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Supplements » The Demographic Time Bomb (August 2004)
The Demographic Time Bomb by David Holloway
The Procreation of Children
The Marriage Service in the old Anglican Book of Common Prayer (the doctrinal standard for the Church of England) is clear about the purposes of "holy matrimony". These include the procreation of children:
"It was ordained [among other things] for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name."
The modern service puts that as:
"It is given as the foundation of family life in which children may be born and nurtured in accordance with God's will, to his praise and glory."
Since the 1960s with the devaluation of marriage and the married family there has been also a devaluation of that purpose of marriage, the procreation of children ["procreation" means "creating on behalf of" God]. Indeed, a growing "Christophobia", as it is now called, in the West has positively promoted anti-Christian alternative sexual lifestyles - from various forms of recreational sex, to heterosexual cohabitation, to homosexual relationships. These new lifestyles, particularly homosexual relationships, are now being positively "blessed" by Tony Blair's government, supported both by Tories and Lib Dems in the Civil Partnerships Bill that is still going through Parliament. Thankfully, after the prayers and encouragement of many Christian people, the House of Lords recently voted an amendment to prevent the bill being a "gay marriage" bill. The House of Commons now hasto respond in the Autumn.
The social price for ignoring God's created order - of no sex outside marriage and marriage as a lifelong commitment - is heavy. This became a commonplace in responsible social science in the 1990s (although ignored by much of the media and many in the educational empire and health services). Research proved conclusively that there are significant negative outcomes not only for adults but also for children from these new sexual arrangements. Now, however, in the early years of the 21st century the consequences of the devaluing of marriage are being seen to have much wider and deeper consequences of catastrophic proportions that will affect everyone - the innocent and the guilty. I refer to the "demographic time bomb". And the consequences are particularly serious for the UK and Europe.
The UK and Europe
A recent Sunday Times Magazine article was entitled "Bye, Bye Babies". Its headline was:
"A new population crisis is looming. We are turning our backs on parenthood and not producing enough babies. The over-80s are the fastest-growing age group, the under-16s the slowest. In years to come, there won't be enough workers to pay taxes, pensions and society's bills. We may have to work until we're 75."
The article continues with what it calls "this Malthusian nightmare" when, it claims, "Productivity will plummet. Unemployment will soar. Education will become unaffordable ... To survive the EU will have to suck in large numbers of predominantly Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Its [the EU's] ambition to rival America is an empty dream."
The basis for these predictions is simple. To maintain a stable population you need women (on average) to produce in their lifetimes approximately 2.1 children each - this is "replacement fertility". In the UK it is now 1.6 - the lowest since records began in 1924 (Japan, Germany, and Italy are worse). Every country in the EU is below replacement level. Demographers are fearing the worst. "In historical terms," concludes a recent UN report, "the time available is short, and successful adaptation requires that we embark early on the path of societal change." Sadly, some married couples want but cannot have children; but in general this will require the overturning of anti-Christian assumptions and values that go back to Romantics in the 19th century, pagan intellectuals in the first part of the 20th century and the so called "liberalism" of the 1960's that validated human sin as acceptable behaviour and rejected traditional Christian sexual ethic and the "marriage family". Cohabitation, we are told, "does not rival marriage as an engine of procreation".
The economic seriousness is seen in the following ratios. In 2002 there were 3.35 people of working age for every one of pensionable age. By 2031 it will be 2.5 people. In 2050 (if there is no change and to restore the balance) pension age may have to increase to 73, pensioners accept 43% less income, or pension contributions increase by 76%. "By 2025," says the Employers Forum on Age, "for every two people employed there is likely to be one person over 50 who is retired or inactive."
One solution is increased immigration. With low fertility a Europe-wide problem, experts anticipate the vacuum being filled significantly by people from the more youthful and fertile Middle East and North Africa. This is already the case in France. "By the end of the 21st century," says David Willetts, "Europe
could well have an increasingly Muslim south and east ... Europe is going to have to think much more carefully about relations with an Islamic population that is growing." But with immigrants it only takes 15 years for their birth-rates to drop to that of the indigenous population. According to UN projections,
for the EU to maintain the current ratio of workers to pensioners 700 million new migrants will be needed by 2050 - seven times the predicted total population of Turkey.
A Christian AnalysisGeorge Weigel, an American commentator, asks the following questions:
"Why is Europe systematically depopulating itself? Why is Europe committing demographic suicide? Why does no Western European country have a replacement-level birth-rate? Why will Spain’s population likely decline from 40 million to 31.3 million by the middle of the century? Why will 42 percent of Italians be over age sixty by 2050? What is happening when an entire continent wealthier and healthier than ever before, declines to create the human future in the most elemental sense, by producing a next generation? Why will Europeans not admit that these demographics—which are without parallel in human history, [excepting] wars, plagues, or natural catastrophes—are the defining reality of their twenty-first century?"
He gives an answer: "These questions cannot be answered satisfactorily by reference only to Europe's distinct experience of the twentieth century and what Europe learned from it, or by European shame. Deeper questions have to be raised: Why did Europe have the twentieth century it did? Why did a century that began with confident predictions about a maturing humanity reaching new heights of civilizational accomplishment produce, within four decades, two world wars, three totalitarian systems, a Cold War threatening global catastrophe, oceans of blood, mountains of corpses, Auschwitz and the Gulag? What em>happened? And why?"
His answer is this: "the deepest currents of history are spiritual and cultural, rather than political and economic. In this way of thinking, history is not simply the by-product of the contest for power in the world - although power certainly plays an important role in it. And neither is history the exhaust fumes produced by the means of production. Rather history is driven [from a human perspective], over the long haul, by culture - by what men and women honour, cherish and worship; by what societies deem to be true and good, and by the expressions they give to those convictions in language, and the arts; by what individuals and societies are willing to stake their lives on."
This is the classically Christian way of thinking about history. It is the Old Testament view of history. It was accepted by St Augustine in the early church (witness his The City of God). So Weigel argues the long-term answer to the demise of Europe will only be found in a revitalization of its Christian roots and "the rebirth of Christian conviction in Christianity's historic heartland. Europe, in other words, needs something like a Great Awakening ... a rebirth of life-transforming and culture-forming Christian conviction." Hence, basic Christian evangelism is vital. Christians need to pray for, and witness to, their secular, Muslim and "other religion" friends and neighbours. The gospel and the ethics of Christ are not only true but good - they make demographic and economic sense. As Jesus himself said: "seek first [God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt 6.33).
But what do we find? Earlier this summer Tony Blair allowed the new European Constitution to drop references to God and Europe's Christian heritage. Then on the 23 July 2004 his next major European response was to appoint Peter Mandelson as Britain's new EU commissioner. The new commissioner has had a questionable public and private life. The Press informs us that contrary to God's laws through his homosexual choices he supports sexual relationships that by their very nature are the most sterile of all. A British Prime Minister should be encouraging the UK and Europe to recover and revalue heterosexual married life at a time when fertility is the desperate need. Pray for God's mercy on our nation and continent.