by Locker Room contributor
David Brooks’ NYT column in today’s Raleigh News & Observer but also readable here, looks at a “natalist” movement of couples who are quite willingly raising large and growing families. While I’ve never used the term for myself, like Martin Luther accused of following Jan Hus, if the discussion continues I just might; we welcomed our seventh child in October.
Brooks got part of the story right. This is definitely a spiritual movement, in that most — well, all — of the large families I’ve met recently came to that belief as a religious value. People frequently ask if we’re Catholic; when we say no, they next assume Mormon. Actually, we’re Reformed Baptist, and like many of the large families we know, our decision to welcome more children rather than fend them off is rooted less in church directive than in personal conviction; for example, our church doesn’t teach on it, but most of the families there are in sympathy with it. Most of us would agree that the Bible specifically calls children a blessing and says that a large family is God’s particular reward to His servants. And that in itself is rooted in a philosophy of life much broader than how many kids you have; for one thing, that philosophy means I really don’t care about “sophisticated movies”, fancy dining, and the like, as if that were even a reasonable trade off — more grandchildren, or more movies ? hmm, which way do I go? For that matter, I don’t hear many of the one- and two-child families wintering on the Riviera now, though they do drive smaller cars.
I have to differ with him on the “identity” question. Brooks treats it like an anthropologist — the “natalist” label and the categorization “defined by parenthood” are the phrases of an outsider, not those he describes. I think most of us would say our true identity is in the total of our religious belief, of which childbearing and child rearing are only one facet; after all, faith informs the believer on his role in the community, his duty to country, the use of his finances, and the daily disciplines of life. It’s part of the same package that leads many of us into homeschooling (indeed, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported that nearly two-thirds of homeschooling families had three or more children — which has other interesting ramifications).
I also grimace at the “fertility” tag Brooks and others have tried to stick on their demographics. The implication of that is agricultural, as if talking of cattle. Of course, the trend of the left-leaning pundits has been to demonize religiously-motivated voters this year, and so the step to dehumanization would not be far behind. I don’t think that was Brooks’ intent, in fact I found his tone respectful if a bit bemused, but the mindlessness of fertility statistics doesn’t do justice to the considered and intentional course these families undertake.
One final thing Brooks missed may be the most telling. This value-driven community extends well beyond the families with full-size vans. There are many couples who share our beliefs exactly, but due to circumstances (whether late marriage, infertility, or decisions repented of too late) they don’t show up in the multi-child statistics. They tell us that if they could, they’d have larger families too. If the liberal pundits are going to make the “natalists” into their next electoral bugbear, they’re in for even more than they’ve counted already.
And wait until the off-year election of 2022, when my daughter and her six older brothers will all be voting. If we’re doing the job I think we are, I can predict which way those votes will go. Take that !