It sometimes amazes me that out of the same pen can come amazing tales and immoral treatises alike. I am sure that many of my readers know and love the book, “Gulliver’s Travels”, by Jonathan Swift. The charming tales of a man shipwrecked in a land of little people has given much laughter over the years. In a way, it is good that Mr. Swift will be remembered for this tale, and not for his lesser known social activitism that the took part in.
I recently discovered a work penned by Jonathan Swift, which, had I not found much corrroborating proof of his authorship, I would not have believed it could be written by the same author as Gulliver’s Travels. Yet, the article, entitled A Modest Proposal For Preventing The Children of Poor People in Ireland From Being A Burden to Their Parents or Country, and For Making Them Beneficial to The Public was, in fact, penned by Mr. Swift, and amazingly, I have yet to find a Christian response to his position. I will humbly attempt to do so at this time.
First, I cannot fault Mr. Swift for his desire to protect the people of Ireland from the poverty, and it’s close relative, starvation. It is especially understandable when the objects of Mr. Swift’s compassion are his fellow countrymen. We all see the suffering of people around us, and we should have compassion welling up in our souls, but such compassion does not justify any action taken to resolve that suffering.
I warn any sensitive reader that the following descriptions may upset them, and I only approach the subject because I believe that such sin must be answered. If you find yourself distressed by descriptions of offensive sin, I ask that you not read further.
Jonathan Swift’s solution for alleviating the problems affecting Ireland is, of all things, to encourage cannibalism amongst the people of England, a practice associated with God’s judgement and not to be encouraged amongst Godly people. Swift argues that it would be best for the Irish people as a whole to sell their children to the English as food, and that the English should, in turn, promote this sin amongst her citizenry.
In Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah speaks of the upcoming siege of Israel, describing it as follows:
The hands of the compassionate women
Have cooked their own children;
They became food for them
In the destruction of the daughter of my people.
Clearly to be forced to eat one’s own children is a curse from God upon the people… how much more will God condemn those who do so willingly?
While clearly wrong and immoral in his thinking, Mr. Swift’s proposal to cannibalize the children of the Irish is not the only sin proposed in the article. In the article, he states that his proposal will “greatly lessen the number of papists [that is, Roman Catholics]” in the country. While we agree that lessening the number of Roman Catholics in the world would be a great boon, such admirable desires do not justify such immoral actions.
Likewise, the author points to the added monetary value of a newborn child as an incentive to “increase the care and tenderness of mothers toward their children”, as though their being made in the image of God is not enough incentive. A husband should love his wife and “call her blessed” for who she is, not because their offspring is profitable as food.
There are not enough words in the world sufficient to condemn Mr. Swift for the grave evil he has promoted in this world. Were he still alive today, I would call upon him to repent of his actions, and his encouragement ot lead tender young children to the slaughter. While his motives may be pure, his words have besmirched the name of Christ amongst the unbelievers.
May God have mercy on his soul.