Observations on Theology, Culture and the Hosier family

Sunday, 23 December 2007

SOMBRE CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS

Through Advent my family has been reading the nativity story. The other morning we were reading from Matthew 2 about Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. Its that bittersweet Christmas thing again – hope and despair, birth and death, all rolled up together.

Starting in January Mark Driscoll is preaching a series based on questions suggested and voted for on the Mars Hill website. The administration of this has been impressive; the final stats were 893 questions asked, with 343,203 votes cast. All those questions were finally reduced to the nine that Driscoll is going to preach on. You can see the complete list here. The first in the series is a question about birth control. I am looking forward to seeing how Mark handles this. Whenever I teach on sexual ethics at various Newfrontiers training events I talk on this subject and it always produces strong opinions. It is also always interesting to discover how little most believers have thought about it.

The attitudes of our wider society to birth control are also very interesting. Among many of my peers there is a distinct ambivalence about children. Most of my childless friends would say they like children, its just that they don’t want to have any, or not have any yet. There is a feeling that kids are a burden and interruption to enjoying life, and an evident reluctance to grow up and take on the very adult responsibility of being a parent. In a recent article that attracted a great deal of comment, columnist Bryony Gordon wrote,
There are things that you are not allowed to say any more in public, or indeed in private. "You're a ******", "What a lovely fellow that Enoch Powell was" and finally, if you are under the age of 40, "I would like to have a baby".

Grace and I have become used to people staring at us when we are out as a family – with four beautiful, blond daughters we do make quite a sight, but it is amusing how so many people regard as somewhat freakish our having four children. It is odd that it is the most educated and prosperous who seem most reluctant to procreate. Thinking 30 or 40 years ahead I can imagine many of my contemporaries being extremely sad and lonely – a whole generation without children and grandchildren to fill out their lives, slowly slipping into infirmity and death without anyone there to hold their hand, tell them they are loved, and lament their passing.

3 comments:

Phil said...

Although now expecting our first child (July) I would have to say that have spent most of my life ambivalent about the prospect of family. I know that somewhere in the Bible there's a verse or two on kids being a blessing but without a concordance I couldn't tell you where or be any more specific (I intend on resolving that soon).

From one side of the fence it was hard for me to see why it was considered more selfish not to have children than to have them, reasons usually being given centre on 'we/I want', or how it if you had an already satisfying, spiritually challenging and rewarding life, children would be an automatic good thing. Personal experience clearly suggests otherwise.

So I'm sure I'm in for some amazingly pleasant surprises as well as potential heartache and tears but I'm a member of a generation long on cynicism about the world, high on scepticism and doubt and decidedly short on good role models and convincing reasons.

I have no tribe to promote, no fortune or land to pass on, no business or trade to teach, the race will do just fine without my contribution, when I'm old there's no guarantee they'll look after me or be anywhere near me and in 32 years of life and church attendance I've not once heard a single reason why when we have the choice we should want to have children. The church must do better with this generation than it did with me.

I'm excited about being a father but it feels like I'm starting from scratch and that's not how it should be.

matthew hosier said...

Phil, I'll dig out my sexual ethics notes for you - would be interested in your response to them!

ianjmatt said...

Phil

I guess the best way to explain why it is considered more selfish not to have children is that the comment more often comes from people who don't want children as they see them as coming in the way of a life based upon personal freedom, fulfillment and the aspects of life that contradict the sacrifice of personal choice that comes with having children.

I guess the 'choice' about kids is part of the common curse of modern life that reduces everything down to choice, even the fundamental biological happenings of marriage.