The anonymous leader of the World Prayer Group has called for daily prayer that “children may have tender lives.” No doubt, the current brutalization of children being observed worldwide is the reason for this important new intention.

In Africa, children as young as ten are routinely inducted into armies and rebel groups and sent out to kill and torture. Among Moslem fundamentalists in the Middle East, children are placed in the line of fire in order that their deaths will gain headlines, and young people are counseled that they will be honored by God if they become suicide bombers.

In the United States, a wave of passive parenting has left many children directionless. A child without moral focus is an angry child. Children with passive parents or parents who actually encourage them to be bullies have created an atmosphere in many schools that is profoundly hostile to human happiness. In some cases, the result has been violence and death.

Across America, prosecutors, abetted by state legislators and a public who react to childhood violence with their own form of brutality, are driving down the age at which children may be tried as adults. The result is a new form of institutionalized savagery that leads to monstrous injustices such as the trial of a twelve year as an adult in Florida and his incarceration in an adult prison.

The rise in ultra-violent crime among children has caused this stupid and brutal response. But the crimes and the violence are the direct responsibility of parents and teachers. When a child commits a crime, it is because a crime of parenting was committed first. When parents are passive, children are left without the clear moral focus they need to thrive. The result is anger, and, in some cases, crime.

Other parents, listening to the siren song of religious extremists who promise to correct their children’s behavior, fall into the trap of being too brutal. They begin to beat their children or send them to ‘boot camps’ and ‘Christian’ schools where they will be brutalized, often savagely, such as was reported recently in Missouri.

Staff members at the Heartland Christian Academy have been accused of taking children aged 13 to 17 to a manure pit and forcing them to muck in it, sometimes in manure up to their chests. According to the New York Times, the head of this school, John Ashcroft friend and ally Charles Sharpe, said that this form of punishment had been discontinued for “public relations reasons.”

The children were put in a manure pit and and even filthier separating pool. Afterbirths from calving were normally thrown into these pits with the manure. Except for these punishment details, machines are used to manage the waste pits.

“I’ve had beating my whole life, and I don’t think that’s right,” a worker told the New York Times. “But put them in the pit? That’s horrible.”

The reason that these boys have become so difficult for their parents to raise that they would place them into the care of brutes is, itself, the responsibility of the parents. If children are raised with love and attention to their real needs, they do not become bitter, angry and dangerous adolescents. But to treat damaged adolescents cruelly is no solution.

The Missouri case was only the most recent in a series of revelations of horrible abuse of young people by self-proclaimed ‘Christian’ supervisors. People like Mr. Sharpe have about as much to do with the spirit of the Gospels as Judas or Beelzebub. They have substituted their own arrogance and self-will for the word of God.

The cruellest irony of all this is that some of the wisest and most important things ever said about children were said by Jesus. These were also among the first compassionate statements about children ever written down upon this earth. To see the name of Jesus Christ used by those who beat children and torment them is painful indeed.

Matthew 19 makes Christ’s, and the real Christian’s, approach to children and childhood very clear:

“Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.”

The last thing the brutalizers would do is to ‘suffer little children.’ What they do to justify the evil of beating children and disciplining them with brutality is to call on the Old Testament: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

So often, false Christians seek justification for the hatred that animates their souls in the Old Testament. But Christ proclaimed a new kingdom and a new gospel: In Luke 4 he says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” The meaning of this could not be more clear. It is that when the good news of the Gospel contradicts the wisdom of the past, then the Gospel is to be followed.

‘Christian’ extremists, more and more, despise and reject the gentle, compassionate and profoundly civilizing words of Jesus, preferring instead the hard admonitions of the Old Testament, which were written for another age that has been past and gone since the day Jesus began his ministry to mankind. By rejecting the good news when it comes to finding reasons to justify their hatreds and prejudices, they pass judgment on the word of God, setting themselves up as being better and wiser than Christ.

The result of this kind of arrogance when it comes to the treatment of children by these false Christians is always the same. Their version of “wisdom” is to slop manure over young boys. Christ’s wisdom is a little different. He said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Perhaps Mr. Sharpe should seek his salvation by standing in the manure with the little children who were put there. If he wants to find Jesus, that would probably be a very good place to look.

To learn about the Prayer Group, click here.

To read about the alleged abuse of children by staff of the Heartland Christian Academy, click here. (Users may need to register at the New York Times website to read this story. Registration is free.)

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