Modern ideologies of fertility share a common attribute: They objectify people at large and commodify them in the particular. Despite the interesting questions economists raise, I have heard that Malthus’s object was never to stump for population control but to toss cold water on philosophies of infinite human betterment. To improve human life through improvements in planning and technology was, reasoned Malthus, ultimately futile. Population growth would inevitably maintain human want at a certain level or cause it to fluctuate in boom/bust cycles. Modernity has chosen the second route; more stable or static cultures choose the first and may be better for it in terms of maintaining culture, though certainly not in avoiding human misery. There are many ways to interpret the economic reality of unlimited wants with limited resources.
Children, in the eyes of the modern world, are either a severe inconvenience or a sought-after luxury–rather like pets. Commodified, children become the products of manufacture through in vitro fertilization and genetic screening–or else, as the accidental or unsatisfactory result of sexual encounters they are prevented and removed. In these ways, children and the activities of childbearing are subjected to the capitalist industrial system. The innate worth of a child is replaced by its market value. The perceived economic burden of an anonymous class of unwanted third-world children, or the economic expense of medically conceiving a ‘wanted’ child in the affluent West. The child in either case becomes either an investment or a liability.
Thus sexuality and its fruits, like everything else, have been reduced to commodities and subjected to the war of man against nature. With a high view of the human person that comes from the incarnation of our Lord Jesus, Christianity stands in necessary opposition to this reduction. But some Christians, while resisting the abortionists or population controllers, commit a similar error by turning human reproduction into an instrument for cultural warfare. The fundamentalist “Quiverfull” movement transforms children into missiles with a misappropriated Biblical metaphor. Continue reading The Impoverished Response