By Adalynn Siemens
As if I don’t get enough back-lash for being progressive, I have one other “large” thing in my personal life that tends to get me a lot of ire from more main-stream to conservative Christians: the fact that I am a child-free individual.
Note the distinction “child free,” not “childless” as these are two very different concepts. Child-free individuals have chosen not to have children, where as childless individuals most often have had that choice stripped from them (people who are unable to have children are more commonly known as “childless,” for example). Oh I am perfectly capable of reproducing endlessly I’m sure, a young woman in good health… however, I simply choose not to for a barrage of reasons that are neither here nor there for the purpose of this particular article.
Mainstream to Conservative Christianity is unfortunately full of a lot of stereotypes for the livelihood of its members (as are many other organizations, as this tends to be the natural state of being for any “group of people”), and the Child-Free do not escape the type-cast. In fact, as far as topics to smash with the heavy hammer of fundamental values, a person choosing to be child-free ranks up there with the “gall” to even mention in passing that Jesus Christ may not have been Divine.
In other words, this issue is taken as a very serious war-crime on the battleground of spiritual-life.
One common Christianity-based misconception and “myth against a child-free life” has to do with a fairly early portion of the Bible that almost everyone knows by heart… Genesis, to be precise. It is used as a bludgeoning implement in the “war on the child-free” by those who believe having children is the one and only way to live a productive adult Christian life.
What most Christians fail to take into consideration from the start, however, are the same items the mainstream often fails to consider when taking in any portion of the text at all: context, time period, interpretation, literary and poetic devices, and so many other things that combine into what we know to be the overall Bible today. It is not as straight-forward as most people want to make it; the Bible is truly a very complex tool in some ways, though wonderfully simple in others.
In Gen. 1:28, God commands the newly-created man to “be fruitful and multiply.” But what most people fail to realize… is that we already have.
Human beings have done exactly what God wanted and we have filled the entire earth with our children. We have fulfilled the original command to survive by procreation; we have gone forth and multiplied throughout the entire world that He has given us, and we have taken it as our own. Our children, our technology, our history, our society, our everything is fruitful and is multiplied, to the max. Even to the point where now we have created (or are creating) a society and situation in which some of our higher civilizations are having trouble supporting the sheer amount of offspring we’ve produced! We’ve certainly gone “above and beyond” the call of duty, as it were.
And now? We’re most certainly left with one thing and one thing only: To use the brain God gave us.
Think about this: the command to have children was repeated to the Israelites when they were about to enter Canaan for the purpose of conquering it. It was important to fill the area with children of their own in order to make sure that their society prospered in the face of an opposing force. So that of course makes a lot of sense that you would want your society to produce children at an expedited rate. Also, throughout the Old Testament, not having children was considered to be a curse, so obviously it was important to have children based on the context of the times. This is important to keep in mind, and is yet another huge point that outlines the Bible as a context-based piece of literature. There are many good and true things in the Bible about God, but there are also many deceiving points that can lead us astray if interpreted incorrectly, or worse: literally.
Still other points include the fact that today in our more modern societies we are not primarily an agricultural or agrarian society! There was a time in history when people needed children for no other reason but to support their own livelihood – work the fields, tend the sheep, feed the animals, till the lands, and so on. But for many people in the modern western world, we have reached a point in many areas where children can actually be a financial burden. This is not to down-play the importance of children in society at all but rather to shine a light on the appalling living conditions we have created for ourselves as communities. Where I live, we have some of the highest costs of living in the world. Being able to afford to have a child, should I even have wanted one, would actually be a luxury at best.
Christians today concentrate on a set of very much out-dated and culturally-based statements in a very old book to dictate how they view the modern, advanced world. However, this world is also God’s world also! People seem to forget that fact, when turning to the Bible. Not that I want to come across primarily as “anti-Bible” — Yes, use the Bible, but use it along side your own personal relationship with God, and use God as the central last-best resource for answers and assistance on interpretation for a book touched by the imperfect hands of mankind. The Bible is simply not 100% up-to-date and 100% relevant for today’s society without correct context, and some parts of it are not even admissable today without context, they are simply.. of no use to us, except perhaps as part of literary study.
I always find it disturbing to see Christians treating other Christians poorly while using the Bible and the name of God. Of all the people on earth I would anticipate would reject me for my lifestyle choices, in theory Christians should actually be among the last and in the most few. In reality, Christians as a mainstream instead come across as primarily judgmental and even hostile to groups of people who make lifestyle choices they either do not agree with, or simply do not understand. The list we could all make of these groups of shunned individuals would probably line our arms and then some.
But I digress…
My point is this: People telling those of us who choose not to have any children “God wants us to have children”, is about as correct as telling anyone else that God had no intention on you: marrying your current spouse, working your current job, living your current life. The fact is no one, absolutely no one knows your life better than you, better than God. And no one can dictate anything for your life. To attempt to make that blanket-dictation in any category at all is a judgment made about each of us that states we have gone against the will of God (obviously known by everyone except us) and are creating a sin in our lives; but this sin does not even exist except in the minds of those who fabricate it from mind’s eye and insist it upon reality in general.
I always find this topic to be somewhat taboo in every circle of life, spiritual or not. Community is based on children who are born and raised, so it is often difficult for that minority of us who choose not to fit the community stereotype as adults to find understanding for our decisions and life choices. So, if you are Christian, and you are child-free… I urge you not to be fearful to discuss your circumstance with other Christians in an open way so that light may be shed on the choice to be a child-free Christian.
And if the next time a Christian might say to you, “God said be fruitful and multiply”?
Simply tell them: “We already have.”