Really Better Off? Ask the Children
-- Our national leaders are quite fond of asking, are
you better off than in the past? The presumptive answer in our
economically prosperous nation is "yes." But are we measuring our
wealth the right way? Our nation's children may be paying too high a
price for the financial successes of the "Me First" generation.
Certainly, we feel we are doing better by our children in our
"healthy" economy than in parts of Asia and Africa, where children
are forced to march in child armies or work to survive in slave
However, many members of America’s younger generation are
suffering deep emotional scars from our social and economic choices.
Too often, we don’t ask the uncomfortable questions about our
children’s welfare until the emotional and spiritual grenades begin
to explode in the headlines around us:
- Mt. Morris Township, Michigan. A six-year old child aims a
pistol at a classmate and murders her. We are horrified and
puzzled by one more childhood shooting. Meanwhile, politicians
grapple over the problems of guns, rather than the harsher reality
of neglected children.
- Richmond, Virginia. A mother is found fit to stand trial for
conveniently microwaving her baby boy to death.
- Washington, D.C. The foster care system is in "pandemonium,"
with scores of children cramped into government buildings awaiting
placement. These homeless children wander the system after their
parents are arrested for drug abuse and child neglect.
- Record numbers of teen-agers are adrift in jails and state
prisons around the nation.
We want to believe that these news items are mere aberrations,
but the "it can’t happen here" defense has been buried along with
numerous young people in school shootings from coast to coast.
We have built a fast food, throwaway culture where our goal is
instant gratification. We want it all and we want it now.
Unfortunately, this self-centered trend has taken a horrible toll on
our children. Too many parents take the next logical step -- they
dispense with their children like dead batteries when the trouble of
raising them begins to drag down their lifestyles.
In the wealthiest nation in the world, it is now commonplace to
hear of a child stuffed like so much dirty laundry into a sack and
left to die in a Dumpster. Each year, thousands of children are
abandoned at hospitals or in alleyways by parents with better things
to do than care for them.
In Calimesa, California, dozens of tiny crosses dotting a
graveyard mark the latest trend in our wealthy nation -- children
killed by their parents. At the Garden of Angels one woman quietly
polices the small, lifeless bodies of children left like unclaimed
freight on the streets of Los Angeles and nearby areas.
In Hamburg, Germany, the community has started a "baby bank" to
help address the problem of abandoned children. Mothers can quickly
and conveniently deposit their unwanted child in a drop slot, much
like returning a movie to a video store. When you’re done watching
it, just drop it off. It's the latest dark "choice" in parenting
that fits with our modern lifestyles.
At least 14 states from California to New York are considering
"safe haven" programs where busy parents can safely abandon their
children, rather than leaving them to die in the snow. Communities
in Texas, Alabama, Minnesota and Florida are experimenting with ways
to help rescue unwanted children.
When the economics of our prosperous culture are mixed with our
self-centered ways, the results can be toxic for our children. We
have been lured into believing that it is a nobler idea to build a
society where both parents can find their ultimate self-esteem and
satisfaction in the workplace. As a result, our industries enjoy a
larger pool of cheaper labor. Lower-paid service jobs are
mushrooming along with single families. Wages are now so depressed
that it often now takes more than two incomes per family to support
a middle class lifestyle. Guess who is left behind when Mom and Dad
are busy "finding themselves" in the workplace, or with new sexual
partners of various stripes?
The biggest sacrifices made to raise most children these days are
made by the children. Studies now estimate than 10 million
pre-school children spend some or all of their day in the "care" of
someone not their parents. They may not have been dropped off at a
baby bank, but they are too often tossed from pillar to post,
praying for so-called quality time with at least one parent before
When the children show the consequent signs of emotional trouble,
we sedate them with chemicals. Sometimes parents feel trapped by
circumstances, but no more so than the children themselves. The
number of American pre-school children being force-fed Ritalin,
antidepressants or other psychoactive drugs has skyrocketed to
worldwide record levels. Is there something so suddenly and
biologically wrong with American children that makes such widespread
drugging necessary, or could some of the problem lie with our social
and parental choices?
The surgeon general has declared that 21 percent of children nine
years of age and up have a mental disorder, including depression,
attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity or bipolar disorder. It’s
no small wonder we need to pray for these families.
In the book of Leviticus, God commanded, "Do not give any of your
children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the
name of your God" (Lev. 18:21).
As a 21st century nation, we mistakenly believe that because we
do not burn children alive in the fire to stone gods, we are
superior in parenting to ancient families. But in our modern
civilization, many similar childhood treacheries abound, and
children are still sacrificed to the god of Self.
Jesus said, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do
not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched,
pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold
refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to
wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness, and salve to put on
your eyes, so you can see" (Rev. 3:17).
If our nation ever hopes to rescue our children, it will be by
obeying the words of Jesus, and by abandoning our selfish ways
rather than our children. In the meantime, the Church must arise to
care for the hurting families and children all around us, amid the
self-centered fires that are consuming the next generation.
Michael Patrick is a Senior Analyst for CBN News.
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