Friday, April 18, 2008

They will know we are Christians by our...

children? Apparently so. Not because they are gloriously well behaved, or can recite the Nicene Creed, or attend church three times a week. No, it is the simple fact of their existence that marks us, their parents, as Christians.

Obviously all Christians don't have large families. But the fact is that in today's culture, when most couples choose to have one or maybe two children, those who choose to have more are almost always followers of Christ.

Early this week at Gabe's new job, he and a co-worker had lunch together and discovered that they had much in common. A., who is not much older than we are, has three kids and a very pregnant wife. Gabe came home that evening and told me that he thought it likely that A. was a Christian, because it is so unusual to find a family of that size and spacing anymore. A few days later, they were talking again and A. mentioned that he had thought the same thing when he found out that Gabe had two children and a pregnant wife!

The number of children we choose to have marks us very visibly as "different". Those of us who are Christians and have thought about this choice recognize the same choice when we see this "difference" in others. I wonder how many others, the people who I pass in the grocery store and who do double takes at the sight of my two toddlers and pregnant belly, pause to consider the reasons for our choices and our difference?

Most of them probably don't. Perhaps having many children is the new equivalent of scratching the icthus in the sand. We see each other and nod and smile and know. But I do think that perhaps, as our society continues down the path of fewer and fewer children, a large family will come more and more to mark us specifically as followers of the man who said "let the little children come to me."


Jessica said...

Huh. I totally thought, at the beginning of this blog, that you were going to go the other direction with this. That, of course, it's better to have a few kids who know the Nicene Creed (and believe it and act upon it) than to have lots and lots and lots of kids.

Especially because the big family might be Mormon or Muslim or something else like that. (Recently, they might be just RICH - big families being the new "in" thing.) So . . . this entry seemed more observation than opinion, but if it was opinion, I'm not sure I agree.

Laura said...

I was just listening to a radio broadcast on a similar idea - more children require more self-sacrifice from all members. "only" kids seem extremely spoiled, and as more children are added to the family, the children are less and less spoiled. Similarly mom and dad must give up a lot more when there are more kids. With one or two you can eat out frequently, fly to vacation spots, visit amusement parks, and do other expensive things without breaking the budget. Who would want this self-sacrifice but a Christian who realizes life and relationships are greater than money and things? After listening to the broadcast, I'm definitely planning on having more kids :-)

Linds said...

I gotta go with Jess on this one - the Mormons have us beat solid, and I don't think it's quantity, but quality when it comes to family life.

Besides, isn't measuring piety by rate of procreation not entirely Christian? Maybe it's just because I'm teaching ancient and medieval history, but there do seem to be an awful lot of holy people who never had kids - and Paul in fact exhorts single life as the most holy.

Not to say kids are bad, but I cringe at the assumption that having a ton of kids makes you in some way less selfish or more dedicated to the culture of life than having only one or two, or even choosing a life of celibacy. That doesn't seem to be very biblical.

And again, not to say that having lots of kids doesn't speak to holiness, life affirmation, or any of those other things. I just think the distinction you draw is pretty narrow on this issue.

Dy said...

Interesting thoughts, and interesting comments, all. I didn't read into this post that there is a distinction between # of children and religious piety that others seem to have taken from it. More, I think what you seem to be spotting is an awareness of the shift in priorities within the church family, itself. In the last five to eight years, I've noticed, even within the Protestant churches, but also moreso within the Catholic church, that the family, and children, have been put back into the priority list in a way that was lacking during the last few decades. It doesn't seem manipulated, but it does feel very intentional, if that makes sense. Either way, it's a shift I've been so glad to see. Children are welcome, children are a blessing, and children are a joy. The churches have begun to recognize that, once again. But that may, again, be opinion vs. observation. I'm good with that. I'm just tickled to see families that love, share, and live together. That's never a bad thing. :-)


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

I was afraid this would happen! :) I think some of you are misreading me.

I'm not saying (at all!) that families with lots of children are "more Christian" than families with few. I specifically mentioned that "Obviously all Christians don't have large families." What I AM saying is that when you see a large family, chances are high that the family follows Jesus.

So not: Christians = large families,
but rather: large families (often) = Christians

Lindsay and Jessica, you have a good point about the Mormons and Muslims. Those are exceptions to my observation (although I do find it interesting, and in keeping with what I'm commenting on, that such devout groups are also having lots of children.)

Amber said...

Interesting post, Emily, and interesting thought. I've found that two children, closely spaced, is getting to be the norm (at least that's what was extremely common in the secular mom's club I used to belong to) but three or more closely spaced usually is an indicator of a more than nominally Christian (or at least religious) family. There are, of course, lots of exceptions to this - after all, there are women like me who don't seem capable of having children any closer than about 2.5 - 3 years apart - but the very act of having three children is on the border of a statement in and of itself. Four children, even more so - and perhaps more clearly as well.

Clearly more children does not equal more holiness or anything ridiculous like that, but having more children does seem to be a statement that there are things more important than careers, fancy vacations, and fully paying for each child's college education. (as an aside, I find it incredible how often this is offered as a/the reason for limiting family size!!)

Shalene said...

I have 4 children, and we are trying for number 5. (And yes, we're Christians.) You stopped by my blog the other day, so I had to come by and see who my commenter was. Blessings to you!