Albert Mohler, a Southern Baptist Convention leader often described as one of America’s top evangelical thinkers, angered singles and childless couples with a recent tweet claiming “to be human is to be a parent.”
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, tweeted a quote from his daily podcast Aug. 27 discussing a Wall Street Journal story about a poll indicating that young Americans today are far less likely than the previous generation to place a high value on having children.
“What we have right now is the fact that Americans are basically, by the millions, giving up on the fact that to be human is to be a parent, eventually to take on that responsibility to get married and have children, to take on the responsibility of passing on civilization itself,” Mohler said in the podcast. “Instead, we have a generation right now that apparently has bought into the idea that the nation is fatally flawed and God is dead and religion is useless and having children therefore simply isn’t worth giving your life to.”
When the Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey asked Americans 21 years ago which values were most important to them, according to the newspaper, strong majorities listed principles of hard work, patriotism, commitment to religion and a goal of having children.
While hard work remains at the top of the list, the survey found generational differences on the importance of the other three. Among those who are either Millennials or Generation Z (ages 18-38), fewer than half now rate patriotism (42 percent), religion or belief in God (30 percent) or having children (32 percent) as “very important” to them.
Mohler said in his comments that the three values intersect.
“We are talking about some of the deepest issues that even make a nation possible,” he said. “By the time you get to the end of this three part list — that is patriotism, religion and having children — you’re actually talking about not what will the coming generation believe, but actually will there be a coming generation?”
Mohler said the numbers point to an American future that is less patriotic, less religious and less populated, what he called a “deep and threatening” recipe for a “toxic” culture and “a form of societal suicide.”
“There is a deep antipathy towards children, towards having children and towards taking the responsibility of having children, when it comes to many Americans,” he warned.
Mohler said parents tend to be more patriotic than non-parents, as well as more religious. They are also more likely to vote for a Republican.
“When you’re looking at a society that is increasingly made up of unmarried people without children, you’re looking at, by definition, a more secular and a less rooted and a more socially liberal society than one that is marked by adults getting married and having children, because being married and being a parent are deeply conserving experiences,” he said.
Mohler said the trend indicates “the social elites” are winning America’s culture war.
“Those who had been in the driver’s seat of this society, who have basically been seeking to subvert patriotism and seeking to subvert religion and seeking even to subvert parenting, they’re winning in this society,” he said. “They’re winning on the college campuses. They are winning in the academic conversation. They are winning in the production of culture. They are in control of Hollywood. They had been sending their moral messaging, which of course has political ramifications, but they’ve been sending, at an even deeper level, their moral messaging and they are winning.”
Numerous Twitter users blasted Mohler’s comments as insensitive to couples who are struggling conceive and disrespectful to single adults.
“The Bible has a word for the way many conservative evangelicals treat marriage and family as the pinnacle of human existence and spiritual fidelity: idolatry,” observed Jonathan Merritt, a writer on religion, culture and politics and son of a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “It is an anthropological and theological framework more consistent with ‘The Bachelor’ than the Bible.”
In 2003 Mohler said that married couples who decide to remain childless are guilty of “moral rebellion” against God.
In a first-person article published by Baptist Press, Mohler said the Bible “does not even envision” the idea of deliberate childlessness.
“The shocking reality is that some Christians have bought into this lifestyle and claim childlessness as a legitimate option,” Mohler wrote. “The rise of modern contraceptives has made this technologically possible. But the fact remains that though childlessness may be made possible by the contraceptive revolution, it remains a form of rebellion against God’s design and order.”
“Couples are not given the option of chosen childlessness in the biblical revelation,” he continued. “To the contrary, we are commanded to receive children with joy as God’s gifts, and to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We are to find many of our deepest joys and satisfactions in the raising of children within the context of the family. Those who reject children want to have the joys of sex and marital companionship without the responsibilities of parenthood. They rely on others to produce and sustain the generations to come.”