There are 2.77 times more people in the world today than when I was born in 1952. Almost 3X as many—7.3 billion in 2012—as when I added one more to the total. To me this is mind-boggling.
The U.S. population in 1952 stood at approximately 157.55 million. Today US population stands at 313.1 million, just 2 million shy of 2X as many people as when I was born.
The U.S. population tripled during the 20th Century. This is a growth rate of 1.3%. The average growth rate among countries of the world is 1.17%, though as an average it doesn’t say much because there are countries as high as Liberia at 4.5%, meaning its population more than doubles every 20 years. Or there are countries as low as the Cook Islands at -2.23%.
Along with Africa some of the fastest growing countries of the world are in the Middle East and North Africa, Arab, Persian, and Turkish Muslim-majority countries. Israel stands at 1.66% population growth rate. The U.S. is getting older month by month while the Middle East is getting younger.
Europe is actually declining in population rate of growth, even with immigration. This stresses European countries’ economies. In the U.S. people are living longer with fewer youth coming into the workforce.
Some 80% of ours and of world population live in urban areas and some 80% live near coastlines. We are a city people by the sea.
Demographics is more interesting than it first appears. There’s much more in the statistics. For example, in the U.S. 45% of youth under 5 years are children of minorities. The U.S. continues to “brown.” In the Middle East there’s more than 100 million under the age of 16 years. That’s one-third the population of the U.S.
Population is a fancy word for people. There are 7.3 billion of us in the world and counting, each one made in the image of God. Each one is just as temporally and eternally significant as I am.
People one and all are not simply animate life forms. With numbers like 7.3 billion, which no one can really understand, it’s easy to forget that. Each one matters. That’s what makes demographics all the more mind-boggling.
Immigration remains a volatile issue in the United States, particularly in this presidential election year. It's an issue that doesn't really come and go, just grows quiet for a time only to come rushing back when a politician makes a comment or something happens on the border.
What should Christians think about immigration? Are there ways we can contribute to the discussion and, hopefully, resolution of the issue? I believe there are. In particular, we could help both political parties by simply reminding them that the "immigration issue" is really about people. Here are a few of my thoughts to stimulate your thoughts:
The immigration issue is not irresolvable. But it won't be resolved without honest, principled debate and a will to work toward the American Dream for both citizens and would-be citizens.
History is not destiny, though much of the world believes it so. Past may be prologue but it's not predestination. The future, in particular one’s individual and personal future, need not be dictated by the past. Human beings can change.
Yet millions do not believe this; not really. Some are falsely misled by fear, superstition, or animism. They think “the fates” or some other force beyond us arbitrarily play with our lives and only the “lucky” make good.
Some are locked in family, clan, tribe, or culture influences they’ve inherited environmentally and to which they succumb mentally. Their learned attitudes and behaviors absorbed from their environment form mental cages from which they do not have the faith, reason, education, or inclination to break free.
Some are oppressed by religion or religious systems that demand obedience, subservience, and blind loyalty yet offer nothing but poverty of the soul and hopelessness in return. This is false religion based upon works and ritual that are never enough and leave adherents victims rather than victors.
But human beings are created in the image of God. They are vested with the capacity to reason, to think about tomorrow, to wish for something better, to learn, and to grow. They are vested with the ability to change, if not in their own strength than through the positive benefits of education, community, and the spiritual renewal of true faith.
The Scripture says human beings are born in sin. We are, at bottom, sinners even as babes who’ve not yet willfully sinned. But God does not leave us there. He offers first, love, then forgiveness, and finally hope in this life and the life to come. Through Jesus Christ and the indwelling and enabling work of the Holy Spirit God changes us. In Christ we go from sinner to sinful-but-forgiven and redeemed saint (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:1-17). In God’s embrace we remain a saint even when we do not act saintly.
The Bible says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). For the Christian, the believer, the follower of Jesus, all things are become new. History is not destiny.
Your father was an alcoholic? You need not be. You were beaten or molested as a child? God can give you the ability to forgive and he can give you healing and peace.
You have an “anger management problem” as it’s called today? So? It may not be easy. It will not be easy. But God can give you victory over this emotional and spiritual behavior.
You’re the worst sinner that’s ever lived? Paul considered himself the same thing, yet God changed Saul the Christian killer to Paul the Apostle.
History may be influential. History may be powerful. Nature and Nurture may both be out of kilter in your past. But history is not destiny.
It’s never too late to become what we should and could become. It’s never too late to change. Our history is simply that, history. It’s past. Destiny awaits our choices.
Once in awhile I think, “Why don’t people Facebook?”
I recognize people have different interests and time-pressures in their lives, and I certainly recognize it’s a free country. I recognize that FBers don’t constitute “a better class of people” than non-FBers—that’s ridiculous if not self-righteous. But I still find it curious when from time to time I run into people who never connect on Facebook, much less other social media.
Facebook and other social media aren’t the end-all, be-all. In fact, I limit my engagement to Facebook and Twitter and have, thus, consistently turned down other social media invitations. Nothing wrong with the others, in fact, they’re typically competitors of the dominant FB. But I don’t want and can’t keep track of more friend lists.
And maybe that’s how people feel about Facebook. I don’t know.
I do know that with a few-minute scroll on FB I can keep track of what members in our extended family are doing. I’ve connected personally with at least seven high school friends that I have not seen in forty-one years. I’ve connected indirectly with a dozen others, people I never in a million years thought that I’d re-engage, and no doubt they thought the same of me.
I was never a picture-bug, snapping shots at every turn. But now, with an easy outlet available on FB, in the midst of my travels I pause briefly, even stopping the car alongside the road, to take pics of different, odd, or interesting things. And with cameras and smart phones ready-wired to pic software, which in turn connects easily to FB and others social media, who can resist taking a pic of a bigger-than-a-house bronze longhorn?
Anyway, mostly I think people who don’t FB miss a lot. In particular they miss continuing and pleasant interaction with family members, friends, and social media friends. I would wish that pleasantry for them.
But maybe I’m missing something. If you don’t FB and known exactly why, let me know.
Collect gorillas? I know. It’s weird. But it’s fun too.
When I was a kid I loved all things “animal” and all things “outdoors.” I read far more than the average kid, I later learned, but I spent a lot of time with my dog in the fields and woods around our home on the edge of town.
Later, I did some hunting but not really a lot and only for small game. I read, however, “Sports Afield,” “Field and Stream,” and “Outdoor Life” every month for years. Back then I could talk turkey about bullets, shells, calibers, and gun makers. I’ve forgotten a lot of this.
What I haven’t forgotten are the names, habits, and habitats of nearly every animal and bird in North America and a fair amount of the rest of the world. And I know trees. I love trees and seeing a new kind on a trip is a thrill my travel companions don’t always comprehend. I’m not bragging, just exalting in things nature.
Now the gorillas. When I was a kid I watched every black and white “Tarzan” movie ever made. I watch them now and see some silly plotlines and some not-so-silly racism, but the jungle is still the jungle, filled with exotic animals. Loved that then and now.
So after my stint in grad school at the University of Cincinnati, where I’d swallowed scholarly journal articles that could kill a horse, I had had about enough of academic “literature.” I remember walking into the house on Friday the 13th, the day I’d defended my dissertation in political science, and noticing that Sarah had brought me three books from the public library—Edgar Rice Burroughs’s“Tarzan” trilogy. I’d watched all those films but never read the books.
Over the next maybe three years I read all Burroughs’s “Tarzan” books, all 24 of them. Still have the paperbacks. The books are also a product of their time, sometimes wanton killing of animals or people, racist attitudes and behaviors, paternalism. But there’s also good writing, an interesting and seminal character, loyalty, bravery, love, fiercely guarded freedom, and strength.
So the gorillas? Oh yes, the gorillas. When your children are little what do they get their Dad for birthdays and Christmas? In my case, it was often a gorilla. The kids had seen me read these books. They’d heard me tell the stories to them. They’d heard me do Tarzan yells to make them laugh. So they bought me gorillas. That’s how it got started. And by the way, not chimpanzees, not monkeys, not orangutans, gorillas.
I still have the first gorilla they gave to me—complete with the diaper they dressed him in for unknown reasons. Now I have a few dozen gorillas in my home office—warm and fuzzy, fierce, plastic, rubber, on a drinking glass or cup, made of candle wax or carved from a coconut, a gorilla who sings Christmas carols and one who sings “Wild things, I think I love you” while holding a Valentine’s heart, carved wood, porcelain, even pewter. I have huge black gorilla slippers I’ve never worn and a gorilla Halloween mask that’s scared each and every grandchild in their toddler years, candy in a stick with a gorilla on top, a puppet, and a gorilla in a snow globe. Not to mention gorilla pics. I once had a gorilla tie and shirt, but they went by the by.
Some other time I'll talk about the gorilla exhibits I've visited in zoos around the country. Or we'll talk about gorillas as an endangered species.
I still get gorillas from time to time. Why? Why do any hobbies become hobbies? Maybe it’s the gorilla in me.
Remember SALT? Not the recent movie called “Salt” featuring Angelina Jolie. No, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks of the 1960s-1980s. It’s when the US and USSSR decided it was better to talk than shoot at one another. Later we had the Summit Talks when Reagan and Gorbachev conducted a series of, “Well”—to use Ronald Reagan’s term, “talks.”
Maybe Gradparents and Grandkids should hold Summit Talks? I recently wrote about both sides’ views. For more, check these articles:
“Talk is cheap,” they say. But then again, who is this “They” that seems to influence our lives so often? Doesn’t matter much what “They” say. Matters what we, in this case Grandparents and Grandkids, say to each other.