See that headline above? It really grabbed my attention. I saw it earlier this week on Al Mohler’s blog.
Dr. Mohler serves as the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. He’s a brilliant man. He had a guest on his radio program the other day that wrote a book about the aforementioned topic.
In fact, you can find the entire radio broadcast here. I am going to list below a few of the excerpts. It’s fascinating to consider regarding the potential of a coming demographic disaster. Yes, I said, “Demographic Disaster,” not “Economic Disaster, ” (even though I’m still not convinced that our economy won’t collapse because of our out of control spending and debt). The radio interview is with author Jonathan V. Last who is a demographic expert. What he shares is very, very provocative in our day and age of having just two children. I pulled what you’ll see below from the radio transcript that can be found here.
Before we get to it, I want to ask one question. Was God’s command to Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply” just for them or was it for us? As you ponder that answer, think of this. Why are we (mankind) here?
To glorify God, right?
God desires godly offspring. (Malachi 2:15). That means He wants a bunch of people in His kingdom, right? And Satan is doing all he can to keep people from God’s kingdom. So, this battle between Satan and God is a battle for kids (people). Ok…now to the radio transcript of Al Mohler’s Radio Show: “Thinking in Public.”
…“Beginning in 1968 in American and the Western-industrialized countries, fertility rates dropped off the table. They fell by half in a matter of years. By 1973, America was below the replacement fertility rate and by the mid-1970s all of the West was. This was really interesting. This was a sort of calamity in many ways, but it was a subject of academic interest, but then as the professional academics and demographers were studying it they noticed that fertility decline spread to the rest of the world as well. So today, 97% of the world’s population lives in a country where the fertility rate is declining. Global population is going to peak, we believe, sometime in the next 50 or 60 years, and is then going to begin shrinking. For the first time in human-recorded history, population will shrink, not because of famines, not because of war or disease or pestilence, but because people simply can’t be bothered to have enough children.
…You might say… “That‘s a good thing.” We can’t feed all the people we have now. Wrong…the issue is surviving as a species over time.
…The Ford Foundation and the Planned Parenthood International want fewer children… But, all the academic research in the field being done by the actual demographers and the actual experts say we are now going in the opposite direction. People who were studying this stuff were once totally unconcerned with our population. But, now they were really mystified by the phenomenon of falling fertility rates and sub-replacement fertility and what demographers called “lowest-low fertility.” Those are fertility rates below 1.4 from which countries begin entering what they call a demographic-test spiral, where after two generations of “lowest-low fertility,” you wind up losing…40 percent of your population every 40 years.
…Japan is really the very leading edge of this global demographic collapse. Japan has been sub-replacing for 50 going on 60 years. They have been “lowest-low fertility” now for 40 years. If their fertility rate were to rebound this afternoon and suddenly be at the replacement level and then stay at the replacement level for the next 80 years, they would only lose 28 percent of their total population over that period. That’s amazing. Imagine losing one out of every four people around you. Now if, on the other hand, the fertility rate were to stay where it is now, they’re going to lose close to 60 percent of their total population before the end of this century. That’s amazing.
…Over time you have an inversion of the age pyramid so that you wind up with many more old people than young people. Last year, for the first time in Japan, people bought more adults’ diapers than they did diapers for babies. That is going to be a condition which persists for the foreseeable future. In about 20 years, they will have for every new birth, they will also have a citizen turning 100, so they will at all times have equal number of babies and centenarians. That’s an amazing thing, and we can’t even really fully contemplate what sort of macro-affect that’s going to have on society beyond the knowing there is a coming economic disaster.
Recently, Japan’s finance minister held a press conference at which he said that it was time for the country’s elderly to “hurry up and die.” Imagine our treasury secretary saying something like that. He would not be treasury secretary by the end of the day, I don’t think. In fact when you look at Japan, recent stories have come out, for instance, indicating that nursing homes there are having to develop robotic assistants to help with the care of elderly people because there just aren’t enough young people to care for the older people.
…In America today…we have the intersection of so many people who are never getting married or who are getting married at much older ages. The time in their life span they might even conceivably devote to the raising of children has been cut down significantly. And you also have the lifestyle now of childlessness that is more and more popular, especially amongst the cultural elites and the highly educated and all the rest, so we’re looking at a situation that isn’t as rational as married couples saying how many children they’re going to have; it’s a massive change in the value system of an entire civilization.
Let me share some things that have happened almost unintentionally. People now have intentionally decided to cohabitate together over the years. You know, college has been, it turns out, an enormous driver in the decline of fertility rates. People say, when they ask them in the surveys, that their college indebtedness caused them to postpone both marriage and childbearing. And the prospective expense of college adds about a fifth to the total cost of raising a child. But at the most gross level what college does is it robs you of time. People who used to get married here in America at 18 or 19, college then pushes back the age where you would even consider getting married to 22 or 23. The actual age of first marriage in America has crept all the way up to 27/28. The average age of first birth is 28/29. The biological window that we have to have babies is fairly immutable, unfortunately. It’s resistant to social planning, I’d like to say. And so as you cut down that window, people, either intentionally or not, they just find they don’t have the time they thought they were going to have and they don’t have then the families they thought they were going to have.
…Let me tell you what is replacing children today. Pets… There is this little shopping center behind my house. My wife and I, before we had kids, we lived in Old Town Alexandria, a very toney, very hip, and, frankly, quite expensive suburb of Washington, DC, right along the Potomac River. And behind us was this little shopping center with a very, very trendy gastro-pub and a great coffee shop and a Russian gourmet food market and a children’s clothing store. The children’s clothing store went out of business after about 18 months. They were the first store to fail in the shopping center, and they were replaced by a doggy spa. This was a remarkable transformation because it left the little town where we were living in with I think only two clothing stores for kids in the town and I believe it was six or seven doggy-fancy-type boutiques. You know, there was a doggy bakery, a doggy spa, a doggy haircut place. They were everywhere. And when you then go and look at, not just the numbers, but also the changes in American life, we’ve become an amazingly sort of pet-fancy country. I mean, if you take somebody who’s a dog lover from 1965 and drop them into today’s modern world where we’ve changed estate planning laws so that dogs are allowed to inherit trust funds. We now have car insurance for dogs. We have medical insurance for dogs.
…Interestingly when you look at the U.S. in terms of blue states (liberals) versus red states (conservatives) right now the blue states (liberals) are far below the total replacement rate and virtually all—and I emphasize this again—all of the growth is in red states. So, you know, it kind of gets to, you know, the principle that James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal pointed out years ago: one of the problems with the pro-choice argument or the abortion rights argument is they tend not to have babies who grow up to agree with them
Phil Longman, my liberal demographer friend, says that one of the ways he tried to get the Left to care about this stuff was to write a piece in Foreign Policy Magazine called “Return of the Patriarchy,” and what he argued was, “Hey, look all the nice liberal people who listen to NPR and live in blue states and read the New York Times, we aren’t having enough babies and if we don’t step it up, then America’s going to be run by, you know, the type of NASCAR guys who read The Wall Street Journal and drag their knuckles on the ground.”
There’s a guy up at Harvard, Eric Kaufmann, who has written a book about religion and fertility, and what he suggests is that when you run the numbers and you look at three differential rates—they are the differentials between the secular fertility rate and the “religious-practitioner,” fertility rate—then the differential between the attrition rate among religious believers (you know, how often they fall away) and then the “pass-on rate” of religion from the religious practitioners to their children, when you take all of those things into account, it is entirely possible that we are sitting at the high watermark of secularism right now in America. And that over the next 20-40 years we’re going to see the proportion of the country that are seculars, first, leveling off and then beginning a gradual decrease, and the proportion of the population which are orthodox practitioners of some faith increasing.
…Today what you see is a very distinct fertility rate for people who never attend church services, another very distinct fertility rate from people who go twice a year, another fertility rate right around replacement, by the way, for people who go once a month, and then a very healthy fertility—right around 2.35—for people who go to services once a week. And it doesn’t matter if those are Catholic services, evangelical services, Jewish services, Mormon services; it doesn’t matter what. All that matters is that you show up, and I find that to be a fantastically evocative piece of data because I think what it’s saying is it’s saying a lot about what it takes to get people over the hump and committing to having families. What it’s saying is something I think bigger than any single religion, single religious tenet; you know, every religion has its own sort of version of “be fruitful and multiply.” I don’t think that’s what’s driving people to have kids; I think it’s something more basic about the very theistic view of the world, which is these are people who view the present differently than everybody else. People who don’t go to church for them the present is all inclusive, it is everything. The present is the entirety of their worldview. The people who go to church once a week, what I would argue is that the present actually has a much diminished place in their worldview. The present is important, the present is consequential, but it is only viewed in light of obligations to pass in hopes of a future.
Al Mohler: I think there is a very clear worldview indicator that is going on here: those who believe that God’s glory is found in marriage, and, in marriage, in all the goods that come with marriage, including the gift of children. Those who believe in the future as grounded not in demographic projections but in the very rule and reign of God are far more likely to have the confidence to have children, to have the commitment to have children, perhaps, even the desire to have children, and then the willingness to make the necessary sacrifices to have and to raise children.
Interesting to ponder isn’t it?
Pray for me and our third mission team heading to Mexico this Saturday. We’ve got work to finish on the church in Progreso, Mexico and more lives to impact. We are travelling with a sister church from Henderson, NC who is partnering in the work with us (we are always looking for more partners, so let me know if your church is interested).
Here’s what’s been done so far…
Randy Brooks way up in the air stuccoing!
Brooks family WORN OUT!! How sweet!
And oh the wonderful, wonderful people…
Dale Jennings sharing the gospel…
Can’t wait to get there!
Until next time!
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