This past Sunday was Children’s Sabbath at our church. The Children’s Defense fund put out tons of material including statistics about the condition of children in America. Of all the statistics to choose from, they published the bad news. Here’s a sampling, under the heading Each Day in America:
4 Children are killed by abuse or neglect
8 Children or teens are killed by firearms
77 Babies die before their first birthday
177 Children arrested for violent crimes
390 Babies born to mothers who received late or no prenatal care
2076 Babies born without health insurance
2385 Babies born into poverty
3742 Babies are born to unmarried mothers
Instead of merely listing bad stuff – with the suggested idea that we need a bigger government to do something about IT – why not give a truer picture and list some positives? How many children are involved in Scouting programs every day? How many are staying in school and doing well? How many are visiting or volunteering in nursing homes, hospitals and the like?
Obviously, many children do have difficult lives. I challenged my people Sunday to consider Jesus’ relativisation of family and take responsibility for children who are not their own in a biological sense. That was Augustine’s motivation for suggesting Christians not have children: there are already enough people to evangelize without bringing more into the world (and that was in the 4th century).
I also added another statistic – I couldn’t find it anywhere on the Children’s Defense site so I had to go elsewhere for the data: Every day in America 3200 babies are aborted. This wasn’t what Augustine had in mind when he talked about already having enough people. In fact, the early generations of Christians stood against the pagan practice of exposing “extra” or unwanted children (to the elements and predators). The first Christian admonotion against abortion dates from the second century (unless you want to date the Didache earlier).
Patricia Bauer writes in the Washington Post about the contemporary “responsibility” to abort “defective” children. Since we have plenty of genetic tests today (part of the routine prenatal care many women lack?) that allow us to identify many of the defects of our children, we can make the choice to deliver them from certain suffering by killing them now. Bauer says that when people discover she has a daughter with Down Syndrome they tend to have one of two responses. They either assume that she didn’t have the proper testing before her daughter was born or that she is a raging fundamentalist pro-lifer.
Curiously, Bauer reports that her daughter’s life has not been filled with suffering. Of sure, she has challenges. Many things we take for granted are difficult for her. But much of the suffering she encounters is from living in a society that labels her defective and pronounces her “better off dead.”
We talk about wanting to put people “out of their misery.” What we too often mean by this is more akin to putting people “out of our misery.” We don’t want to look at suffering or be reminded of imperfection. We don’t want to experience the awkwardness of having to interact with “those kind of people.”
It’s just too inconvenient.
UPDATE: Here’s some comment on the article from someone who has been through the joys of genetic counseling.