Be Fruitful and Multiply By Mark Steyn

Be Fruitful and Multiply

December 26, 2006

Suppose for a moment that the birth in Bethlehem that Christians celebrate this week never happened — that it is, as the secularists would have it, mere mumbo-jumbo, superstition, a myth. In other words, consider it not as an event but as a narrative. You want to launch a big new global movement from scratch. So what do you use?

The birth of a child.

If Christianity is just a myth, then it is, so to speak, an immaculately conceived one. On the one hand, what could be more powerless than a newborn babe? On the other, without a newborn babe, man is ultimately powerless. For, without new life, there can be no civilization, no society, no nothing.

"The world has collapsed," announces a BBC newsman in a new movie. "Only Britain soldiers on." Europe in 1940? No, 2027. Adapted from P D James' dystopian novel, Children Of Men is set on a planet in which humanity is barren. That's to say, it can no longer reproduce. And you'd be amazed at how much else collapses with the fertility rate.

You might have a hard time finding Children Of Men at your local multiplex. It's a more pertinent Christmas movie this holiday season than Bad Santa 3 or The Santa Clause 8, but Universal seems to have got cold feet and all but killed the picture. In an enthusiastic review in Seattle Weekly, J Hoberman observed: "Universal may have deemed Children too grim for Christmas, but it is premised on a reverence for life that some might term religious." Granted he's in the godless precincts of Seattle, that last bit of the sentence — "some might" — seems a tad qualified. Obviously, Christianity has a "reverence for life". So too does Judaism: all that begetting the eyes glaze over at in the Old Testament, going right back to God's injunction to be fruitful and multiply.

Christmas is a good time not just for Christians to ponder the central proposition of their faith — the baby in the manger — but for post-Christian secularists to ponder the central proposition of theirs: that religion is a lot of goofy voodoo nonsense and that any truly rational person will give it the bum's rush. The problem with this view is that "rationalism" is looking less and less rational with each passing year. Here are three headlines from the last couple of weeks:

* "Mohammed Overtakes George In List Of Most Popular Names" (The Daily Telegraph, London)

* "Japan's Population ‘Set To Plummet'" (BBC News)

* "Islam Thrives As Russia's Population Falls" (The Toronto Star)

By comparison with America, those three societies are very secular. Indeed, Russia spent three-quarters of a century under the most militantly secularist regime of all: Under Communism, the state was itself a religion, but, alas, only an ersatz one, a present-tense chimera. As a result, Russians more or less gave up begetting: Slavs are in steep population decline, and, on present trends, Russia will be majority Muslim by 2050. And the Russian Army will be majority Muslim by 2015. In western Europe, societal suicide isn't quite so advanced, but the symbolism is still poignant: "George" isn't just the name of America's reviled cowboy President, but of England's patron saint; the national flag is the Cross of St George, under which Englishmen sallied forth to smite the Mohammedans in those long-ago Crusades. Now the Mohammedans have managed to smite the Georgians big time, not by conquest but simply by outbreeding. Mohammed is also the most popular boy's name in Brussels, Amsterdam and other Continental cities.

But forget Islam: in Europe, they're inheriting by default. There are no Muslims or any other significant group of immigrants in Japan and yet the Japanese are engaging in a remorseless auto-genocide. Already in net population decline and the most geriatric society on earth, their descent down the death spiral is only going to accelerate. As the BBC reported, "The imbalance is threatening future economic growth and raising fears over whether the government will be able to fund pensions. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said: ‘It's impossible for the pension system to collapse due to the declining birth rate because we will adjust the amount of money put into it.'"

Oh, okay then. But, just as a matter of interest, when you "adjust" the amount of money you put into the pension system, whose pockets are you going to "adjust" it out of? Japanese and European societies are trying to secure the future on upside-down family trees in which four grandparents have one grandchild. No matter how frantically you "adjust", that's unsustainable.

What's the answer? Cloning? Artificial intelligence? Well, here's another story you may have missed in recent days. Sir David King, the British government's chief scientific advisor, has turned in a bunch of reports on issues likely to arise in the next 50 years. Among them is a study on "robot rights". In a nutshell, if robots advance to some form of consciousness, they'd be entitled to welfare. The state would be obliged to provide "robo-healthcare", as the report puts it, plus no doubt robo-pensions and all the rest.

These are four stories you may not even have seen, what with all the really important stuff happening in the world, like Miss USA not being fired by Donald Trump, and Matt Damon dissing Dick Cheney. I'm a big 24/7 demographics bore, as readers of my new doomsday book will know, but even I'm a little taken aback at the way its thesis is confirmed every day by some item from some part of the map. These stories are all one story, the biggest story of our time: the self-extinction of most of the developed world.

The Virgin Mary's pregnancy is not the only one in the Gospels. There's another that prefigures it, in Luke 1:13:

"But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John."

Zacharias is surprised to discover his impending fatherhood — "for I am an old man and my wife well stricken in years." If you read Luke, the virgin birth seems a logical extension of the earlier miracle — the pregnancy of Mary's elderly cousin. For Matthew, Jesus' birth is the miracle. Luke, a physician, leaves you with the impression that all birth — all life — is to a degree miraculous and God-given, if only because without it there can be no world. The obligation to have children may be a lot of repressive theocratic hooey, but it's less irrational than the secular self-absorption of a barren Russia, Japan and Europe. And, if Christianity is a fairytale, it's a perfectly constructed one, beginning with the decision to establish Christ's divinity in the miracle of His birth: as the song says, "And man will live forevermore because of Christmas Day."