Genesis 1:27-28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
The lofty beginning of human beings, created in the image of God, marks their distinction from God as being both an ‘image’ and mortal. It’s clear to most that the above verses depict humans as but an image, but perhaps the mortality portion is not as straightforward.
The statement, ‘Be fruitful and multiply,’ speaks of the generative capacity of human beings. But it also intimates the necessity of this process due to the mortality of the human being; like the other living creatures, humans will be subject to decay and finally die. In light of this, in the prime of life, we human beings are to image God by generatively reproducing God’s highest feat in creation, the creation of human beings.
We call this process procreation, and it is a gift given to the grand majority of people living in this world. Unfortunately, in the name of development and progress, population control has been sold to the world as a way of overcoming our inability to have dominion over the created order around us.
There is a great deal of pain and suffering in the world, most of which befalls children born into what we call the ‘developing world.’ The phrase itself indicates their lack of, or need for progress, both of which imply a dismal situation. In ‘development work,’ impoverished families are told that the most ‘effective’ method for changing their situation is ‘family planning.’ Medically, it is called ‘contraceptive use;’ politically, it has been referred to as ‘population control’ or ‘sterilization.’
People typically refrain from using the political labels and stick to the medical or social labels because they’re easier to accept. Although there are natural methods for ‘family planning,’ most literature and the grand majority of funds available to organizations go to agencies that will promote the agenda of population control.
In the very popular village health care manual called ‘Where There Is No Doctor,’ the authors introduce the common approach to population control as a way for families to experience the best outcome with their limited resources. They rate the use of birth control pills, IUDs and sterilization as the most effective (four out of four stars), in comparison to other methods of birth control. However, little attention is paid to the safety of these methods; these same ‘four star’ the many, many other issues that stem from their usage, ranging from sterilization to birth defects, or repeat, full term stillborn births.
Their rationale for population control sits within an overarching narrative that states: a) the world has limited resources, b) without proper distribution, many children will suffer the loss, c) even with proper distribution, having too many children will be too much of a strain on the environment and harmful to everyone as a whole, and d) the success of the developed world has been a result of population control.
My intention with this article is not to discuss the ethics of birth control, but to offer an alternative to the dominant perspective which believes that ending the problems of poverty will necessitate sterilizing the poor.
Giving birth to children is very different from manufacturing them. Today, the accepted, dehumanizing business of birth, publicized by the media and authorized by the accrediting institutions, has contributed to our perceptions that giving birth is dangerous.
The process is typically summed up as 'painful.' Even though millions of babies are safely brought into the world daily, it's only the stories of tragedy that reach our ears. Little is said about the positive effects the birth process can have on the maturation of the twenty-something who comes into the responsibility of caring for a life. Little is said about the enhanced sociability of the sibling raised with many brothers and sisters.
Instead, 'horrific' ideas such as no longer being able to go out to the movies, or having a child that cries in public, not getting to 'travel,' or not being able to send all the kids to private school bombard the already 'afraid to die' mortals and prevent them from experiencing the very activity that would bring them fullness of life, and, according to our biblical text, dominion over our environment.
One out of every four billboards in Kampala, Uganda seems to be directed at the use of IUDs for 'better health' as the 'better choice' and a way to achieve a sense of control in an impoverished country. This thinking has even reached the most rural parts of the third world where, if you were to share with a young man (who himself comes from a family of six kids) that you wanted to have give kids, he would gasp and say, "That's no good... that's too many. One or two is enough."
In all my travels, (this month alone, I'm in Kenya, Uganda, Delhi, Uttar-Pradesh, Hiryana, and the Philippines), I find this mentality amongst the poor. They are afraid to have babies because of the pain, because of the economic detriment, and now the social stigma.
The infamous "Millennium Development Goals" lists issues concerning infant mortality and maternal health as two of the top five issues facing the developing world. Whereas the popular approach is to teach population control to address these issues, G.O.D. Int'l is taking the educational approach, making people aware of their options and empowering them to choose for themselves how many children they'd like to have.
Our Childbirth Education group, 'NOVA Birth,' has a slogan that says, "Humanizing Birth for mother and baby." It is human to procreate; it is also what marks our mortality and gives us hope for the future that we won't be present for. We are teaching people in the developing world that there is a way to manage their lives so that they could safely bring into the world, and support, as many children as they would like to have.
This holistic approach encompasses preconception, prenatal, labor and birth, postpartum, nutrition, infant care and maternal health education and support. This approach anticipates a paradigm shift for how people consider birth and its function in society: from something optional, to something necessary. From something painful to something worth working hard for. From something that costs too much to an invaluable investment.
Luke 2:17 “...to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just...” This was the message of John the Baptizer, a society organized by the wisdom of justice is a society where the fathers’ hearts are turned to their children.
This holistic approach isn’t just for women, it’s for men too. Too many of us men are so career driven and busied with work that our hearts are not involved in the practice of birthing and raising children. Our approach necessitates the man’s involvement, turning him away from the distraction of career and helping him to face the greatest thing he’ll ever do - raise his children.
There is so much to write on this subject, but I want you to get a glimpse of how we are approaching this very pressing issue of our time. Inside this newsletter, you will see the programs and services that we offer to our community and to the world. Acknowledging our mortality and the humanizing benefit of being fruitful and multiplying, we believe that many will experience the fullness of life that human beings have the potential to experience. We are not evolved microorganisms, we can’t be compared to viruses or cancers; we are human beings created in the image of God, the only aspect of creation with that distinction.
I’ll end with this: I have never met an older person who had regrets about having many children. I have met so many with regrets of not having had more.
The Rate of Maternal Mortality (MMR) worldwide by country
(Please note the prevalence in East Africa, El Salvador, India, and South East Asia).