Washington Post religion columnist Lisa Miller has one child, and she seems quite smug about it. She thanks God “I live in a time and place where I can get up every morning and go to work, and with the money I earn help feed and educate my child.” But in her Saturday column, the slams the Republican candidates for their “smug fecundity,” that they turned their women into retrograde doormats who make babies.
“There’s nothing wrong with big families, of course,” she says fruitlessly before saying there actually is. “But the smug fecundity of the Republican field this primary season has me worried. Their family photos, with members of their respective broods spilling out to the margins, seem to convey a subliminal message that goes far beyond a father’s pride in being able to field his own basketball team. What the Republican front-runners seem to be saying is this: We are like the biblical patriarchs. As conservative religious believers, we take seriously the biblical injunction to be fruitful and multiply.”
This is why there’s “something wrong with big families.” It devalues women. “Especially worrisome is the inevitable corollary to that belief: Women should put their natural fertility first — before their brains, before their ability to earn a living, before their independence — because that’s what God wants.”
Miller is absolutely certain that the Republicans don’t want women to have brains or be independent. Mothers of large families (like my mother) are sellouts to the liberated woman. To Miller, each woman’s natural, rightful place is to have one baby, and then quickly go back to shredding the Bible. As in this proto-typical Miller quote:
We’ve come a long way from the days of the Bible, baby, and I don’t want to go back there.
The Bible contains profound truths about faith and love and justice and fidelity, but as a point-by-point guidebook to modern domestic life it’s nearly worthless. It was written at a time when women were men’s property, only slightly more valuable than sheep. Their worth was connected to their fertility. Infertility was a shame, a scandal, a condition the women of the Bible prayed to God to be released from.
This is the real Miller. She doesn’t really “thank God” for anything. The God of the Bible is a patriarchal know-nothing. She's a "literal-minded skeptic" that doesn't really believe in Heaven and Hell, so why not run down everything God might suggest that gets in the way of her liberated womanhood?
Miller continues to miss the point that some Americans choose to have large families, and some religious faiths teach their flock that they should be open to as many childen as God grants them. She, the pro-choice woman, seems to spit on the idea that women should make a choice different from hers. Miller wants to be the provider, which is somehow nobler than the retrograde doormat mom like Ann Romney and Karen Santorum:
Family planning is good for families. In an economy where nearly all mothers work, where their ability to earn money doesn’t merely allow them the occasional splurge at the department store but actually pays the mortgage and the college bills, the romantic idealization of biblically abundant families is a retrograde dream.
Smaller families allow everyone in the family to be healthier and better educated. Healthy, well-educated people live longer and are more prosperous than those who are not.
Larger American families (like the one my mom and dad chose) apparently put out unhealthy and stupid children. And these people find it shocking for them and their favorite president to be accused of snobbery.
Managing Editor's Note: Also of interest is how the Washington Post's digital On Faith section at washingtonpost.com teased the story. Miller's item was headlined "The Republican fertility cult?" [see screencap above]