‘The Least of These’: How We Deal With Children and What It Says About Us

I admit that I can be very opinionated at times. However my zeal to share my thoughts is tempered by my ability be silent and observe. So when the issue of the treatment of minors comes up I like to listen to what people say about the topic. And each time what I hear makes my soul weep. For all of the discussions that I have been in about the marginalization of various groups there is one that many of us feel entitled to mistreat: children. 

It has been decades since I was at that stage myself. But even as a grown woman and a parent myself there is much about the way I see other adults treat minors that I cannot comprehend.

I cannot comprehend why I would catch a criminal case if I beat the hell out of a fellow adult, but would be cheered by some if I beat the hell out of a child.

I cannot comprehend why yelling at and insulting a co-worker would earn me a trip to HR but doing the same to a child wouldn’t evoke comment in some circles.

I cannot comprehend why we don’t question that children so often become targets for the misplaced anger, weakness and insecurity that adults feel and cannot channel elsewhere without penalty.

I understand our need to teach children how to behave in a civilized society. I understand that we cannot allow our young to follow every reckless impulse they have. But in our age it is common for the emotional and physical attempts to discipline children to go viral, and there is something about the reaction to them that chills me. Hearing my peers express unmitigated pleasure at the sight of children getting beat and degraded makes me question their humanity.

At this point in my life I am not a particularly religious person. Yet there are times when circumstances bring various scriptures to mind, leftovers from my previous life as a devout Baptist. This week the Bible verses that came to mind were Matthew 25:31-46. I reflect on the admonition to be  mindful of how we treat ‘the least of these’. Who qualifies as the ‘least of these’ today? If children are part of that group then we should be ashamed. The way we deal with the youngest and most vulnerable of our species is the ultimate measure of our humanity, and we have been weighed and found wanting.

 

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