Sunday, May 27, 2007

People Need and Want the Lord's Help

Pentecost-Come Holy Spirit

Despite the marvelous advances in medicine, surgery and physical treatments of all kinds people who are ill still want and need the Lord's help. I suffered a near fatal heart problem several years ago. I am very thankful for the doctors, nurses and technicians as well as the medical researchers who saved my life. They have kept me alive by medical means for almost ten years.
But I have also relied on prayer, fellowship and God's presence to keep me healthy. My heart damage has improved through prayer. Men who know they are loved last longer after a heart attack. PTL for Karen and my family as well as my Christian fellowship.

It is easy to think that because we have advanced so far in understanding medical interventions that spiritual and emotional interventions are no longer necessary. Both personal experiences and medical research indicate otherwise. By thinking humans are machines we make things worse.

Dr. Tracy A. Balboni, of the Harvard Radiation Oncology Program, studied 230 patients with terminal cancer to find out their spiritual needs. Her findings, published in the February 2007 edition of Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that that 88% of terminal cancer patients said religion was at least somewhat important to them.

About half of the patients had been visited by clergy. Yet Balboni's research also suggests that hospitals, doctors and even religious communities fail to support the spiritual needs of their cancer patients at the end of life.

Almost (47%) reported that their spiritual needs were minimally or not at all supported by a religious community, and 72% reported that their spiritual needs were supported minimally or not at all by the medical system.

The terminally ill, being at peace with God is only marginally second in importance to the desire to ease physical pain.

"This report is a strong statement of a seriously unmet need in the vast majority of patients in our care" wrote Dr. Balboni.; on behalf of;
Stationedhere []

We are humans created in the image of God who desperately need human contact and spiritual transcendence in the midst of an illness. Is your community reaching out consistently to people in need?

Pentecost Sunday

Today is Pentecost Sunday, a time we celebrate God's presence to the point that the people were transformed from a separated, individualistic crowd to a unified, spiritually alive community. People in pain feel separated from God, themselves and the church. Make sure you bring them into your fellowship.

My last blog mentioned that some churches cry prayer, prayer but do not really pray for healing. Is this double mindedness? Can that produce anything but confusion, doubts and fear in God's people?
People need to trust God and take Him at His word. The Bible is true but truth separated from experince will always remain in doubt to honest people.
Preaching on inerrancy but offering reasons why the Bible doen's really men that any more is an awful way to live. We call such an approach, "Bait and switch". We sell one product but deliver another. On Pentecost why not preach exactly what the Holy Spirit inspired instead of watering it down with secular humanism?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Feedback Works

I recently blogged about my sad experiences with some vendors on the web. A few of my experiences have been maddeningly bad and I wrote them to say I was unhappy.

I wondered if it would do an good at all. Would they even read my feedback let alone take my complaints seriously or do anything to correct the problems.

Here is the score card.

1. took money out of my credit card account automatically even though that was not plainly stated on their web. I wrote and complained and they responded that I was out of luck. They had my money and I would not get it back. I wrote again and said something like, "I will tell everyone I know that you are unethical and to drop your services."

That got results and they wrote that I would get my money back in 30 days. I will let you know what happens.

2. We ordered a toy dog for our grand daughter and they sent the wrong item. Karen called and got no help so I ranked the service as very poor on the rating page. I received a call from the owner of the toy store, it was not Amazon, and they sent my money back immediately. They also begged me to change my statement on the rating page. I shall do that for them.

Rating service really works.

3. I complained about the online company, because they lied and said their report was free. it is not. That is just their name. I heard from them that several states had sued them for false and misleading ads and they sent my money back.

I would never deal with them again.

So, complain if you are unhappy about service.

bad rating and public embarrassment is bad for business.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Do You Believe?

Jesus told a great story about a man who had laid by the Pool of Bethesda for many years but remained sick. That Pool was the scene of many supernatural healing and spiritual interventions but his particular guy was unable to receive any of them.

Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed. The reply was, "Oh, sure I do. The problem is that nobody will help me get into the pool when God's angels show up."

Many people are like the guy Jesus described. They flirt with the supernatural and some of them even claim to hold to the supernatural tenets of the Bible but for some reason never get into the pool and receive what God has for them.

After seeing God and His angels move in my own life and the lives of others I began in 1970 to tell others about the moving of the waters. I invited my friends and acquaintances to "Get into the water". Some jumped right in but others resisted.

Many times the resistors were folks whose ideas about God and how He did things were already set in concrete. The were convinced that they knew all about God and theology and could explain why He no longer moved the waters or healed people in modern times.

Jesus heard the excuse by the man who had been waiting for 38 years and commanded him to "Stand up and walk!" The man did what Jesus said. I must confess that I rarely have the confidence of Jesus so when I receive resistance from people to "Come into the waters" I just back off.

But their resistance to follow the commands of Jesus are puzzling to me. Why do people say they believe in Jesus as the Great Physician and all the miracles in the Bible but will not ask for them today? An even more puzzling issue is why do these people send out prayer requests for folks who are ill or indisposed? They evidently do not believe that God moves the waters in 2001 but still ask for prayer. Hmmm!

As a friend said many years ago. "Yes, our church believes in praying for the sick we just don't pray for them to get well. We ask the Lord to 'Bless the doctors and make the medicines work but not for a direct intervention.'"

Well, if you send me a letter asking for prayer for your sick kid or elder I am going to pray for a supernatural intervention. Otherwise, why pray?

Want to be Happy?

Survey links happiness to marriage, children, church
Scripps Howard

The keys to happiness are simple — grow up, get married, have children, go to church and try to forget about the wilder days of youth.

Only 52 percent of Americans say they are "very happy" with their lives, according to a Scripps Howard/Ohio University survey of 1,007 adult residents of the United States. Forty-three percent said they are "fairly happy," 3 percent said they are "not too happy" and 2 percent are undecided.

That might not seem sufficiently ebullient for a nation that embraces the pursuit of happiness as an unalienable right. But the survey found Americans with particular lifestyles more likely to say they have found contentment. While wealth has a modest impact on well-being, other social factors appear to have greater influence.

"It's a lot of fun to see what the correlations are for happiness," said Glenn Van Ekeren, an elder-care executive in Omaha, Neb., who has published three books on the secrets to happiness.

One of the most important things Americans can do to improve the odds of being happy, the survey found, is to get married. Sixty percent of married people are very happy, compared with 41 percent of singles, the poll found.

Most people who have children said they are very happy in life, while most people who had never been parents said they are only "fairly happy" or "not too happy." Even among single people, having children in their lives increased the odds they will be happy.

An even stronger factor is the power of organized religion — any religion — on a sense of well-being.

Although their numbers were small, Jewish participants in the poll were the most likely of any group to say they are very happy. Protestants — especially self-identified "born again" evangelicals — also reported a high rate of contentment.

Sixty percent of people who had recently attended worship services said they are very happy, compared with 46 percent who had not done so.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Karen and Gary

I just uploaded this photo on my Committed Couples blog and wanted to put it up again here. Committed Couples
I am a very fortunate and blessed man to have a wife like Karen. Some people say Mother Teresa is a Saint but I nominate Karen Sweeten. Mother Teresa did not have to live with me for 45 years!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Support for the Ministry

The need for finances to continue our ministry is a constant need. Sure we operate on a shoestring but still there are web hosting fees, travel, office supplies, etc.

This blog, the blog and are all pumping out important information to people around the world about how they can find peace, love and joy in Jesus.

The most gratifying work I have done for the past 40 years are the scads of keen Christians spread all over the globe that are living fruitful lives as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and business leaders. (Read Vicki Gottfried's comments on

I receive regular reports from writers, pastors, elders, grand parents, consultants and creators who were deeply touched by the Apples Classes or Family Training Groups we did 30 years or 30 days ago. Without exception they say we taught them critically important stuff.

Galina called from Moscow this week to report on her great new adventure into a region of Russia that openly practices the black arts of witch craft and Satan worship. Life Way Ministries supports all those good works because they have few material resources to match their great spiritual and mental resources.

Do me a favor and prayerfully consider ways to support us.

Send your tax deductible gift to

Gary Sweeten
Life Way Ministries, Inc
11161 Kenwood Road
Cincinnati, Ohio 45242

We are completely supported by individual and church donations.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Beware of Mockers and Scoffers

At this time we are seeing many attempts by agressive agnostics and atheists to engage Christians in debates and arguements. The Bible clearly tells us to avoid such things. I know, I know. These debates are fun to watch and we enjoy having someone smarter than us take it to the other side for a change.

We get tired of hearing the Left Wing Loonies attack God and our Christian values on TV and radio. Why should they get all the press with their lies and hate speech? Maybe it is our time to have the lions on our side for a change! With an articulate defender of the faith we can overcome the wolves and win the debates.

But that is the opposite of what the Bible teaches us to do. I do not like it but it is true. It is my nature to defend myself and defend God. I grew up in a climate that was definitely "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". That is why I lost my front teeth at age 19.
The Bible 's inspired writers had enormous wisdom. In fact, the man supposed to have been the "Smartest of his era" wrote that debating scoffers and mockers we would actually lose the battle of public opinion.

No matter how smart we are or how well we defend the truth we will lose the debate. I do believe the scripture but let's face it, that sounds a bit nuts to me as a rational man. Good debaters win debates; especially when they have true truth on their side. And we do. Except, when we Chritians enter into arguements with people who disrespect us. Then we get destroyed in reputation and our faith loses credibility. It's in the book!

Proverbs 9:7

He who rebukes a scorner heaps upon himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man gets for himself bruises.

You did not believe me, eh. Now you see I am right.

Internet Scams

I am angry. I am the victim of an Internet scam. yes, it is of my own choosing but I am still angry.

In fact, I have been scammed twice. One time by and once by

Both lied and drew money out of my credit card account without my permission.

First, be aware that the group named free credit report is not free. If you as much as log onto their site you will be charged. They have been sued and charged with fraud in several states but I am sure they still scam us. scammed me bu taking money out of my account automatically without warning me. Shame on them. I hope this warning will save you from their lies and fraud scams.

I also hope you will post my experience on your blogs and web pages. We need to shut these people down.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Caring for Trauma Victims

Two weeks after the horrific events of 911 a group of us from the Life Way Counseling Centers were asked by the Salvation Army to spend a week at Ground Zero working with the First Responders that had been working night and day in an attempt to Search for the bodies of the deceased and Rescue anyone left alive.

Carla Faison and I worked with several others on the night shift from 1:00 PM until 1:00 AM. It was an exhausting and draining 12 hours. We spent a lot of time hanging around the three tents erected by the Salvation Army to be haven's of peace in the midst of dirt, dust and death's stench; all of three of which hung on every piece of clothing and every open space in the Triboro area of New York.

The men and women whom we met over coffee and cakes were exhausted and emotionally drained. Some had hardly slept for two weeks. With bloodshot eyes and crumpled bodies they related their stories of horror and pain and the dread they felt about leaving anyone unaccounted.

The New York Police and Fire Fighters were especially drained. They shared both survivor guilt and anger at the terrorists as well as a grim thankfulness that they were alive. What can one say to such wounded people, some of whom lost their best friends and family members? Are there any words that can bring healing?

Nope. Words cannot change anything. However, we discovered the same truth that all the research shows to be true. Being with the First Responders and listening to them at their pace was the best medicine of all. Therapists have come up with several different types of "Critical Incident Interventions" but outcome research shows that these are artificial and may even be harmful.

Scripture says it this way. "The greatest is love." Sitting alongside a big, evidently tough Cope in the middle of the night beside a tent being used as a morgue and silently listening while that cop poured out his pain and anger was real Christian love.

In closing he said, "My buddies said I needed to talk with a Counselor or a man of the cloth so I was lucky to find you and got both at the same time. I was feeling pretty bad so the guys I work with saw you handing out coffee and told me I had to tell you what was going on. I feel a whole lot better now so thanks a lot, Father Gary, for listening to me. Now I see what I need to do."

That was not the first time I had been called "Father" by a man but it sounded awfully good in my ear. He was an Irish Catholic who naturally placed me into the world he knew. What advice did I give him? Not a single thing was offered except my ability to listen very carefully to what was on his heart.

He had read the Bible in Parochial school and heard the Priest's homilies about forgiveness and knew what he needed to do to be healed. All that was missing was a "Father Gary" to let him think it through.

Afterward, the cops who brought him to me smiled and thanked me warmly. We all felt good about the "miracle" that God did with their buddy.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ministry to People Caught in a Tragedy

Tornadoes have an unbelievable power to destroy, kill and maim. Christians must get used to helping people caught by the twisters.

In 1974 my wife two children and I spent an uneasy night curled up against the south-west wall of our walk out basement hoping and praying that one of the many, many tornadoes spotted around Cincinnati would not come swirling over the big hill behind our house near the University of Cincinnati and take it apart like a stack of pick up sticks. We fortunately escaped all of the some 100 storms that ravaged our area and made a splintered mess of so many homes and trees.

The next day, our entire staff skipped our weekly meeting to drive out to Cleves and see if we could be of assistance. We drove over to the Presbyterian Church where the Pastor and people had set up an emergency relief station and gawked at the damage done to so many big buildings.

One of our colleagues commented that he was not scared during the night because he was sure that his brick house was stronger than any wind storm. After a quick tour of the west side of our city he changed his mind and had real fear that he had not been fearful enough.

Last week we saw a spate of huge twisters tear through the heart of our nation and tear the hearts out of our nation's people. One town of some 1600 people was almost completely blasted off the earth by a storm a half mile wide.

In the aftermath hundreds of volunteers showed up from around the state and offered hugs, food, prayers, love and water. Almost no one refuses godly compassion after a storm or in one.

When I entered the pastoral ministry I was scared that I did not know what to say to make people feel better after a tragedy. I need not have worried. There is nothing one can say to make people feel better.

It is not word but works of love and a practical nature and a listening ear that make us valuable. We cannot bring back their possessions or keepsakes or loved one lost. But by weeping with them and laughing at the craziness of a straw pushed through a tree by the force of the wind we show ourselves to be just as human as they. And that makes a victim feel better.

And prayer helps. It always helps. Not as a defense or a rationale for those "Acts of God" as they are called but because they show we too have a need for the Almighty to show Himself compassionate in the hour of need.

An Aside: Do Europeans Hate Americans?

I have travelled to Europe and Scandinavia and England several times over the last twenty years and have often found strong support among the population for America. However, if one is to believe the Left Wing Press, all Europeans hate us "Right Wing Cowboys" who carry guns to work, invade little countries and put innocent dictators out of business.

There are several new leaders in Europe, all of them are pro-American. What is going on across the pond? If Europeans hate us why have the three largest nations booted Leftist Presidents and elected Conservative leaders who actually affirm President Bush and love America?

The new Conservative leader in Germany is Angela Merkel, a very pro-American Chancellor replacing her anti-American predecessor. You have a strong pro-American President taking office in France. He defeated a strong Leftist Socialist female and actually had his photo taken with George Bush and used it as a political advertisement in France. This is also true in Britain where a Conservative is replacing Tony Blair.

I have heard many common citizens make dramatic anti-American statements about our Conservative leaders. In almost every case they are simply mouthing the sentiments they heard at school and in the news. Few have any facts to guide them and almost all would love to live in the USA.

I came to this conclusion: "If Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh lived in Europe and only read the Left Wing News they would think like Liberals." The most prominent news media there are almost Stalinist in their Socialist rigidity. So, in my view, the fact that the voters have kicked Socialists out of office is nearly a miracle.

Crisis Ministry-What to Do?

After 911 the entire world, an especially the population of the USA, was in shock. What was the best thing Christian leaders could have done?

I was in Virginia Beach at a conference when the evil event occurred. I too was stunned and unable to think clearly. Thankfully I was with friends in a congregation who instinctively responded with acts of faith and healing.

Virginia Beach and Kempsville Presbyterian Church are filled with military personnel and veterans so they are experienced in dealing with grief and pain. Pastor Nate and his staff at KPS gathered and put together a wonderful service of prayer, worship and hope that allowed us to heal. Coming together with a thousand believers to read the Bible, sing hymns exalting God's power and glory and listen to words of encouragement and love was a wonderful event in the midst of the gory details coming from New York and Washington, D.C.

Communities of worship are one of the very few places where humans can come together after a tragedy to work out our pain and grief and regain hope to march on in life. In the midst of overwhelming loss where else can we go for hope and healing. As the old hymn says

Where could I go?
Where could I go?
Where could I go but to the Lord?
Needing a friend to keep me to the end,
Where could I go but to the Lord?

In times of trial we come together to worship He who is our Rock and He who never changes. Even atheists are interested in prayer when they are in fox holes but they have no places to guy or hymns to sing.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Responding to a Crisis

There I was at Regent University getting ready to speak to a group of Pastors and Church Workers about the benefits of "Equipping church members to care and counsel people in distress" when one of my colleagues shouted, "Come in here. You have to see this!"

Two or three of us who were waiting to go into the office of the Dean of Students rushed into the reception area and watched in shock as one of the World Trade Center Towers was on fire. I was stunned and almost unable to speak or think but one image came back to me quickly: That of a WWII airplane hitting the Empire State Building many years ago.

This had to be a terrible mistake made by an errant pilot who flew unknowingly into one of the tallest buildings on earth. Just two days ago two small aircraft had a midair collision in Cincinnati and all on board were killed. Such things happen rarely but when they do people always die. We watched mesmerized for a few minutes before we had to leave for the meeting.

The small group of men and women who gathered with us were experts in providing pastoral care and counsel but none of us was able to overcome the shock to our own emotional system on 911. Just after being introduced by the host a woman from the Dean's Office came to our room and announced that a second airplane had hit the other World Trade Center Tower. We all concluded that the USA was under attack by a foreign power.

The day before John and Rose Allman had taken me out to see the fleet assembled in the harbors around Virginia Beach where I was teaching at Kempsville Presbyterian Church. John was a retired Navy Commander and knew well the power of the biggest fleet in the world at the largest naval base in the world. He pointed out the enormous flat tops, the destroyers and battleships as well as the submarines. My confidence and feelings of safety as an American grew every time John gave me his facts about the might of the American Armed Services.

But to the Muslim extremists all that was unimportant. When they decided to attack us it was civilians who were the targets not the military bases The fleet was powerless. For over forty years Israel has fought against terrorist attacks from these same hate-filled men and women but it is the first time Americans have had to experience such an enemy so callous that infants in arms are used to hide home made bombs.

My reaction to the attack on 911 was overwhelming shock and disbelief. Most of us have heard of the Six Stages of Grief and I was definitely stuck in Stage I: DENIAL. What can a Christian leader and a Christian Church do to minister to people in shock and denial? How can we have a positive effect on our own congregation and the people around us as well as ourselves?

Kempsville Presbyterian Church did several wonderful things right after 911 to offer hope and healing. More about that later.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friends from Around the World

It's a miracle! I can write in a foreign language!

I have a new button on my dashboard that allows me to write in Hindi, one of the main languages found in India. In fact, it was already on and I was forced to write in Hindi. Since I never, ever learned Hindi it must be a miracle.

(Just kidding. It is a new service of and not one I need, want or care about.)

I did, however, receive an e-mail from Anne Newbold of New Zealand yesterday and I was actually able to translate her Kiwi Language into American English. The Kiwi's are a funny and interesting lot. Anne was the wife of an Anglican Clergyman in Singapore, David Newbold, who passed away with cancer and she returned to NZ to count sheep. Anne took all our training at the Anglican Training Centre, Lifestreams, and showed herself to be a quick student of relationship skills because she had a caring heart.

What a joy it is to hear from friends and colleagues from around the world. Even when I am 12,000 miles away from them my heart is blessed when I get to read what these fine folks are doing in the service of Christ.

God is doing an interesting and exciting new thing. He is raising up millions of mature Christians to take His word and works to the uttermost parts of the world and share His goodness.

More on this later.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Marriage and Long Life

I just celebrated my 69Th Birthday last Saturday with the woman I met 46 years ago. A good marriage leads to a longer and healthier life. Men who have heart problems, as I do, and who know they are loved by a wife live longer.
No joke. It is true. One of the reasons I became a Marriage and Family Therapist was due to research about the many ways a good marriage enhances health and bad marriages reduce it.

Maybe you remember that I have also started a new blog called Committed Couples. Take a look at It is dedicated to building healthier couples and healthier families.

When couples and parents get help for troubled or conflicted family life things get better. I have seen hundreds of near miracles when people go to counseling for intractable and difficult issues. So, counseling works. That is good news.

Now here is the better news. Classes that include teaching communication and conflict management skills also work and they provide a great way to help many troubled couples. This is why we are teaching a workshop for couples in June for leaders in Clermont and Hamilton Counties in Ohio.

Go to the Committed Couples site and get the scoop. The workshop is co-sponsored by the Federal Government for Clermont County and state of Ohio for Hamilton. Beech Acres Center for Parenting Children is the key agency.

Interested in attending or having some other couple attend? Let me know.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Crisis Reaction or Response?

Imagine for a few seconds how wonderful it would be if the Lord placed you in a small town near a major university. You could enjoy the many benefits of a stimulating academic environment and escape from the stresses and strains of urban ministry while teaching the Bible and God's love to young people eager to serve Jesus with fervor.

Ministry on a college campus has many benefits and many blessings. You can pursue an advanced degree in a field dear to you while enjoying the coffee bars and open discussions of students. Then one day the peace is shattered at Virginia Tech by a young man who goes off the deep end and kills 32 of his fellow students. How do you and your ministry respond?

Life is filled with tragic and painful events. People are injured in accidents, babies die of SIDS or cancer. Young men are struck down in war leaving a wife and baby behind and they all turn to us in their time of need. The recent murders in Virginia are reminders of the fact that we live in a fallen universe with deeply flawed people, some of whom take their raging madness out on enemies that exist only in their troubled minds.

Over the past few years we have seen a spate of "Mindless Killings". Columbine High School is burned into our memories because of the evil deeds of two adolescent boys who played with real guns and destroyed the lives of many fellow students. Nineteen Radical Muslims flew airplanes filled with women, children and men into buildings and left over 3000 families in grief and pain. All of these are "senseless".

What is the role of Christians and of Christian leaders in these situations? What can we do? We can do what we do best and are always on call to do: "Weep with those that weep". But, we can also do more than that.

Over the next few posts I will lay out a few things we can do and the things we cannot do and must not try to do. I hope the posts are of assistance to you and that you will interact with us with your comments.

Part Three on Fertility and the Future

Question: How might dramatic population declines in Europe, and the severe economic and political challenges they pose to countries like Germany, which may soon see its pension system collapse under the weight of its own demographic decline, affect élite thinking about the family? Many scholars, public policy analysts, and journalists I'm familiar with tend to assume that the family is simply destined to grow ever weaker. Might dramatic demographic developments change élite thinking about the family? Might such developments also change the kinds of family-related public policies Western élites support?

During the 19th and especially the 20th century, the state gradually took over many of the functions once performed by the family—notably education and support in old age. Élites have generally cheered this process on. But more and more in the future, individuals will find that they cannot rely on the élites who govern them. They will see health and pension benefits cut, even as taxes rise. They will see funding for education squeezed by the ever growing burden of providing even minimal benefits to the dependent elderly. This implies that more and more people will be forced to rely again on the traditional, extended family. People will need to have children and raise them well if they hope to find security in old age. For the same reason, they will also have to sacrifice on behalf of their aging parents so that their own children grow up to see this as a moral duty.

Today, élites who are uncomfortable with this future are calling for the state to take over still more responsibilities from the family—for example, by offering subsidies for child care, greater family allowances, or even bonuses to parents, all of which are being tried in Europe and much of Asia. I'm not opposed to such measures on ideological grounds, but I'm doubtful about their potential to boost the birthrate for more than a short time unless very serious amounts of money are involved, and that creates huge political problems.

If you are going to pay people to have children, you're going to spend a lot on people who would have had them anyway. And meanwhile, people who currently see no reason to become parents are not going to be persuaded by the offer of even tens of thousands of dollars in benefits. In the United States, the direct cost of raising a middle-class child born this year through age 18, according to government estimates, exceeds $200,000—not including college. Meanwhile, in an age in which most women have the opportunity to join the paid workforce, the cost of motherhood—in lost wages and compromised careers—is often measured in the millions.

The huge bundle of benefits World War II veterans received under the G.I. Bill does seem to have contributed to that era's baby boom. But in those days, we didn't have to pay for Medicare, and Social Security was only a tiny percentage of federal spending. The median age of voters was also much lower then than now, and the feminist and environmental movements were still in the future. For all these reasons, I think élites are going to have a hard time selling pronatalism on a scale that's sufficient to the problem.

In the end, I see élites simply losing their legitimacy because they cannot maintain, much less expand the welfare state in an aging society.

Question: If the demographic predictions you make in The Empty Cradle come to pass, how might they affect the relative position of orthodox religions in the West? In other words, what role might Islam, evangelical Protestantism, or traditional Catholicism play in Western countries that have experienced subreplacement fertility for 40 to 50 years? How might their distinctive approaches to family life look to ordinary people? To élites?

On current trends, Europe's population just withers away. But I don't expect current trends to continue indefinitely in Europe or the West in general, for a special reason.

In Asian countries such as Japan, nearly everyone eventually marries and eventually has, almost without exception, one child. In Europe, and the West in general, by contrast, there is far more diversity in reproductive behavior. Among American baby boomers, for example, nearly a fifth of us never had children, and another 17 percent had only one.

The high incidence of childless and single-child families in the West has one big implication many overlook. It means a very large proportion of the children that are being born are being produced by a small subset of the current population. And who are the people who are still having large families today?

The stereotypical answer is poor people, or dumb people, or members of minority groups. But birth rates among American racial and ethnic minority groups are plummeting. The more accurate answer is deeply religious people.

To be sure, religious fundamentalists of all varieties are themselves having fewer children than in the past. But whether they be Mormons, Orthodox Jews, or Islamic or Christian fundamentalists, devout member of these Abraham religions have on average far larger families than do the secular elements within their society.

In Europe, for example, the fertility differential between believers and nonbelievers has recently been estimated at 15-20 percent. Though children born into religious families often do not become religious themselves, many do, especially if they themselves go on to have children. Meanwhile, of course, the childless stand no chance of passing along their values to their progeny.

The faithful thus begin to inherit society by default. The West's total population may fall or stagnate, perhaps for quite awhile; but those who remain will be disproportionately committed to God and family, whether they be Christians, Muslims, Jews, or members of new pro-natal faiths. Let us just hope that this new age of faith will also be an age of peace.

W. Bradford Wilcox, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia and a fellow at the Witherspoon Institute, is the author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands (Univ. of Chicago Press).Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Books & Culture magazine.Click here for reprint information on Books & Culture.May/June 2007, Vol. 13, No. 3, Page 28

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lower Fertility Rates = Disaster

This is the second part of an interview in Christianity Today's Books and Culture on the crisis of low fertility rates in the Wester or Christian world.

Question: You are a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a progressive think tank. Why should progressives be concerned about fertility declines in the West? How do fertility declines specifically threaten progressive values and public policies?

Answer: It's fair to say that most self-described "progressives" don't agree with me that low fertility is a problem. Many environmentalists, for example, believe that fewer people means a cleaner environment. Other progressives suppose that a decline in population would increase the amount of food and other resources available to the poor.

Many feminists, gays, and "childless by choice" people in general feel threatened by suggestions that society needs more children. And when it's pointed out that the lowest birthrates are generally found among the most "progressive" people, then the conversation gets really heated.

On all these counts, I believe progressives are in denial.

Today in the United States, for example, we have far cleaner air and water than we did in the 1940s, when the population was just half its current size. That's no paradox. Population growth is a spur to more efficient and cleaner use of resources, so our cities are no longer choked with smoke from steam engines and our cars get far better mileage and are far less polluting.

Similarly, population growth is what drove us as a society to find far more productive ways to grow food. Thanks to increased crop yields, per capita food production is higher than ever, even as world population surpasses 6 billion.

At the same time, there is more forested land in the United States than in the 19th century because so much less acreage is needed for farmland.

Progressives also tend to forget that many of their positions on human reproduction, such as a "woman's right to choose," only won widespread support when fears of overpopulation began to pervade the culture in the 1960s and '70s. Until then, bans on abortion, birth control, and homosexuality, for example, were justified in many people's minds by fears of underpopulation, which left questions of human reproduction too important to be settled by individual "choice."

They also forget that if progressives themselves "forget to have children" then the future belongs to people who have opposing values.

Finally, progressives forget that without a growing population, such "crown jewels" of the welfare state as Social Security lose their financial sustainability.

What think you? Is this guy right or is Al Gore and the Left Wing he calls "progressives"?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Having Babies?

Fertility, Faith, & the Future of the West A conversation with Phillip Longman.
Interview by W. Bradford Wilcox

Phillip Longman is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, where he studies health care policy and demography. A former editor at U. S. News & World Report, Longman is the winner of UCLA's Gerald Loeb Award, the top prize for investigative journalism from Investigative Reporters and Editors. His 2004 book The Empty Cradle (Basic Books) explores the impact of declining fertility rates on the social, economic, and political health of societies across the globe.

Since the 1960s, many in the West have been deeply concerned about the social and environmental consequences of population growth—witness, for instance, the popularity of Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb. In the United States, our population recently passed the 300-million mark. Should we in the West still be concerned about population growth at home and abroad?

World population is still increasing by some 77 million annually. That's equivalent to adding a whole new country the size of Egypt every year. Yet here is a curious fact few people know: the number of children under 5 in the world is actually smaller than in 1990.

How can this be? Mostly it is because of the massive global decline in birthrates. Now, in literally every region outside of sub-Saharan Africa, the average woman no longer bears enough children to replace the population. For now, world population continues to grow, though at a slower and slower rate, primarily because of the enormous increase in the numbers of elderly people. But many countries, such as Russia and Japan, are already shrinking in absolute size, and on current trends, global depopulation will occur within the lifetime of today's young adults.

Why should we be worried about falling birthrates in Europe and the United States? What are the social, economic, and political implications of this demographic phenomenon for the West?

For nations, as for people, there are many benefits to not having children, at least until you grow old. Many economists believe, for example, that falling birth rates helped make possible the economic boom that occurred first in Japan and then in many other Asian nations, beginning in the 1960s. As the relative number of children declined, so did the burden of their dependency, leaving more resources available for adults to invest and enjoy.

But over time, a falling birthrate means not just fewer children but also fewer workers, even as the population of dependent elders increases. That's the bind that grips more and more of the world today. There are fewer and fewer working-aged people to support each elder. This is true within the formal systems we use to provide support in old age, such as Social Security, Medicare, and private pension plans. And it is also true within the family. When you grow up with few or no siblings, as is now becoming the norm throughout much of the world, there is often no one else available to share in the burden of looking after one's ailing parents.

Ultimately, low fertility means population aging and population decline. This is not all bad. A population dominated by middle-aged and elderly people, for example, is probably less inclined to send its few children off to war. But our economy, particularly large sectors like housing and transportation, has always depended on population growth to sustain economic growth.

Similarly, the government programs we use to create security in old age, like Social Security as currently structured, depend on an ever increasing supply of youth.

At best, all the major institutions of our society will have to be fundamentally reformed to deal with a world in which each new generation is smaller than the last. Refusing to face up to this means rising poverty, increased taxes, depleted savings, lower investment, and a very real risk that excessive government borrowing and pension debt will tank the world economy.

All this could happen much sooner than most people realize. Today, for example, the United States has a fairly healthy birthrate compared to the rest of the industrialized world, but it has grown dependent on massive borrowing from rapidly aging nations.

Germany, Japan, and China are growing so old that they will soon be drawing down their savings and repatriating their investments in U.S. debt. This implies a complete restructuring of the world economy—one that could well entail a prolonged global recession or depression.

The key? Have babies!

See my new blog: