Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Extinction

A few weeks ago, after over 10 years of marriage, my son and daughter-in-law had their first child. Griffin Elliot McKinney is our only grandchild. He is the first-born son of a first-born son of a first-born son of a first-born son. He will most likely be the only one to carry on our family name, as my son and daughter-in-law plan to have only the one child. As I held him in my arms when he was only a few hours old, I was given pause about life, its continuation and its significance. 

It occurred to me that there is something special about the generation born to your children. It’s something extremely profound and yet something we all take for granted. Here it is: That child could never have been born were it not for my wife and me producing our son. I mean biologically we understand that fact but emotionally I first came to grips with it as I held that newborn in my arms. I looked down at him at thought, “You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for me.” 

On a larger scale it began to sink in that this planet is only one generation from extinction. If every child born in Griffin’s generation were sterile, the human race would cease to exist in just a few decades. In other words, each of us is a link in the chain of the future of humankind. 

One generation from extinction, now that’s a concept that it’s difficult to get your mind around. It’s impossible to imagine a society where people don’t produce a new generation of …well, people. You know, same species, two legs, two arms, one head, etc. It’s natural to reproduce offspring like yourself. Yet in the spiritual world there is a disturbing trend. For the most part, those of us who claim to be followers of Christ have stopped reproducing offspring like ourselves. We have become a generation of sterile Christians. I have given this a lot of thought and I believe I’ve stumbled on to at least one reason.

During our daughter-in-laws pregnancy she was careful to eat healthy foods and avoid anything that had ever been shown to produce children with birth defects. She was tested several times throughout the pregnancy to make sure she did not have any genetic issues that would cause her baby to have less than a quality life. We became aware of the fact that science has made it possible to know whether or not your genetic makeup is flawed in some way that will increase the possibility of having a child who is “less than perfect.” Many times those people avoid pregnancy and opt for adoption or other methods of having children. When people see themselves as seriously (genetically) flawed they avoid procreation.

I am beginning to believe that this is what has happened on a spiritual level in our society. Those of us who follow Christ, who see the world through the lens of Scripture have been declared seriously flawed by our culture. We are seen as bigots, fear-motivated, war-mongering fanatics. We have been talked down to, ridiculed, dismissed (especially in academic circles), and criticized for our efforts to produce more of our own kind (evangelism). The problem is not that these accusations are being made but that we have believed them. We have internalized the accusations and now hesitate to reproduce more of our own kind (fellow believers) because we really do see ourselves as flawed and perhaps even experience some weird sort of guilt when we share our faith.

We are not going to change how we are perceived by our culture any time soon. We can, however, refuse to accept the perception as true and strive to love our world in such an unconditional and practical way so that others will want to be one of “our kind.”

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