Monday, July 21, 2014

When Adults Wage War, Children Pay the Highest Price of All

“...the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child,“Whoever welcomes one such child…welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones… it would be better for you if a great millstone was fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea."   --Matthew 18

I’m not a big fan of the whole “angry God” school of theology.  This “God” has been used much too often throughout human history by religious fanatics and zealots to justify less than Godly behavior. 

But after this past week, as I witnessed how children are treated in our world, I just might have to revisit this notion of a God who holds humanity fully responsible for its actions, especially when it comes to the innocent. Because right now God must be very angry and very sad about all the careless and cruel ways that kids pay the price for the sins of adults. 

Adults who battle in wars. Adults who fight in politics.  Adults who flail away at “enemies”, with no thought as to the consequences of conflict upon the powerless.  When nations and peoples and politicians go to war, it is always children who suffer the most. 

In Ukraine. Last Thursday a plane full of 298 passengers was shot out of the sky by a missile, killing everyone on board. At least 80 children were on that flight, boys and girls who had no stake in, no knowledge of, the bloody and violent war being fought 32,000 feet below. The world mourns every last victim who died at the hands of the barbarians who fired that rocket. Yet there is something doubly tragic about all those young lives ended so suddenly, swiftly, terribly. Photos from the crash site show gut wrenching images of children’s books and stuffed animals strewn across a farmer’s field. 

What kind of people would do such a thing? 

In Israel/Palestine. Last week Israel launched a full scale invasion of the Gaza Strip, after bombing it from the air for days. Israel says it is defending itself against terrorists.  Hamas, the terrorist group firing rockets into Israel, says it is retaliating for crimes against the Palestinians. Thus far 500 Gazans have died, including more than 100 children.  Scores of children on both sides have been injured and traumatized, cowering in basements and shelters, as the bombs fall. Fleeing from their homes to escape the carnage.  “Adults” in this conflict claim moral justification in waging war. Yet it is always the innocent who get hurt the most: kids who know nothing of geopolitics or national security or the “right” to self defense. 

What kinds of governments do such things?

And yes, in the United States too.  Consider the 57,000 undocumented immigrant children and teenagers who have been detained at our borders since last October.  They flee poverty, drug wars and violence.  Sent north by their parents, they are exploited by adults who profit by transporting these poor souls across the desert. 

Our response as a nation? Send them all back home as fast as possible. Use the kids and their plight to score political points. Ratchet up our perpetual partisan war of words. Even the effort to treat these kids with just a little mercy, by temporarily housing them to allow deportations to proceed: that’s a disaster too. States are falling all over themselves to just say no: Connecticut, Ohio, Delaware, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado. Thank God our own Governor Deval Patrick has the courage and compassion to say “Yes”. 

These are children, remember?  Boys and girls as young as four. Orphaned.  Lost.  Most had no choice in their doomed march. Are we as a country now so xenophobic, so politically split and hard hearted, that we would turn our backs on “the least of these, our brothers and sisters”? They are here. They need someone to step up and to care. 

What’s so difficult to understand about that?

Jesus was right.  Adults everywhere have a moral obligation to care for kids, all kids, every last one. When we stumble in that duty as a world and fail to protect the children from violence, we have sinned mightily.

God help the children, because the “adults” of this world? We are not.





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