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God's Babies challenges Fundamentalist interpreters of "be fruitful and multiply" and finds a different message among early Christians.
God's Babies challenges Fundamentalist interpreters of "be fruitful and multiply" and finds a different message among early Christians.
17 backers pledged £405 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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£405

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Thank you to all backers for helping sustain the open-access model of not-for-profit academic publishing.

Natalism is an ideology aiming to persuade young people that God expects them to get married quickly and try to bear numerous babies. Bible verses such as "be fruitful and multiply" are deployed by natalist advocates. Some preachers look for long-term gain in denominational membership and an electoral boost for Fundamentalist policies. However all this depends on their persuading young people, whose initial personal preference may be for a smaller family. My book presents different interpretations from early Christianity of what it really means to be "fruitful". This may enable some people resist natalist ideology, or break free from it.

Quotations from U.S. Protestant Natalists

“We have bought into the mindset of the modern world in that we think that less children is … better”. Also “if you have one child as opposed to four, five or six, then you have a much smaller initial mission field” (Akin).

Other voices include the editor of a leading U.S. homeschool magazine, who laments that “many parents have stopped at two or three children” and suggests “God is not satisfied with average fruitfulness" (Campbell 48).

They urge young women to start childbearing early. The former Director of Young Adults at "Focus on the Family" (a big U.S. ministry) urged couples to seek children in their youth, citing Psalm 127 (the blessing of a quiver full of grown-up sons born in a father's youth). Similarly another writes “God wants children to be born in our youth” (Campbell 108).

A minority among natalists also forbid family planning: “God opens and closes the womb!” and we should not “take over the responsibility” (Hess 23, 141). “Spacing is the attempt to usurp God’s sovereignty by self-crafting one’s family” (Pride 77). Other natalists permit family planning, as long as couples seek to plan a large family.

About the Book's Publisher

Open Book Publishers (OBP) after a rigorous process of peer-review selected the manuscript for publication. 

Open Book Publishers (OBP) won the 2013 International Federation of Library Associations IFLA / Brill Open Access award. Here's an interesting THES article about the publisher.

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/421432.article

OBP titles are published in Open Access on the web so the book can be freely read. That provision of free access is the main goal - to finance it OBP also sell an ebook edition (in Mobi, ePub, and PDF formats, all DRM-free) for £5.95 as well as print-on-demand softback and hardback paper volumes, typically priced at £15.95 and £29.95 (depending on size). OBP is a not-for-profit company.

http://www.openbookpublishers.com/section/4/1/our-vision

After acceptance for publication, authors employed in academia usually help by seeking a publication grant from their university (though publication never depends on that). As an ex-Lecturer now working in IT this Kickstarter is my way of making a contribution. 

Here are typical production costs:
Final proofreading £1500 Typesetting £900 Cover design £200 Generating Digital editions £450 Distribution and Retailing £200 Marketing £250 

Rewards: when Augustine read "be fruitful" he talked about seeking a "fruitful mind" and "spiritual fruitfulness" - hence the names of the rewards! (e.g. "The Prolific")

Shipping for paper copies is included in price for UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Australia, Brazil and Russia. For other EU countries add £1.50, and for anywhere else in world please add £3.50.

Publishers' webpage for the book:

http://www.openbookpublishers.com/product/263/gods-babies--natalism-and-bible-interpretation-in-modern-america

Advance praise from international scholars:

"In this original, scholarly book the author carefully analyses the theological foundations for natality and finds them wanting. He skilfully exposes not just faulty biblical exegesis supporting such a view, but also the way in which the Christian tradition has been misaligned to such a position. He argues convincingly that such issues are not of mere theoretical importance, but have significant ramifications for environmental ethics. There is much to commend this thought provoking book, not just for Protestant readers, but especially Roman Catholic readers who, though rarely supporting natality as such, habitually remain confused by the demand to both have children and promote celibacy." — Celia Deane-Drummond, Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame.

"In this fascinating study, McKeown offers the reader a lucid exploration of the ways in which 'biblical' notions of fruitfulness and procreative fecundity have been used and misused within the Christian theological tradition down through the ages. In doing so, McKeown makes a significant contribution to the field of theological ethics, but also adds a stimulating chapter to the ever expanding story of the Bible's reception from antiquity down to the present day." — David Shepherd, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, Trinity College Dublin

"This is an important book on an under-researched topic about which scholars and the general public urgently need to be better informed. McKeown offers a lucid, thorough and persuasive critique of Christian pronatalist theologies and ideologies, exploring their historical roots and showing why they exert such influence today. His work supplies a missing piece of the jigsaw of Christian environmental ethics, and deserves to be widely read." —Rachel Muers, Senior Lecturer in Christian Studies, University of Leeds.

"McKeown does a fine job of showing how the modern natalist position misreads scripture. His study of the movement is all the more illuminating for its deep historical and theological perspectives." — John Bimson, Tutor in Old Testament, Trinity College Bristol.

The book is around 95,000 words, with six chapters as described below:

1. Introduction: evaluating popular reception.

2. Natalism old and new: American Protestant interpretation of Bible verses such as "be fruitful and multiply" since 1990.

3. Martin Luther: was he the forerunner of Protestant natalism?

4. Ancient Near Eastern context of "fruitful" verses, and Old Testament thinking about reproduction.

5. Augustine's spiritual reception of the "fruitful" verses, and his thinking about biological reproduction.

6. My reception of the fruitful verses with regard to a modern context of ecological unsustainability.

Keywords: environment ecology sustainability biodiversity population birth family values

Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian, Martin Luther, and Eusebius of Caesarea
Augustine of Hippo, Tertullian, Martin Luther, and Eusebius of Caesarea

Risks and challenges

If the stretch goal is met for creating graphs from data that will be challenging for me and I will learn more about graphing software!

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £2 or more About $3.27

    “The Fruitful” Your name listed as a Supporter on the webpage of the book (or you can opt for anonymity). Also a social media thanks on Twitter by me @jpmckeown

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    “The Prolific” One ebook (usually £5.95) in either Mobi or ePub format of God's Babies DRM-free, Also your name printed inside all formats of the book as a Supporter.

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    “The Mutliplier” You receive digital editions of this book and 2 other ebooks (usually more than £17) from the OBP catalogue (choose from 44 titles). Also your name printed inside the book Gods' Babies as a Supporter.

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    "The Cornucopian" You receive the Hardback edition of God's Babies (usually £29.95 + £3.25 UK postage).You also get an ebook version (usually £5.95). Total value over £39. And your name is printed inside all formats of the book as a Supporter.

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Funding period

- (30 days)