The other day Ross Douthat of the New York Times wrote a column entitled “More Babies, Please,” remarking on the news that America’s birthrate has gone into decline since the beginning of the “Great Recession.” It was full of his characteristic thoughtfulness about social trends and their consequences for public policy. Of course, therefore, it was greeted on the far left as a declaration of war on every achievement of human progress in the last millennium.
Have a gander at this piece, “Do Not Have Sex with this Man,” by Sarah Sentilles at Religion Dispatches. It did not seem to me that Douthat, a married man, was auditioning for sexual relations with anyone in particular. And other than a passing reference to “our famous religiosity” as one contributing factor in America’s healthier-than-the-rest-of-the-West birthrate, Douthat did not say a word about religion in his column. So why is it taken up at Religion Dispatches, or for that matter aggregated at RealClearReligion, where I found it? You’ll have to read to the end of Sentilles’ cri de coeur to find out. It’s because elephants are endangered by what God said to Noah in Genesis 9, or something like that. (This piece, by the way, is par for the course at Religion Dispatches, which often seems to need “Anti-” at the beginning of its name.)
For Sentilles, Douthat’s “racism and misogyny are in high relief” when he argues that it is not altogether a good thing that our birthrate should fall below replacement level. Really? But that’s the spirit of the piece. There is not one sentence in Sentilles’ essay that is written in good faith, as an attempt to understand Douthat’s argument and reply to it in kind. And the saddest part is that she simply must personalize the issue, as though Ross Douthat were making some kind of attack on her, when exactly the reverse is true. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Or pray.