Last week, the people’s republic of China announced that it will end its “One-Child-Policy. The days of government agents forcible pulling babies out of the womb while are over. Very soon, Chinese couples can start having two kids!
And though the news is welcome by demographers and many in China, the policy is probably too little too late. The policy change will not resurrect the 336 million children that were aborted nor will it return fertility to the 196 million people that have been sterilized since 1971. The Chinese population bubble is still on track to burst within the next few years. By 2050, China’s million-man army will be a million-man nursing home. Roughly a quarter of its population will be over 65 and the nation’s average age will be 67. China’s days as an economic and political juggernaut are numbered.
To prevent this nightmare from coming true, China needs its families to start having more kids. To maintain its population, a nation needs to have a birth rate 2.1 kids per couple. China’s current birth rate sits at 1.7 kids per couple. To thrive as a nation, China needs its birth rate to climb by at least half a kid per couple. Hence, families are now permitted to have two babies.
But the fertility jump is stil not coming anytime soon. As one Chinese woman told the Wall Street Journal, “For a second child, my answer is no, no, no. Doesn’t matter what the policy is…I can’t imagine who would have the energy to raise another child.” When the China tested the Two-Child-Policy in the Jiangsu province, a majority of those women still preferred a one child home. Today, most women aren’t avoiding birth because of the government policy. They are avoiding birth because they don’t want to expend the social, physical, emotional, and financial capital to needed to raise children. Chen Feng told the New York times, “Before I had my first child, I was hoping for the relaxation of the one-child policy…I changed my mind after I gave birth to my daughter…It takes a lot of energy to take care of a child.” Simply put, Chinese women no longer want two kids.
This is the biggest news story of the day is that China has successfully transformed its culture. And Chinese women have bought into the anti-kid philosophy. The One-Child-Policy is gone, but its residue remains. The way Chinese families think about kids has been radically altered.
Americans can relate. The average American couple has 1.8 kids. And the average Southern Baptist couple has around 1.9 kids per couple. Even though we never had a One-Child-Policy, Baptist families had their thinking transformed during the sexual revolution. And now, no one wants kids.
Americans, Chinese, and Baptist share similar birth rates because we all share a similar worldview. No, we are not all communists. But we all have adopted an anti-kid worldview. We all have decided to live for the pleasure of now. We want nice cars, clothes, and houses. We want to be able to experience the best that life has to over via vacations, parties, and good health. Kids threaten all those things.
And there is no amount of financial incentives or government programs that can convince us otherwise. Both Japan and Singapore have been trying for years to increase their birth rates. When the Singapore government offered women $18,000 to have two kids, the women said, “No, thanks.” Today, their nation’s birth rate sits at dismal 1.1 kids per couple. There is no monetary benefit that can truly compensate a woman for all the things she sacrifices for her children.
Kids drastically interrupt the life, especially the one lived for pleasure. This morning, my toddler woke up me up an hour early. Our morning routine ended with him trying to bite my big toe. I’m not alone.
Instead of designer clothes, parents spend thousands on miniature plastic tubes for ear aches. Instead of vacations, parents get sleepless nights. And instead of healthy bodies, parents become worn and tired. As one author rightfully said,
“Children won’t change your life. They will utterly and completely destroy it.”
This is hardly the life most couples envisioned on their honeymoon. And so, we pleasure seeking Baptists start avoiding kids. We tell our young couples to enjoy life. Avoid pain and sorrow. Above all don’t have kids.
And little by little our tiny, country churches evaporate away as their nurseries sit empty. We Baptists wonder were all the people went. But we never stop and ask, “where did all the babies go?”
If our Baptist churches are going to end their defacto One-Child-Policy, we have to return to a biblical view of pleasure. Happiness for the Christian is not defined by personal peace and affluence. The Christian’s pleasure comes from glorifying God through worship and obedience. As John Piper often says, “We are most satisfied when God is most glorified.” Happiness comes from focusing on Christ. Because joy is not defined by our stuff or our physical health, Christians can and should do the hard things God commands. We should love our neighbors, travel for far away countries and have kids. We should stop living for earthly treasure and lay up treasure in heaven by having, raising, and evangelizing the next generation. The vitality of our churches depends in part on our birth rates. The vitality of our personal faith depends upon it.
Now having children doesn’t save us. We don’t have to abandon breast feeding to ensure our Baptist gals have the most babies humanly possible. But we do need to reattach procreation to sex. We need to realize that God has called us to live lives for heavenly pleasure instead of earthly gain. We need to re-embrace God’s first command to be fruitful and multiply. We need to see children as a blessing and start having some more.