These are the days in which summer begins to give way to fall. The days grow shorter, the nights get longer, and there begins to be just a bit of a bite in the air. Though winters in Southern Ontario are long, I still look forward to their slow approach.
But that is beside the point of the rest of this article. While I link to several good pieces of writing each day in my A La Carte column, I focus almost exclusively on Christian material. Sometimes, though, I read other material and feel like commenting on it. That’s exactly what you will find below—interesting articles from mainstream sources that are accompanied by some brief commentary.
The Wall Street Journal recently ran a fascinating and deeply concerning article about South Korea, the country with the industrialized world’s lowest birth rate. “South Korea’s fertility rate—a snapshot of the average number of babies a woman would have over her lifetime—slumped to 0.78 last year, from 0.81 in 2021, according to new government data. And the slide has worsened in recent months, falling to 0.70 in the April-to-June quarter.” For a birthrate to replace and maintain the current population, especially in a country with no significant immigration, it must be no lower than 2.1. A number as low as .70 represents a looming disaster. The government has been heaping up subsidies, incentives, benefits, and even cash payments to those who have children, but they have been unable to stem the tide.
What the article does not discuss is that a generation ago the government very successfully convinced its people to not have children due to fears of overpopulation. They ran an extensive campaign to promote family planning and childlessness, even going so far as to reward people who would agree to be sterilized. That campaign proved successful and lasting. Combined with greater urbanization and a high cost of living, especially in the cities, there appears to be no easy way to reverse the situation. Perhaps it is worth praying for South Korea and especially for its Christians that they would be counter-cultural and take seriously God’s desire that his people, even today, “be fruitful and multiply.” And we should probably pray for other Western nations who are consistently beginning to show the same trend. It might also be a good time to read or re-read Kevin DeYoung’s article The Case for Kids. (Note: WSJ is a subscription site, but because I subscribe they offer me the ability to create links for others to read an article for free. I am not sure, though, how many can click that link before they cry foul. I guess we will find out. If you find it locked, try googling the title of the article (World’s Lowest Birthrate Sinks Further Despite Cash Payouts to Parents) since that will sometimes allow you to enter WSJ’s site for free.)
The National Post recently ran an article about people who are freezing their bodies or even just their brains in the hope of a future resurrection. Of course “cryopreservation” has been spoken about and occasionally practiced for a number of years now. Yet the science is still in its infancy and few people believe there is any legitimate chance of ever reanimating those frozen bodies. Still, it is a good reminder that humanity naturally fears death and longs to overcome it. This seems to especially be the case with those who gain great wealth. How many billionaires turn away from their enterprises to instead focus on attempts to promote health and longevity? It is my assumption that their ability to experience so many of earth’s pleasures actually just prompts their souls to sigh, like The Sage, that “everything is vanity.” Yet because they will not look to God and the true hope of a true resurrection to life, they must look somewhere—anywhere—else.
Wired recently ran an article titled Preferring Biological Children Is Immoral. It is fascinating in the way it manages to tick almost every possible box related to the unholy trinity of intersectionality, gender identity, and climate change, not to mention its use of what has become a rare word in our day: immoral. To describe something as immoral requires holding it up to some kind of a standard and, indeed, the author does that. The standard, though, is the new standard, the current standard—the one that has existed for about 5 years and will inevitably be modified or replaced within the next 5. That is a low bar to label something “immoral.”
I think Christians may resonate with his plea for people to think more about adoption and not to believe that biological children are inherently superior to non-biological children—something he labels biologism. But the reason behind this moral claim is that the current phase of the sexual revolution requires us to set aside any notion of biological essentialism or of the traditional family. He believes that single people and same-sex couples have every bit as much of a right to have children as opposite-sex couples. This, of course, requires either adoption or some kind of donor and/or surrogate. So his desire in the article is not really to promote adoption but to promote the growingly chaotic sexual/gender landscape.
What’s fascinating in his view and that of others is that reproduction and parenting are now considered rights. If infertility has traditionally been viewed as a condition to be treated, it is now seen as a right to be claimed. If reproduction and parenting are rights, then it falls to society to enable them, even when biology makes it impossible (as in the case of single individuals or same-sex partners). Hence, a female same-sex couple has the right to acquire sperm and a male same-sex couple has the right to make use of another human being’s womb. Such claims are unparalleled in human history but seem to be unfolding right before us.
Also in the Wall Street Journal is an article about friendship, and particularly the relationship of Lew Wilcox and Bobby Rohrbach Jr., who struck up a friendship in 1962 and have maintained it ever since. “Good friends are good for us. They help us get through bad times, listen when we need them and offer advice. A lack of someone you can confide in can lead to loneliness and isolation, which have been labeled a public health threat, on par with smoking and obesity. Yet as important as they are, people have fewer close friendships than they once did.” Not surprisingly, they turn to statistics: “Four in 10 Americans say they don’t have a best friend at all, up from 25% in 1990. The best-friend gap is more pronounced for men, who typically have fewer close friends than women do. The percentage of men without any close friends jumped fivefold to 15% in 2021 from 3% in 1990…”
I would like to think that Christians are a little more committed to friendships, and perhaps especially in the context of the local church, but I’m not certain that’s the case. Either way, the article makes the case for friendship and provides a sweet example of one. Maybe it will inspire you to follow these men’s example. Speaking as one who has been blessed with some truly great friendships, I can attest that it’s worth the time, effort, and vulnerability. Friends are one of God’s greatest gifts.