China has passed a law that allows parents to sue their adult children if the children don’t visit them often enough. The law is an interesting one, but what grabbed me was the way the Western media reported on it. Here is part of the AP story:
“A rapidly developing China is facing increasing difficulty in caring for its aging population. Three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of the traditional extended family in China, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement or care homes, for the elderly or others unable to live on their own.”
Seriously? When you’re thinking of reasons for “the breakup of the traditional extended family,” the best you can guess at is thirty years of “market reforms” in China?
How about forcing married couples to kill all future aunts and uncles? Wouldn’t that do some damage to the extended family?
Here is Slate’s take:
“The plight of elderly is one of the big challenges facing the fast-developing China as rapid industrialization has led to the breakup of the traditional family structure without an adequate state safety net to take its place.”
But why didn’t that happen in the United States? Yes, industrialization did affect the family, but it didn’t leave generations in jeopardy. It wasn’t industrialization that has left parents without support, it was the forced abortion of their children—something that Western Media personalities will commonly praise even as the pretend to condemn the coercion involved.
No one wants to admit the most obvious truths: China’s state government exterminated Chinese society’s safety net. It wasn’t industrialization. It wasn’t market reforms. It was abortion. Killing babies has consequences. The word, “duh,” was invented for situations like this.
And, in fact, the so-called “safety net” in the modern, industrialized, Western world, is no more reliable. In virtually every Western country the “safety net” is some form of pension. It depends on a pool of people putting into it as well as taking out of it. When more people are pulling out of it than putting in, the country is at the brink of destruction. China’s one-child policy would have been just as damaging to a modern Social Security system. Japan is modern but adult diapers are outselling baby diapers. Their social safety net is about to go up in smoke.
While I don’t know much about it, I have to say that the idea behind the Chinese law requiring children to visit has some Biblical wisdom behind it. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:4 ESV). And Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they taught that people could use gifts to the Temple as an excuse not to help out their parents (Mark 7.9-13).
As a Christian, I realize society has changed somewhat and it requires wisdom to apply the Bible’s commands. But it seems clear to me, in this case, that the ideal of children looking after their impoverished parents makes as much or more sense as a “safety net” than any government system.
Of course, the key is to value children and to not obstruct prosperity. In this way, there are enough children to share the load and enough prosperity available to these children so that a few years of helping parents are not too burdensome. China has failed on both counts and the West has not done that much better.