If you haven’t seen a series of new commercials from the wireless company, Sprint, consider yourself fortunate. The ads feature Instagram star Topher Brophy, who—besides bearing an uncanny likeness to Warner Sallman’s painting of Jesus—has established an odd relationship with his wire-haired pooch.
“Who’s that?” asks the cameraman. “He’s my son,” replies Brophy. He and his dog, Rosenberg, get easily confused, Brophy informs us, “because there’s a resemblance.”
Welcome to 2017, when nary an ear perks up at the suggestion that animals are equivalent to children. “Fur-baby” and “pet parent” are replacing terms like “owner.” Viral social media posts like the Dog Mom Rap grace our newsfeeds, and the $11 billion pet care industry has given us such essential products as pooch strollers and canine costumes. Americans—particularly young Americans—seem doggedly determined to turn their pets into progeny.
BreakPoint senior writer Shane Morris suggests in The Federalist that this “replacement baby” phenomenon has become a kind of society-wide delusion of misdirected instincts. He draws attention to historically low birth rates in his own millennial generation, combined with statistics showing an unprecedented boom in the number of pets.
The Washington Post reported in September that three-quarters of Americans in their thirties—prime childbearing years—own dogs, and half own cats. Compare that with the population in general, only half of whom own dogs and a third of whom own cats, and the recent cascade of critters becomes obvious. To put it simply, children are in the doghouse and young Americans are replacing them with animals.
When Shane wrote his article, he knew the reaction wouldn’t be a walk in the park. But I don’t think he knew just how badly he was stepping in it. Many commenters on Facebook and Twitter called the article the most ridiculous and insulting thing they’d ever read. “Typical judgmental Christian!” they wrote. “You need psychiatric help.” “Stop trying to force your views on me,” protested others.
Many brought up the debunked idea that our planet is overpopulated and that not having children is therefore a noble cause. Some fellow millennials insisted that Shane must be jealous that he can’t live the party life with his three kids.
But amidst the howls of protest unleashed by his article, one message appeared over and over: “I don’t like kids. I like dogs better.” A few even admitted to hating children, and used obscene and degrading terms to describe babies.
No wonder Chuck Colson had a bone to pick with “pet-parents.” Back in 2009, he observed that blurring the distinction between humans and animals is more than ridiculous. It goes hand-in-paw with a culture that views babies as burdens, not blessings—burdens, I might add, which society sees fit to dispose of at will.
In other words, Shane is barking up the right tree, here.
Now let me repeat what Chuck often said: I like animals, and pets can be incredibly special. I myself have a dog. But as Christians, we believe humans are uniquely called to steward the natural world and show kindness to all of God’s creatures. But the ways we talk about our pets—not to mention the emotional roles we let them fill—matter.
If a generation of young people replaces families with fur-babies, we could be facing the same demographic crunch currently hitting Japan and parts of Europe, not to mention a culture and economy that punish parenthood, instead of rewarding it.
Pets, in other words, are great. They are! But in the midst of a culture actively turning them into little people, we’ve got to remind ourselves that the image of God has two legs, not four.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
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Publication date: May 25, 2017