In a recent cover story titled, “How Millennial Parents Think Differently About Raising Kids,” TIME magazine reporter Katy Steinmetz describes how younger moms and dads are bringing up their kids with a host of values – some more traditional, others much more unconventional.
There is much to trouble conservatives in the parenting trends described. From cohabiting couples and, according to the article, “some 700,000 millennial parents” who “identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual,” to home-schooling vegan parents and widely divergent views on everything from permissiveness to cloth diapering, today’s little ones are being brought up in home environments so at-odds that one wonders how, as older children and young adults, these now small children will relate to one another.
A common moral language will be lacking. So will any common recognition of what composes a healthy family. Having experienced so much conflict in the home, many will seek to avoid cultural conflict by hiding from social engagement and political activism, leaving the public square perhaps less civil and certainly less representative. These invariable outcomes can only mean continued and even greater social contention of the kind now plaguing our society.
Yet one sentence, tucked deep in the TIME article, is arresting: “In a TIME poll conducted in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 46 percent of millennial parents said they posted a picture of their youngest child either in the womb or before the baby was one day old.”
Why is this significant? Because younger Americans intuitively understand, as parents always have, that the life growing inside the mother’s body is more than an accumulation of gelatinous tissue. Instead, in watching the ultrasound images projected onto a screen, they recognize a living person, developing and small and, in appearance, unlike a full-term baby, but undeniably a human being.
According to the federal Food and Drug Administration, “Ultrasound examinations provide parents with a valuable opportunity to view and hear the heartbeat of the fetus, bond with the unborn baby, and capture images to share with family and friends. In fetal ultrasound, three-dimensional (3D) ultrasound allows the visualization of some facial features and possibly other parts such as fingers and toes of the fetus. Four-dimensional (4D) ultrasound is 3D ultrasound in motion.” (Note to the FDA: “Parents” don’t have “fetuses.” They have babies).
This is a technology now so common that ultrasound photos of a baby in utero are a routine part of the prenatal care. To look at an ultrasound of a child within the womb is to wonder at the magnificence of life and to be humbled by the reality that bearing a child is not a burden but a gift, a blessing beyond words.
As FRC’s booklet on the ICU Mobile Ultrasound Ministry describes it, in ultrasound technology, “expectant mothers often form that indissoluble bond with their child even before he or she is born. In millions of homes, the first family picture on the fridge is often that ultrasound picture. Ultrasound technology has advanced to the point where mothers and, hopefully, fathers, can see their unborn child in real time. Something within us is touched, and touched deeply, when we see an unborn child, our own flesh and blood sucking a thumb, yawning, scratching an itch, even holding hands up as if in prayer.”
“I saw my baby, its heart moving all fast,” wrote one woman recently after seeing, for the first time, the little one within her. "The lady that was doing the ultrasound for me said ‘hi’ and the baby moved its arms … it was such a happy moment, even though the baby was probably just moving its arm. It was a great sight, I can't stop replaying it over and over in my head and staring at the pictures of my baby.”
This mother knew what to call her little one: Baby. Not fetus. Baby.
As Paul wrote to the churches in Rome, we can “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (1:18). The term translated “suppress” is the idea either of holding-down or detaining. In other words, something that is apparent (the truth) is recognized but in our fallenness, we attempt to stuff it away, like a Jack-in-the-box forced back into its confined rectangle of tin.
But sometimes even a slight jarring of the box can provoke Jack to pop out again. So it is with the truth: We can sear our consciences, surely, but to get to such a point we first have to suppress them for a long time. And until that kind of moral scar develops, the truth keeps popping-up, uncomfortably and persistently.
The millennial generation is riven by the slashes of a broken culture. Less than half of Millennials are reaching the age of 17 in a home with a married mother and father. Their conflicting perceptions of God, truth, and morality - even of what kinds of food to eat and clothes to wear – diverge in varying levels of intensity. As Patrick Henry College student Jonathan Monroe has written perceptively, “As millennials become more prominent in the workforce, companies are spending small fortunes researching their interests, from specific jobs to new products. The results of this research provide conflicting answers that typically are reducible to one conclusion: We don’t know.”
Yet the consciences of many of them are tender. They have known great pain in the broken homes in which they have grown-up. From bullying to promiscuous sex and from alcohol and drugs, they know the deep dissatisfactions of attempts to fill the vacuum in their hearts with pleasure and peer approval, material things and unfulfilling careers, glamorous or not.
And they know what they see and what they see, via ultrasound, is a baby. “There has … been an empathy-driven reaction against abortion among the generation of Americans that grew up in a world of vivid ultrasound images and among the miracles of neonatal medicine that now make it possible even for babies born extremely prematurely to survive and flourish,” writes the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby.
Ultrasound technology combined with an innate sense of the preciousness and vulnerability of unborn life are working changes in many lives. “The works of the law written on their hearts” (Romans 2:15), the conscience itself, can be triggered simply by seeing the life growing within.
As someone once wrote, “to despair is to turn your back on God.” Let’s be careful not only not to turn our backs on Him, but also not to turn them on the millennials who so desperately need the help and hope that Christ alone can give.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Publication date: November 24, 2015