Not long ago I wrote an article about German Cardinal Walter Kasper who recently said that African Catholics “should not tell us (meaning the European white folks, I suppose) what we have to do.” He further admitted that the African bishops are not being listened to by the Vatican synod as it takes up family life issues. Quelle domage! That’s French for, “What a shame!” I say it in French for a perfectly good reason. You need to start brushing up on your high school French lessons because it is thought that French is poised to become the most commonly spoken language in the world. Let’s look at some fun statistics once again.
French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa is the last place on earth where people are still having large families as a rule. Niger, Mali and Somalia, Muslim countries totaling perhaps 45 million people, have a total fertility rate of six plus children per woman. The other exceptions among Muslim countries are Afghanistan (32 million with a fertility rate of 5.43 children per woman) and Yemen (a Muslim country of perhaps 26 million with a TFR of 4.09.) Burundi, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, South Sudan, Mozambique Ethiopia and Benin, all Christian majority countries, some with Muslim minorities, total 235 million people and have fertility rates between 5 and 7 children per woman. And then there is the giant of Africa, Nigeria 177 million people, about half Muslim and half Christian, a country where religious war rages as I write.
So the bottom line: There are about 300 million Christians and about 160 million Muslims, all in sub-Saharan and southern Africa, with the exception of Afghanistan and Yemen, whose populations are expanding while the rest of the world is shrinking. Margaret Sanger, foundress of Planned Parenthood and her pen-pal, Adolph Hitler pushed eugenics, abortion and birth control because there were just too many dark skinned people in the world. By making artificial birth control and abortion acceptable in the developed, secular world, they have managed to insure that the future is African and probably Christian.
This was first hinted at years ago, in a 2002 article, “The Next Christianity” (Atlantic Monthly, October 2002), in which Phillip Jenkins claimed that the future of the world is the southern hemisphere, is Christian and is Charismatic. So far he is right on track. The “white race” so dear to Hitler and Sanger is probably doomed to extinction because of them, while Christian Africa seems to be the wave of the future. It sounds a bit racist even to talk this way, but quite the contrary; to me this is proof that racism invariably backfires. I am of the opinion that race does not exist, save for the human race. I suspect that is exactly how our heavenly Father looks at it.
This amazing demographic shift says something profound about human beings. It says that we are self-centered narcissists. Let’s be honest for a minute. Kids are crazy making. Who would want more than one or two of them? They are constantly screaming and leaking. They don’t come housebroken. They cost a fortune to maintain. They have to be fed regularly until they are at least 18 when you can legally throw them out of the house. Sure, one or two of them are cute, but dogs are cute, and you can leave them tied up in the basement if you have to go out for few hours. Try that with kids and you’ll have the Department of Children and Family Services knocking at your door as soon as the nosy neighbors can look up the number. It’s easier to get a dog. They are easier to train and usually die after 14 or 15 years and then you’re done with it. And best of all they don’t talk back or want to drive your car.
There’s no good reason to have a lot of kids, unless of course you live on a farm. Then they are useful as unpaid labor. On the farm, kids are an economic asset. In an urban setting, kids are an expensive luxury. They take up a lot of money, time, and well, let’s face it, love — real love, not the cuddly cuteness that one has with a nice puppy. Sure, kids are cute when they’re little, but face it, they grow up to be adolescents and there’s nothing cute about some know-it-all, surly teenager. Dogs are more loyal than kids. (The preceding is meant to be sarcastic, but it is certainly the way we are going. Have you notice that the pet food aisle in the super market gets bigger and bigger? It used to be that you owned a dog. Now you are a pet-parent. )
As the entire world urbanizes, as our food supply is increasing grown by machines on factory farms, there is less and less need to disrupt our self-centered existences by putting up with the care and feeding of children. There is simply no good reason to have large families, unless of course we love children. Therein lies the rub. We don’t love children. We prefer pets and one or two children are okay as pets, but more than one or two and we are like the weird cat lady who has too many cats living in a messy, smelly house. One or two suffice for our amusement, be they dogs, cats or children. Better just stick with dogs or cats if you aren’t terribly needy.
Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matt 18:5.) I like Africans. They like children. They have children for the sake of children as often as not. They welcome children and they are welcoming Christ by their millions. Kardinal Kasper and his friends should probably pay attention to the Africans and their bishops, because tomorrow and tomorrow’s Church belong to them. So I would recommend to the synod fathers, to Kardinal Kasper and to all those of his refined and aged ilk, that they take their dusty old textbooks from the dusty shelf and brush up on their high school French, because sub-Saharan French will probably be the lingua franca of the future. I end with a phrase I learned in my own French studies of long ago: “Où est la bibliothèque? La bibliothèque est tout droit, puis à gauche.”
And don’t you forget it !
The Rev. Know-It-All
PS. Here is a quote that you will probably ignore when you hear who said it, but it is a good quote nonetheless. The gist of it is that if we change what we believe to make ourselves more popular , as the German bishops and those like them seem currently to be doing, then it is no wonder that the faith is dead in Germany, no matter how wealthy the church may be.
If a Church changes doctrine and structure to follow its members views (or the pressures of the surrounding culture), it’s difficult to see the value of that Church and its religion. Religions must claim to be true and, in their essentials, to uphold principles that are universal and eternal. No church that panders to the zeitgeist deserves respect, and very shortly it will not get respect, except from those who find it politically useful, and that is less respect than disguised contempt. --Robert Bork, 1992