A Christian Response to Overpopulation

I have a new article on Christianity Today’s website, “A Christian Response to Overpopulation.” I’m particularly interested in your response to the readers’ comments. For instance, is any talk about overpopulation racist in nature? What responsibility do humans have in “controlling” childbirth and family size? How do we understand God’s care for the earth and God’s promises in light of poverty and human suffering? What practical suggestions would you offer in response to this article?

It begins:

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do
She gave them some broth without any bread
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. (Ps. 127:4-5)

If old nursery rhymes serve as any indication, people have been concerned about overpopulation for centuries. More recently, in 1968, Paul Ehrlich wrote a best-selling book called The Population Bomb. He predicted mass starvation and other calamities as a result of overpopulation, although his conclusions were largely discredited later and his most dire predictions have not come to pass. More recently still, the United Nations revised their population projections for the next century. According to the U.N.’s numbers, the earth’s population may reach 10.1 billion people by the year 2100. Justin Gillis and Celia Dugger report in The New York Times, “Growth in Africa remains so high that the population there could more than triple in this century, rising from today’s one billion to 3.6 billion … a sobering forecast for a continent already struggling to provide food and water for its people.”

Not only does the prospect of billions more people threaten the future health and well-being of many, but women and children face hardship in the present when it comes to childbirth and family size. In Afghanistan, for instance, a woman is 200 times more likely to die in childbirth than to be killed by a bomb or a bullet. Education for midwives, of course, can help alleviate those dangers without decreasing the number of children born. And yet many women in developing countries put their children up for adoption rather than struggle to provide for them at home.According to UNICEF, 90% of the 132 million children classified as orphans worldwide have at least one living biological parent. As families grow, parents often face increasing difficulties as they try to provide for their children’s basic needs. In the past, Western nations have offered “family planning programs” as a corrective to population growth, and women in developing nations have responded positively. Many women choose birth control when offered: “Provided with information and voluntary access to birth-control methods, women have chosen to have fewer children in societies as diverse as Bangladesh, Iran, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Thailand.”

It seems like a simple problem—too many people—with a simple solution: have fewer children. But the reality is more complicated…

To keep reading, click here.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).

Comments

  1. Melissa Florerbixler says:

    So funny you posted on this because I was just checking out this website last night:
    http://overpopulationisamyth.com/
    I’m really nervous that there are sketchy political/money connections to this group but I think it’s interesting what they have to say…

  2. Melissa Florerbixler says:

    So funny you posted on this because I was just checking out this website last night:
    http://overpopulationisamyth.com/
    I’m really nervous that there are sketchy political/money connections to this group but I think it’s interesting what they have to say…

  3. Vivienne Ortega says:

    The definition of racism has changed over the years. It’s all about creeping globalisation and imagining that the world doesn’t have sovereignties or borders. There are many cultures that advocate early marriages, and tribalism. Culture is something deeply ingrained, and hard to change. Each nation should be responsible for their own sustainability issues and their own numbers. There is nothing Christian about over-population. Christians should be in the forefront of helping people use contraceptives and family planning. Overwhelming God’s creation with too many people is cruel to children born now, and in the future.

  4. Vivienne Ortega says:

    The definition of racism has changed over the years. It’s all about creeping globalisation and imagining that the world doesn’t have sovereignties or borders. There are many cultures that advocate early marriages, and tribalism. Culture is something deeply ingrained, and hard to change. Each nation should be responsible for their own sustainability issues and their own numbers. There is nothing Christian about over-population. Christians should be in the forefront of helping people use contraceptives and family planning. Overwhelming God’s creation with too many people is cruel to children born now, and in the future.

  5. As it dawns on humanity that more of us = less for all, I think stewardship of the planet will mean we must better manage fertility, use of resources, & love earth enough in Jesus’ name to create new ways. It will mean fewer children born but this is good. God did not give us dominion over earth to over-breed and trash the planet like billions of mindless rabbits, of that I am certain.
    Your article is a bit unfocused as if being a Christian = being wishy washy. It is okay to envision a decisive Christian dialogue about this entire subject…we can not ignore it any longer as a species.


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