Russell and Duenes

Valentine’s Day: “What To Expect When No One’s Expecting”

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PutinThe Weekly Standard reports that, on average, Russian women are having 13 abortions for every 10 live births. You don’t need a math degree to know what that means. Even Vladimir Putin has figured it out, which is ostensibly why he’s invited Boyz II Men to Russia for Valentine’s Day. The article surmises that Putin wants “to encourage love-making and . . . baby-making to offset Russia’s demographic disaster.” Jonathan Last, in his book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, has said, “Russians are so despondent about the future that they have 30 percent more abortions than births.”

In an article entitled: The Incredible Shrinking People, The Economist reports: “Russia’s demography befits a country at war. The population of 142m is shrinking by 700,000 people a year. By 2050 it could be down to 100m. The death rate is double the average for developed countries. The life expectancy of Russian males, at just 60 years, is one of the lowest in the world. Only half of Russian boys now aged 16 can expect to live to 60, much the same as at the end of the 19th century.” In terms of working force, the piece states: “Over the next seven years Russia’s labour force will shrink by 8m, and by 2025 it may be 18m-19m down on the present figure of 90m.” The article goes into various reasons why Russians are not having babies, ranging from “the collapse of the Soviet Union” to the lack of health care to “the curse of the bottle.” The author concludes: “The only solution to Russia’s demographic problems appears to be immigration, . . . but the Russian public is hostile to it.”

Aside from Margaret Thatcher’s dictum – “Eventually you run out of other people’s money” – there’s a cautionary tale here. No, I do not believe that the U.S. is in anywhere near the dire straits the Russians find themselves, and we certainly do not have their historical baggage. But to assume, as The Economist seems to, that such external factors as the collapse of a government or alcoholism are the root of problem, or that immigration is the “solution,” appears misguided. What leaps out is the utter silence as to why the Russian people have taken on such a death spiral. What is it about their character that causes them to abort so many babies, to sire so many children out of wedlock, or to forego having children at all?

Surely the legacy of the Soviet Union, and perhaps other historical forces, is the spiritual barrenness that reigns in the hearts and minds of so many Russian people. The gospel of Jesus Christ does not merely bless individuals, but also spreads like leaven through individuals into marriages, children, schools, churches, local institutions and associations, the professions, and into government. Thus, as Douglas Wilson says, the blessings of the gospel are cultural as well as individual. God redeems and improves cultural and national life for those who honor Him. This does not mean that Russia is devoid of godly people, but it does mean that high rebellion against God over long periods of time brings certain things in its train. And this is true no matter what people or nation we are speaking of. The demographic problems facing the U.S., which are as real, though not as advanced, as the ones facing Russia, are the fruit of the same tree: the failure to trust that Jesus is good and faithful, that His Word is absolutely true and satisfying, that marriage is primarily about Christ and the Church, and that the words, “be fruitful and multiply” are a blessing from the Lord, always and everywhere.

The solution is spiritual and moral, not primarily economic or demographic. Confidence in Jesus brings brings a zest for life and expansive notions of its goodness and spread. It causes people to “enlarge the place of their tent” and to “let the curtains of their habitations to be stretched out.” It causes them to “lengthen their cords and strengthen their stakes.” (Isaiah 54:2).



Written by Michael Duenes

February 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm

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