Thursday, May 04, 2006

"Recipe for Disaster"?

I believe that it is important not to live in an echo chamber. That is to say, I believe that it is important to spend some time reading and otherwise being exposed to thoughts other than my own. For this reason, I have recently added the blog of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler to my regular readings. Dr. Mohler is a well-known leader among conservatives, and although I find that I regularly disagree with him, he seems to be making an effort towards reasoned thought, as opposed to simply making knee-jerk reactions to everything conservatives find bad about the world (at least, some of the time...).

Recently, Dr. Mohler commented on a situation in China, whereby the combination of a 25-year old "one child per family" rule (an effort to fight a massive overpopulation problem in that country) and a cultural preference for male children has created a huge gender imbalance.

Now, it is well known that part of the reason for this imbalance is the willingness of Chinese parents to abort female babies, and I agree with Dr. Mohler in finding the practice reprehensible. I think even most members of the "pro-choice" movement would agree that this practice of aborting babies because they are not the "right" gender is barbaric.

What surprised me about Dr. Mohler's comments is a statement he makes after observing that "it is estimated that as many as 40 million of its young men could spend their lives as bachelors." He called this situation a "recipe for disaster" asking, "Where are these young men to turn for wives?"

Now, undoubtedly, a lot of these men will indeed want to marry, and will have difficulty in doing so. But Mohler seems not to consider the possibility that, if a lot of these men don't ever marry, that's not necessarily, in and of itself, so terrible. It might even hasten China's efforts to curb the overpopulation problem. Where did we pick up the assumption that all, or nearly all, people must find a mate? For Mohler, this assumption is never challenged.

I certainly don't wish to argue that the sexual drive is not very strong, and I can see someone arguing that so many sexually frustrated men may turn to prositution or rape to fill their assumed sexual needs. But Mohler never suggests this, and I'm fully aware that rape (at least) is less a crime perpetrated to fulfill one's sexual drives, and more one perpetrated to exercise control over another person. So perhaps even by suggesting it, I'm suggesting a problem where none exists.

But that's rather the point. Mohler seems to assume something that isn't challenged here: that 40 million men who can't find wives is a "recipe for disaster." Just what "disaster" does Mohler foresee? He never says. He spends the rest of his commentary noting how frequent and convenient abortion has become in China. Ironically, in his more recent comments, where Mohler worries about the collaspsing birthrate in Europe (a problem China would no doubt love to have), he heavily criticizes the "modern lifestyle" in which "[h]aving children just doesn't seem to fit," yet never mentions whether or not abortion is one of the ways that Europeans are keeping birthrates low. Perhaps I'm adding two-and-two and coming up with five, but this seems to indicate that Mohler is simply operating from an assumption that says that something must be wrong with people who don't have kids.

I would have preferred that Mohler spend less of his time in the article on China harping on abortion (which nearly all of his readers likely already agree with him on anyway), and more time discussing what problems he sees for China's future. Perhaps then we could have a real discussion. Perhaps I might find that my own assumptions (about Mohler's assumptions) are incorrect, and I might even agree with him. As it is, I don't know.

More on Mohler tomorrow....


  1. You aren't wrong about Mohler. In his own words:

    "The church should insist that the biblical formula calls for adulthood to mean marriage and marriage to mean children. [...] Willful barrenness and chosen childlessness must be named as moral rebellion. To demand that marriage means sex -- but not children -- is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children." Link

  2. Thanks for the link. I hadn't yet seen such an explicit statement since I've been following Mohler's writings, and have chosen not to make direct accusations on the basis of statements I might or might not have heard from Mohler specifically, but knew I'd heard from other conservative Christians. I'm surprised that he uses a single actual Scripture reference here (in fact, it's an odd one to use if he only chooses one: "Curses" and "blessings" are imposed by God, not by humans through acts of will, even if that will is said to be rebellious), although I'm confident he could use more if asked.

    I'm sure it comes as no surprise for me to say that I disagree with his interpretation....

  3. This was posted after I finished writing the article, but especially in light of comments, Mohler's blog today is a criticism of the "cultural assumptions about the inherent goodness of all technology" demonstrated by a 63-year old women who gets pregnant.

    Ironic, don't you think?

  4. Correct me if I'm mistaken, but didn't Paul remain unmarried? Didn't he say that it may be better for some believers to remain unwed to devote their time to ministry?

    Pick and choose... pick and choose...

    God can be used to support just about any position when Scripture is taken out of context.

  5. While there are some who argue that Paul may have been married at some point, even if this is true, the point of Paul's instruction is the same. Not all people are to be married.

    However, Mohler would agree with this. He emphasizes Paul's words that singleness is a gift from God that not everyone possesses. From this, one can deduce that the "norm" is to be married.

    One might even grant that it seems unlikely that God has granted the "gift" of singleness to all 40 million Chinese men unable to marry due to the gender imbalance.

    Still, I think more unpacking would need to be done before cries of "disaster" are raised....



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