Academia and parenthood both demand
significant time if one is to do either well, which explains, I
think, why so many academics are single, or, if married, have few, if
any, children. Indeed, over and over again among friends in academia
I’ve heard the refrain, “My books are my children.”
It’s a painful refrain. Frankly, the
humanities’ adoption of the model of the German research university
has meant that there are ever more books being written of ever less
value and truth, books with a short half-life which the author lists
on a curriculum vitae (CV) and which libraries dutifully purchase. It’s easier to
evaluate someone based on quantity than quality, and so in the
capitalist economy that contemporary academia has become,
publications function as currency for jobs and tenure. Hence the
pressure to “publish or perish,” perishing meaning getting a real
job (as certain of my relatives would have it).
Nothing novel there, as it’s been pointed
out again and again. But it’s disturbing, I think, to hear
Christian academics talking about sacrificing children for the sake
of publications. “Be fruitful and multiply publications on your CV”
is the one instance of allegoresis I’ve seen tolerated and
encouraged among those who otherwise insist on an exclusive reading
of the plain, literal sense of Scripture. To me, it’s another
instance of modernity capturing supposedly conservative Christianity.
Many of us have surrendered our view and practice of family life to
the demands of the marketplace, often preventing the miracle of
procreation by means of the miracles of technology.
Will our articles help us grow in faith,
hope, and love, as children will, the family being the domestic
Church, the school of discipleship? Will our books bury us? Will
publications mourn our passing?
We prefer the merely physical to the
ensouled, extensions of our minds to extensions of our bodies. Modern
materialism rears its head. More modernity: We can control what we
write, pixels and toner being at the mercy of our fingertips.
Children…not so much. True, parents are an authority and influence
over them, but children are persons with souls, wills, minds, and
bodies all their own.
Relying on the mystery of Providence, I
think Christian academics need to sacrifice some of our publications
for the sake of children, and trust that God will find us jobs
wherein we can be both good mothers and fathers while using our
academic gifts for the greater glory of God and the salvation of
von Hildebrand had it right when she wrote, in The Privilege of Being a Woman, “One
thing is certain: When the time has come, nothing which is man-made
will subsist. One day, all human accomplishments will be
reduced to a pile of ashes. But every single child to whom a
woman has given birth will live forever, for he has been given an
immortal soul made to God’s image and likeness.”
when I die, I do hope my
little dissertation will have affected how believers and scholars
read the Gospel of Matthew. I hope more, however, that my children
are my legacy, that they become by God’s grace good people who love
God and neighbor. My children are my books, and I hope to help them
write their lives to eternity.