On October 28, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ wife, Tiffany, gave birth to their child—a girl. While I extend my sincerest congratulations to the Rivers family, I probably wouldn’t have even known about the event except for one key detail: baby Rivers is the family’s seventh child.
Philip Rivers has taken public hits from the likes of ESPN and Deadspin (not to mention the litany of armchair quarterbacks on social media) for his decision to have a big family. Journalist Mollie Hemingway identifies the criticism as the latest case of fecundophobia, our culture’s “growing fear of children and fertile women.”
Pets over kids?
In recent years, the birthrate in the United States has dropped lower than at any other time in the nation’s history. Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., are on the forefront of this trend affecting other major cities and Western nations. Fewer than 20 percent of all households in these three cities have a child.
In my hometown of Seattle, there are cats, dogs, and children “in that order,” numerically speaking. In fact, there are 50 percent more cats than children. No wonder people now commonly refer to their pets as their “babies.”
Seattle’s Green Lake is a popular urban spot for people to walk, jog, skate, and ride bikes. Curiously, I have seen people pushing their pets (usually a cat or dog) in baby strollers around the lake. I have seen other people carrying their pets in front packs made for babies. Sales of Halloween costumes for pets have increased 68 percent since 2010 and now exceed $300 million per year.
Pet-friendly restaurants, pet insurance, and wills that bequeath an inheritance to pets represent further evidence of this trend. “Dogs Are People, Too,” declared a recent New York Times column.
“To breed or not to breed”
While animals get the human treatment, humans are increasingly denigrated as animals—especially those humans that choose to have more than one or two kids.
There is growing vocal contempt of parenthood in cities, where mothers are pejoratively referred to by some as “breeders.” I always thought we called them by the more affectionate title “moms,” but I guess the world has really changed, and it’s time to start buying my mom a “Happy Breeder’s Day” card.
Not long ago, a women’s rights group organized a protest against our church. They met in a park then marched to our downtown church to criticize “breeders” before proceeding to their final stop—an enormous strip club—to protest the objectification of women. The fact that our church and the strip club ended up on the same team just goes to show that common sense is anything but common.
“To breed or not to breed, this was the question,” pondered one married woman writing for The Seattle Times. Her article, “Why I Am Not Having Kids,” offered many reasons for her decision, including: “Not having a child is the most important thing I could do to reduce my carbon footprint.” I might add, another way is to stop writing for newspapers printed on murdered trees.
God is a Father with lots of kids
The Bible helps us stop marching in step with this fools’ parade. The Bible teaches that our place as God’s human image bearers is below God and above animals (Gen. 1:26–28). We are not equal to God but rather created by God and under his rule. And animals are not equal to us but rather created by God and under our rule.
Pure evolutionary thinking that treats a human being as nothing more than a particular arrangement of cells and matter will inevitably lead to contempt for life that’s either active (genocide, abortion, and snarky comments that belittle a dad like Philip Rivers) or passive (selfishness, lack of empathy, isolation).
The only viable, honest alternative comes through knowing the God whom the Bible calls the “author of life” (Acts 3:15). He created the world and said to fill it up with people (Gen. 1:26–28). He declared children to be a blessing (Psalm 127:3–5). He is a good and perfect father to millions of kids, and he invites anyone to join this big, happy family through Jesus, who happened to enter this world through a “breeder” mother named Mary who went on to have other sons and daughters.
Jesus was part of a large family—possibly even larger than the Rivers (Matthew 12:46, 13:55-56; Luke 8:19; Mark 3:31; John 7:1-10; Acts 1:4; Galatians 1:19).
Pastor Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, based in Seattle, Washington, and a #1 New York Times best-selling author. This post was adapted from his latest book, A Call to Resurgence: Will Christianity Have a Funeral or a Future? He and his wife, Grace, have five children and one dog.