Thursday, 20 May 2010

Children stealing from the future?

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald mentioned a suggestion by the Anglican Church in Australia for people to have less children. As the article is brief I will quote it in full.
The Anglican Church wants Australians to have fewer children and has urged the federal government to scrap the baby bonus and cut immigration levels.

The General Synod of the Anglican Church has issued a warning that current rates of population growth are unsustainable and potentially out of step with church doctrine - including the eighth commandment "thou shall not steal", Fairfax newspapers say.

In a significant intervention, the Anglican Public Affairs Commission has also warned concerned Christians that remaining silent "is little different from supporting further overpopulation and ecological degradation".

"Out of care for the whole Creation, particularly the poorest of humanity and the life forms who cannot speak for themselves, it is not responsible to stand by and remain silent," a discussion paper by the commission warns.

"Unless we take account of the needs of future life on Earth, there is a case that we break the eighth commandment - 'Thou shall not steal'."

The discussion paper, prepared in March, claims that federal government financial incentives encouraging childbirth should be scrapped and replaced with improved support for parents, such as leave.
Leaving aside the question of the government creating incentives or disincentives to have children, this statement suggests a lack of biblical thinking on behalf of the General Synod. Of course this is not necessarily reflective of all Australian Anglicans. Representatives are more than capable of giving opinions that are not representative. It may be reasonable to ascribe the above statements to a few seated on the Synod.

The eighth commandment as mentioned is, "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20). Theft relates to property, and that property owned by another. Theft does not apply to any future potential, real or imagined. Theft also reflects a disregard for another, an attempt to have what is owned by another because of one's own selfish desires. Having children is not stealing anything from anyone directly. And it generally is not selfish. It may be in one's self-interest, though it frequently requires selflessness.

Further, God commands that humans populate the earth, he commanded both Adam and Eve at the beginning of the world, and Noah when the human population was reduced to 8 because of the deluge. Of interest is that associated with the command to fill the earth is the command to subdue the earth.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1)
We are to manage the earth to maximise its potential. This suggests that it is not population that causes ecological degradation but incorrect or absent stewardship. People that manage the earth well can sustain very large populations. Garden's and farms are far more productive and can sustain higher populations of flora and fauna than jungles and forests. There are many examples of arid land becoming productive through the ingenuity and hard toil of those who work it. And there are examples of few people causing destruction through abuse. Degradation is not a population problem, though improvement can be limited by not enough people.

Further, children are frequently identified in Scripture as a blessing. Jesus himself had much time for children, rebuked those who saw them as a nuisance, and had strong warnings for those who would lead them into sin. Children are a good, not an evil.

5 comments:

  1. Spot on. I had meant to post a longer comment but I lost it some how when previewing! Perhaps we can discuss some time.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Overpopulation is a social problem for people who live in cities. The biblical response to it is not to stop having children, but to move somewhere else.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Furthermore, Australia could work on this by working toward not only stopping the desertification of chunks of its countryside, but to actually reclaim that land. The US was able to build all sorts of canals and other assorted systems to traverse the eastern half of our country in the 19th century. With our level of technology today, there is no reason why Australia couldn't commit 0.5%-1% of GDP to a federal program to steadily transform Australia's outback over the course of several generations.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Blair D, been there, done that. I often copy my comments to the clipboard before posting, or write them in notepad.

    Dave, I think large populations can still be isolating as you say, but it is not the case for many people in a city. I am not certain I see it as a population issue directly. We can shift, or change the way we do city.

    Joshua, I reread it, no satire to my eyes.

    ReplyDelete

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