenth century, as in the times of Lao Tzu [father of Taoism] and the Charvaka doctrine [an ancient Hindu materialism], there is an ethic for childless intelligences, and a literature about the inner conflicts of Nora and Nana. The "quiverful," which was still an honourable enough spectacle in the days of Werther, becomes something rather provincial. The father of many children is for the great city a subject for caricature; Ibsen did not fail to note it, and presented it in his Love's Comedy.

At this level all Civilizations enter upon a stage, which lasts for centuries, of appalling depopulation. The whole pyramid of cultural man vanishes. It crumbles from the summit, first the world-cities, then the provincial forms, and finally the land itself, whose best blood has incontinently poured into the towns, merely to bolster them up awhile. At the last, only the primitive blood remains, alive, but robbed of its strongest and most promising elements.
___________________________


*The abridged edition of Spengler's work begins a new paragraph at this point, omitting everything quoted prior, and much that follows.

1"Being" and "Waking Being" are defined by Spengler on page 7:
"...there emerges in all clarity yet another distinction, which is normally obscured by the use of the ambiguous word 'consciousness (Bewusstsein).' I distinguish being or 'being there' (dasein) from waking-being or waking consciousness (Wachsein). Being possesses beat and direction, while waking-consiousness is tension and extension. In being a destiny rules, while waking-consiousness distinguishes causes and effects. The prime question for the one 'when and wherefore?' for the other 'where and how?' A plant leads an existence that is without waking-consciousness."
2Henrik Ibsen (1828–1906), Norwegian dramatist. Hjalmar Ekdal, in the play, The Wild Duck, act 4., referring to Mrs. Sörby’s marriage, says:
"A marriage based on full confidence, based on complete and unqualified frankness on both sides; they are not keeping anything back; there’s no deception underneath it all. If I might so put it, it’s an agreement for the mutual forgiveness of sin."
3Shaw, The Quintessence of Ibsen.

9.05.2008

"The Great Turning Point"

Here is an interesting quote from the Phillip Longman article linked below:
"When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard 'having children' as a question of pro's and con's, the great turning point has come."

~Oswald Spengler
Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (1880-1936) was a German historian and philosopher best known for his 1918 book The Decline of the West (Der Untergang des Abendlandes) in which he presents a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations.

9.04.2008

The Return of Patriarchy

Where was I when this was written over two years ago? I just heard about it (another hat tip to GL). It's a piece by Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation. His thesis is:
"Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best."

9.02.2008

2006 Census Report on Fertility

HT: Greg Laughlin - thanks!

http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/p20-558.pdf

This report indicates that my family of seven children is in a minority of less than 2% of the population (they stopped counting at five children). I remember filling out this census questionnaire, and there was not room for all our family data. But, the bureau actually called after they received the form to interview me for the rest of the data. The number of families with seven or more children must have been even more statistically insignificant than the 2% who have five or more.

Some of the "highlights" from the report:

The level of childlessness among women 40 to 44 years old in June 2006, 20 percent, is twice as high as 30 years ago (10 percent).

Women 40 to 44 years old will end their childbearing years with an average of 1.9 children each, a number below replacement-level fertility. Hispanic women will have an average
of 2.3 children each, higher than that of White non-Hispanic, Black, or Asian women.

Women near the end of their childbearing years, 40 to 44 years old in 2006, had an average of 1.9 children—more than one child fewer than the average for women in the same age group in 1976 (3.1 children). This shift in the average number of children ever born reflects the decline in the number of women having higher order births (three or more children) over the past three decades from 59 percent in 1976 to 28 percent in 2006 and also the increase in the proportion of women not having any births (from 10 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2006).

Complete Fertility for women 40 to 44 was the following by various characteristics:

Non-Hispanic Whites: 1.767
Asians: 1.689
Blacks: 2.003
The only group with an above-replacement-rate TFR were Hispanics at 2.3.

Of women born in America, the completed TFR was 1,823, compared to 2.052 for foreign-born women.

More educated women had lower completed TFRs (1.596 for those with graduate or professional degrees) compared to those with less education (2.447 for those who failed to complete high school -- the only group with an above-replacement-rate TFR).

Those with family incomes of $100,000 or above had a lower completed TFR (1.832), than those below that level of income. Those with family incomes between $35,000 and $49,999 had the highest completed TFR at 2.052.

Palin, Procreation Politics, and Motherhood

Politically, I think Sarah Palin was a shrewd choice by McCain. However, since John McCain chose her for his running mate, everyone has been excited about her "pro-life" stance. It seems that everyone believes that giving birth to a son with Down Syndrome shows her to be a super-pro-lifer. Are there really pro-lifers who believe one can morally abort a child who has a genetic defect? If not, why do they fawn over this fact?

What's more, now that it's public knowledge that her teenage daughter is pregnant and intends to keep the child, Palin's familial pro-life position is perceived to be even more solid.

I'll admit that this is all in stark contrast to Obama's "babies as punishment" stance, but have we really reduced our collective conscience as a nation to seeing the hallmark of morality on the issue of procreation as simply that one doesn't kill babies? How about being willing to stay home and raise them?

This seems a good time to introduce the following quote from Luther's commentary on Ecclesiastes:
Ecclesiastes 7:26. "And I found more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets and whose hands are fetters; he who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her."

"Among the things I have noticed about fools is this one, which has to do with women. For when he was writing a catalog of vanities, it would not do to pass over this. What happens to fools who try to keep hands off and to do nothing and to be free of everything is that they fall into the hands of women and are obliged to serve women. He is speaking about a woman who administers things and arrogates wisdom and ruling power to herself. He is not speaking about the wrath of women, although it is true that a woman has a more tempestuous nature than a man. This is not a condemnation of the female sex, which is a creation of God. For the sex must be kept distinct from its weaknesses, just as earlier he made a distinction between the works of God and the counsels of men. A human being is a work of God, but beyond this work he wants to follow also his own counsels and not to be controlled solely by God, by whom he has nevertheless been created and made. In the same way the sex must be kept distinct from its weaknesses. As a creature of God, a woman is to be looked upon with reverence. For she was created to be around the man, to care for children and to bring them up in an honest and godly way, and to be subject to the man. Men, on the other hand, are commanded to govern and have the rule over women and the rest of the household. But if a woman forsakes her office and assumes authority over her husband, she is no longer doing her own work, for which she was created, but a work that comes from her own fault and from evil. For God did not create this sex for ruling, and therefore they never rule successfully.

"In opposition to this one could cite the histories about the Amazons, celebrated by Greek writers. They are said to have exercised authority and to have waged war. For my part, however, I believe that what is said of them is a fable. The Ethiopians select women as both kings and princes, as is their custom; thus Candace, the queen of Ethiopia, is mentioned in the Book of Acts (Acts 8:27). But this is a foolish thing to do, as foolish princes are often put in charge of a kingdom. Never has there been divine permission for a woman to rule. Of course, it can happen that she is put into the place of the king and of the kingdom; but then she always has a senate of leading men, by whose counsel everything should be administered. Therefore even though a woman may occupy the king’s place, this does not confirm the right of women to rule. For the text is clear (Gen. 3:16): “You shall be under the power of your husband, and he shall rule over you.” The woman was created for her special purpose, namely, to use prudence and reason in the rearing of children. For everyone functions most efficiently in that for which he was created. A woman can handle a child better with her little finger than a man can with both fists. Therefore let everyone remain in that work to which he has been called and ordained by God."

Luther's Works (15:130)

It doesn't sound to me like Luther would be in favor of Palin's candidacy, regardless of her record or abilities. The fact that one
can do something doesn't mean one should. Isaiah 3:12 also speaks negatively about the rule of women:

O My people! Their oppressors are children,
And women rule over them.
O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray
And confuse the direction of your paths.