Having many children

November 11, 2006 at 4:43 am (Christianity, Europe, History, Israel, Judaism, Religion, Religions, The Rest, The United Kingdom, The United States, The West, Theology)

In The West, there are a number of religious organizations/movements/denominations that strongly promote large families. Such groups believe that the first commandment of God to humanity (Adam and Eve) was to “be fruitful, and multiply.” Indeed, such it is written in the very first chapter of the Bible (in “Torah” according to Jews, in “The Old Testament” according to Christians, in the “Pentateuch” or “Five Books of Moses” or “The Law” or “The Hebrew Bible” according to both):

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”.

(Genesis 1:28; בראשית פרק א, Parshat B’reshit 1). God did this right after creating Adam and Even in His image. (See Genesis 1:26-27.)

The three groups amongst Judeo-Christian groups most associated with large families are Catholics, Latter-day Saints, and Orthodox Jews.

(Indeed, because of Orthodox Jews’ propensity to have large families, it may be only a matter of time before Orthodox Judaism would be the most populous form of Judaism, essentially coming to define Judaism at the expense of Reform and Conservative Judaism.)

According to these groups, children are a blessing from God and their conception and birth is the will and design of God. As such, believers are exhorted not to interfere with God’s will and plan, and to enjoy His blessings in this regard.

Such groups also place a large focus on family cohesiveness. Indeed, officially, Catholicism does not even permit divorce. The idea is that a man and a woman are destined – commanded, even – by God to marry and, once in a marriage and only in this state, to begin creating a family. Associated with this are rules stating that sexual intimacy may not occur outside of marriage (for sexuality was designed by God for the creation of families), and that creating and maintaining families are key responsibilities (and ought to be one of the most supreme joys) of believers. The family becomes a sacred institution, with marriage and childrearing also becoming quasi-sacraments or mandatory duties. Such groups also tend to believe that a family should be well-organized, with each member playing his/her vital role: the father earns money and serves as the family’s head; the mother raises and teaches the children, cares for the family, and sees to the family’s spiritual progress and devotion; children obey their parents, learn spiritually and in secular schools, and assist in the care and rearing of siblings as the case may be. Sons are reared to be good fathers and husbands; daughters are reared to be good mothers and wives.

The above was commentary and other stuff. Now I begin my pontification:
Perhaps it is time that this devotion to family spread among more denominations. It seems that too many people think small families are ideal. Granted, rearing large families is no easy task, but members of a large family learn a lot that they may not be able to learn elsewhere or elsehow. Indeed, the family becomes like a fortress of sorts.

But more than that, this view of the family incorporates a very important aspect: viewing offspring as a blessing, a blessing to attain in large numbers. The Biblical attitude towards children has always been positive and almost doting. Consider the following:

Lo, children [are] an heritage of the LORD: [and] the fruit of the womb [is his] reward. As arrows [are] in the hand of a mighty man; so [are] children of the youth. Happy [is] the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

(Psalm 127:3-5; תהילים פרק קכז, Tehillim 127).

Children’s children [are] the crown of old men; and the glory of children [are] their fathers.

(Proverbs 17:6; משלי פרק יז, Mishlei 17.)

Although The West continues to value and love children, it seems to have stopped valuing their quantity. On the other hand, old/traditional values have always strongly favored large families.

Say what one will about why this came about, but the need still exists. Without children, there will be no future. Furthermore, a society that values children and their large quantity will always be focused on the future and on providing for others. The love for children goes the other way as well: the older people will be more valued; their role in society as guides and inspirations will be reaffirmed. Although one cannot say for sure whether such a society would be less or more materialistic, it perhaps can be said that such a society would seek material benefits and gains not for oneself but for others (one’s offspring and one’s predecessors).

One reason I believe having many children became to be looked down upon is that people believed the overpopulation hysteria. Predictions were made some time ago about how overpopulation would devastate Earth, but nothing close to what was predicted has happened. Indeed, now we are facing the prospect that underpopulation may be a larger threat than what overpopulation could have ever posed. The alarming aspect is that we are seeing the affects of underpopulation now.

After all, if there’s no one to pass Western civilization to, Western civilization will cease to exist. As the population of underdeveloped and less civilized peoples continues to grow with alarming speed, perhaps we need to take up the cause of the future and realize that not only is the future in our children but also in large numbers of children. We should take more pride in our children, in having many children.

Indeed, if one thinks about it, why are we ashamed of having many children? Being ashamed thusly seems to go against our natural and evolutional instincts. And it does seem that these instincts are quite right.

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3 Comments

  1. poststop said,

    Within the reformed groups of Christianity you will see the size of family and bond of marriage more closely tied to the belief that the family is a sort of model of the “Christ-Church” relationship. If you are not familiar with covenant theology I suggest you pick up God of Promise by M. Horton as a start as a good start.

    http://www.amazon.com/God-Promise-Introducing-Covenant-Theology/dp/0801012899/sr=8-1/qid=1163226785/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-4991761-6012706?ie=UTF8&s=books

  2. Wickedpinto said,

    There was a running joke among the guys I worked with (I had a rather technical job, before I gave up on the intelligence of smart people) was that whenever we would see someone who was so clearly stupid, and counter to the eugenic social darwin concept have a child, one of us would say “who’s turn is it?” and one of us would say “mine, that makes XX children I have to have to maintain the ballance”

    I don’t mind good people procreating, I have a problem with baby factories operating without responsible supervision.

    Also, the number was always high double digits.

  3. dicentra said,

    Indeed, if one thinks about it, why are we ashamed of having many children?

    The overpopulation myth is one of the reasons, but feminism and prosperity are another huge factor. A woman who has a large brood is tied to the home for a much longer time than a woman with only one or two children. And if the woman is not outside the home working, there goes a huge source of income, which makes it hard to raise lots of kids.

    When I was growing up in Utah, there were always 3 or 4 “superfamilies” in the school system–families of 10-12 children with a kid in every grade or every other grade–who seemed to be doing just fine, thank you. The kids were almost always super-achievers who got good grades, participated in tons of extracurricular activities, and were for the most part well-adjusted, happy kids.

    Having lots of kids now means that you need to get a big house, which is difficult to afford on one salary these days. (In 1968, my parents bought a home for $23,000; homes in that neighborhood easily go for $400,000 now.) Women are also less likely nowdays to know how to sew, which is one way that these large families clothed themselves for less money. (Today’s fabric prices make it much less economical to sew for yourself, though.)

    Strange that in a country of unprecedented prosperity, having lots of kids is seen as an economic liability. Not to mention the fact that if a woman is to “have it all,” she can’t spend the entirety of her childbearing years bearing children: she has to go out there and have a career to have any credibility anymore.

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