Avoiding responsibility is at the heart of intentional childlessness, Mohler says on CNN program

Communications Staff — December 19, 2005

The increase in the number of married couples in the United States who are deciding not to have children is a disturbing trend that could have a long-term negative impact on society, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Seminary, told CNN on Thursday.

Sometimes referring to themselves as “non-breeders,” these couples are intentional and sometimes militant in their commitment to not having children.

Some of them say that, by not having offspring, they have exchanged “families for freedom.” Others argue that they are showing advanced maturity by recognizing that children do not fit their lifestyle.

However, Mohler Jr. told the CNN news program “Anderson Cooper 360” that this trend is nothing more than a disturbing commitment to perpetual adolescence. Raising children is part of becoming an adult, Mohler said.

“Parenthood is a part of helping to create adults,” Mohler said. “We grow up by having children. Without that responsibility, we have a generation of perpetual adolescents just growing old … This is really about avoiding responsibility and I find that tremendously sad.

“I think [it] is dangerous to assume that we’re going to say that people can be recognized as responsible adults who don’t even aspire to grow up to be mature enough to have children.”

Madelyn Cain, author of “The Childless Revolution: What It Means to be Childless Today,” said a couple’s decision to remain childless is simply a lifestyle choice. Cain said modern women are choosing not to bear children more often than their forbears because they are better educated and have more opportunities in the workplace than in generations past.

“I think parenting is an option, it’s not an obligation, and I think that we should be applauding the people who are mature enough in making a decision and saying, ‘I know that this is not the right choice for me,’” she said. “And that’s what these couples [are] saying.”

But Mohler said these couples apparently are not considering the implications of their choices for society.

“Obviously there is a moral point to be made here. These couples have to be very thankful that their parents didn’t make the same decision. Society depends upon parenthood, the raising of children, being seen as the norm for married couples and as something of social value.”

Jennifer Shawne, an intentionally childless wife who was interviewed for the show, denied she is self-centered, and said those who have children often do it for selfish reasons.

“You can turn the tables and say, ‘Isn’t that selfish that you have children that you expect to take care of you when you are old?’” Shawne said. “’Isn’t it selfish that you want a replica of yourself?’”

Another woman interviewed for the show had a simple rationale for her intentional childlessness: “The cost of raising a cat is much less than raising a child.”

Mohler pointed out that none of the couples interviewed for the program have fertility problems.

“That is a separate issue,” said Mohler. “This is childlessness as a chosen lifestyle, and that’s my big concern. Obviously, I respond to those who have fertility issues with great sympathy. But what we are hearing here are people saying, ‘I’m mature enough to know I am too immature to be a parent. I‘m going to let other people do that.”

Deliberately childless couples have formed a number of national and international organizations, including one called “No Kidding,” and even have a lifestyle magazine called “DINK,” an acronym for “Double Income, No Kids.”

Mohler said the trend illustrates a faulty view of the purpose of marriage.

“You look at some of these websites, and the references to children are just so dismissive and condescending and frankly weird … We have to understand that parenthood is to be understood as a part of marriage itself.”

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