2.28.2009

Membership Declines Continue

The Christian Post reports:
"After years of continuous growth, membership in the Roman Catholic Church dropped by 0.59 percent and the Southern Baptist Convention decreased by 0.24 percent, according to the 2009 edition of the Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, published this week. Although the percentage losses are small compared to the total membership of the churches, the yearbook pointed out that the two communions had "grown dependably" over the years and "now they join virtually every mainline church in reporting a membership decline." Other denominations that reported membership losses include ...the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (down 1.44 percent)..."
The editor of the Yearbook says: "There are no clear-cut theological or sociological reasons for church growth or decline."

Oh, really? I guess the effect of family planning (shown here) just kind of slips under the radar screen of most people's thinking. In 1961 LCMS members were reproducing at above the replacement fertility rate: we had 82,248 infant baptisms that year. In 2004, with the same number of overall membership reproduction had declined 60%, reflected by just 32,851 infant baptisms that year. Rev. Terry K. Dittmer, LCMS Director of Youth Ministry, pointed out: "At this time, the average age of an LCMS member is 62. We’re not having children. In that time, our youth population has shifted from 198,000 in 1980 to 102,000 in 2007 based on confirmation statistics."
No clear-cut theological or sociological reasons for the reported decline in membership?

I beg to differ.

2.27.2009

"Conscience clause" to be recinded by Obama

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's administration took a first step on Friday to rescind a controversial Bush-mandated regulation allowing healthcare professionals to refuse to provide services and information on moral grounds.

An official at the Department of Health and Human Services said the Bush administration rule had "upset the balance" between allowing doctors to decline to provide abortions and protecting the rights of women to get the care they need.

Current law includes a conscience clause for providers who do not want to perform abortions, but the Bush administration rule that took effect January 20 went much further, the agency official said on condition of anonymity.

It was vague enough to let health professionals invoke the conscience clause for things like contraceptives, family planning and counseling for vaccines and blood transfusions, she said.

"We recognize and understand that some providers have objections to providing abortions. We want to ensure that current law protects them," the official said.

"But we do not want to impose new limitations on services ... like family planning and contraception that would actually help prevent the need for an abortion in the first place."

. . . "Today's action by the Obama administration demonstrates that this president is not going to stand by and let women's health be placed in jeopardy," said Cecile Richards, head of the Planned Parenthood Federation.

Mary Jane Gallagher, head of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, called it an "important start."

"Women and men who depend on these services cannot afford for their access to counseling, education, contraception and preventive health screenings to be limited by this extreme rule," she said.

2.21.2009

Chronological Snobbery and Contraception



Moments ago, I quoted part of G.K. Chesterton's famous "Democracy of the Dead" in a comment to Erich's "Half-way Position" post, and I was fearful that I might be misunderstood. I hope I wasn't.  So a comment now leads to this post.

I apply Chesterton's brilliant words to all of us, usually to myself, and this fact made me recall an even better term coined by C.S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy: chronological snobbery. 

Wikipedia defines this word like this (italics mine): 
Chronological snobbery (a term coined by friends C. S. Lewis and Owen Barfield) is a logical fallacy describing the erroneous argument that the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior when compared to that of the present. As Barfield explains it, it is the belief that "intellectually, humanity languished for countless generations in the most childish errors on all sorts of crucial subjects, until it was redeemed by some simple scientific dictum of the last century."[1] The subject came up between them when Barfield had converted to Anthroposophy and was persuading Lewis (an atheist at that time) to join him. One of Lewis's objections was that the religion was simply outdated, and in Surprised by Joy (chapter 13, p. 207-208) he describes how this was fallacious:

“Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist, but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. In the first place he made short work of what I have called my "chronological snobbery," the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also "a period," and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them." 
I cannot help but think of 20th Century social issues, like contraception, when I read these words.  

Blessings. 

2.20.2009

Mollie on Children as Wealth

Good post over at Get Religion.

Taking a "Half-Way" Position

I often hear talk about a "half-way" position regarding contraception, usually meaning that one does not agree with the culture's acceptance of contraception, but also does not believe contraception is intrinsically wrong either.

I am always open to correction, in fact I desire correction. Therefore, I am interested in exploring, once again, whether there is a defensible "half-way" position that would allow for clear cases in which there would be absolutely NO SIN in contracepting. I propose that this would require one to believe there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contracepting - that only the motives for using it could be sinful.

My position against this "half-way" position is that there is something intrinsically wrong with contraception - that "be fruitful and multiply" is a moral absolute.

As such, what should we do if two or more of absolutes come into unavoidable conflict? At this link to an earlier post of mine on Christian ethics, you will read:

"Basically, there are three answers to this question. First, unqualified absolutism [Roman Catholicism favors this one] affirms that all such conflicts are only apparent; they not real. In short, no two absolute obligations ever come into unavoidable conflict. Second, conflicting absolutism [the more Lutheran position in my opinion] admits to real moral conflicts but claims that one is guilty no matter which way he goes. Third, graded absolutism (or the greater-good position) [favored by Calvinists] agrees with the view that real moral conflicts do sometimes occur, but maintains that one is personally guiltless if he does the greatest good..." [Geisler]

These ethical principles for moral dilemmas are the only ones open to honest Christians, and stand in stark contrast to the moral relativism or "situation ethics" of our secular culture.

I hold that contraception is either wrong or it is not. The "situation" does not make it right unless God has given a clear exemption in His Word.

It seems even those who take a "half-way" position agree that a married couple needs a defensible reason to contracept. Most people, even non-Christians, usually offer some sort of excuse or rationale for limiting their family. I think most of us on this blog would even agree on what might be defensible reasons - for instance, rare cases in which we should preserve the life of the mother (i.e. obeying the Fifth Commandment).

That brings up a moral absolute all Christians still agree on. God said "Thou shalt not Kill." Killing is always a bad thing. However, God has given us clear exemptions to this moral absolute in which there is no sin in killing: the vocations of executioner and soldier. Outside of these legitimate vocations, killing is ALWAYS sinful. These vocations are not cases of "conflicting absolutes" because God has given these vocations as specific exemptions to the Fifth Commandment.

So, if one accepts the premise that "be fruitful and multiply" is a moral absolute, has God given any specific exemptions to this divine ordinance? Luther writes regarding this as follows:

"...from this ordinance of creation God has himself exempted three categories of men, saying in Matthew 19:12, 'There are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.' Apart from these three groups, let no man presume to be without a spouse. And whoever does not fall within one of these three categories should not consider anything except the estate of marriage. Otherwise it simply impossible for you to remain righteous. For the Word of God which created you and said, 'Be fruitful and multiply,' abides and rules within you; you can by no means ignore it, or you will be bound to commit heinous sins without end." [Luther's Works, vol. 45, page 15 ff]

In addition, 1 Corinthians 7:5 allows for abstinence within marriage for a very specific and limited purpose: "Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

It is my position that outside of these Biblical exemptions, contraception (whether "artificial" or so-called "natural" family planning) is sinful.

Again, so there is no confusion, I agree there are "hard cases" which would allow for the use of contraception. These are not illusions, but real moral dilemmas. If there is nothing intrinsically wrong with contracepting, there can be no dilemma, and no sin in contracepting. In fact, one would need no excuse to contracept if there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it.

On the other hand, if you agree that there is something intrinsically wrong with contracepting, the only disagreement I think we can have is what to call our actions in these "hard cases." I believe these are cases in which contracepting may be considered the "lesser evil" - not the "greater good." In these rare moral dilemmas, we try to choose the lesser evil (we can never be certain we have) and throw ourselves on the mercy found in Christ. We don't trust our decisions and actions to justify us, but rather Christ.

Let me take this a step further and, again, confess my own sin. Even my best efforts at obeying God's divine ordinance to "be fruitful and multiply" are in need of forgiveness. I do not use any forms of contraception, yet I am still guilty of being contraceptive in my heart. With our ninth child only eight months old, my sinful mind often hopes that my wife's on-demand nursing will still prevent conception for a time. I struggle with this sin. Don't get me wrong, I do LOVE our large family and believe I am very blessed, just as it says in Psalm 127. But I am at the same time saint and sinner, just as Paul confesses in Romans 7. I believe I should be open to God's blessing of children at any time He chooses, trusting that He will always provide our daily bread.

My knowledge of God's law regarding procreation curbs me from utilizing overt methods of family planing through the first use of the law. And it instructs me in loving God and His immutable good will for us via the third use of the law. But it also on this earth will always convict me via the second use of the law.

"What a wretched man I am. Who will save me from this body of death? Thanks be to God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" [Romans 7:24-25]

2.19.2009

In an Era of Shrinking Broods, Larger Families Can Feel Attacked

Finally, the mainstream media (NYT) has some decent press on larger families. It highlights a number of perspectives including, faith, remarriage, contraception, and children as wealth. Below is a brief excerpt.

In an Era of Shrinking Broods, Larger Families Can Feel Attacked - NYTimes.com

THE comment from the photographer at Sears was typical. “Are these all yours?” she asked, surveying Kim Gunnip’s 12 children.

“No,” Mrs. Gunnip replied, “I picked some up at the food court.”

But it was harder to find a retort for the man in line at the supermarket, who said within earshot of her youngest children, “You must have a great sex life.”

Now her family, like other larger families, as they call themselves, is facing endless news coverage of the octupletsborn in California and a new round of scorn, slack jaws and stupid jokes.

Back when the average woman had more than three children, big families were the Kennedys of Hickory Hill and Hyannis Port, “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the Cosbys or “Eight is Enough” — lovable tumbles of offspring as all-American in their scrapes as in their smiles.

But as families have shrunk, and parents helicopter over broods tinier yet more precious, a vanload of children has taken on more of a freak show factor. The families know the stereotypes: they’re polygamists, religious zealots, reality-show hopefuls or Québécois in it for the per-child government bonus. And isn’t there something a little obsessive about Angelina Jolie’s quest for her own World Cup soccer team?

“Look at the three shows on TLC that have bigger families,” said Meagan Francis, the 31-year-old author of “Table for Eight,” which stems from her experience raising four children (she is expecting her fifth next month). “One is about religious fundamentalists, one has sextuplets, the other is a family of little people,” she said, referring to, respectively, the Duggars of “17 Kids and Counting,” “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” and “Little People, Big World,” about two dwarfs raising four children, three of average stature, on a pumpkin farm in Oregon.

“You get the feeling,” Ms. Francis added, “that anybody who has more than three kids is either doing it for bizarre reasons or there’s a medical anomaly.”

Contraception on Issues, Etc.

On Wednesday, February 18, 2009, Revs. Michael Walther and Heath Curtis discussed contraception on Issues, Etc. Pr. Wilken said at the end that he intends to have these guests back again to discuss this issue more.

The show was excellent and should be listened to in its entirety, but near the end of the show, Pr. Curtis mentioned that the Bible texts he likes to use to teach on this are Ephesians 5 (Christ giving His bride everything He has) and John 2 (the wedding at Cana). This reminded me of a recent post on Blogia explaining Luther's Christocentric approach to ethics. We have said from the beginning of this blog that we seek to examine this issue through the theology of the cross. If you have read that post on Blogia, I'd like to hear your thoughts on its application to the ethics of contraception.

2.18.2009

Shakespeare's Sonnets 1-17

- a.k.a. the "Procreation Sonnets" - written encouraging a young man to marry and father children. Sonnets 18-126 are addressed to the same young man expressing the poet's love for him. Sonnets 127-152 are written to the poet's mistress expressing his strong love for her. The final two sonnets, 153-154, are allegorical. The final thirty or so sonnets are written about a number of issues, such as the young man's infidelity with the poet's mistress, self-resolution to control his own lust, beleaguered criticism of the world, etc. (or so says Wikipedia). If you'd like to read them all, here's a link. And here is a link to some interesting commentaries.

1
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender chorl, mak'st waste in niggarding:
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

2
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gaz'd on now,
Will be a totter'd weed of small worth held:
Then being ask'd, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv'd thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer, “This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,”
Proving his beauty by succession thine.
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

3
Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
Now is the time that face should form another,
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb,
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime,
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But if thou live rememb'red not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

4
Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
Nature's bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free:
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thyself alone,
Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive,
Then how when Nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
Thy unus'd beauty must be tomb'd with thee,
Which used lives th' executor to be.

5
Those hours that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell
Will play the tyrants to the very same,
And that unfair which fairly doth excel:
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there,
Sap check'd with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o'ersnow'd and bareness every where:
Then were not summer's distillation left
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no remembrance what it was.
But flowers distill'd, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show, their substance still lives sweet.

6
Then let not winter's ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer ere thou be distill'd:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure ere it be self-kill'd.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That's for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigur'd thee,
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-will'd, for thou art much too fair
To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir.

7
Lo in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty,
And having climb'd the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage:
But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,
Like feeble age he reeleth from the day,
The eyes ('fore duteous) now converted are
From his low tract and look another way:
So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon,
Unlook'd on diest unless thou get a son.

8
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire, and child, and happy mother,
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee, “Thou single wilt prove none.”

9
Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye
That thou consum'st thyself in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife,
The world will be thy widow and still weep,
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep,
By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind.
Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it,
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unus'd, the user so destroys it:
No love toward others in that bosom sits
That on himself such murd'rous shame commits.

10
For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thyself art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art belov'd of many,
But that thou none lov'st is most evident;
For thou art so possess'd with murd'rous hate,
That 'gainst thyself thou stick'st not to conspire,
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind!
Shall hate be fairer lodg'd than gentle love?
Be as thy presence is gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

11
As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow'st,
In one of thine, from that which thou departest,
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow'st
Thou mayst call thine, when thou from youth convertest.
Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase,
Without this, folly, age, and cold decay.
If all were minded so, the times should cease,
And threescore year would make the world away.
Let those whom nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish:
Look whom she best endow'd she gave the more;
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish.
She carv'd thee for her seal, and meant thereby,
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

12
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
And die as fast as they see others grow,
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defense
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

13
O that you were yourself! but, love, you are
No longer yours than you yourself here live:
Against this coming end you should prepare,
And your sweet semblance to some other give.
So should that beauty which you hold in lease
Find no determination; then you were
Yourself again after yourself's decease,
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay,
Which husbandry in honor might uphold
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day
And barren rage of death's eternal cold?
O, none but unthrifts: dear my love, you know
You had a father, let your son say so.

14
Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck,
And yet methinks I have astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons' quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
'Pointing to each his thunder, rain, and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find.
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive
If from thyself to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
Thy end is truth's and beauty's doom and date.

15
When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment;
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and check'd even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory:
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay
To change your day of youth to sullied night,
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I ingraft you new.

16
But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant Time?
And fortify yourself in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?
Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens, yet unset,
With virtuous wish would bear your living flowers,
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
So should the lines of life that life repair
Which this time's pencil, or my pupil pen,
Neither in inward worth nor outward fair
Can make you live yourself in eyes of men.
To give away yourself keeps yourself still,
And you must live drawn by your own sweet skill.

17
Who will believe my verse in time to come
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes,
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say, “This poet lies,
Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.”
So should my papers (yellowed with their age)
Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage,
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it and in my rhyme.

Martin Luther, Hausvater


Happy Martin Luther Day!

Today we commemorate the death of the Great Reformer, who also was a model Hausvater. Luther held to the historic biblical doctrine of procreation which this blog is all about. Not only did he preach and teach rightly on these matters as a pastor, but as a father and husband he cannot be accused of preaching and teaching something he himself had no experience struggling with.

2.10.2009

2 is not Nearly Enough



From the First Things Blog in response to the call by an environmental organization that couples limit themselves to two children each:

First, as is well known, demographers say that for a constant population, the fertility rate averaged over all women should be 2.1 children per woman, not 2.0, since not all children survive to adulthood. Second, and much more important, there are many people who are unable to have children for one reason or another. About 15% of couples suffer from fertility problems; many people are unable to find a mate; and many who do find a mate marry too late to have children. Altogether about 19% of women in the United States in the 40-44 age bracket are still childless, which means that they will probably remain childless. This implies that in order to have a constant population, those women who are able and willing to have any children should have on average 2.6 children, not 2.0. If we also take into account the fact that many women who are able and willing to have a child are unable to have more than one, one finds that those women who are able and willing to have more than one child must actually average almost 3 children just to keep the population stable. Instead of the canonical "family of four" that has been held up for so long as the ideal, it should be the "family of five," or four and three-quarters, perhaps.

To put it another way, if no one had more than two children, as the green guru would want it, the fertility rate could probably not be gotten above 1.4. In twenty generations the world population would plunge to less than 2 million.
For the full post, see http://www.firstthings.com/blog/2009/02/02/green-guru/

2.09.2009

"Children are a Kind of Wealth"


The New York Times


February 8, 2009

And Baby Makes How Many?

By KATE ZERNIKE

THE comment from the photographer at Sears was typical. “Are these all yours?” she asked, surveying Kim Gunnip’s 12 children.

“No,” Mrs. Gunnip replied, “I picked some up at the food court.”

But it was harder to find a retort for the man in line at the supermarket, who said within earshot of her youngest children, “You must have a great sex life.”

Now her family, like other larger families, as they call themselves, is facing endless news coverage of the octuplets born in California and a new round of scorn, slack jaws and stupid jokes.

Back when the average woman had more than three children, big families were the Kennedys of Hickory Hill and Hyannis Port, “Cheaper by the Dozen,” the Cosbys or “Eight is Enough” — lovable tumbles of offspring as all-American in their scrapes as in their smiles.

But as families have shrunk, and parents helicopter over broods tinier yet more precious, a vanload of children has taken on more of a freak show factor. The families know the stereotypes: they’re polygamists, religious zealots, reality-show hopefuls or Québécois in it for the per-child government bonus. And isn’t there something a little obsessive about Angelina Jolie’s quest for her own World Cup soccer team?

“Look at the three shows on TLC that have bigger families,” said Meagan Francis, the 31-year-old author of “Table for Eight,” which stems from her experience raising four children (she is expecting her fifth next month). “One is about religious fundamentalists, one has sextuplets, the other is a family of little people,” she said, referring to, respectively, the Duggars of “17 Kids and Counting,” “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” and “Little People, Big World,” about two dwarfs raising four children, three of average stature, on a pumpkin farm in Oregon.

“You get the feeling,” Ms. Francis added, “that anybody who has more than three kids is either doing it for bizarre reasons or there’s a medical anomaly.”

* * *

If large families are the stuff of spectacle, it is partly because they have become rarer.

In 1976, census data show, 59 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had three or more children, 20 percent had five or more and 6 percent had seven or more.

By 2006, four decades after the Supreme Court declared a constitutional right to use birth control (and the last year available from census studies), 28 percent of women ages 40 to 44 had three or more children, 4 percent had five or more and just 0.5 percent had seven or more.

“Three is still O.K.,” said Michelle Lehmann, the founder of lotsofkids.com and a mother of eight children who lives outside Chicago. “When you have four, people start raising eyebrows. When you go to five, people are like, ‘No way.’ ”

Beyond 10? “They think you are lying,” said Mrs. Gunnip, who also writes two blogs for so-called mega-families, those with eight or more children.

* * *

In a 2006 article, “The Case for Kids,” in Christianity Today, Ms. Fields lamented new social norms that assume that multiple children burden the goals of educated, professional women: “The smart, ambitious, fully realized 21st-century woman chooses career. The ambitionless woman has children.”

* * *

The article in Christianity Today unleashed a flood of hate mail. One reader wrote in all capital letters: “Did it ever occur to you that if you really want to serve God you should have less children so you’d have more time to serve God?” (“You can’t enter into debate with people who have that kind of rage,” Ms. Fields said.)

* * *

Mrs. Curtis illustrates one of the many ways that families grow so large: she had two children from her first marriage, then, with her second husband, seven in 10 years. One of those children had Down syndrome, so they adopted another Down syndrome child, believing two would grow up happier together. Since then, they have twice accepted requests to adopt another child with Down syndrome.

“Children are a kind of wealth,” Mrs. Curtis said. “Just not the kind of wealth our society tends to focus on.”

* * *

As for the other pointed questions about large families, defenders have developed standard comebacks, lists of which circulate on the Internet.

How can you afford so many? “Lifestyles are expensive, not kids.”

Don’t you know what causes that? “Oh, yes, I now wash my husband’s underwear separately.”

Do you get any time for yourselves? “Obviously, or we wouldn’t have six kids.”


For the full article, see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/fashion/08bigfam.html?em

2.03.2009

"Hurray Contraception!"



The following are the words of a woman who is a lesbian, supports same-sex "marriage" and understands the connection between the battle to legalize and make acceptable contraception and the acceptance of homosexuality. The full article is available at http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/xxfactor/archive/2009/01/29/for-wo...:

For Women, Good Jobs Depend on Good Contraception ... and Yet ...
Posted Thursday, January 29, 2009 11:20 AM | By E.J. Graff

Dayo, I agree with you on a number of things about contraception and economic prosperity for the country and for women—and disagree with Rachael's contention that contraception isn't related to jobs.

* * *

What's more, I agree with Ruth Rosen's more recent analytical post explaining the right wing's philosophical objection to family planning at all. Here's a snippet from her brilliant explanation of why Margaret Sanger was repeatedly arrested for opening her pioneering birth control clinics, why she and her fellows were attacked so ferociously by the forces of Comstock, and why contraception is still being attacked today:

... the religious right's real agenda is not just to eliminate abortion, but to end the historic rupture between sex and reproduction that took place in the 20th century.... If reproduction ceased to be the goal, sexuality might become yoked to pleasure and that is quite unsettling to many Americans. That is the legacy the religious right has fought against, and it's that agenda that cut funding for family planning.


As I explained in my book What Is Marriage For?, when women won the battle over contraception, it blazed the trail for the acceptance of lesbians and gay men. Hurray contraception, both practically and philosophically!

* * *

2.01.2009

Culture of Death Part Two: Having More Than 2 Kids Will Destroy Planet, Environmentalist Says


Sheesh:
Couples who have more than two children are being “irresponsible” by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the British government’s green adviser warned.

Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming. He says political leaders and green campaigners should stop dodging the issue of environmental harm caused by an expanding population...
Read the whole sad story here.