“Bless the Children”?

Bless the children for they are the light
They are the truth of spirit in flight

–From Celine Dion’s song Prayer

These sentiments (a staple, it seems for songwriters and poets) always made me uncomfortable as a child. I felt alternately empowered and intimidated.

Intimidated, because how on God’s green earth was I (I took many things very personally as a child) going to fix all the things that needed fixing in this world. Especially if the (as I saw them) all-powerful grown-ups hadn’t been able to do it, how could I?

Who needs that much pressure?

Later, as an adolescent, then even more so as a young adult, the way certain people would talk actually made me feel “past my prime.” At age 18, I was distinctly aware I was no longer in the group of children-with-unlimited-potential. I was just another person. For a (very short) while I even felt sad that I’d somehow “missed my chance.”

I’ve come to see this view of children as flawed in several ways

  1. It is vaguely heretical (“They are the light/ They are the truth…”)
  2. It illogically expects a new product from the same assembly line
  3. It creates the feeling (conscious or not) that we adults are better than any previous generation because we will finally create the perfect environment to raise up these little messiahs.

After all, what happened to our shot as saving the world? Why haven’t generations of children before us done all that needs to be done?

The answer: “We/They weren’t allowed/empowered/equipped enough to do it,” reveals our formerly unadvertised sense of superiority. “They will succeed,” the voices say, “Because we are different. We won’t trample their divine spark, but fan it into flame.”

The idea that our children will save us, or our world, puts them in a messianic role. It assumes they have some inherent power. The Celine Dion song is full of poetical talk of a hurting earth and the purity of children, portraying “children” as a spiritual group. It allows/gives adults both an inferiority complex an inflated sense of their own value/abilities.

Inferiority because of what I mentioned feeling as a young adult: being usurped, past my time to do great things, condemned (as it were) to being ordinary, and stuck in the flow of events, unable to create change. (Whatever happened to “Be the change you wish to see in the world”? )

But more than that I tend to see these cries of excellence and potential as yet another form of self-exultation. Consciously or not, this sort of talk is claiming that we of the grown-up generation are the best. The best because we, of all the parents/mentors of history, will be able to provide the proper environment and guidance that will enable the upcoming generation to solve the problems that have plagued the world until this era.

Halleluiah, now that the children have finally been brought up right, their innate purity will now spill over to the world and fix it all.

That, of course assumes the environment is the problem, and that those brought up in that same environment can both recognize and overcome that environment while, hmmm, other children need the right environment to make change.

Can we say humanism? Man is the problem and Man is the solution.

As long as we look to Man for the solution we will be disappointed. As long as we expect any one pocket of humanity to improve enough to rescue us (be that children, or the government, or the Church) we will be disappointed. If 5,000-20,000 years of repetition (depending on your best-guess about the beginning of the human race) hasn’t shown you yet, let me point-out: Our efforts aren’t working.

Yes, individuals can make a great difference in their own spheres of influence. I think God gives gifts and empowers these people who make big changes. And I agree that there are children tragically robbed of their potential in many ways, and that we should do all we can to help them.


But I also think we should be doing that for the widow across the street and the Wendy’s employee downtown. Because of their inherent value and potential as human beings created in the image of God. Not because they’ll inflate our sense of self-worth or redeem a chance we think we missed.

8 thoughts on ““Bless the Children”?

  1. Very interesting thoughts! I agree that that view of children is errant, because it is humanistic. It doesn’t take into account that we’re all born with a sin nature. I heard a great sermon on that once. The preacher said, basically, “If you don’t think children are born with a sin nature, think about when you were a small child. Who TAUGHT you to disobey your mom? Who TAUGHT you to lie?” etc. Obviously, most parents don’t teach their children to sin, therefore the propensity for sin is there all along. So many people seem to think that if you just raise children in the right environment, they’ll turn out well…no need to discipline or train them, because they’re innately good, and they’ll turn out well. Yeah, right!

    I hadn’t thought of that view of children as being problematic because of the way it elevates the role of parents – able to produce good children who will “fix” things – or how it might make children feel – the pressure to make things right. Good thoughts.

  2. Pingback: Untangling Tales » Archive du blog » The goodness of Children, revisited.

  3. I love the way you analyze ideas in our culture.

    One of the results of the “children are the answer” philosophy is that even now, I am resenting the baby boomer generation. My response is often, “Oh, yeah. Thanks a lot. Mess everything up and then demand we fix it for you.” The whole self-entitlement mentality only feeds my resentment.

    It is also daunting because now not only do I have to not pass on my generation’s bad habits to my children but I also have to fix or somehow shelter them from the world that came to be through my parents’ generation.

    I wonder, though, about the Christian side to this mentality: we are to procreate because it will spread godliness. This is also daunting when I look around at the godly parents whose kids don’t choose godliness. I wonder if reasons for procreation are/were a little less “children are the answer” in the Bible and a little more something else.

  4. I wonder how many children who don’t choose godliness are from the *many* “Christian” homes that don’t purposefully train their children.

    Yes, this invites a guilt-trip for anyone with a prodigal, but honestly now, there’s a lot of passive parenting going on all around me. I’d be curious to see the ratio of prodigals from various parenting attentiveness.

    And cries of “you did your best” are an invitation (for some) to intellectual dishonesty. My mom is amazing. Her kids did some negitive things she still feels responsible for. I have to say, if she knows some things she did or didn’t do, then no one can be obsolved.

    The call to raise children in the truth is not negated by the fact that some reject the faith. The reality is that the majority of people come into their faith as children, and most of these in their homes.

  5. Haha. No.

    Let’s try this one (hmm, it got convoluted, so we might revisit this with an additional post):

    Jesus is the answer. He is the way fallen man is raised out of the muck.

    He has chosen to reveal Himself in many ways, people, being a large one. This is why we strive to live godly lives (other than the natural consequences tend to be better), and why we raise our children in this way.

    We have found meaning and purpose– Something fallen humanity seems continually to search for.

    To circle back to the point of this post:
    “As long as we look to Man for the solution we will be disappointed. As long as we expect any one pocket of humanity to improve enough to rescue us (be that children, or the government, or the Church) we will be disappointed.”

    Children can’t save anyone. We can’t save anyone.

    Our task is to point people toward the One who can.

  6. Ah, okay. That’s kind of what I was thinking, too, but I confess it’s still a little muddled. I realize that just because something is daunting and I don’t like it doesn’t make it untrue. But if I’m going to put the emphasis on Jesus, then, really, procreation is for HIM to have something to do rather than me (or my children).

  7. What an excellent discussion. Being in the homescooling community, I often find myself in the middle of these 2 extreme camps… “quiverful” and “only child’s to give them a better life”.

    We have 11 year old twins and a 21 month old. I confess to not appreciating when folks get lost in their viewpoints to not consider the feelings of the ones they’re addressing. For many, the issue of ability/desire to parent is painful and has many aspects. But what it all boils down to is living… each and every decision we make… putting thought into it or not… dealing or rejoicing in what comes. I believe that God gave us each a mind to use, to prayerfully or thoughtfully consider our lives and what we do/don’t do. Free will is a gift, one He died for us to have… to say that He commands us to have children is forgetting that.
    Anyway, I’ll get down off of the stump now.
    Have a great day!

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