Saturday, November 2, 2013

Fecundophobia. . .

I will get to the word in a minute but first a story.  I have a young family in my parish with two small children.  Now they are expecting their third -- though the second is but a baby.  At first they joyfully recounted the news of their pregnancy.  But the news was not received with uniform joy among the hearers.  Some expressed shock at the pregnancy and others downright disdain for the inadvisability of another child so soon.  Besides, mom does not work outside the home and this would pretty well preclude future employment anytime soon.  How do they expect to live on just one income?

The story is not unique.  It happens all the time.  There is even a name for it.  Mollie Hemingway calls it fecundophobia.  You can read her pointed and well written article here.  Yes, her op ed piece well documents the media disapproval of those with large families (for whatever reason, strangely less disapproving for those who have many children by many women?!).  I would never pretend to write better than the incredible Mollie Z in this regard.  What I would document is that this unnatural fear of children is prevalent also among the members of Lutheran congregations and the families of Lutheran congregants.

It is shocking to me how quickly children have gone from blessing to burden -- even among those within the faith.  It seems that more and more believe that children, like indulgences to those on a diet, are guilty pleasures and that those who have them ought to feel some measure of embarrassment over having more than the norm (at this stage somewhat less than 1.5 children).

It is a common phobia and it is a scandal how this phobia has come to inhabit Christians and the Church.  We complain about the few number of children in Sunday school but at the same time we look down our noses as those who presume to have more than one or two, and then not appropriately spaced.  We complain about the graying of Christianity in the pews but then we nod understandingly when women opt out of marriage and families opt out of child-rearing.  We jump upon the rash of children being raised by those other than parents and provide day care and preschools in the Church but at the same time we think it odd that anyone would not practice safe sex, prevent pregnancy, and practice all the wonderful venues of birth control within marriage.  We lament about the plight of children raised in poverty, without doting parents, but at the same time we find it hard to say that life is better than abortion for a child not "wanted" or with a quality home life.

I suggest that we need to start a rebellion against the media projections of what is right and good about marriage and children.  I suggest that we need to do nothing less than guerrilla warfare against the overwhelming pressure on women and families to see children as burdens instead of blessings.  I suggest that this battle does not begin with letters to the editor but with the way we deal with the families in our midst who choose to buck the trend and have more than the norm of children.  I further suggest that we need to challenge those who believe that the norm is no children and the exception to have a child.  How can we read the Scriptures and live in continuity with the Christian tradition and then live in such fear of a child?


Anonymous said...

Blessed is the man
whose quiver is empty of them.
He will not have to subsist
on only one income
or go without a supersize television
on which to watch the big game
for his wife will not be prevented
from working outside of the home.

-- Psalm 127:5 (NEWER International Version)

Dr.D said...

Oh, the horror of having to live on a single income! My wife and I raised three children through college, and my wife only worked for a few years when I was grossly underemployed. As things have turned out, I have come to regret that we only had three. A Fourth, and perhaps even a fifth, could be a real blessing to us right now in old age.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest