Feb 3·edited Feb 5

Since you mentioned Finland, a Finn responds :) . I'm a big fan of your work Aaron and a long time reader (since Dreher mentioned the three worlds).

Yes, the fertility drop is real and has been a big talking point for years here. There are many reasons behind it, and some of them are quite interesting for conservatives, because the solutions, at least in principle, are low-hanging fruits for us.

For instance, a few months ago, professor Marika Jalovaara said in an interview in Helsingin Sanomat (the "NYT of Finland") that one key reason for low fertility is that whatever relationships people are having roughly before the age of thirty (by which many manage to settle down and sometimes even marry), they tend to break up more easily. Which we conservatives have been pointing out for years: cohabiting ends way more likely than marriage, so why put yourself in a situation prone to hurt you?

What is something of a taboo here is the status of stay-at-home moms, which surely isn't great. My wife was one for 14 years, so we know. The line that the Nordic countries have generous subsidies for all families is simply not true.

The social engineering project known as the welfare state creates a myriad of nudges and punishments pressuring couples towards the norm of two working parents with two kids, maybe three, and having them quickly so that the mother can go back to work (very often in the public sector funded by taxes). For instance, having your children with a maximum of two years age difference is (or at least was 10 years ago) heavily incentivized by tying more generous maternity subsidies to that time frame. Bigger difference, and you lose some of the subsidies.

It means that a family choosing to have 4 kids or more and not fitting that mold, and the mother taking care of them at home, will very likely suffer poverty, as we did. There's even a definition for "poverty in families with children" in social sciences. I don't have data, but my common sense says and social contacts confirm that a traditional family (with the father as the breadwinner) in Finland is at a high risk of succumbing to it.

Also, the system totally relies on the fact that people magically just find a spouse and want to have kids. When they don't, the whole country is screwed because no alternative model exists in one of the most homogenous and centralized societies in Europe (the capital Helsinki runs the whole show).

And I haven't even mentioned the stigma of "not being a productive member of the society", which is a real thing. It does not help that in some social bubbles skewing more female than male kids are seen as climate destroyers.

All this affects conservative Christians, of course, and we are not immune to the fertility trends. But I see light at the end of the tunnel, and that brings me to the negative world.

First, there is measurable growth in churches that could be seen closest to whatever the Benedict Option would look like here: the Mission Diocese of Finland (the bishop is charged with MP Päivi Räsänen), the Reformed Baptists (who have some ties to TGC Nordic), the Catholic Church in Finland, to name the clearest ones. They are all small, but on a steady growth track for many years or even decades. Higher fertility plays a part. Youth retention is an open question, but it's looking better than with many others.

Second, the Christian schools are experiencing quiet growth, with an average growth rate of 5 per cent annually.

Third, there is measurable, steady growth in conservative Christian beliefs among young boys and men, since at least 2021. No one saw it coming, and we are still trying to get a hold of the phenomenon: https://evangelicalfocus.com/europe/25092/against-the-odds-researchers-find-an-increase-in-religiosity-among-young-finnish-men

PS. I serve as an apologetics teacher in Finland, and I see the family as one meta-level apologetics approach in the service of the mission of the church. For anyone interested, I wrote an article (inspired by Renn, Dreher and Patrick Deneen among others) of how we should live in "negative Finland". Finnish fertility drop, geographical and other separation of the sexes in college and work (especially strong in Nordic countries), liberalism as its driving force, collapse of the Christian consensus, Kaufman's "The religious shall inherit the earth", growth of evangelicals in France and Spain as encouragement, classical Christian education and our way forward. I hear that ChatGPT 4 translates these quite well (as it translated that earlier news article from Finnish).


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“they cannot solve the problem of self-delusion. People don’t just lie to their partners; they lie to themselves. They often aren’t sure what they really want today, not to mention what they’ll want next month.”

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Re: fertility

Aaron has talked about us being in a "liminal period", that we can see the old order fading but can't yet see the new order rising. I'm starting to think fertility and family formation is going to have a lot to do with the new order -- in some sense, perhaps we'll quite literally be living in the remains of the old order until we stop getting older as a society. And it's looking like every country in the world is going to have to wrestle with this, though for some the problem is more imminent than for others.

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Interesting post here: "The key insight is that women have always been more [economically] left-wing than men, but that women were also more religious (both vs today and vs men) and that this was a moderating force against those left-wing views. With religion in retreat, those views now take voice."




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