Posts tagged ‘Children’

Do Children and Happiness Go Together?

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Credit: Emma Bauso from Pexels

“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” (Psalm 127:3-5)

These ancient words from the Psalmist used to be fairly uncontroversial.  But more recently, a flood of studies and stories have been published questioning whether or not it really is good to have children.  A 2011 study by Thomas Hansen, for instance, found that parents without children reported higher levels of life satisfaction than parents with children.  A 2003 study by the National Council on Family Relations found that couples who did not have children reported higher levels of romance and closeness in their relationships.  Finally, a famous 2004 study by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman found that out of 16 activities, taking care of children ranked above only housework and commuting in terms of enjoyability.

The sociologists, it seemed, had spoken.  Having kids was not all it was cracked up to be.  But new research suggests that what the sociologists once took away in their studies might be best given back.

In a recent story from The Economist, Letizia Mencarini of Bocconi University explains that “a new generation of research…suggests that children are more likely to make parents happy than was once thought,” though parents’ ongoing happiness is not merely based on the presence of children themselves, but on a multiplicity of factors:

Whether parents are married is one.  Single parents are usually less happy than married ones.  The age of the child is another.  Children under ten seem to bring more joy than those over that age.  And money matters a lot.  David Blanchflower of Dartmouth College and Andrew Clarke of the Paris School of Economics managed to isolate the financial strain of raising children as an influence on parental happiness.  They argue that it is the cost of raising kids, rather than children in the abstract, that reduces pleasure.

But the most important influence seems to be the pressure of work.  It has long been known that the difficulty of balancing the demands of work and home life increase exponentially when children arrive and this results in a significant amount of stress…

This research is interesting, but it doesn’t strike me as particularly surprising.  All of these findings seem to correspond to pretty traditional views on marriage and family.  Married parents are important to the rearing of children.  The teenage years can be difficult.  Financial stability allows families room to enjoy themselves.  And family is to be prioritized over work, even if your workplace disagrees.  All of these things I already knew – not because a sociologist told me, but because my own parents did.

Sometimes, there’s a reason common and classic wisdom is common and classic.  In this case, sociological research pointed to a lot of what a lot us already knew.  The question, however, is not whether we knew this, but whether or not we will live according to this.  Our society is rife with deadbeat dads, self-absorbed parents, and financial instability on the one hand juxtaposed against workaholism on the other.  No wonder we’re so vulnerable to being miserable.  The problem, it turns out, is not really our kids.  The problem is us.

The solution to our unhappiness, then, is not to adjust our fertility rates downward.  It’s to adjust our values, our decisions, and our commitments heavenward.  For when we do this, we might just find that even though the Psalmist was no sociologist, he was right.  Children are a blessing from the Lord.  May we be willing to address our own brokenness so we can receive them as such.

July 22, 2019 at 5:15 am 2 comments

The ISIS Atrocities You Probably Haven’t Heard About

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ISIS must be stopped.  It’s difficult to come to any other conclusion when story after story of the group’s atrocities continue to pour in.  In a horrifying iteration of violence that has become ISIS’s trademark, a woman named Alice Assaf recounted how when jihadis marched into her town over two years ago, they killed her son for refusing to disown his faith in Christ, murdered at least six men by baking them alive in ovens, and killed 250 children by massacring them in dough kneading machines at a local bakery.

Are you sick to your stomach yet?  I certainly was when I read the news story.

But too many people have not read this story.  Stories about emails and Tweets among the two major party presidential candidates have relegated ISIS’s atrocities to the background.  Certainly, this year’s presidential election with all of its crazy ups and downs is important.  But when many people lose track of, or, I fear, even lose interest in ISIS’s activities, something has gone tragically wrong.

Just last August, it was being argued that we should ignore, or at least downplay, ISIS’s crimes.  During an official visit to Bangladesh, Secretary of State John Kerry explained:

No country is immune from terrorism. It’s easy to terrorize. Government and law enforcement have to be correct 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But if you decide one day you’re going to be a terrorist and you’re willing to kill yourself, you can go out and kill some people. You can make some noise. Perhaps the media would do us all a service if they didn’t cover it quite as much. People wouldn’t know what’s going on.[1]

The Secretary of State was arguing that by featuring terror attacks in the headlines, we are only emboldening the terrorists by giving them what they want – free publicity, which leads to more recruiting power, which leads to more killings.  As it turns out, however, even as ISIS’s publicity retreats, the atrocities continue.  A lack of headlines does not seem to temper ISIS’s bloodlust.

We must understand that what drives ISIS, ultimately, is not a desire for fame, for land, or for money.  A theology is what drives the group.  I am sympathetic to Muslim theologians who argue that ISIS’s theology is not Islamic or representative of Allah in any meaningful or traditional sense, but even if this is the case, ISIS nevertheless has a theology.  It has a conception of a god who calls and commands its adherents to do the things they do.  And the things this god calls and commands them to do are horrifying.  But they will continue to do them, whether or not the world is watching, because they think their god is watching – and is pleased with them.

This is why we must continue to pay attention.  We must continue to pay attention because we serve and worship a God who does not order the execution of the oppressed, but cares about the plight of the oppressed and invites us to do the same.  We must continue to pay attention because we serve and worship a God who hates injustice and promises to confront it and conquer it with righteousness.

Perhaps what was most shocking to me about the article I read outlining ISIS’s bakery massacre was the headlines in the “Related Stories” column of the website I was visiting:

All of these articles carried datelines of August and September of this year.  ISIS is still on the loose, even if we don’t see it or know it.  Perhaps it’s time to see and notice once again.  After all, the blood of those it has slaughtered is crying out.

Are we listening?

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[1] Jeryl Bier, “Kerry in Bangladesh: Media Should Cover Terrorism Less,” The Weekly Standard (8.29.2016).

October 31, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Using Kids to Kill

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Women cry during a funeral for victims of the attack on a wedding party that left at least 50 dead in Turkey.
Credit: Ilyas Akenginilyas Akengin / AFP / Getty Images

Late last week, word came that more than 50 people had been killed at a wedding party in Istanbul when a suicide bomber walked into the party and blew himself up.  In a nation that is always on high alert because it has seen so many of these types of terrible attacks, how did a terrorist slip into this party unnoticed?  Officials estimate that the suicide bomber in question was between 12 and 14 years old.  In other words, no one noticed the bomber at the party because this bomber was, in relative terms, a baby – a child.  And children are harmless – or so we think.

Exploiting kids to kill its enemies has been a longstanding and and cynically promoted strategy of ISIS.  Reporting for USA Today, Oren Dorell, citing the expertise of Mia Bloom, a researcher at Georgia State, explains:

In the initial seduction phase, Islamic State fighters roll into a village or neighborhood, hold Quran recitation contests, give out candy and toys, and gently expose children to the group. This part often involves ice cream…

“To desensitize them to violence, they’re shown videos of beheadings, attend a live beheading,” Bloom said.

Then the children participate in beheadings, by handing out knives or leading prisoners to their deaths, she said. The gradual process is similar to that used by a pedophile who lures a child into sex, “slowly breaking down the boundaries, making something unnatural seem normal,” she said.[1]

In another article that appeared in USA Today last year, Zeina Karam explains how ISIS teaches kids to behead their victims:

More than 120 boys were each given a doll and a sword and told, cut off its head.

A 14-year-old who was among the boys, all abducted from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, said he couldn’t cut it right. He chopped once, twice, three times.

“Then they taught me how to hold the sword, and they told me how to hit. They told me it was the head of the infidels,” the boy, renamed Yahya by his Islamic State captors, told the Associated Press last week in northern Iraq, where he fled after escaping the Islamic State training camp.[2]

All of this is ghastly, of course.  The thought of children being trained to commit brutal acts of murder feels utterly unthinkable to us.  But why?

Scripture is clear that all people, from the moment of our births, are sinful.  To cite King David’s famous words: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).  So that a child could or would commit a sinful act should not be particularly surprising to us.  Little kids commit all kinds of sins – everything from lying to defying to hoarding – all the time.  But the thought of a child committing murder seems different.

Theologically, the thought of a child committing murder seems different because, at the same time all people are born sinners, we are also born as bearers of the image of God.  In other words, at the same time we all have sinful inclinations, we also have a righteous Creator who has endowed us with a moral compass.  When this moral compass is violated, guilt ensues, for we cannot fully escape the mark of our Creator.

God’s mark proves to be particularly poignant when it comes to the sin of murder.  This is why God’s image is specifically invoked against the taking of a life: “I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind” (Genesis 9:5-6).  To watch one person kill another person is so completely incongruous with who God has created us to be, it cannot help but startle us.

In a human, then, there are two tugs – one that is of sin and the other that is of righteousness.  And these war against each other.  ISIS has fanned into a giant, roaring flame the inclination to sin in the lives of little children.   This is sadly possible to do because of humanity’s sinful state, but it will not escape the judgment of God.  In the words of Jesus:

Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.  (Luke 17:1-2)

Christ does not take kindly to those who intentionally and systematically lead children into sin.   After all, He made them in His image and He cares for them out of His love.  May His little ones be saved from those who would harm them.

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[1] Oren Dorell, “Here’s how the Islamic State turns children into terrorists,” USA Today (8.23.2016).

[2] Zeina Karam, “Islamic State camp has kids beheading dolls with swords,” USA Today (7.21.2015).

August 29, 2016 at 5:15 am 2 comments

Why Children Are More Than a Drag

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In our household, I am the one who usually gives our kids their baths.  And last week, while I had them both in the bath one evening, my daughter decided it would be fun to start hitting her daddy – playfully, but strangely forcefully – while my son was fussing loudly in his infant tub because he had just filled his diaper.

Ah, the perils of parenting.  Yes, it is tiring.  Yes, it can be dizzying and overwhelming.  Yes, it is ridiculously time consuming.  And yes, I am very much aware – and a bit fearful – that, as my kids grow older and begin to assert their independence in sometimes dangerous and derelict ways, parenting can also grow to be heartbreaking.  And yet, parenting is nevertheless wonderful.  I would not trade my vocation as a father any more than I would trade my vocation as a husband or my identity as a child of God.

As it turns out, however, not everyone feels the same way I do.

A revealing article appeared in the National Post last month featuring Calum and Tina Marsh, a married couple who is repulsed by the idea of having children.  In fact, “repulsed” is probably too weak a word to describe their loathing.  Calum, the author of this piece, writes:

A few weeks ago one of my oldest and closest friends told me that she planned to have children. Or rather she mentioned it, almost in passing, with the idle nonchalance of a remark about the midday heat: she planned to have children – and she planned to have them soon. I was dumbfounded. Children? Those fleshy barnacles of snot and mutiny? Those extortionate burdens? Those shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors? Not for me, thank you. And not – I rashly assumed – for anyone else in my peer group. That my friend could want a child seemed to me unthinkable. It was as if she’d said she planned to invade Poland.[1]

It used to be a given that, barring some radically extenuating circumstance, having children was considered to be a generally natural outcome of marriage.  But according to Mr. Marsh, children are nothing short of “extortionate burdens” and “shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors.”  Wow.  What kind of trouble could any child possibly cause to earn such an awful reputation?  Mr. Marsh explains:

I value my lifestyle, and I like having the means to maintain it. I value my free time. I’d like to re-read the complete works of Shakespeare, and get around to tackling Proust; I’m keen to learn Latin and modern dance; I wouldn’t mind visiting Locarno, Ankara and Bucharest. I also enjoy the freedom from responsibility childlessness affords me.

Let me try to sum up Mr. Marsh’s explanation as to why he does not want to have children and why he thinks they are “shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors” in two words: he’s selfish.  In other words, Mr. Marsh has things he wants to do, money he wants to spend, and places he wants to go, and kids would throw a wrench into his plans and desires.  For Mr. Marsh, the most important thing in life is, well, Mr. Marsh.  Mr. Marsh is extolling selfishness, not as a vice, but as a virtue – a posture toward yourself that allows you to enjoy life more fully.

Don’t misunderstand me.  There are good reasons why a couple may not have children.  Sometimes, it is a heartbreaking medical condition that prevents a couple from having children, even when the couple may desire them.  Other times, a couple may not have the means to provide for a child.  In certain instances, foregoing the raising of children may even serve a spiritual purpose.  Both the apostle Paul and Jesus Himself did not marry and did not raise children because of particular calls God had placed on their lives.  There are plenty of good reasons not to have children.  Mr. Marsh, however, does not provide us with any of these reasons.  He simply wants to live his life for himself unencumbered by anyone who would ask much of anything from him.

One of the paradoxical principles of Christianity is that it is selflessness – not selfishness – that leads to a fulfilling life.  Indeed, this is the very pattern of the cross.  Christ emptied Himself in His death for us so that we could be called, coincidentally enough, His children (Galatians 3:26), and through that emptiness was exalted to the Father’s right hand as One equal to God (Philippians 2:6-11).

The apostle Paul is clear that Christ’s way of emptying Himself should be reflected in our lives as well:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)

Children offer a unique opportunity to practice ruthless selflessness because they demand so much more than a passing act of a service – giving a donation here, or joining a relief effort for a couple of days there.  They demand that one places his own priorities aside daily for the sake of someone else.  This is not an easy way to live, but it is a good way to live.  Indeed, one of the more troubling questions raised in my mind by Mr. Marsh’s article was this:  if Mr. Marsh doesn’t want kids because they are an inconvenience to and an inhibitor of his preferred lifestyle, how would Mr. Marsh react if Mrs. Marsh were to become an inconvenience and a drag on his dreams?  Selfishness, you see, has a funny way not only of preventing relationships – like the relationship you could have with a son or daughter – but of destroying the relationships you already have.

Mr. Marsh concludes his article by saying:

I can’t begin to imagine the burden not only of time and money but of authority and influence – of being accountable for a human life. It’s lunacy that so many people are comfortable with it.

I have news for Mr. Marsh:  no parent is ever comfortable with being responsible for his child’s life.  Just ask any parent who has reached over to his daughter’s basinet in the middle of the night and put his hand on her chest just to make sure she was still breathing.  Being comfortable isn’t the point when you’re raising children.  Loving and caring for a life that God has given you is.  And that’s a privilege I’ll take over comfort any day.

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[1] Calum Marsh, “‘Children? Those shrieking, dribbling, bawling horrors? Not for me, thank you’: Why fatherhood is not for everyone and shouldn’t have to be,” National Post (7.15.2016).

August 22, 2016 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Reverse-Engineering Your Life

Home FamilyThe other night, I, along with three other pastors, had the pleasure of meeting with a group of seminary students for an informal discussion about life and ministry. I cherished my time with these guys. Even though we were with them for only a short time, it quickly became apparent that they are theologically curious and nuanced and have a deep passion to serve in Christ’s Church as pastors. I am excited to see what the future holds for these men.

Our discussion took on an informal Q&A feel, with seminary students asking any questions they wanted. One question particularly struck me: “What goals do you have for ministry and how do you work backwards from those goals to develop a plan to reach those goals?” This is a great question. It’s a question of reverse-engineering. You start with the end in mind and work back from that to get to that. But this question also took me aback a little bit. Because I do have goals. And I have done my share of reverse-engineering to try to reach these goals. But my goals are not particularly inspiring, captivating, or scintillating. I simply want to love Jesus, love my family, and be a faithful pastor.

I used to have other goals. More exciting goals. Once upon a time, I wanted to build and pastor the largest congregation in my church body. Once upon a time, I wanted to become a renowned and respected spokesperson for orthodox Lutheranism. After all, it seems like on the broader stage of Christian dialogue, Lutherans are all but missing in action. Once upon a time, I wanted to be an esteemed public scholar to whom people would turn for insight. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a pastor who would change the world. Now, I just want to be a person who finishes life well.

As I ultimately wound up telling the student, long before you worry about reverse engineering your goals for ministry, you need to begin by reverse engineering your goals for life and, specifically, for your family. After all, if you change the world as a pastor but forsake your family as a husband or father, you have failed miserably because prior to your vocation as a pastor is your vocation as a husband and father.

The New York Times recently published an article on the state of today’s family. Its title sums up its mood: “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.” Clair Miller, writing for the Times, explains:

Working parents say they feel stressed, tired, rushed and short on quality time with their children, friends, partners or hobbies, according to a new Pew Research Center survey

Fifty-six percent of all working parents say the balancing act is difficult, and those who do are more likely to say that parenting is tiring and stressful, and less likely to find it always enjoyable and rewarding. For example, half of those who said the work-family balance was not difficult said parenting was enjoyable all the time, compared with 36 percent of those who said balance was difficult.

This is sad, but it is also not surprising. As workplace demands continue to rise and the line between company time and personal time continues to blur, time to invest in family inevitably suffers.

Being a pastor carries with it many demands, which are often difficult – and, quite honestly, sometimes impossible – to juggle well.  There is no doubt about it. But this is why, long before you sketch out goals for ministry, you do need to set out goals for your marriage and your family. Goals of time together as a family. Goals of date nights with your spouse. Goals of daily expressions of love and affection. Before you worry about what is outside your home, tend to who is inside your home.

Jesus once asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mark 8:36)? It may behoove us to ask similarly: What good is it if a man changes the world, yet forfeits those closest to him? This question good not only for pastors, it’s good for everyone.

I hope you’re asking it. The people closest to you will thank you if you are.

November 9, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Family Is Good, Even If It’s Not Good For You

New research from Northwestern University indicates that an intact family structure is important for the wellbeing of all children, but especially for boys. The New York Times reports:

Boys are more sensitive than girls to disadvantage. Any disadvantage, like growing up in poverty, in a bad neighborhood or without a father, takes more of a toll on boys than on their sisters. That realization could be a starting point for educators, parents and policy makers who are trying to figure out how to help boys – particularly those from black, Latino and immigrant families.[1]

This, of course, is not to say that girls do not suffer when a family is not in tact. Sara McLanahan and Isabel Sawhill, writing for Princeton and Brookings, talk about the effects of broken families and children in general:

Marriage is on the decline. Men and women of the youngest generation are either marrying in their late twenties or not marrying at all. Childbearing has also been postponed, but not as much as marriage. The result is that a growing proportion of children are born to unmarried parents – roughly 40 percent in recent years, and over 50 percent for children born to women under 30 …

The consequences of this instability for children are not good. Research increasingly shows that family instability undermines parents’ investments in their children, affecting the children’s cognitive and social-emotional development in ways that constrain their life chances.[2]

Families are falling apart. And the results are not good.

Certainly there is a theological argument to be made for the necessity of the family. Adam, Eve, and their command from God to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 1:28) speaks to the divine origin and order of the family and points to it as a gift from God to humanity. But there is also a teleological argument to be made for the necessity of the family. For instance, an article in National Review notes, “Married parenthood was a stronger predictor of economic mobility than was a state’s racial composition or the share of its population that is college-educated.”[3] If you want your children to grow up to be economically secure tomorrow, offer them a healthy family structure today. This applies, of course, not only to future economic mobility, but to future emotional, relational, and vocational stability as well.

So if this is the case, why is there no rush to trade the cohabitation, permissive divorce laws, and broken families of today for the nuclear Leave It To Beaver-style families of yesterday? The answer is, once again, teleology. The teleological argument for the family that focuses on kids assumes that the primary goal of parents is to want what is best for their kids. And many times, even in broken families, parents do want what is best for their kids. I know many single parents, for instance, who will sacrifice in any way they can right now to try to give their children the best possible shot at stability later.

But sometimes, among some people, the teleology of personal desire and pleasure trumps the teleology of the thriving of children. “Even if a traditional family is better for my kids,” some may say, “I don’t want to be tied down by the traditional accouterments and commitments of marriage.” “Even if a traditional family is better for my kids,” others may say, “I don’t like the sexual restraints that traditional family structures demand.” Though I doubt many people would be so bold as to outright say such things (although some have), the enticement of the teleology of personal desire and pleasure is powerful, even if subconsciously.

So as we talk about why the traditional family structure is good and why it should be promoted and protected, we also need to ask the question, “Good for whom?” If we mean a traditional family structure is good for children, we could not be more correct. If we mean it is good for selfish desire and pleasure, we could not be more wrong. Having a family of your own, much like being in the family of Christ, is a lesson in dying to oneself (cf. Matthew 16:25). And though this is good transcendently, it’s not easy practically. Nor is it always desirable personally. This is why for some, the demands of a traditional family structure are simply a bridge too far. They will not sacrifice themselves for the sake of another. But for those who do, even if their traditional family structure has been broken through no fault of their own, allow me to say “thank you.” You have discovered what matters most in life: others. And because you have discovered that, who comes after you will be better because of you.

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[1] Claire Cain Miller, “A Disadvantaged Start Hurts Boys More Than Girls,” The New York Times (10.22.2015).

[2] Sara McLanahan & Isabel Sawhill, “Marriage and Child Wellbeing Revisited: Introducing the Issue,” Marriage and Child Wellbeing Revisited 25, no. 2 (Fall 2015): 3-9.

[3] W. Bradford Wilcox, “Family Structure Matters – Science Proves It,” National Review (10.23.2015).

November 2, 2015 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Fairness Over Family

Family ValuesHow important is it to be fair?

This is the question that Adam Swift, professor of political theory at the University of Warwick, and Harry Brighouse, professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, wrestle with in their book, Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships.[1] For Brighouse and Swift, the answer to the question of fairness is evident, even if it is admittedly difficult. Being fair is of preeminent importance. Indeed, being fair is so important to these professors that they are willing to severely inhibit one of society’s most cherished institutions in order to achieve their vision of equality: the family.

In their introduction, the authors explain that the family “poses two challenges to any theory of social justice.” One is the liberal challenge, which questions whether it is best to have a child’s parents “determine what [a] child eats or drinks, where she sleeps, what television programs she watches, what school she attends.” Liberals see it as “one of the state’s tasks to protect its citizens, and its prospective citizens, from undue interference by others, including their parents.” Though not advocating for the abolition of the family altogether, these authors do look at the family with a fair amount of skepticism.

The other challenge the family poses to social justice is the egalitarian challenge, which:

… focuses on the distribution of goods and opportunities between children born into different families … Economists tend to focus on expected income over the life-course; sociologists investigate chances of social mobility; philosophers typically think in more abstract terms such as resources or opportunities for well-being. But however we frame or measure the inequality, it is clear that children born into different families face unequal prospects.

For Swift and Brighouse, these “unequal prospects” between families just won’t do. Indeed, in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Swift offers an example of an unequal prospect that particularly troubles him:

The evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t – the difference in their life chances – is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t.[2]

How does one deal with the challenge of unequal prospects between families who do and do not read to their children before they go to bed? Swift answers:

I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally.

Swift and Brighouse stretch their apologetic for equality as far it can go. Even if a parent won’t stop reading bedtime stories to their children, the fact that there may be other children out there who don’t get read bedtime stories should at least make that parent feel occasionally guilty for “unfairly disadvantaging” those other children.

This line of reasoning is very strange to me. Although I would agree that equality is important in its appropriate context, I would not consider it to be of highest importance as Swift and Brighouse do. Here’s why.

As a Christian, I know – and can empirically verify – that sin has en inevitably entropic effect on society. Thus, to seek equality by trying not to “unfairly disadvantage” others rather than by pursuing what is advantageous for others will only create an equality of increasing pain, suffering, and wickedness, which, interestingly enough, is precisely what the Bible affirms as the only way in which, left to our own devices, we are all truly equal: “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:22-23). It is hard for me to understand why Swift and Brighouse would advocate guilt over a good thing for the sake of equality with a bad thing.

As I think about Swift and Brighouse’s near deification of equality, I can’t help but think back to an era before 1954 and Brown v. Board of Education when “separate but equal” schools for black and white kids were commonplace in our educational system. Part of the offense of “separate but equal” schools was, of course, that they were not, in fact, equal! But for the sake of argument, let’s say we were able to create schools that were truly separate but equal. Let’s say they had equal funding, equal caliber teachers, and even equal outcomes. My guess – and my hope, quite frankly – is that we would still be indignant at such an arrangement. Why? Because even if such an arrangement could keep in tact the value of fairness, it would break the law of love. After all, it’s hard to love someone when you intentionally separate yourself from someone for no other reason than the color of his skin.

This is the danger in Swift and Brighouse’s proposal. In their efforts to orchestrate fairness between families, they undermine families themselves. They advocate limiting the ways in which parents can love their children, thereby breaking the law of love, for the sake of a disadvantageously normed equality. But families who struggle do not need families who are in better shape to be equal to them out of misplaced pity, they need families who are in better shape to serve them, mentor them, sacrifice for them, and, ultimately, love them. They need these families to be a family to them. Such an arrangement will not create perfect equality. But, then again, though Swift and Brighouse may be loath to admit it, perfect equality is not possible. Beautiful love, however, is. This is why we should strive for love – even over fairness. And where can love grow best? The family.

Maybe we should keep it around.

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[1] Harry Brighouse & Adam Swift, Family Values: The Ethics of Parent-Child Relationships (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

[2] Joe Gelonesi, “Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?” abc.net.au (5.1.2015).

May 11, 2015 at 5:15 am 1 comment

In Defense of Child Rearing

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Credit: Time Magazine

I’ve been a dad for five months now.  I know that makes me nowhere close to an expert on parenting, but it is amazing how steep the learning curve is when you’re a daddy.  I’ve learned how to change a diaper, how to burp a baby, how to swaddle a baby, how to fasten a car seat, and which brands of formula stain badly after your daughter spits up on you.  But beyond these nuts and bolts lessons, I have learned something else:  having a child makes your life exponentially more complicated.  There are schedules you have to arrange, bedtimes you have to keep, and a whole host of new chores you have to do.  It’s not simple being a dad.

It was this realization that with raising children comes complications that led Lauren Sandler to write an apologetic for childlessness in Time Magazine titled, “Having It All Without Having Children.”  In her article, she notes how people are opting out of parenthood with ever increasing frequency:

The birthrate in the U.S. is the lowest in recorded American history, which includes the fertility crash of the Great Depression. From 2007 to 2011, the most recent year for which there’s data, the fertility rate declined 9%. A 2010 Pew Research report showed that childlessness has risen across all racial and ethnic groups, adding up to about 1 in 5 American women who end their childbearing years maternity-free, compared with 1 in 10 in the 1970s.[1]

Kids, for many people it turns out, are cumbersome – too cumbersome.  There is, of course, the financial burden of raising children:

The rise of attachment parenting, with its immersive demands, and the sheer economic cost of raising a child – for a child born in 2011, an average of $234,900 until age 18, according to the USDA, and $390,000 if your household earns over $100,000 – has made motherhood a formidable prospect for some women.

There is also the burden raising a child puts on one’s career:  “The opportunity costs for an American woman who gets off the career track could average as high as $1 million in lost salary, lost promotions and so on.”  But perhaps the most interesting burden that childhood brings, according to one researcher, is an intellectual burden:

At the London School of Economics, Satoshi Kanazawa has begun to present scholarship asserting that the more intelligent women are, the less likely they are to become mothers … Kanazawa analyzed the U.K.’s National Child Development Study, which followed a set of people for 50 years, and found that high intelligence correlated with early – and lifelong – adoption of childlessness.  He found that among girls in the study, an increase of 15 IQ points decreased the odds of their becoming a mother by 25%.  When he added controls for economics and education, the results were the same: childhood intelligence predicted childlessness.

As titillating at these statistics might be, they generate more heat than light.  Indeed, they are only props marshaled to justify the real reason people do not want to have kids.  The real reason can be found in the words of documentary filmmaker Laura Scott, whom Lauren Sandler quotes at the beginning of her article:  “My main motive not to have kids was that I loved my life the way it was.”  Scott makes no secret of the reason she opted out of parenthood:  her life is her life.  Kids make her life not about her.  And that, she decided, is something she cannot endure.

One has to wonder when it became commendable to be so unashamedly selfish.  The beauty and blessing of giving your life to the nurture and care of another is apparently lost on far too many people.

In the face of such cultural confusion concerning child rearing, it is useful to briefly review what the Bible says about children:

  • Children matter to God which means they should matter to us too.  Jesus’ words and actions express vividly His concern and care for kids.  When people are bringing their children to Jesus to have Him bless them and the disciples try to keep the kids away, Jesus chides the Twelve, saying, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).  Jesus enjoys spending time with children and blessing them.  We should too.
  • Bearing and raising children, though it is not commanded specifically for every individual, is generally commendable.  God’s commission at creation has an inescapably universal ring to it:  “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).  Though we have plenty of biblical examples of people who did not have children due to one circumstance or another, a disdain for and avoidance of childbearing runs contrary to the biblical estimation of kids.
  • Children, even when they feel like a burden, are in reality a divine blessing!  The words of the Psalmist sum it up:  “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him” (Psalm 127:3).

So what does all this mean?  It means simply this:  kids are precious and well worth celebrating.  Past cultural adages such as “Children should be seen and not heard” as well as a present cultural avoidance and diminishment of child rearing are sad testimonies to human sinfulness and selfishness.  Conversely, engaging children can be not only fun, it can also be sanctifying.  And everyone needs opportunities to be sanctified.


[1] Lauren Sandler, “Having It All Without Having Children,” Time (8.12.2013).

August 26, 2013 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

An Important Note on Children’s Safety

Danger 1

This note went out from Concordia’s Senior Pastor, Bill Tucker, to all of Concordia’s day school and child care parents.  Whether or not you have a child in one of our ministries, please take a moment to read this note and consider what conversations you may need to have with your children, especially if you live in the San Antonio area.

Dear Concordia Parents,

Yesterday morning in the Hollywood Park neighborhood, a young boy was waiting for a bus when a man in a white cargo-type van without side windows pulled up to the boy’s bus stop and tried to lure him inside.  When the boy ran to tell his father, the van sped away.  One of our own member’s children was similarly approached by a man in a white van, but when this child’s mother saw what was happening and began to move toward the van, it again sped off.

Instances like these are certainly disturbing.  This is why I wanted to send you a note so that you could, first, be aware of this urgent news story and, second, take a moment to talk to your children about how strangers can mean danger.

If you would, allow me to share a few thoughts on talking to your children about staying safe outside while waiting for a bus, playing, or any other scenario where you, as parents, may not be immediately present.  You can remind your children:

  • Never to go anywhere without consulting you first.
  • That dangerous people do not always look mean or scary.
  • Never to get close to a stranger and to make sure they have plenty of room to run from a stranger.
  • Never to help a stranger look for a lost pet or play a game.
  • Never to get into a vehicle with someone they do not know.
  • Never to share their name or address with someone they do not know.
  • About “safe places” such as police and fire stations, the library, a store, or a friend’s house.  These are places kids can go for help!
  • That if a stranger grabs them, they need to yell loudly and shout, “I don’t know you!”
  • That they can call 911 in case of an emergency.

I share these thoughts with you not to alarm you, but to remind you of all the different things you can do to help keep your children safe.  You can find additional resources on keeping your kids safe at take25.org and safelyeverafter.com.  Please be assured that, when your children are on Concordia’s campus, we do everything in our power to try to ensure your children’s safety and well-being.  Your children’s safety is our number one priority.

If you have any information on the news story cited above, please contact the Hollywood Park Police at (210) 494-3575, extension 236.  Remember that in an uncertain and sometimes frightening world, our God promises that He “is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

God bless you!
bill_tucker_bw
Bill Tucker
Senior Pastor, Concordia Lutheran Church
friartuc@concordia-satx.com

April 5, 2013 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment


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