Recently, in the span of a week, three stories caught my attention, three stories from three nations: Uruguay, Japan, and the USA.
The first story came from a friend in Montevideo, Uruguay, who told me that Uruguay’s fertility rate of 1.86 is one of the lowest on the continent. Even worse, the rate for urban women is below 1.0. My friend said but for the rural and poorer women the national rate would be even lower. Only after hearing this did it strike me how few children could be seen in public, playing or walking with families. As the Uruguayan population ages, such a low birth rate is tantamount to cultural suicide.
Where are the babies?
The second story came from Japan in a Guardian Newspaper article by Abigail Haworth, “Why Have Young People in Japan Stopped Having Sex?”
The number of single people has reached a record high. A survey in 2011 found that 61% of unmarried men and 49% of women aged 18-34 were not in any kind of romantic relationship, a rise of almost 10% from five years earlier. Another study found that a third of people under 30 had never dated at all. (There are no figures for same-sex relationships.) Although there has long been a pragmatic separation of love and sex in Japan—a country mostly free of religious morals—sex fares no better. A survey earlier this year by the Japan Family Planning Association (JFPA) found that 45% of women aged 16-24 “were not interested in or despised sexual contact”. More than a quarter of men felt the same way.
This curious development has led to a situation similar to that in Uruguay; the ratio of elderly to newborns is growing at a disturbing rate. Haworth writes, “Official alarmism doesn’t help. Fewer babies were born here in 2012 than any year on record. (This was also the year, as the number of elderly people shoots up, that adult incontinence pants outsold baby nappies in Japan for the first time.)”
For more on this subject read the Japan Times article “Japan’s depopulation time bomb.”
Once again, the question is Where are the babies?
Which brings me to the third story, this one in New York City, where a dead baby was being carried in a shopping bag from Victoria’s Secret, a high-end women’s apparel store in New York’s business district.
The news broke in an AP story headlined “NYPD: Teen found with fetus in bag at store.” Security guards from the Manhattan Victoria’s Secret stopped two 17-year-old girls under suspicion of shoplifting $200 of clothes, cosmetics, and an Apple iPhone case. When the guards noticed a foul odor coming from the bag they looked inside and found the body of a dead baby boy. The mother, Tiana Rodriguez, told the police she was carrying the human remains because she had delivered a day earlier and didn’t know what to do. The initial autopsy indicated that the boy was born alive. The authorities are trying to determine the cause of death.
How did American society get to such a place where a teenage mother puts more value in $200 of merchandise than in the life of her baby?
This is an occasion to grieve, to say with Jeremiah, The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! (Lam 5:15-16) We should weep for the baby, for Tiana, and for the culture that breeds such confusion about the importance of motherhood and the nature of a human being.
For some perspective on this, read Mollie Hemingway’s article, “When Is A Baby Not A Baby?”
Around the globe we are losing our way. Even in North America, the former bastion of Judeo-Christian thought, we have lost the understanding that humans (yes, even babies) are made in the image of God. Our consumer culture places more value on the things that matter least, fleeting possessions, than on the things that matter most: the dignity of human lives, the formation of families , the sacredness of sexuality within covenantal marriage.
Ideas have consequences. Societies die; they actually commit cultural suicide, for lack of truth. May God have mercy on us!
– Darrow Miller