Hal’s post reminded me of an e-mail message from several months ago from friend Charles Bevel, who lives in Lumberton. He was writing about how Germany suddenly realized the folly of limiting family sizes, and their desire of some Germans to reverse that trend:

The Germans (at least their conservatives) are realizing that the drive to limit family size due to “limited resources” (“Oh we just can’t AFFORD to have any more children!”) was and is really driven by selfishness. The scriptures say that children are a blessing from the Lord. Since when do people try to put a limit on blessings? Answer: When blessings require a protracted time of delaying gratification.

Tony Evans (a pastor in Dallas) at a Promise Keepers conference preached on Psalms 128 where the scriptures say that your children shall be like olive plants around your table. He explained that, first of all, olives were Israel’s number one cash crop in ancient times. He explained that this would be the equivalent of saying, in modern times, that your children will be like oil wells, or like gold mines, or like money machines around your table.

Secondly he explained that olive trees required about fifteen years of cultivation before they produced any fruit whatesoever. However, once they started producing one could expect forty years of productivity per tree. Wow! I think God is being pretty blatant here. If you cultivate your children properly they will contribute to the family fortune for years to come and be able to care for you in your old age.

That is, of course, if it is indeed you, the parent, who has done the cultivating. However, since most American children are practically wards of the state as far as their upbringing is concerned by virtue of their attending government schools, they end up paying the state back for cultivating them by paying taxes for forty plus years instead of taking care of their parents. In reality the parents are providing for the cultivation of their children through paying taxes. Furthermore the children are caring for the parents through paying taxes into the social security system. However, all this familial care is passing through the hands of a very expensive middle man who is exacting exorbitant financial as well as emotional fees for his services. On top of that he is being praised to high heaven for doing a subpar job. Ninety-nine percent (a figurative rather than scientific number) of parents whose children attend public schools do not realize that their children could attend private school for as little as half of what the government spends to miseducate and/or fail to educate their children. Yet the emotional price is even higher.

My oldest son who is now thirteen years old, learned how to read when he was about three and a half or four years old. He attended public school only about one full year in his lifetime, from February to December 1997 when he was six. During that time a family friend who was impressed with how well he read remarked, “Wow, you read very well for your age. Who taught you?” My son responded by naming his first grade teacher Mrs. Jackson. I was flabbergasted! After all I had done for him, how quickly he had forgotten.

I had read to him religiously every night since before he was two years old, both he and his brother who is 14 months younger. Now after just about 3 or 4 months in public school they had brainwashed him and his loyalty and appreciation for his parents had taken a back seat to giving honor to the almighty government (at least that’s how I saw it).

Needless to say my lobbying efforts towards my wife increased dramatically from that point on and in less than a year my precious sons were out of the clutches of evil Uncle Sam for good. In all seriousness, when children believe that it isn’t their parents who are sacrificing to see them prosper but rather that their success is due to government programs, they feel less indebted to their parents. “What did you ever do for me?” they say. “It was my fourth grade teacher who taught me long division. It was my high school guidance couselor who got me through those tough teenage years. See? It is the government who takes care of all of us. Thank God and Uncle Sam for public schools and Social Security.”

Here’s another anecdote if you will suffer me. A good friend of mine who is a homeschool dad and a Christian missionary to Romania used to sell retirement plans to government employees. He tried to get an appointment with one professor who, as fate would have it, was originally from Africa and had not discarded his African culture as far as family life was concerned. This professor, the father of what most Americans would consider an inordinate amount of children (seven or eight if I recall correctly), rebuffed my friend’s advances with this simple response: “My children are my retirement plan.”

The German conservatives have just realized that the statement “my children are my retirement plan” is not just one man’s opinion or one choice from a bevy of retirement plan options but rather that this is the plain and simple reality for ninety plus percent of society. Unless you can live out your days on wealth accumulated during your prosperous and prudent youth (isn’t prudent youth is an oxymoron?) then you will by default depend on your children’s, or your children’s generation’s, productivity to help you maintain some sort of dignity as far as financial sufficiency is concerned. German conservatives have just realized that it is not that we cannot afford to have any more children. Rather another statement about children turns out to be true. We cannot afford to have as few as we’re having.