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    On Resources as a Biblical Hermeneutic

    February 21, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it. (Margaret Sanger, 1920, thanks to Amy for the link)


    As I began researching the Dominion Mandate issue, I discovered that the abortion lobby tends to be the “source” of many of the overpopulation claims. And I also discovered that there are segments of Christianity who have accepted these claims and limited their childbearing, or forgone it altogether.

    This troubles me for a couple reasons. Actually, “troubles” is too mild a word. It grieves me.

    The first is an issue of semantics. I like to analyze how we say things, and what meanings are implied. I think it aids in the understanding of an issue to think about how the issue is framed, and what language is chosen to convey the thoughts that surround it.

    The word “overpopulation” disturbs me. The literal meaning is, “too many people.” The implied meaning is that there are some people who are here and don’t belong. Maybe they should not have been born? Maybe we should murder them?

    I have observed that couples who parent large families often encounter this mindset at a very personal level. If they are brave and leave their houses with enough children that the “surplus” is evident, they will be stared at {which is normal since it is rare these days}, and also asked impertinent questions like, “Don’t you know what causes that?” And, “Are you done yet?” {And these questions are usually asked in front of the numerous children.}

    The literal meaning of these questions is, “Don’t you know how to use birth control?” The implied meaning is that there are “too many children.” And the lingering question is, “Who doesn’t belong?” Or perhaps, “Who should we get rid of?”

    The term “overpopulation” is born of an exceedingly secular mindset, and it tends not to acknowledge or place any value on the imago dei.

    When I looked the term up in my trusty, it was defined as, “Excessive population of an area to the point of overcrowding, depletion of natural resources, or environmental deterioration.” Now, obviously there are cities to which this word applies. And typically, there are some families in an overpopulated city that might be better off if they moved. Notice that there is no necessity for them to die or to never have been born. The city will either expand its limits, or some of the population will relocate.

    But when we apply the term to the whole world, then some people need to die or be murdered, and others need to never be born. Some people don’t belong, while others do, and I’m not sure who has the authority to select the surviving population, though I am well aware that in some countries it is the government {i.e., forced abortions in China}.

    My second concern is that of using the issue of overcrowded cities or strains on resources as a biblical hermeneutic. There are those within Christianity who believe that the Dominion Mandate has been fulfilled because they read statistics that told them that the world is overpopulated and that there are so many people that our resources are strained. As you all know, I tend to question this information in the first place, being that one of the major sources for these types of studies (the infamous Planned Parenthood) has a vested interest in killing babies.

    But let’s just say it’s true. Let’s say that though there is enough space for people, and though there is a surplus of food every year, other resources are becoming more difficult to procure. So now what? Is this the means which we are to employ when interpreting Scripture? Is it true to say that since a culture has built itself on a sandy foundation of nonrenewable resources that now the Dominion Mandate is fulfilled? Is this the criteria God gave for determining the fulfillment of the Mandate? Did He give any criteria at all? If so, what are they? And if not, why?

    Though I addressed my views on fuel sources {and my belief that there is great hope and ingenuity out there}, I want to make clear that even if all the oil were to run out tomorrow, and even if life were to become quite hard, I do not think it appropriate to change my view of marriage as presented in Genesis 1:28.

    I believe that the question, “Are we overpopulated?” is the wrong question to be asking of the biblical text. I believe the right questions are along the lines of, “Is the Dominion Mandate still in effect? If not, why? If so, what does this mean for my marriage?”

    If we believe the Bible is true, then we are obligated to live accordingly {and can consider it a joy to do so!}, no matter how difficult it may be, no matter that it may require some fuel-related {or other} creativity on our parts.


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  • Reply Brandy February 24, 2006 at 7:39 pm

    I never thought about “mother-to-be,” but you are SO right! It is always amazing to me that when I spend time thinking about the things that I say automatically, I often end up realizing that I don’t mean my words at all, and mean something else entirely!

  • Reply Rachel Ramey February 24, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    Hmmmm… so perhaps a good response to those nosy strangers who ask rude questions in front of the children would be, “Which one of the children would you recommend we return?” 🙂 I imagine it would catch them quite off-guard.

    I am opposed to the phrase “mother-to-be” for similar reasons. It says, “Your baby isn’t a baby until he’s born.” Not what most of us MEAN when we use it, but what we’re saying, nevertheless. (I have a blog post about this on an old blog, but haven’t copied it to the new one yet.)

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