Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cherchez un homme

I haven't thought about Walt Kelly for years, but I just came across a piece in Foreign Affairs, can you believe, that made my mercurial imagination remember that great old comic strip from childhood. Howcome? Well here is the sequence...

Article about a shortage of women in Asia >>> look for post title >>> look or "search"= cherchez>> cherchez la femme >>> "look for the woman" >>> Churchy LaFemme...

Anyway, you get the idea.
Walt Kelly, father of Pogo, was one of the most gifted cartoonists who ever worked. Along with Pogo, the star of the strip, he also created Churchy LeFemme, a turtle wise beyond even a turtle's years. Unlike other famous strips that took on a life of their own after he died or retired, the Pogo strip came to an end when he did. And with it came to an end one of the richest repositories of cartoon wisdom ever penned. Most of us who can remember Pogo probably didn't have any idea at the time he was working how multi-layered Kelly's humor really was. Wikipedia, I see, has an interesting tribute for the trivia-minded. But as usual, I digress.

The purpose of this post is to point to a more serious subject, a demographic trend that has been going on (this time) for a generation or two, especially in Asia. That trend is called by several names, but it comes down to a gender imbalance in the population in which a lot more males than females reach adulthood. The ratio mentioned in the article is 120:100, with the greater number representing boys and the other number girls. This, against "Nature's" preferred number of 105:100.

I direct the reader's attention to this article (H/T Pejman's group blog) with a couple of caveats. It is tempting to imagine that modern medical technology making the abortion of unwanted fetuses (I hate that word. Fetus. Or for the more pretentious, foetus. Somehow the plural makes it even more despicable.) more readily available is the root of the trend. Wrong. It is not. The root of the trend lies buried in the savagery of the human condition, running all the way back to prehistory. How do you spell atavistic?

My friend Bill DeArteaga, who is a bible scholar and church historian, once pointed out that even in early times the Romans valued boys over girls, so much so that infanticide of female babies was a practice that led to a shortage of available wives. He says that one of the less-well-known reasons for the spread of the faith was that Christians did not do that. As a result early Christian communities usually had a balance of available wives, enough that even young courting pagans would be attracted to them. Little did they suspect that the law of unintended consequencs (That's what we call it when man sometimes fails to understand divine principles. Gravity comes to mind from the early days of aviation. Or the ill effects of radiation from the early days of ex-rays.) would lead to a propogation of the faith.

The article mentions a couple of other historical precursors.

In 19th-century northern China, drought, famine, and locust invasions apparently provoked a rash of female infanticide. According to Hudson, the region reached a ratio of 129 men to every 100 women.

Go ahead now and read. [ed: subscription/fee link -- here is another link translated from Chinese] But as you do, try to look through a Christian lens. Even if you are a non-believer, try to imagine what you might be thinking pretending to be a Christian. Don't feel bad about doing that. Most Christians I know don't do it either. It is just an exercise I go through from time to time when I dont feel like doing something. It's a good way to overcome the hedonism of our time. If it doesn't feel right -- like being opposed to capital punishment when we know the animal has it coming, or reaching out to certified enemies in love instead of retaliation -- then we shouldn't do it. Just something to think about.

Now here is the part that will make most readers shake their heads and roll their eyes. This article and the reaction that most people will have illustrate to me the reason that I am opposed to legal remedies for the practice of abortion. This is why I am pro-choice. There are not enough laws in the world to turn the tide of abortions that is going on in the world, not in this country or any other. Not in all of history. If the false thinking of the Taliban, Sharia law and the rest of fundamentalist thinking is not evidence enough, I have no other place to point.

The only way to turn sinners into saints is to lead them, not force them, into a transformation of the heart. And that is the real mission and challenge of the Great Commission.

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