Soft Totalitarianism

The highlight of the United Nations' conference on population in Cairo this week was the appearance of Jane Fonda as a delegate. Fonda brought all the color and bright lights of celebrity to the conference. Her message to the U.N. delegates was to keep "focused on the other broad agenda" and not get sidetracked by controversies over abortion and sex education. Well, surprisingly I agree with Jane Fonda on this one. Christians, too, need to stay focused on the broad agenda and not just on isolated issues. And the U.N.'s agenda is very broad indeed: It is nothing less than the complete re-engineering of society to impose a radically secular view of sexuality as an individual right. Just listen to the words of the U.N.'s draft document on population. It calls upon governments everywhere to take responsibility for their citizens' "sexual health." Then it defines sexual health in the broadest terms imaginable—as "the integration of somatic, emotional, intellectual, and social aspects of sexual being." In other words, governments are called on to take charge of every area of life, to leave no part free from its intrusion. The document then goes on to tell governments how they can do just that. It instructs them to "use the entertainment media, including radio and television soap operas, and drama, folk theater, and other traditional media" to get across the message of "reproductive rights." To get the word out, the document calls on governments to institute programs that "reach men in their workplaces, at home, and where they gather for recreation." Young people are not to be left to the teaching of their parents and churches. The document tells governments to reach adolescent boys "through schools, youth organizations, and wherever they congregate." In other words, there's no arena of life where citizens are to be free from government propagandizing for its value-free sexual philosophy. As George Weigel writes in a Wall Street Journal article, this is nothing less than "soft totalitarianism." It doesn't come with the iron fist of outright coercion—as in China where women are forced into abortions. But there's still an iron fist under the velvet glove of intrusive government programs promoted in the name of "education" and "information." The basic principle we need to grasp is that when government attempts to control population, it is inherently coercive—whether by outright criminalizing of childbearing, as in China, or by invading every area of life with propaganda. So when you hear people talk about population control, your first question ought to be, who should control it? The government? Or individual families making their own decisions? The Bible grants the family an arena of freedom to exercise its own responsibilities in the area of reproduction. In the words of Annette Kane of America's National Council of Catholic Women, "the church believes that the family should make decisions about the family." These are the questions that form the "broad agenda" behind the U.N. conference on population. And as Jane Fonda says, that's where we should focus our attention.


Chuck Colson



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