To Reproduce or Not to Reproduce? Re-Contextualizing Pronatalism in Light of Climate Change Open Access

Carroll, Emily Ripley (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/b5644r61t?locale=en
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Abstract

Climate change is potentially the greatest public health concern of our modern age. People living in upper socioeconomic classes produce more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than the majority of the rest of the world. However, people living in poverty disproportionally face the challenges and health risks associated with climate change. First world families contributing to climate change, therefore, can help alleviate the global burden of greenhouse gas emissions by choosing not to have children. Though reducing greenhouse gas emissions by choosing not to reproduce can be scientifically demonstrated, Christians living in first world contexts must also reckon with religious convictions that promote reproduction. For Christians, pronatalism is deeply embedded in scripture and theology. While it is unethical to force people to limit reproduction in an attempt to address climate change, it is possible to loosen the grip that scripture and tradition seem to have on Christians’ decisions to procreate.

In the Hebrew Bible, pronatalism is deeply entrenched in the socio-economic- environmental contexts of the ancient Israelites. Issues of economic stability for agricultural families, social standing for women, and inheritance and transcending death for men are at the heart of pronatal sentiments in ancient Israelite society. Additionally, pronatal sentiments in Christian tradition and theology have developed in response to changing social, economic, and environmental conditions, in turn shaping conceptions of marriage, sex, and reproduction. By contextualizing the development of pronatalism in scripture and in Christian tradition, it is then possible to re-contextualize pronatalism today in light of current socio-economic – and particularly environmental – contexts.

Christians living in upper socio-economic classes around the world should not procreate just because scripture tells them to do so. Rather, these Christians should contextualize procreation by reflecting on the implications of reproduction within their own socio-economic-environmental contexts, paying particular attention to creation care as part of their deliberations on family and faith. In choosing not to have children, Christians participate in God’s kenotic act of love by attending to climate change out of concern for the ecological integrity of the created order and people all around the world affected by climate change.

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ...............1

PRONATALISM IN THE HEBREW BIBLE.......4

Genesis 1..............5

Genesis 2 & 3.....................8

Sociocultural Context of Genesis 1-3 ........13

Barrenness Texts in Genesis ............15

Exceptions to Pronatalism in the Hebrew Bible: Hannah......20

Exceptions to Pronatalism in the Hebrew Bible: Eunuchs .....22

Kinship and Pronatalism in the Hebrew Bible........25

RECEPTION OF PRONATALISM IN CHRISTIANITY ........29

Kinship in the Patristic Period ...............30

Catholicism ..............34

Protestant Reformation: Martin Luther...........36

Kinship in the Reformation Period ...............41

PRONATALISM RE-EXAMINED ................44

Today’s Context: Climate Change.............44

Kenosis and Love of Neighbor ..............50

Pronatalism Re-Examined ............53

Qualifications on Pronatalism Re-Examined: A Feminist Ethical Framework .....60

CONCLUSION ............64

BIBLIOGRAPHY ...............65

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