Thursday, March 09, 2006

Will Conservatives Inherit the Earth?

Foreign Policy magazine published an interesting essay by Phillip Longman predicting the return of patriarchy. Longman writes:

"Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best."


Longman quotes Oswald Spengler's observation, "When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard ‘having children’ as a question of pro’s and con, the great turning point has come."

I wrote recently about the raft of statistics that indicate the tipping point has indeed arrived. Yet, as Longman writes, "that turning point does not necessarily mean the death of a civilization, only its transformation."

Longman uses Rome as an example. As secular families began dying off, they were replaced by "highly patriarchal family units, hostile to the secular world and enjoined by faith either to go forth and multiply or join a monastery."

Longman sees a similar trend occurring today. For example, the most liberal state in the union, Vermont, has a birthrate of only 1.57 babies per woman. In contrast, the socially conservative, Mormon-dominated state of Utah, had the highest fertility at 2.71. Longman writes:

In Europe today, for example, how many children different people have, and under what circumstances, correlates strongly with their beliefs on a wide range of political and cultural attitudes. For instance, do you distrust the army? Then, according to polling data assembled by demographers Ronny Lesthaeghe and Johan Surkyn, you are less likely to be married and have kids—or ever to get married and have kids—than those who say they have no objection to the military. Or again, do you find soft drugs, homosexuality, and euthanasia acceptable? Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? For whatever reason, people answering affirmatively to such questions are far more likely to live alone, or in childless, cohabitating unions, than those who answer negatively.

The great difference in fertility rates between secular individualists and religious or cultural conservatives augurs a vast, demographically driven change in modern societies. Consider the demographics of France, for example. Among French women born in the early 1960s, less than a third have three or more children. But this distinct minority of French women (most of them presumably practicing Catholics and Muslims) produced more than 50 percent of all children born to their generation, in large measure because so many of their contemporaries had one child or none at all...

Advanced societies are growing more patriarchal, whether they like it or not. In addition to the greater fertility of conservative segments of society, the rollback of the welfare state forced by population aging and decline will give these elements an additional survival advantage, and therefore spur even higher fertility. As governments hand back functions they once appropriated from the family, notably support in old age, people will find that they need more children to insure their golden years, and they will seek to bind their children to them through inculcating traditional religious values akin to the Bible’s injunction to honor thy mother and father.

Societies that are today the most secular and the most generous with their underfunded welfare states will be the most prone to religious revivals and a rebirth of the patriarchal family. The absolute population of Europe and Japan may fall dramatically, but the remaining population will, by a process similar to survival of the fittest, be adapted to a new environment in which no one can rely on government to replace the family, and in which a patriarchal God commands family members to suppress their individualism and submit to father.


In his review of Longman's essay, Steve Sailer writes that while Longman should be praised for writing about the religious and cultural presuppositions that drive birth rates, he neglects the arrow of causality that "also runs in the opposite direction—people who get married and have several children tend to become more socially and politically conservative for the sake of their children."

Sailer argues that government could do much more to create a climate of affordable family formation that keeps housing prices relatively low, encourages high wages and provides good schools.

In any case, the fact that such discussion has invaded the pages of an establishment organ like Foreign Policy magazine is an encouraging cultural development.

10 Comments:

Blogger Cobb said...

I think the idea that conservatives will "inherit the earth" is overly optimistic, although it is a nice thought. I think the real point being made is that anti-secularists will inherit the earth. However, we must understand that the most secular groups on earth are those that were previously Christian strongholds. It is true that certain groups such as the Mormons and Roman Catholics of Central and South America are among the greatest reproducers, they pale in comparison to the growth in the Muslim world. I am not sure that Christians and westerners will enjoy the demographics of the future. A world dominated by primarily Hispanic adherents to the RC faith and an exploding Muslim population will not prove friendly to those of us that cling tightly to the ideas professed by our American forefathers. Please visit my site at cobbtown.com.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Very good point. It is entirely plausible that the future won't be governed by conservative Presbyterians, Baptists, or Lutherans but Wahabbis instead. All the more reason to contemplate serious immigration restrictions and, as Sailer mentions, create conditions that make family formation affordable.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Brooks H said...

Hey Darrel, I am new to your site but would like to comment on the article “Blessed are the Peace Makers.” I do believe you are spot on with your assessments but may have the cart before the horse, so to speak. Our churches are full of unregenerate people that have no clue as to the God of the bible. I am convinced that very few people today know the God that the Jews so reverenced that they would not even utter His name. We have made a god in the image of sinful man that is a butler, waiter and guardian angel. Until we raise up Godly parishioners we are fighting a loosing battle on the political spectrum. There has never been a bill introduced by congress to overturn Roe/Wade. We give the “pro-life” candidate our vote and money but they are of this world and not of His. Political rhetoric is ok in the coffee house but until the people in your congregation become Godly and not of this world you are attempting to legislate morals and I, for the life of me, can’t find one place in the NT that Jesus, Paul or any other writer told us to change the evil done by the government. The hearts of your congregation must be in line with our Lords for any other attempt to right injustices in the world is of man and not God.
My thoughts brother,
Brooks Harman

3:46 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Hi Brooks,

I agree with you that "our churches are full of unregenerate people that have no clue as to the God of the bible" and that the first task of the Church is creating disciples, who in turn disperse to evangelize. It might be helpful for you to read some of my other little pieces. In an essay where I outlined briefly some initial thoughts about how Christians should think about politics and the state, (http://daveblackonline.com/christians_and_government.htm), I wrote:

For the Christian, all government begins with self-government. The regenerating work of the Holy Spirit is the starting point of all self-government. Those who are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) must be given a new heart and a new spirit. The Apostle Paul tells us “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law” (Rom. 8:7).

Regeneration, however, is just the beginning. In Christ, we become a new creation and are prepared to accomplish the good works for which we were created (Eph. 2:10). We are dead to sin, and slaves to Christ. In the strength of the Holy Spirit, we also have the ability to obey the commands of the King, and we are obligated to do so out of love (John 14:15, I John 2:3-5). The theological term for this process is progressive sanctification. In effect, we become more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions. This process of progressive growth ought to be foundational to any Christian strategy of cultural and political activism. In other words, the transformation of individuals must precede the transformation of institutions and culture. Discipleship trumps politicking.


The problem, though, is that the modern state is in the process of attacking what little remains of a Biblical social order (http://dowblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/revolting-elites.html) and I think Christians have a duty to stand up and say "Enough." But we also have to have an alternative because in politics you can't beat something with nothing.

I also think that the religious right is a largely useless vehicle for this enterprise in that it has as a movement become enthralled with power and discarded principle as a result (http://dowblog.blogspot.com/2005/10/whats-wrong-with-religious-right.html).

I also disagree with your assertion that we shouldn't be in the business of legislating morality. To my mind, any legal order is by definition religion. In other words, the source of law will ultimately be the god of that system. I don't think we can leave the world strictly in the hand of the secularists. Our job, given life by Jesus and power by the Holy Spirit, is to create disciples of Jesus. By definition, that will impact everything we do, including the way we vote and ultimately play a role in the laws that govern us.

OK, that's enough for now, but this is a conversation worth having. Feel free to respond, but do be aware that I can't always respond quickly.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Brooks one said...

Darrell,
Sorry for the new name but could not log on with the old one.

Actually we think along the same lines as to the corruption of the government but our approach or solution is quite different. First I believe you are wrong as the family is in actuality the first form of government set up by God rather than the second. Adam, Eve, children and the family unit was first set up in Genesis. In fact the family unit was set up before the church and baptism.

I do agree that all government starts with self-government. My first question is how do you propose that self-government comes to the unregenerate? If one is not born of the Spirit of God then self-government will be wholly of the world and therefore enmity to God. The Romans 8 passage states just that. You can’t inform the unregenerate of spiritual things while they remain outside as we see in I Cor. They just can’t understand the things of God.

You wrote: “In effect, we become more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions. This process of progressive growth ought to be foundational to any Christian strategy of cultural and political activism. In other words, the transformation of individuals must precede the transformation of institutions and culture. Discipleship trumps politicking.”

Again, one can’t become more Christ like when one is not or His flock. “Political activism” as far as I can ascertain was not Christ like. I can’t find where Jesus ever said to change the evil Roman government. Crucifixions were immoral and against God’s law but not once did our Lord even mention them. “Slaves obey your masters” does not indicate that Jesus was out to right the injustices perpetuated by the people or the government.

You wrote: “The problem, though, is that the modern state is in the process of attacking what little remains of a Biblical social order (http://dowblog.blogspot.com/2006/01/revolting-elites.html) and I think Christians have a duty to stand up and say "Enough." But we also have to have an alternative because in politics you can't beat something with nothing.”

Jesus did not mention a “Biblical social order” and never once told us to stand up and say “enough” to civil authorities. He did tell us to obey all government as it was He that puts rulers in office. Wonder why Jesus never once mentioned the atrocities committed by the Roman government.

Could it be that He knew that the unregenerate could never do what was pleasing to God?
The only thing I can find that our Lord told us to do was to spread His good news. Anything more is of man and destined to fail. All problems in the family, government and the world are sin issues. Laws will not change the hearts of man and sin originates from the heart. Jesus knew that the heart was the issue and therefore told us to preach His good news.

The largest abortion provider in America is supported by two of the main line denominations. This is an unregenerate sin issue, not a legal one. If God’s word were in their hearts they would not be supporting evil murder in the name of choice.

Every minute spent attempting to change people but enacting laws is a minute not spent obeying the great commission. We can’t have it both ways.

Later bro,
Brooks

5:43 AM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Sorry I took a while to respond.

First, I agree that the family is the preemininent institution in God's economy (http://www.daveblackonline.com/reestablishing_a_christian_cultu.htm) and don't think I said anything above to deny that.

Second, self-government is going to be in some sense dependent on regeneration, though there is a measure of common grace that God extends.

I also think that your exclusive focus on the Gospels, which are clearly written with an emphasis toward telling readers about Jesus and his atoning work, or the NT epistles, mostly written to clean up bad theology practiced in churches, is to limited vis a vis how we deal with civil government. You are clearly, I think, leaving much OT revelation to the side.

Scripture is clear that all things are under God's sovereignty and authority.

While I would agree that our first priorities involve our Christian walk, fellowship with the brethren, and teaching and guiding our families (Deut. 6), we cannot ignore politics for several reasons. First, and most obviously, all of life is ethical. Paul writes in II Cor. 10:5 that, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Moreover, as Christians we are to do all things for God’s glory (II Cor. 10:31). As believers, we are to shine the light of truth into dark corners, wherever that may take us. The Bible is given to us primarily to reveal God in His glory and to lead us to faith. But the Word also speaks to politics, economics, and culture. There is no neutrality. Jesus tells us that we are either with Him or against Him, and that applies to politics as well as every other area of life. Christ has all authority, and has a claim on our loyalty. In short, Christians should be active in the affairs of government, and the midwifery of politics, because government ultimately belongs to God.

Secondly, whether they realize it or not, Christians who counsel cultural and political disengagement are in reality preaching a Gnostic gospel. Frequently these well-intentioned folks create an artificial distinction between “spiritual” and “secular” realms. In arguing that the material world is essentially evil, they are closer to being neo-Platonists than Christians. Christian separatists need to answer some fundamental questions: What part of life is not to be given to Him and lived according to His precepts? Is there some area where His people are not to work to exercise Godly authority?

As God’s people we are called to be salt and light to a dying and dark world (Matt. 5:13-16). Moreover, God affirms that the creation itself is good (Gen. 1:31) and that it is sin that causes the creation to groan. Our duty as God’s stewards is to not only spread the Gospel and make disciples, but to work at the restoration of His creation. When the New Testament speaks of salvation, it is talking about an act of the Messiah. It means more than just rescuing a few blighted souls from the darkness of eternal punishment, it speaks to an ethical transformation that impacts every area of life--including politics.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Brooks said...

My exclusive focus on the gospels and the letters written to the churches is the only focus one can take. Why you ask? If one is not regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God then self-government or government of any kind for that matter is useless. “There is no good in man” (Romans 3:12 as well as many OT references) and without the Spirit of God indwelling our law makers, they will continually do evil.

Your quote of II Cor. 10:5 is taken a bit out of context. Paul was arguing over the lack of knowledge of God not the evil Roman government.

All things to the glory of God is right but be careful what you decide to be God’s glory. Again I ask, where did Christ or Paul specifically mention that changing the evil government would glorify God?

Please brother, show me where “But the word speaks to politics, economics and culture.”
Christ did indeed tells us we were either with Him or against Him but show me where this applies to politics.

I have never counseled disengagement from politics or the world. Ever. I am simply telling you the Jesus Christ never once told us to engage in politics.

Again sir, please show me one place that the word of God instructs us to work for the restoration of the earth. God Almighty will restore the earth in His timing. Christ only gave us three commandments. Love God, love each other and spread the good news. Anything else is of man.

Tell ya what brother. If you will show me one, just one command or instruction by our Lord Jesus Christ or Paul to be active in politics or to change the government in any way, then I will be silent.

Later bro.
Brooks

6:24 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Brooks,

Check out the essay by John Frame (http://www.covenantnews.com/frame060420.htm).

My response will be posted in an essay dated April 21st. Feel free to respond in the comment section there.

11:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled on this website, and have only one question: Why do you consider yourself a 'Calvinist'? There are only two types of people in this world, believers in Christ and non-believers. Why do you choose to follow the teachings of a man instead of simply put your child-like faith in Christ and what he did for you? Denominationalism is not found in the Bible. Please reconsider your beliefs.

5:44 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Covenentally, the world is indeed divided into two groups--covenant keepers and covenant breakers. We use other terms, too. Sons of Adam and heirs of Christ; sheep and goats, etc. Of course, the world is divided into two groups.

On the other hand, truth matters, too. Of course the central truth is Christ, and our relationship to God through Him. Nonetheless, “child-like faith” does not preclude thought. We see in Scripture that we are expected to grow and mature in our faith, not merely remain children:

1 Corinthians 13 11, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

1 Peter 2:2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

And part of this growth is intellectual: Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Do you believe in baptism by immersion or sprinkling? And who is the proper subject of baptism? To disagree on such matters is not fundamental to the faith, but we can’t exactly create a local church where both teachings are acceptable, either. Are you congregational, Presbyterian, or Episcopal? Again, not of central importance but certainly a matter of significance when organizing a church.

I am not, first and foremost, a Calvinist. I am a Christian. I am a follower and disciple of Jesus, and it preposterous for you to say that I “choose to follow the teachings of a man.” I merely agree with Charles Spurgeon, who said: “I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.”

8:39 AM  

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