Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Parenthood vs. Anti-Parenthood, Revisited

A few years ago, I posted an entry on the Generations for Life blog titled "Parenthood vs. Anti-Parenthood".

Two weeks ago, said post picked up an incoming link from a blogger named Josh who posted his response.

Herein I, in turn, will respond to his response in the second person, which I will also post as a comment on his his original entry.

Josh writes:

The original poster first mentions that anti-parenthood people refer to parents as “Breeders”. Personally, I’ve never heard this term nor the attitude this term implies.

I can't argue with you on that score, but there is, to be sure, a not insignificant portion of the population that feels a palpable contempt for large families. (Incidentally, the Slate article to which I linked in my original post included some examples of this sort of condescension.)

You may also want to check out this post my co-worker Eric Scheidler wrote about the Voluntary Human Extinction Project, a group whose website has a section titled "Biology and Breeding".

Josh writes:

Also it is mentioned that people who choose not to have children are broken and ultimately selfish. I fail to see the validity of this statement. Yes I am broken, but I don’t see how having children will fix this. I am not a selfish person, I give of myself without expecting return often. It doesn’t always have to be as severe as giving my life for another, but I don’t see myself as a selfish person. In fact I see myself as quite generous. So once again, I heavily disagree with this statement.

First, a clarification: What I said was this:

Considering that all men are called to fatherhood, whether biological or spiritual -- and, similarly, considering that all women are called to motherhood, whether biological or spiritual -- this all too common rejection of parenthood yields disastrous consequences on multiple levels because it is rooted in a selfish, "Non serviam" sort of attitude.

Choosing not to have children and rejecting parenthood are too vastly different things.

There are many people I know (priests, sisters, and single people) who have chosen not to have biological children, but they have freely embraced a life of spiritual fatherhood or motherhood toward other people in their lives.

Also, I never said people who choose not to have children are broken. (Incidentally, though, I wouldn't disagree with that, considering that all of us are broken in one way or another.)

Let me also clarify that I in no way believe that having children will ipso facto "fix" one's brokenness.

Speaking personally, though, I will say that having children is the best thing that's ever happened to me, as it has necessarily required me to spend less time focusing on myself (something that I, in my own personal brokenness, feel I am perhaps more inclined to than many others) and more time focusing on them.

Josh writes:

Now that I’ve address two of the biggest statements in that blog, let me move on to my point of view on the subject.

For the longest time I have adamantly been seeking out marriage and family. It’s something I never had growing up. I’ve never been close to my family. I’ve never experienced the unconditional love that a parent is supposed to have for their child. It’s something I missed out on that I feel broke me in some way. So I’ve spent years looking for it. So avidly that I’ve messed up the rest of my life in the meantime. Knowing this it’s quite a shock to me that I am now what has been labeled, “Anti-Parenthood”.

My choice came about for a variety of reasons. I feel there are too many people in the world as it is. I see families with 4 or more children and I don’t understand it. We live in a world of rapidly depleting resources, how can you feel it’s acceptable to reproduce in numbers like that? In China the population is allowed 1 child due to the huge volume of people there. I don’t want the US to get like that. I’m not going to go around telling people to stop reproducing but I do feel some people go a little crazy when it comes to kids.

Due to my childhood I don’t have a strong sense of paternal instincts. I’m sure I would be a very loving father given the chance, it’s just my nature. It’s not even that I dislike kids. I get along with them just fine. I just don’t feel I would do well taking care of a child, mentoring them, being their role model on my own.

First, briefly, regarding population: Far from the world being "overpopulated", the real demographic crisis facing the world today is actually one of underpopulation. (The best talk I ever heard on this subject was given by a British demographer named Andrew Pollard at a conference sponsored by the organization I work for in 2006.)

It goes without saying that I don't know the specifics of the hardships you've experienced in your family life, but it seems to me that what you're saying here echoes the deepest yearnings of every human heart: the desire for authentic relationships, for communion, for belonging, with others.

One of the most important documents that came out of the Catholic Church's Second Vatican Council some four decades ago said, "[M]an...cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (Gandhi said basically the same thing when he wrote, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.")

You rightly recognize that there is a desire within you to give of yourself, yet you have concerns that you would be able to live up to the serious responsibilities that giving of yourself entails.

These are concerns that all of us men encounter. In response to them, we have only two choices:

1. We can let our imperfections and self-doubts hold us back, and thereby refuse to face up to the challenges of living out our masculine vocation.


2. We can refuse to let ourselves be mastered by our imperfections and self-doubts; instead, we can resolve to conquer them and to tackle the challenges of living out our masculine vocation.

This is essentially the point Christopher West makes in his book The Good News about Sex and Marriage when he writes:

True love involves risk. It involves sacrifice, pain - in a word, suffering. If we don't think so, we haven't spent much time looking at a crucifix. This is the heavenly Bridegroom giving up his body for his Bride. And husbands are called to love their wives "as Christ loved the Church" (Eph 5:25).

What's our typical reaction? "No! I don't want to. I want the pleasure without the responsibility, without the risk, without the suffering." I came to see very clearly that I resisted the Church's teaching because it cornered me into accepting the cross of Christ - as it should.

I once heard a bishop explain that marriage involves four rings: the engagement ring, two wedding rings, and "suffer-ring." As Fr. Paul Quay says, "It is just this link between true love and suffering that is rejected by sexual sin." The honest person cannot fail to see the truth of this statement. If we reject the cross of Christ, if we refuse to take the risk of loving as Christ loves, we will still eventually end up with what we resisted - suffering. But the suffering that comes from resisting the cross is fruitless, empty, and despairing, while the suffering that comes from embracing the cross leads to the joy of the resurrection, the joy of love and new life.

In your blog entry, you wrote, "...I take the time to try to understand all angles of a situation before I make my opinion."

In that same spirit, I would encourage you to reconsider your perspective.

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