In the late sixties, a new family trend started among the European intelligentsia. I became aware of it because some of our Baptist preachers started to identify with it, but it was new to their congregations. The trend was that the highly educated couples started to have only one child. This was in contrast with many of our village families, who had large families.
On my father’s maternal side, his mother had 11 brothers and sisters. My father happens to be an only child because his mother died soon after he was born and his father, being a romantic, never married again. He was raised by his father and his maternal grandmother. My mother and father raised four children. Three got married and among the three of us we have nine children.
A couple of weeks ago I read that that many of the people in Europe have been following this ideology from the late sixties. They have even expanded upon it so, in the 21st century, they have no children at all. George Weigel is the author of that article and he mentioned that of the prime ministers and presidents of the largest European economies – and all the European members of that exclusive G7 club—are without children. Germany’s Angela Merkel, Great Britain’s Theresa May, Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, and France’s Emmanuel Macron do not have kids. We can also add the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and the prime minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel to this list.
One must be sensitive to the reality that they could not have children and therefore, childlessness produced sorrow. But none of the six attempted to adopt, which is becoming less popular in various countries of Europe. Aside from being unable to conceive, there is a prevailing ideology that children hinder their parents from having all the pleasure and success that they want to have in life. This is happening at the same time that many European countries seem ambivalent towards immigrants. But if there is no infusion of immigrant children, the populations of these nations will shrink with each passing generation.
As a pastor and professor in an evangelical seminary. I find that some of the most difficult preaching happens around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The first difficulty is childlessness. In every congregation, there are men and women who wanted to have children and were not able to have them. However, I find another difficult situation when there are painful or nonexistent relationships between children and parents, which seems to occur more often between children and their fathers. I have met sons and daughters who have never met their fathers. I have met sons and daughters who tell me that their fathers rarely showed up for anything special in their lives. I have met sons and daughters whose lives were deeply wounded by their parents’ divorce.
Nevertheless, I also meet sons and daughters who have always known that they were precious in their parents’ lives. I meet sons and daughters who tell me of the hundreds and thousands of sacrifices their parents made for them, so that they would rise above the accomplishments and well-being of their parents. I meet sons and daughters who tell me that their parents are their best teachers and their best friends even today.
The Psalmist tells us that children are a gift from God and that being a good father takes hard work. But it is also a marvelous honor that will bless us not only today, but through many generations to come.