Katherine English wrote an interesting post, “Free to be Childfree” on Café-Stirring the Spirit Within. It asks questions childfree Christians often struggle with. She writes that “it seems that there is instruction in many parts of the bible to be ‘fruitful and multiply’” (Genesis 1), and asks what does this mean for women who choose not to have children–are those women still living as God intended?
English lists some common reasons why people decide not to have children based on a survey of 171 childfree (there are more common reasons than what she lists from other research-interview research I’ve compiled over the last ten years), and talks about how like many childfree, Christian childfree women are often judged and misunderstood.
At the heart of her piece, she challenges the fruitful and multiply idea with some great points.
With all the damaging effects of overpopulation, including deforestation, hunger, climate change, war, and pollution, she argues that childfree women are helping to create a sustainable society for those who do have children. English points out that while the Bible has the fruitful and multiply point, there are “just as many passages about caring for the hungry, sick, and homeless. The world needs to see women who choose to live childfree as caring for their neighbor. They will help to make a better, more sustainable world for those of us who do.” I say Amen to that!
In addition to this point, there is good deal written about further interpretation of the requirement or “command” from the bible to be fruitful and multiply. Looking at both books of Genesis and other biblical writings, it can alternatively interpreted that having children is not so much a command as a “blessing” from God. In other words, it is not a mandate to us, but something that is bestowed upon us from God. Christian Ethics professor Kenneth Magnuson discusses this idea in relation to Christian couples dealing with infertility. The interpretation of children as a blessing from God opens the door for infertile couples to not feel they have gone against God’s will if they do not have children. This interpretation and others that are similar should invite childfree Christians to feel the same.
For those childfree that struggle with feeling your decision has goes against the church, get to know both books of Genesis. Read scholars’ different interpretations of the supposed biblical mandate to reproduce. You’ll find that the fruitful and multiply biblical mandate is not as ground in stone as you might think, and that when it comes to children, there are many ways to follow God’s will.
Childfree Christians let’s hear from you. If you struggle with your religion and childfree choice, tell us why. Those who do not, or have reconciled it in your heart and mind, tell us about this!