The American family is “under attack,” or so the leaders of the Christian Right have often declared. I’ve come to think that they have a point (even if it often seems they are the ones doing the attacking). These reflections came to mind when I picked up Lauren Sandler’s latest, One and Only: the Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One, released this month by Simon & Schuster.
Why, Sandler asks, are prejudices about “selfish” and “maladjusted” single kids (and their parents) so widespread in our culture, despite much evidence to the contrary? Part of the answer has to do with myths about the happiness of singletons and their families, which Sandler debunks, but the book has a broader scope that makes it worthwhile for anyone interested in government policy and contemporary American culture.
Single-child families are on the rise, particularly in blue states, driven partly by personal choice and partly by economic pressure. Other developed countries such as Sweden, the U.K.and France, witnessing the same falling birthrates, have taken steps to alter the economic equation with paid parental leave, free or subsidized daycare, and other benefits. Here in the U.S., such benefits are in short supply.
Now here’s where religion factors into the equation. Fundamentalist groups and organizations are especially interested in having their own sect members reproduce, and they supply resources to make that possible. Sandler tells the story of Karma, Steve, and their five children, who receive prodigious assistance from their church in the form of childcare, clothing, meals and other services. “Imagine what Steve and Karma’s family would look like without the help their church has given each of the five times they’ve brought a new child into their increasingly crowded home,” she writes. “They can’t. ‘Yeah, right! It would be impossible!’ says Karma.”
Where do those helpful resources come from? Some are donated by members of the congregations themselves. But a substantial amount come from the government in the form of tax subsidies. One University of Tampa professor estimates that religious entities receive approximately $71 billion dollars per year in tax benefits and exemptions from the government, thus tilting the economic equation in favor of churchgoing families with the effect that they will eventually produce more voters.
Written By: Katherine Stewartcontinue to source article at religiondispatches.org