Don't have any more children...

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Got an e-mail today from a guy who's spent considerable time putting together arguments for Mother Earth being relieved of the masses of men she's currently supporting. The author wrote to say he'd quoted me. Reading his book feels like peering into a monkey cage.

He describes his work: 

[This book] investigates an extreme fringe of U.S. Protestantism ...that use Old Testament "fruitful" verses to support natalist ideas explicitly promoting higher fecundity.

...This book argues that natalism is inappropriate as a Christian application of Scripture, especially since rich populations’ total footprints are detrimental to biodiversity and to human welfare. 

Yes yes, biodiversity...

These two paragraphs are the end of his scribbling:

A change in hearts and minds is the best way forward. The journey of individual members, and perhaps of whole congregations, away from fundamentalism and toward mainline historic Christianity is desirable. However, there will be large numbers of fundamentalists in the U.S. for the forseeable future, so a way to help them feel comfortable about choosing smaller family sizes has to be found. If some fundamentalists chose to redirect their energy away from biological fecundity and toward other pursuits such as evangelism and mission (including social concern and creation-care), that would be good for ecological sustainability. One contribution to this would be non-natalist interpretation of the Old Testament fruitful verses that is nevertheless compatible with fundamentalist approaches to the Bible. This book is one more step in that direction, but although more research should be done, a far more important task is popular outreach by non-natalists within each denomination to fellow members of their churches, especially to young people.

There is much potential for immediate and enduring reductions in our ecological impact through lower fertility, given the high U.S. per capita ecological footprint of 7.0 gha (GFN) and the long-term consequences of additional births (Murtagh and Schlax 18). Ecological impact is a product of impact per person multiplied by population size (which is driven by birth rates). And yet while many researchers and activists labor toward reducing the impact per person (which is good and essential because even if the population stabilized, lower-impact living would be needed), often through small efficiency gains, few consider the large and rapid savings achievable through lower fertility. Looking beyond the U.S., there are many types of natalism, including state, religious, and cultural natalisms. If young people were liberated from all natalist pressures and allowed to follow their own inclinations, there would be lower birth rates and less ecological impact. And it is not all-or-nothing: if just one couple influenced by natalism is released from that ideology and has a smaller family, they will personally avoid “many troubles” (1 Corinthians 7:28, NIV) and also help mend the world.


Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!