For the Kids Nobody Wants: Why Be Fruitful and Multiply Needs a New Social Imaginary

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What follows is part one of a longform essay published at Christ Over All. You can read both parts here and here.

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Past the grove of cypress trees Walter—he had been playing king of the mountain—saw the white truck, and he knew it for what it was. He thought, That’s the abortion truck. Come to take some kid in for a postpartum down at the abortion place.

And he thought, Maybe my folks called it. For me.

He ran and hid among the blackberries, feeling the scratching of the thorns but thinking, It’s better than having the air sucked out of your lungs. That’s how they do it; they perform all the P. P.s [post-partum abortions] on all the kids there at the same time. They have a big room for it. For the kids that nobody wants.[1]

1. Philip K. Dick, “The Pre-Persons” (1974). Available in The Eye of the Sibyl and Other Classic Stories. (New York: Citadel Press, 1987), 275-296.

In 1973, the Roe v Wade decision inspired Philip K. Dick to envision a world where children were unwanted and adults were free to alleviate their unwanted burdens with the help of the “County Facility.” In his short story, “The Pre-Persons,” Dick tells the story of Walter, the twelve-year-old boy who is traumatized by the thought that his parents did not want him. All around him, he knows children by name who have been taken, kicking and screaming, by the van. Fully legal, these children have the life sucked out of them, all because the parents did not want them.

Through the use of dystopian satire, Dick shows what happens when children are unwanted.

To date, white vans are not circling cul-de-sacs looking to pick up “the kids nobody wants,” but that doesn’t mean children are any more safe. Planned Parenthood “targets minority neighborhoods” to offer up their unwanted children. Walgreens and CVS just decided to stock its pharmacies with the abortion-inducing pill, mifepristone, so that unwanted pregnancies can end by a pill in the privacy of one’s own home. The Supreme Court of South Carolina just defended abortion by ruling that abortion is protected by the right to privacy. And in 2021, Senate Democrats blocked the passage of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, while this year 210 voted against a similar bill, which would protect children who have already been born.

Is our world much different than Walter’s for unwanted children? It doesn’t appear to be. And yet, it’s not just these direct assaults that endanger children, it is the social imaginary behind them.[2] A social imaginary is like a worldview, only with less thought and more feeling. And today, a predominant social imaginary is one that envisions a world unencumbered by children. That is to say, our culture’s images of human flourishing are those without kids. To give one example where childlessness is presented as a blessing, consider the ad campaign by Hilton’s Home 2 Suites.

2. A “social imaginary” is a term coined by Charles Taylor in his heavily-cited A Secular Age. Following Taylor, Kevin Vanhoozer, Hearers and Doers8, defines it this way: “The social imaginary is that nest of background assumptions, often implicit, that lead people to feel things as right or wrong, correct or incorrect.”
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Be Fruitful and Multiply: A Canonical Reading

bill-williams-3302And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
— Genesis 1:28 —

Few commands in Scripture are more important than the first one: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”

In Genesis 1 we learn God made mankind in his image and after his likeness. The purpose of this “imaging” is disputed and multi-faceted (as I’ve described here). However, it is clear that the first command is to be fruitful and multiply, a pregnant command if there ever was one.

In fact, from the placement of this command—the first chapter of the first book in the Bible—we see how programmatic this command is. It is fundamental to being human, and therefore it applies to every one of us. At the same time, from a canonical reading of Scripture we learn how this phrase repeats and develops, so that it bears significance for more than just having babies. In other words, though it never loses this meaning (child-bearing is an implicit part of humanity), the progress of revelation also shows how fruitfulness relates to the Word of God, regeneration, and the Great Commission.

So, in what follows, I will list out many places where this language (“be fruitful and multiply”) occurs, with a few comments along the way.  Then, I will list four ways that reading Genesis 1:28 canonically helps us understand this verse and the whole structure of the Bible. Continue reading