Populations Problems: A Scriptural Examination
by Denny Hartford presented at a "Frontier Issues" Conference
People present problems; no way around it! How many times have you heard a teacher faced with his classroom, or a policeman dealing with the person that he pulls over, or even a mother or dad looking at their kids and intimating that their lives would be much simpler if the people causing the problems just didn't exist?
Fewer students in the classroom - fewer children in the family - fewer people in the neighborhood pick-up basketball game: in every case, simplicity would increase. Indeed, people present problems. But, "people problems" are worth solving! Why? Because people are created in the image and likeness of God and each and every one is inestimably precious in His sight.
Let me cite a passage from one of my favorite authors, Fyodor Dostoevsky. It is a passage from his monumental novel, Brothers Karamazov, "'It's just the same story that a doctor once told me,' observed the elder. He was a man getting on in years and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as freely as you though in sarcasm, bitter sarcasm, 'I love humanity', he said, 'but I wonder to myself. The more I love humanity in general; the less I love man in particular. 'In my dreams,' he said, 'I often make plans for the service of humanity and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in a room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience that as soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In 24 hours, I begin to hate the best of men. One because he's too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually, the more I love humanity.'"
Now, if you don't recognize this quotation from Dostoevsky, you might recognize the same sentiment expressed in another form; namely, a Peanuts cartoon. Charlie Brown (perhaps it's Linus, who is actually more of the philosopher of the comic strip), makes the declaration: "I love humanity. It's people I can't stand!"
Both of these examples reveal what is a major trend of modern culture; that is, an increasing encouragement to a love of the Brotherhood of Man in the abstract while there also exists a retreat from love of men in the particular. Yes, we love Mankind but when it comes to the particular - people who have to blow their noses, who have to be fed, who have to be housed (in other words, people who present real problems) - well, that's another matter. When people become problematic, modern manipulators actually have had the gall to encourage "people eradication" as the solution. But we must come back to the "ground rules" established in Scripture about how to deal with people - not in the abstract, but with real people in real life.
Please note carefully from the outset that the attention should be given not to the number of people, but to the problems themselves, including the matter of too few people addressing themselves to the real problems. We must look behind the spectre of overpopulation to the real issues that cry out for redress.
Modern viewers of television and readers of contemporary magazines have been duped. They have been repeatedly fooled as to the genuine issues involved in this matter. When we watch scenes of a child starving in Brazil or Bangladesh or Somalia, or when we read the terrible stories of poverty in the streets of Mexico City or Calcutta or Buenos Aires, we immediately associate them with what we've been told is the grim and critical tragedy of overpopulation. We immediately think - "Too many people"! The mainstream media and others who peddle this philosophy have done their job very effectively. Therefore, we don't think of addressing the grave problems of hunger; we don't think of housing; we don't think of inadequate medical care. We merely think - "Too many people"! This solves nothing. The Christian Church must begin to see behind the illusory screen of "overpopulation" to the real challenges facing the poor, the sick, and the needy. Then we must bravely and sacrificially seek solutions within the power of God. How many times have we witnessed a "tsk tsk tsk" mentality in the Church; that is, where we see these things in the new with our only answer being the changing of the channel or turning of the page. It's a bad thing, a sad thing we know, but we merely "tsk, tsk, tsk" over it as we go on about our comfortable lives. Well, today I want to help you go beyond that....beyond the quick shrug to the truly helpful compassion commanded us by our Lord.
I don't want you to leave this seminar merely equipped to say, "Now I have some new slogans and some corrected statistics for when someone asks me about overpopulation." No, I want you to encourage you to go much further, understanding that very real, very challenging problems must be addressed. As you have learned here today, incorrect blame is being laid upon the sheer numbers of people; so much that we begin to think that this is the problem after all. But no; Malthus was dead wrong and the Malthusian model has been proven wildly inaccurate by history. But the ethic that he began to generate continues among us and, in fact, is picking up steam. If Malthus had been correct in his population projections, the world would have about 60 billion people right now. That's over ten times the number that we actually have! Paul Ehrlich, the author of the widely-successful Population Bomb, has also had his predictions proven dramatically wrong time after time. So when you encounter these geometric projections and when you hear the dire scenarios they suggest, you now realize more fully that you are not hearing science, but propaganda which is based upon upon various non-biblical philosophies rather than fact. After all, if it is only too many people which is the problem, why do Hong Kong and Taiwan demonstrate the highest living standards in the world? They have the highest per capita population in Asia! The answer involves an understanding that the issue is not simply one of people nor even a matter of space. Again, we must look behind the screen and find the real issues.
Taken literally, disillusion is a wonderful thing. Illusion is a fake; it is a distorted sense of reality. Therefore, when illusions generate one's actions (or lack of action), we should all be quite happy to be rid of them. Behind the sloganeering of abortion-on-demand, for example, one finds the mass slaughter of preborn babies. The illusions that there is no God or that human life means little or that child sacrifice can be made socially chic has tempted men to perform the most barbaric deeds. Now in the case of abortion, there is conscious trickery afoot. The same is true of the spectre of overpopulation. Ross Perot and Warren Buffett and Paul Ehrlich and other extremists who, although they know better, have gone to an awful lot of trouble to sell overpopulation as the primary evil in the world. Like Charlie Brown, they too claim to love humanity, it's people they can't stand! Meeting the danger and duplicity represented by their objectives is not at all easy, nor is overcoming the powerful illusions they have created.
But let's begin the talk, shall we? Let's look behind the rhetoric of overpopulation in order to determine the real targets for ministry. A gigantic hurdle faces us immediately, and it is one that presents a personal as well as a corporate challenge to the Church in the West. It is simply this - in order for us to effectively move against the illusion of overpopulation AND against the terrible needs facing the world's populations, we must confront the god whom we most worship in the West. The god of materialism. As a philosophy, materialism is much more than the acquisition of goods; it is a way of life that distracts you from the needs of others. Materialism, with its dedication to comfort and pleasure, distracts the Westerner from focusing in on the most immediate targets of ministry for others. Indeed, materialism, in its concentrated attention to things, actually devalues human beings! The consumer culture that has been established in Western Europe and the U.S. and which we are now exporting into lesser developed nations devalues the individual by its concentrated attention to advertising, consumerism, emphasis on gadgetry, artificially heightened dependence on toys, etc. So when a woman tells you in front of an abortion clinic or at a crisis pregnancy center that she cannot afford another child and yet she has driven in with a new car and is dressed in finery and jewelry, one should ask, "What has happened here?" People have been devalued by things - in this case, devalued in the greatest extreme. Luxuries have become necessities to such a degree that we won't even consider even the sacredness of human life to be a priority over things.
Materialism breeds greed. In the old Westerns that I watched while growing up, there was often a scene where the bandits are figuring out how to divide their booty from the stage robbery or whatever. You remember the scene. There's always one of the guys that looks at the weakest member of the party as he wonders if he can do away with him in the night. And what do his partners say? "Hey, that will be more for the rest of us! That will be one more share that goes to us!" This very attitude is a key plank in the platform of many of the population controllers but, worse yet, it becomes an unconscious motivation for the rest of us. Whatever rhetoric is used to assuage our consciences, we intuitively understand that sharing goods or space or time with others costs us! So, rather than bear the costs of others, we end up being protective of our "share of the stuff."
In Southeast Asia, a traditional monkey trap consists simply of putting a date or some nut other treat inside a coconut. The monkey reaches in the coconut, grabs the date, and he's caught because the size of his fist inside the coconut is larger than the hole in which he inserted his open hand. The goofy little thing will not let go of the treat even to pull his hand out. He keeps his hand gripping his reward even though it means his capture and doom. This is exactly what is happening to the Western World. Our greed blinds us to the needs of others, and endangers the future security and peace of all.
But as difficult as climbing over the obstacle of Western materialism is there are other issues which must be faced if we truly want to see behind the spectre of overpopulation; to escape the illusions and then to love in word and deed that world that needs us. Let us move into active solutions; let's allow the Scriptures to reveal the "ground rules" - rules that have the interest of not an abstract Mankind but of individual people in God's heart.
Christianity vs Pantheism - 1) Man is created by God in the image of God. Man is not a part of God! Furthermore, God is not a tree or a bison. No matter the current fads and fashion, God is the Lord of Creation; He is not a part of it. In the same sense, man is a special creature of God, made in His very image. A man or a woman is not part of a great pantheistic system despite the current teaching of New Age pantheism and/or animism. In fact, much of what we know as "New Age" is merely the "Old Age" of Eastern thought in a "new flip-top box." It contains elements (sometime contradictory) of Hinduism, Buddhism, tribal religion, and so on.
The Bible is unmistakably clear! Man is not part of God. Man is not merely part of nature. Man is not an animal. Man is not a product of evolution. None of your ancestors, no matter how far back you go, emerged from the primeval slime. Man is created in the Image of God. And even more than that - we are the pinnacle of Creation. It was about 15 years ago when I first saw that this seemingly obvious fact was soon to be under attack. I heard a guy refer to me in a discussion as a "speciesist." I asked what he meant. He told me, "You're acting as if you, as a homo sapien, have an elevated status over other species!" Now at the time, that idea struck me as especially loony and, though the animal rights movement has achieved remarkable gains and such ideas are now commonly expressed, the idea remains quite loony indeed. Now those who know me will certify that I love animals, especially dogs and penguins and squirrels and; well, the list goes on. But as cute as squirrels are, I have never seen one write poetry. I've never seen a chimpanzee so clever that it has invented a cure for a disease. And as high on my list of life's pleasures are the dogs I have owned, I've never know any of them to worship the Lord God. Animals are created for the pleasure of God and man: they are not joint heirs of the planet with us. Human beings, however, are special because they are created in God's image; they have immortal souls; they are the pinnacle of creation. They are so loved by God that He sent His Son to die for their sins.
God's sovereignty and creativity - 2) Remember that God is a God of sovereign control. God has not lost control of the assembly line regarding human production. Deists in the 17th Century pictured God as a celestial watchmaker who made of the earth a grand timepiece and then let it go on its own. In their belief, the world ran on Natural Law without divine intervention. God became (in their confused minds) a type of absentee landlord. And so the welfare of the planet was in the hands of either some distant Providence or, more relevant to their schemes, in the hands of Man working through government and culture. The population controllers and the pantheists of our time present a similar scenario. Natural law runs the planet in their argument and therefore man is called to bravely co-opt natural law in order to keep things in control. Never mind traditional morality or the sanctity of human life - no, in service to pragmatism, man must do whatever he deems fit to guide the future of the earth. This is especially appropriate when the enlightened man is working through the power of the state!
The truth, however, is that God remains on the throne of the universe. God has not left the room while the "natural" machinery continues producing people at a mistaken pace. Do any of you remember Lucille Ball in that famous scene from one of her shows - the episode in which the pies just kept coming off the conveyor belt at the bakery where she was working? Remember how frantic she became because she didn't know how to turn the machine off? Well, contrary to the opinions of the historic deists or the modern doom-sayers in the anti-population camp, God is nothing like that "I Love Lucy" scene. God is not worried about too many people because He is not only the Creator of life in the past but also of current life! He's not the Creator of Adam and Eve alone. He continues to create human beings in His Image and His likeness. Psalm 139, for instance, has its description of the awesome act of God's forming the human being inside the womb is post-Adam and Eve. Note too that Psalm 127's revelation that "the man is blessed whose quiver is full of arrows" (meaning children) is assurance that man remains God's special, spiritual creation.
Sanctity of Human Life - 3) Human life, because of this intimate, unique relation to God, is sacred. Human life is to be respected and protected. The Sixth Commandment ("You shall not murder!") is an eternal, absolute truth. This was once an obvious truth to civilized nations, but now even in the "land of the free and the home of brave," we are killing over 4,500 babies by surgical abortion every single day! Ours is a decadent time, but the Christian must not go over to the other side and leave the truths that remain eternal. We cannot make peace with the "death ethic" which comes in so many forms in our culture. Never can we point to any people problem, no matter how complex or difficult, and proclaim that its solution is the inhumane violence of killing innocent people. So, please mark this down - whenever you find in population control programs that violence and death are part of the "solution" (no matter the motive or the justification), it is immoral and contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
Justice - 4) The Bible uses the term "justice" over 300 times! Here again the Church needs to rediscover God's clear teaching on this necessary virtue and then resolve to obey the biblical mandate at whatever the cost. People's dignity as well as their basic needs must be served. The specific commands of Jesus as well as His living example are inescapable in this regard. We cannot simply turn off the television when we're faced with those terrible conditions of poverty and starvation and disease which I mentioned earlier. We cannot run away from guilt feelings or from true compassion. We cannot merely say, "Well, I have read Jackie Kasun's book or I've heard a pro-life speaker address the issue of overpopulation and I now know that the problem isn't too many people in the world." Yes; so what? Just because you know that "A" isn't the answer, you still must fill in the blank to pass the exam. No, my friends, we have to honestly face the torment and trouble existing in the global community and say instead, "All right, we've now uncovered the false answers. We now understand the dangers and duplicity of the population controllers. However, rather than sitting back, we now resolve to load up and take aim at the real targets! And we're going to do so creatively. We're going to do so sacrificially. And we're going to do so as compassionately as is possible!"
Let me take you to some very important Scriptures. I urge you to look up in your concordance later the word "justice" and find out more of what God has to say about it - it is a most instructive and compelling study. However, let me cite just a few passages here. The first is Amos 5: 21-24. As I read it, compare the passage to the experience of the Church in America today with all of our religiosity, our padded-pews, our church racquetball courts, the millions made from selling Christian records, and so on. Think too about how we have turned over to the government our responsibilities to the widows, the orphans, the lonely, and the sick. Speaking in behalf of the Lord, Amos the prophet said, "I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps." God is actually denouncing their religious activities; He's saying don't bother Me with this! Your worship is false as proven by your lack of attention to the real issues. Note verse 24: "But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." The issue should be for the believer is not religious rhetoric or religious sentiments, but religious actions, done in the Name of Christ by the power of the Spirit.
Here's another graphic example. When we talk about Sodom and Gomorrah being such an extreme and tragic portrayal of man's depravity, most conservative Christians think of homosexuality or blasphemy. However, in Ezekiel 16:49, there is this surprising denouncement, "'Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.'" Now, I know some Christians are conditioned to interpreting such ideas as part of a "social gospel" that is divorced from the preaching of the "good news." There's a quickness in such people to say, "But we need to evangelize. At its root, people's problems are spiritual." Well, you won't get any disagreement from me on that score. But please note cautiously that these observations are not mine nor are they those of a timid reformer who cares nothing about spiritual revival. No, they are Scriptures; they come from the authority of the Lord! He desires (no, make that, He commands!) that we go into the world with His whole message. We joyfully preach the "good news" of salvation; namely, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all who simply trust His sacrifice on the Cross. But it is also of the utmost importance to personally embody the virtues of Jesus Christ: love, compassion, mercy, justice, holiness and so on. We must love in fullness, and that requires being devoted to justice in behalf of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 14:21, 14:31, 22:9, 29:7, and 31:9 are all provocative testimonies to this point. As too is a striking passage is in Isaiah 58: 10-12. And, of course, there is the crystal clear admonition given in the New Testament book of James, "What do you say, my brother, if a man comes to you naked and hungry and you say to him, 'Go in peace. Be warmed and filled.' but you do not give him what he needs?" James says that is a false religion. It is not a true one. I John 3:17 says, "But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?"
No doubt about it - God requires of His people to establish a firm, holy foundation for their evangelism. And that foundation is to be composed of a love for truth, of personal holiness, and good works of charity. Jesus truly cares about the needs of all people. He bids us not "close our hearts" (and this is what happens in the "tsk tsk tsk " mentality or when we establish justifications for our lack of concern). What we all need to do is to learn to be creative and sacrificial and consistent in order to be effective ministers of God's love.
The Creation Mandate: Stewardship - 5) There is a creation mandate - a clear but too often ignored teaching from the Word of God that is of the utmost relevance in a correct evaluation of the problems of human population. As we learn from Genesis 1: 26 and 28, man is to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Furthermore, we are to subdue the earth. We are to have dominion over it. I stress this point because the rhetoric and the sentimentality of the population control movement harshly criticizes those who think in this direction. Believers of a certain mandate are denounced in the most horrible terms for being far afield from "political correctness." Terms like "pillager," "short-sighted despoilers," and, of course, the dreaded epithet, "speciesist" are hurled like javelins. At one time Americans rightly chided the Hindus in India for ignoring the dire needs of human "untouchables" while worshiping sacred cows. But now in our own nation, we kill unborn kids by the thousands and are fast moving in on the elderly and infirm while going to radical lengths to protect snail darters, dolphins, and spotted owls!
The Hebrew word for "steward" is a picture word; it means a man over a house. Men and women are given this world as a house and they are to be the lords of it. Certainly, there are many responsibilities inherent in this stewardship. We are not to rape and pillage the land. We are not to indiscriminately shoot animals, cut down trees, divert rivers, misuse energy, and so on. This is a matter of common sense. But the ethic that compels us to subdue the land is not simply a prerogative of the power we have as human beings; it is part of the creation mandate. The replenishing of the earth; subduing the earth; having dominion over creatures; labor; enjoying the weekly Sabbath; maintaining the marriage covenant - all of these are involved in the creation mandate revealed in Genesis 1 and 2. We cannot ignore these crucial responsibilities.
Today overpopulation is regularly presented as the greatest danger to the planet. And in this supposed attack on our blessed "Mother Earth," the human family is treated as an unnecessary, undesirable burden. We have developed such a naive sympathy with the planet in recent years. You've seen the bumper stickers that show a little globe and the caption, "Remember to love your Mother!" Well, such sentiments have been growing for several years. As long ago as 1970, I attended a major Earth Day event in Denver. I remember seeing bumper stickers there with mottos such as "Babies pollute. Stop at Two" and "Save the Whales" and "Baby Seals Need Your Help." Ehrlich's book was everywhere; so too were gorgeous nature calendars and wildlife photography and booths set up by the Sierra Club and Zero Population Growth. Even then the concern for proper stewardship of the earth was being connected to the spectre of overpopulation. But there was a sense of innocence about this whole thing in those days that made the ecology movement very attractive even to many Christians. But what was the ethos behind this new love of the earth? Was it not a radical departure from the biblical differention between God, man, animals, and the earth? Again, don't get me wrong; there undoubtedly is a great need to be "kind" to the planet as it concerns pollution and ecological mismanagement. But this innocent regard has been lost in the madness of earth worship. We are now much more concerned about endangered species than we are endangered people! Check it out! The number of children that are dying through starvation and malnutrition every day is an incidental story compared to a whale being beached or a porpoise being unfairly "employed" at Sea World. The U.S. government authorized mass murder of preborn babies even as it criminalized mistreatment of eagles' eggs! One can see how the priorities have become, not merely confused, but horribly twisted to fit doctrines of lethal silliness.
Man is to be fruitful and fill the earth. The Hebrew word for "multiply" means simply that - to make numerous. It implies a numerical increase that is substantially more than addition. And God said it was good! Even after the fall, God reinstituted the creation mandate and said, "It is good!" Sin had entered the world and with it death and unimaginable horrors but God did not change this mandate. Art Beals, in a book entitled Beyond Hunger wrote, "Adam and Eve and their seed, separated now from God's perfect creation, discover that life must go on. Toil and sweat, pain, sorrow and death become endemic to human-kind's existence. Abel is murdered by his brother Cain and in judgment, the Lord tells Cain, 'When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you.' The fruit of that curse afflicts all of human-kind even to this day. Famines, pestilence, droughts, floods grip the face of the whole planet. Refugee groups numbering in the millions, wanderers on the earth seek shelter, food and security. The need for intervention, transformation and development couldn't be clearer." But Beals continues with this crucial corollary: "There's good news along with the bad news, however. God has invested His creations with certain gifts. Gifts of intelligence, creativity, artistic and mechanical skills and an innate will to survive. Those early wandering descendants of Adam and Eve became the builders of cities. (Genesis 4:17) Animal herders. (Gen. 4:20) Skilled metallurgists and tool makers (Gen. 4:22) Human kind was not left without resources. They possessed the creative and intellectual resources needed to develop the natural resources God had so generously provided in creation. So human history moves forward."
Contemporary Christians must realize that they too are called to move forward, and not only in fulfillment of the creation mandate, but in fulfillment of another holy purpose: the compassion mandate. We will explore this mandate in some detail in a few moments but first let's look at a couple of other "ground rules" in the Bible that also fall under the creation mandate: marriage and children.
In order to keep from giving offense, it is quite common for the reform-minded Christian to make reference to the "Judeo-Christian ethic" or "traditional family values" rather than openly speaking of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. We even get a little embarrassed to say to a world that is full of pluralists that Jesus Christ claimed to be "the Way , the Truth, and the Light. No man comes to the Father but by Me." But though this cowardice is common, it does not make it any less reprehensible. We end up running, not only from evangelism, but from saying about any particular subject, "This is what God decreed. This is Holy Scripture. This counts! Whether you believer or not, it counts." One of the most critical of contemporary debates rage over the issue of family and Christians need to weigh in with the Scriptures. We ourselves as well as the world desperately needs this revelation. If we do not allow the Bible to define the family, it is left to the likes of Hillary Clinton or Murphy Brown or, worse yet, Woody and Mia! However, the family has been defined by God, so it is at our grave peril that we mess with it. The "traditional family" of a husband and a wife whose vows are regarded as permanent and who consider children a normal and blessed result of their love is fast going by the boards. But it is not merely a tradition that is lost in this erosion; it is a commitment to biblical truth. Great is the fall of our culture because of it.
God's mandate requires that the family be in line with His Word. So let's check out some of the specifics: The marriage constitutes one flesh. Marriage as described in Malachai is a covenant, the same kind of relationship that God Himself has with believers. I Corinthians 11:3 even refers to the unity of the Trinity as a symbol of marriage. And while marriage is certainly not a mere excuse for procreation, children are regarded in the Bible as an expected and wonderful fruit of the couple's dedication to one another.
Children do not tie a marriage together. Rather, it is the love of God evidenced through the love that they share for one another that holds a couple together. But it is important to note that even though children are not the reason for physical intimacy in marriage, kids are treated in Scripture as a joyous complement to the love covenant between husband and wife. It's so sad to realize that in only one generation's time, this attitude has been turned completely on its head. Many of you have been deeply hurt when you made the announcement even to Christian friends that you were pregnant with your third or fourth child. Instead of heartfelt congratulations, you received the jokes (and sometimes comments that weren't so joking) about having too many children. A friend of ours recently returned from South Africa where he and his wife were missionaries. They had wanted to go and minister the gospel in that troubled area of the world. God had called them and they eventually had an incredible ministry even among the witch doctors in tribes outside Soweto. But they had to go on the field purely through their faith in the wonderful providence of God because they were not allowed standing with any official mission board. You know why? They had four children! That was too many! Evangelical mission boards would tell them, "Oh, of course, we believe in the call of God, but obviously you must have heard wrong because you have too many children to be engaged in such service!" How deeply the Church has been infected with this anti-child disease! We are now helping to spread it abroad! We have much to answer for.
"Behold, children are a gift of the Lord'
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Life arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one's youth.
How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
When they speak with their enemies in the gate."
The obvious thrust of this passage is that it was a very beneficial thing for a man to have his "quiver" full of kids. If I'm a warrior going into battle, I would probably not feel very secure if I only had a quiver with only 2.3 arrows! Now, please do not misunderstand; I am not saying that a moral obligation of marriage is to have as many children as you can possibly have, but I am quite certain that we have turned upside down the biblical ethic of valuing children in these last 30 years. Rather than seeing several children as a normal part of marriage (and a blessed, happy event when they show up!), we treat them as a curse. And again note, that is not a runaway from only traditional values, that's a runaway from biblical values. Each human being is created in the image and likeness of God. That is true for the child who is born in the slums of Lagos or Calcutta as well as North Platte, Nebraska.
Kids should be desired - by parents and society. They are not unbearable burdens no matter what they cost. When I was growing up, it wasn't expected that parents guarantee that their kids would go to college. It wasn't a tragedy if a son decided he wanted to be a cop or a mechanic or if a daughter decided to be a hairdresser or housewife. Today we tend to determine beforehand whether kids should be born based upon what we can give them ready-made. Can we give them a "qualitative" life as defined by education and travel and separate bedrooms and individual Nintendo joysticks! I am so glad my parents didn't have that attitude or I wouldn't be here now! We can see the wisdom and beauty of God in the creation of all people if we look with the right perspective. It is crass materialism that ends up defining human beings as consumers - God, on the other hand, defines them by His love and character.
Now a brief aside here - please remember, that what these cultures are getting under the guise of birth control is abortifiacient drugs and devices. Something our culture desperately needs to learn is that when we are talking about birth control pills or Norplant or IUD's or RU-486, we are talking about abortion. Even if you are a Christian who believes that genuine contraception is allowed as a moral option for married couples, you certainly should admit that abortifacient methods of "birth control" are clearly evil. It is a grievous sin in the sight of God, and we need to unequivocally oppose it. In many of these cultures abroad they too are being manipulated by the population control industry - even though it involves deceit. When they go into an Islamic country, for instance, do you think they tell them that the mini-pill or Norplant or RU-486 are abortion-inducing drugs? Of course not. They tell them the same lies that they tell men and women in this country. They lie unjustly as the American abortionist who tells a girl that he is" just going to start her period."
Government Intrusion - 6) Another biblical principal relevant to the spectre of overpopulation is the family's relationship to government. Why on earth is this question involved? Because, as mentioned earlier, the deist's devotion to governmental power as the effectual force of change has been adopted by the population controllers. Would you like to see a few of the alternatives such socialists pose to God's ethic? Read and weep.
"We must consider enforced contraception, whether through taxation on surplus children, or through more severe means such as conception license, replacing or supplementing the marriage license. Abortion should be freely available to those suffering unintended pregnancy. In international relations, of course, any aid to people who through ignorance, prejudice or political hypnosis fail to control their numbers might be forbidden."
(Robert Ardrey, "Control Population," LIFE; 2-20-70)
"If we loved the truth we must openly deny the validity of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, even though it is promoted by the United Nations...As a genetically trained biologist, it seems to me that, if there are to be differences in individual inheritance, legal possession should be perfectly correlated with biological inheritance - that those who are biologically more fit to be the custodians of property and power should legally inherit more... "Coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now, but it need not forever be so. As with the four-letter words, its dirtiness can be cleaned away by exposure to the light, by saying it over and over without apology or embarrassment."
(Pro-abortion eugenicist, Dr. Garrett Hardin,"The Tragedy of the Commons," SCIENCE, December 13, 1968)
"A federal Department of Population and Environment (DPE) should be set up with the power to take whatever steps are necessary to establish a reasonable population size in the United States and to put an end to the steady deterioration of our environment. The DPE would be given ample funds to support research in the areas of population control and environmental quality. In the first area it would promote intensive investigation of new technics of birth control, possibly leading to the development of mass sterilizing agents.... The new system would be quite simple...For each of the first two children, an additional $600 would be added to the taxable income figure on which the taxes are calculated. For each subsequent child, $1200 would be added...On top of the income tax reversal, luxury taxes should be placed on layettes, cribs, diapers, diaper services, expensive toys...."
(Dr. Paul Ehrlich, author of the wildly flawed yet wildly inaccurate book, The Population Bomb.)
Also, from Ehrlich's book: "The population explosion is an uncontrolled multiplication of people. We must shift our efforts...to the cutting out of the cancer. The operation will demand many apparently brutal and heartless decisions."
"Grant also unto each individual the right...to rid...himself of the children he is unable to feed...This state will forever be poor, if its population surpasses the means by which it can subsist...Do you prune the tree when it has over-many branches?...It is not unjust, I say, to prevent the arrival in the world of a being who will certainly be useless to it...There you have the reasonable means to the diminishment of a population, whose excessive size is the source of trouble."
(Marquis de Sade's political pamphlet, "Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen."
First published in 1795)
Shocked? You should be, but are you shocked enough to respond? In Making Biblical Decisions, Dr. Franklin Payne argues that the responsibility for that the decisions of the family, including the intimate decisions regarding child-bearing, is none of the government's business. "God holds the family responsible for fulfilling the creation mandate. This fact alone is sufficient to counter any government mandate or even encouragement of birth control by its citizens. It is a family responsibility that the state must not assume." There is no government body which has a right either through persuasion or coercion to direct the moral conduct of a family. There are certain rights given to parents via the creation mandate that the state cannot abrogate. But this is under great assault on several fronts: education, economics, health care, discipline, and labor. In these and other areas, we are seeing the state assume greater and greater control over your responsibilities as parents. And the chaotic nature of our culture today shows where it has led us. Without substantial reform, there's nothing but more bad news over the horizon.
The Compassion Mandate - 7) My friends, there are real problems out there. I have a photo at home sent to me by a pastor in Nigeria with whom I became a friend during a mission there. The photo shows a couple of women in his church whom I had also met. One lady had lost a leg and the other woman had a growth under her armpit hanging down from the bone - it was as big as a basketball. Now I'm not medically trained, of course, but I looked at this and thought this would be a fairly simple surgery to repair. However, simple surgery though it may be in the U.S.A., this woman will never, by her own means, be able to afford that surgery. She has a real problem. She is not only a flickering image on a television screen or a face in a fund-raising letter; she is a child of God who deserves our attention, our prayers, and ... our help! What she doesn't need is the cruel indifference of the population controllers who would eliminate suffering by eliminating the one suffering!
Macauley became a very good friend while I was in Nigeria; he was a brother in Christ who actually guarded the building in which I slept at night. Because of political decisions beyond his control, he had lost his job as a truck driver by losing his driver's license. He had been out of work over three years. He had one child who had no clothes whatsoever and, unlike Americans who shamelessly say that they have no clothes, Macauley meant it. His wife had one wrap that was so deteriorated that she couldn't go into public with it. He had got by scrounging odd jobs and eating from the small plot of ground he lived on - a plot which had no hut because the rain had washed it nearly totally away. "How much money will it take for you to get a driver's license?" I asked. The answer? 120 neiras. That's 12 bucks! 12 dollars to give a man his career back - 12 dollars to save a family! There are real problems; but these problems can be met by compassion when it is effectively administered, when we who have so much are willing to share it.
Racism and the immoral elements of eugenics represent other obstacles to the compassion mandate. The United States government and our various corporations are not at all innocent in this respect. In many ways, the U.S. seems determined to keep the Third World an undeveloped world. Whether it actually participates in the local corruption of such countries (the examples involving the Agency for International Development alone are shocking) or merely sins by omission in its failure to act in the interests of justice, the United States has often joined hands with the racist, exploitative policies of the population controllers. Consider our government's immoral relations with the tyrannical Chinese government for starters. Imagine - both Democrat and Republican administrations falling over themselves to give Most Favored Trade Nation Status to a country that executes dissidents, persecutes Christians, forces abortion on its people, and employs slave labor! Does the phrase "human rights" mean so little?
Again, though, the greatest obstacle to a fulfillment of the compassion mandate is the distraction created by man's own greed and his passion for material possessions. Randy Alcorn in his excellent book, Money, Possessions and the Gospel, warns Americans of "the doctrine of reversal" - the clear Scriptural principle, if you have much, you are in great danger of having little in the life to come and vice versa.
Wise Christians therefore seek to follow the biblical admonition to lay treasures up in heaven where thieves can't break in to steal, and where moth and rust cannot corrupt. There is a story told about two attendees at the funeral of John D. Rockefeller. One of the fellows was Rockefeller's treasurer. The other asked him, "How much did he leave anyhow?" The treasurer supposedly smiled and said, "Why, he left all of it, of course." Another way to emphasize the extreme temporality of materialism is that you' ve never seen a hearse pulling an U-Haul truck! A more serious and profound expression, however, came from Martin Luther who once wrote that he never lost anything which he had placed in the hands of the Savior for safe keeping.
Not too long ago, I talked to a local pastor who served the Lord in South America for many years. He told me about how on one of his first days there, he and his wife had thrown the trash out. But the next day the trash had completely disappeared - the potato peelings, the cardboard, the cans. He couldn't figure out what was going on. That afternoon he went visiting and as he walked into the dwelling place of a nearby family, he noticed that the cans he had thrown away were now being used as lamps. The people thanked him profusely for them; they were absolutely overjoyed that they had light. They were grateful too for the rare feast they had enjoyed that morning on the potato peels and other "garbage" he had thrown out.
So I want to challenge you today. Certainly a necessary task of the Christian pro-lifer is to learn the facts which are obscured by the spectre of overpopulation. You need to help counter the myths and deliberate distortions by learning the truth AND then openly, creatively sharing that truth with others. But what is the foundational truth, the capstone of this conference session? It is simply this: it is not too many people that is the ruination of the world. It is sin - a "chosen" condition which can only be fully dealt with by the blood of Christ. But the Church needs to follow His call and to love the world with everything we have. We must learn to serve and to share...to learn to give until it hurts. Realize too you can't out give God. You don't lose in this deal. You will find that your ability to deal with the population controllers will be much more effective if you can not only say, "Look, I have answers to your errors but, more importantly, I'm showing from my own love of God that I'm going to love people in real ways and seek to meet whatever needs I can." This double-sided answer is the only truly biblical one - an answer that includes both accurate information and direct involvement with those who require genuine help.