Ask Sanityville: Was FB Meyer a Eugenicist?

I am reading a book at the moment that paraphrases FB Meyer as saying that “the high birthrates of Catholics, Jews, and the feebleminded presented a collective menace to society”, (sourced from ‘Preaching Eugenics’ by Christine Rosen). Apparently Meyer wrote a book, ‘Religion and Race-regeneration’, though I can find little about the book itself except that it exists. I have found some places where FB Meyer is said to have been a proponent of eugenics, but no direct quotes from him.

I will accept that FB Meyer was a eugenicist if it is proven, but knowing how these…misunderstandings can happen, I’d like to dig a little deeper.

Anyone know anything about this? He was a godly man and I’d hate to think he has been slandered or a victim of libel.

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Here is what purports to be a copy of the book/tract online:

I’m up to my hinder-parts in alligators at the moment, so I can’t read this. In any event, you will wish to. Please let us know your conclusion.

Warmest regards,

Fr. Bill

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Is that a literal comment on your situation or a non-literal expression?

Thanks for the link, but I can’t access it. There’s a note about copyright in the way. I think it’s only those in the US who can read it.

Does the following work for you?

https://books.google.com/books?id=RJFDAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false

Just beat me, @Fr_Bill.

Here’s the PDF, though, just in case it doesn’t:
Religion_and_Race_regeneration.pdf (2.0 MB)

Thanks, @jtbayly. I was just about to download it!

Fr. B

Alisair,

The comment about alligators is metaphorical, fortunately. Though sometimes when I’ve used it, I’d have preferred the real ones to what I was referring to metaphorically.

At any rate, in additional responses, you should, I hope, be able to read and report to us on Meyer’s work.

b+

My answer to your question is that he does believe in Eugenics, but not in the typical understanding of that word. There is much that is good in this short book. Some that is quite problematic. But in the end, he is advocating for the high calling of marriage, its purity, rejection of divorce (except for adultery), raising up of the family as the central unit of society, rejection of both individuals or the state as the core of society, rejection of the state as the solution to social problems, and ultimately for Christians to remember and teach the purpose of marriage—to raise up a godly seed. He says this will accomplish much more than the other proposed ideas for how to regenerate society.

His concern at the beginning is the falling birth rate, and this is ultimately his solution.

In the process he touches on the conflict between lives of luxury and having multiple children. He carefully broaches the evidence of the acceptance of prophylactics as proof that the drop in birth rates is not simply a “natural” occurrence. It is being actively chosen.

However, he also talks about the problem being compounded by the fact that those poorly suited to having children have not decreased their birthrate. I intended to go a bit more into the problematic stuff he said, but I’ve run out of time.

This was a helpful read. Not long. I hope more of you will read it and we can discuss it further.

(Worth noting: The scan gets progressively worse, cutting off the beginning or end of the lines. In most places it’s not hard to figure out what the missing letters/words are. But it makes it harder to read. If anybody finds a better copy, please post it.)

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Thanks to both of you. Bill, I still couldn’t access it through the page you linked to, but thankfully I could get Joseph’s pdf link.

And thanks for the summary, Joseph.

I’ll give it a read soon.

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Questions about Meyer, who I know almost nothing about, aside, the book on Tolkien and Lewis you linked too is fascinating. I read it several years ago, and the changes caused by WW1 to European society that Laconte points out were far greater than I’d ever realized.

It’s an instructive book, especially when taken in tandem with a book like All Quite on the Western Front to really see the fall of a whole way of thinking throughout western Europe.

Sorry if I took things off topic. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Ok, so I got to the end of the F.B. Meyer book. (I’m not a minister, so I don’t spend all my time in my study reading books :wink: ).

First off, the paraphrase about F.B. Meyer’s statement is misleading. As a reminder, this book said:

“…the influential Protestant minister F. B. Meyer, author of Religion and Race-Regeneration (1912), warned that the high birthrates of Catholics, Jews, and the feebleminded presented a collective menace to society.”

And this book was referenced as the source.

Well, it turns out that Meyer was actually comparing the consistent birth rate of Catholics, Jews and the feebleminded and casual labourers and clergy (of which he was one), with the decreasing birthrate of the higher classes. He did this to demonstrate that the decreasing birthrate is not due to a natural decline of national fertility, but due to personal choice, including the use of contraceptives.

A disappointing misrepresentation.

However…as you have said, Joseph, F. B. Meyer was a Eugenicist, though of a more Christian flavour. In fact, the beginning of the book lists him as Chairman of the National Council of Public Morals for Great and Greater Britain, a Christian based organisation committed to the regeneration of the British ‘race’.

These are my observations about F. B. Meyer’s take on the issue:

  1. Meyer believed that Britain was well-placed to bring about a new era of Christian paradise - even the new heavens and new earth - through the regeneration of the race.

  2. Science, religion, education and other disciplines can work together to do this, but only religion can provide the necessary motivation to see it through.

  3. Feeblemindedness is seen primarily in terms of laziness, immorality and lack of character.

  4. It is not only about genetics, but largely about the environment of a good home. That is, a home can be converted to produce strong citizens, and individuals can be converted or reformed. As a fruitful evangelist, Meyer saw this as part of the solution, and seemed to believe this should lead to producing a nation of worthy families - I guess where Christians were made in the home.

  5. He does not speak of preventing unsuitable marriages and child-bearing through force, but would encourage people who recognise they have conditions like epilepsy, feeblemindedness, hereditary health problems, etc, to voluntarily avoid marriage so as not to pass their troubles onto their innocent children.

  6. I do not believe he fits the contemporary caricature of a eugenicist - he would deplore the murderous, manipulative and malevolent movement seen in Hitler’s dreams - but he does incorporate the above form of deliberate breeding (in my point no.5) into his strategy for bringing about God’s Kingdom through Britain.

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Eugenics is a term that sets off a lot of alarm bells in everyone’s head, but if you prefer to marry someone attractive, intelligent, healthy, strong, industrious, etc, or desire the same for your children’s spouses, guess what, you are a eugenecist of a type.

Our current era works very hard to hide our past from us. Tarring some old dead guy as a eugenecist or a racist or a Confederate is an easy way to do that, and we should not dance to our enemies’ tunes this way. It is entirely possible that a man like Meyer believed some monstrous things, but we should let them speak for themselves and would do well to learn from our fathers who see our own failings in a very different light than our own culture which will seek to flatter our preferred sins in us. Dare I say that we could honor our fathers and seek to understand them and learn from them before we sit in judgment of them?

(Full disclosure: I know nothing of Meyer and haven’t read any of the material here.)

  1. You should read F.B. Meyer. He’s worth a read.

  2. Yes, good point about eugenics.

  3. Don’t worry, F. B. Meyers is being treated very well here.

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