Like boiling frogs, we may be forgiven for failing to notice an all pervasive atmospheric change; forgiven but not spared. Whether we can look it in the eye or not, we have entered the era Pope Benedict XVI described as the mustard seed church. Our stature and influence are gone and the world has become a far less friendly place for Christians. And this requires some different thinking.
Rod Dreher at The American Conservative has been musing about “The Benedict Option”; ways in which we might form thick faith communities, cultures within the culture which nurture and sustain a Christian worldview and a Christian way of being. So far, Dreher has been all forest with few particulars, more initiating a conversation than proposing a way forward, but already critics have been quick to point out that the Gospel mandate is to evangelize, and that Christians can never withdraw from their obligation to engage the world. Whatever the Benedict Option might turn out to be, it will have to entail engagement with the broader culture.
The two principles that anchor contemporary political thinking are individual rights and inclusivity. Can we appeal to these principles so as to find a way back to a political order that reveres faith and family?
Imagine a state in which parents were given a proxy vote for every child under 18 in their care. Demeny voting is an idea developed by demographer Paul Demeny in 1986 to “let custodial parents exercise the children’s voting rights until they come of age.” The title of Demeny’s paper—“Pro-natalist Policies in Low-Fertility Countries: Patterns, Performance and Prospects”—provides a neat summary of his argument. It is an idea that has been discussed in countries with famously low birth rates (Japan, Austria and France), and was voted on in the German Parliament in 2003 and 2008. And there are good reasons why social conservatives should consider promoting Demeny voting in North America.
If parents were given a half vote for each child, a huge group of citizens, up to this point unrepresented in the political process, but nonetheless dramatically affected by political policies, would have their interests represented. Parents, as the ones most committed to the welfare of children would be given a proxy vote to cast in the best interests of their children. The changes in the political, economic and social priorities of the country would be profound.
1) Uncle John out of a job.
For far too long nasty Uncle John has had control of our country’s finances. John Maynard Keynes has been the inspiration for generations of deficit budgets, financing luxuries we can’t afford today on the backs of our children who will someday have to pay. The first and most obvious change which would come with electoral representation for children would be the end of deficit budgets and the elimination of the debt. Children want futures full of promise and parents want to give children a hand up, not a boot on the throat.
2) Hillary would have to get her village out of your living room.
The much-discussed presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton famously wrote a book titled It Takes a Village, which was a not-so-subtle manifesto for the state taking over the family. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party and childless meddlers on the Left view parents as stupid and backward at best, but more often as villainous oppressors in need of monitoring, correction and containment. The proxy enfranchisement of children would reorder the relationship between government and family. If parents were given proxy votes for children, families would not be bullied by the state. Families would be the boss.
3) Prisons would have to make room for Pornographers.
There is a deep and hideous ring of hell reserved for those who exploit women and children and despoil the marital act. Our culture has become so thoroughly pornified that healthy erotic desire, rather than being repressed and sublimated into creativity and then invested in marriage and family, is dissipated on pixelated images. Our young are being robbed of the high adventure of love and family, and pornographers are to blame. Lock them up.
4) Fathers would be able to earn a living wage.
Proxy votes for children would inspire politicians to care about families. The productivity dividend of new technologies has created enormous wealth for the creative class and the investor class and that’s fine, but there should be some recognition of the economic value of the social stability created by healthy families. Stronger families create social stability and social stability is necessary for economic prosperity. Children thrive when raised by a stay-at-home mother rather than a minimum wage daycare worker. And yet most families are forced to have both the mother and the father work outside of the home. There must be some payback to families for creating the social stability necessary for economic growth.
5) Mothers would be honored and loved.
Over the past two generations our culture has moved from honoring mothers, to quiet contempt, to outright hostility. Corporations want mothers in the workforce to create an over-supply of labor and lower wages, marketers want to commodify and sell us not only our food and clothing but even the raising of our children, social workers want to control and professionalize parenting, and popular culture glamourizes lust and indulgence but has no idea of how to portray tenderness, love and joy. The dignity and beauty of motherhood in our culture is invisible as a publicly recognized good. But children need and love their mothers, and our culture should recognize their dignity.
6) Bruce Jenner would eat his Wheaties.
It’s hard to figure out the proportions of pathos and perversion, but one thing’s for sure, poor Mr. Jenner is anything but wholesome. It is because of his disordered soul that he is famous, and that is also why he shouldn’t be. Our culture has championed tolerance as the highest value but what this has meant in practice is the unrestrained promotion of the perverse, and the silencing of reasonable dissent. There are fundamental ontological truths beyond which there is only madness, and among these is the fact of maleness and femaleness. Children have a right to truth. Lies have no rights.
7) Reverse the transvaluation of values.
Friederich Nietzsche viewed Christianity as a slave morality that thwarted the realization of the ultimate ego projection, the ubermensch, or superman. Nietzsche, who described himself as the anti-Christ, called for a deliberate inversion of Christian truth, love and mercy. The world of Nietzsche is no place for children—or anyone. His transvaluation of values has been the philosophical basis for the boundless projection of self which is modernism, and hopeless exhaustion of having everything but meaning, which is post-modernism. The way back from Nietzsche is found by holding the hand of a child and being shown essence, truth, goodness and beauty.
8) Dog parks would be converted into playgrounds for kids.
Enough already with furry children. God did not create dogs as replacement children. There was a time in our distant past, when neighborhoods were full of children running and playing and riding bikes. Kids built forts, neighbors sat out on their porches and the world hummed with the human symphony. Now childless adults silently walk their dogs and pick up poop with plastic baggies. There should be stiff fines for putting sweaters on dogs, walking dogs in baby carriages or calling dogs children.
9) Families would re-connect with place, neighborhood and community.
Children see with fresh eyes and live in places more than adults do. They explore and romanticize, looking at their neighborhood block as a kingdom populated by industrious ants and forests of grass, castles, kings and queens. If children were recognized as full citizens with proxy votes then our culture’s storytellers would speak the truths children see and we would all again see the beauty and wonder of our small corners of the world through the eyes of children.
10) Faith would restore hope and inspire charity.
There is a symbiotic relationship within the theological virtues. That is, charity can inspire hope and faith, and hope can inspire faith and charity, but the more natural progression is from faith, to hope to charity. Children naturally have faith, intuiting the orderliness and goodness of creation and the God from whom it comes, and this leads to hope and transforms us towards charity. There is much to learn from the innocence of children but amazingly there are many people who don’t know any children. They live in segregated, gated worlds where children are not welcome. Walling off the freshness of youth hides the truth of their withering bodies and souls. Gated adult communities are boneyards for the walking dead. We need children for the good of our souls.
We don’t need to be stealthy or too clever about any of this. The age we have entered is a homicidal suicide cult and everyone wants out. Things look dark now, but it is just the darkness necessary to let the candlelight of a child change the world.
Editor’s note: The image above titled “After the First Holy Communion” was painted by Carlo Frithjof Smith in 1892.