Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Will Liberals Go the Way of the Shakers?

Someone has now done the numbers: Liberals have fewer children than conservatives.

The data are based on the 2004 General Social Survey. Professor Arthur C. Brooks (Maxwell School of Public Affairs, Syracuse University) calculates a "'fertility gap' of 41%." Professor Brooks' statistical vision of the future is enough to give Howard Dean strategic nightmares.

There are more fundamental things than politics. The Survey classifies people as politically liberal or conservative, yet my hunch is that analyzing the fecundity of theologically liberal and theologically traditional Americans would produce a similar result.

Why the difference?

One explanation can be found in Professor Brooks' quote from San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Mark Morford, who opines, "Maybe the scales are tipping to the neoconservative, homogenous right in our culture simply because they tend not to give much of a damn for the ramifications of wanton breeding and environmental destruction and pious sanctimony, whereas those on the left actually seem to give a whit for the health of the planet and the dire effects of overpopulation." In his Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Brooks does not attribute the quotation, presumably to protect the guilty.

Perhaps a better explanation is optimism. Dr. George Richmond was a dear friend and true neighbor of mine when we lived in New Britain. We agreed on virtually nothing having to do with politics or religion, but never had a rancorous word. George once told me that it was a great act of courage to bring a child "into this world." (Grace was born in New Britain.)

Two views from the shed

If you see this world now as the only garden the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve will ever have, the future may seem bleak and children a pollution of that garden. If this world is a play and God is the screenwriter however, there is cause for optimism. More importantly, there is a world that becomes more and real than this poor imitation, if only we have the grace to follow Aslan higher up and higher in and we have the will and the courage to accept that grace.

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