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Believe in the future

A society that disdains offspring rejects life itself

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I’ve got to say, in spite of the hottest, driest summer in 12 years, my garden could win a beauty contest.

Or at least, it’s the best-looking garden I’ve ever had. Just one thing was worrying me, though: While voluptuously rolling out vines and leaves, my pole bean plants weren’t producing any blossoms. It was past time, I thought. What gives?

Google could anticipate my question even before I finished typing it. The only applicable reason I could find for beans not blossoming was soil too rich. Yes, it’s possible to overfeed legumes, which take nitrogen from the air and don’t need it in the soil. That’s why they’ll produce almost anywhere—but not, it seemed, in my nice compost-enriched soil.

Furthering educations and advancing careers may be worthy goals, but goals are not the future, life is.

Picture well-fed, abundant, aspiring plants so intent on expanding themselves that they’d lost sight of future produce, and perhaps even of the future itself. There’s a parable here.

Part of the fallout after the reversal of Roe v. Wade were the furious memes and quotes vomited up by social media. All were distressing, but this one was a particular downer:

“If every time men had sex, they risked death, physical disability, social shunning, a life altering interruption of their education or career, and the sudden life-long responsibility for another being, I think they’d expect a choice in the matter.”

The quote is from Jean Yoon, a Canadian writer and actress. It echoes a prominent theme in the pro-abortion literature, expressed elsewhere as, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” It’s a surface argument with some obvious drawbacks: that as many women as men are opposed to abortion, for instance; that men generally find unpregnant women more attractive; and that men can beat the rap for child support if there is no child.

Below that sexist jab is a more substantial argument, an indispensable support of the pro-abortion argument. Seen from one perspective, it’s not false: Any pregnancy carries a certain amount of risk, and any child interrupts a life trajectory. Presenting a natural process in such threatening terms resonates with women who feel immediately threatened by it.

Happily for everyone alive, there’s another perspective. It’s something like this:

Every intimate encounter between a man and a woman presents the possibility of a future life to take hold and flourish. Before you are even aware of it, tiny fingers could be forming, which might soon mutely grasp your own finger. Before long, small hands could be reaching out for a hug, helping you roll cookie dough or hang ornaments on a Christmas tree, gripping a steering wheel for the first time, firmly shaking the hands of well-wishers at college graduation. Someday, a strong hand could be holding your frail one as your eyes close on this life.

To most humans throughout history, those embryonic possibilities represented the future. But I wonder if, as a society, we even believe in the future anymore. I mean the future for its own sake, not merely as an empty canvas on which to paint our plans. Furthering educations and advancing careers may be worthy goals, but goals are not the future, life is. You’ve heard the saying, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans”?

That’s it. Life happens—except when it doesn’t. Together we make the future—unless we refuse to. For an overly distracted society, rooted in soil too rich, disdaining the womb may be the ultimate refusal.

About those beans, though, I needn’t have worried. Coy white blossoms that took their sweet time showing up now accent the thick vines. Lord willing, little Kentucky wonders and blue lakes will push the petals aside. Within days they’ll show up, hot and tender-crisp, on our table. So much for the parable.

But maybe not. Maybe we’ll come to our senses and believe in the future again, especially if the present becomes unbearable. Or if not, the Lord who has been our dwelling place through all generations has not changed residence, and He believes.

Janie B. Cheaney Janie is a senior writer who contributes commentary to WORLD and oversees WORLD's annual Children's Book of the Year awards. She also writes novels for young adults and authored the Wordsmith creative writing curriculum. Janie resides in rural Missouri.


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