Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Suffer, little children

I have wanted to avoid straying into politics and the like with this blog. I have a specific mandate here, namely to talk about Lonergan and the New Testament, and I want to stick to that. But the fourth command of Lonergan's four-fold imperative is to be responsible, and in light of current events silence is becoming increasingly antithetical to responsibility.

We are hearing today of conflicts, in Gaza, in Missouri, in Iraq. Each has its own set of political and historical issues. Yet each proceeds under a chilling a question:

When is it acceptable to kill children?

As of twenty-four hours ago over 500 children had been killed through Israeli attacks on Gaza. That number has increased over the last few hours, as the latest cease fire has crumbled and we already have reports of Palestinian children being killed in the latest fighting. The Israeli government justifies its actions by saying that Hamas uses civilians as human shields.

When it is acceptable to kill children? According to the above logic, when a third party puts them into harm's way.

The current violence in Ferguson, MO, began when a police officer gunned down an unarmed, 18-year-old, boy. Don't kid yourself: an eighteen-year-old is a child. He'd just barely graduated high school. He had his own life ahead of him. His ostensible crime? Jaywalking. His actual crime? Being black. In this case, as in the Trayvon Martin case, when is it acceptable to kill children? When you're white and the child is black.

Then there is ISIS. When is it acceptable to kill children? When they are Yazidi, Shiite, Christian, a less radical Sunni.

For the third of the world that claims for itself a Christian heritage this situation should be profoundly disturbing. Did not the Lord Jesus have a particular fondness for children? If one believes that whatever one does for or to the least of these one does to Jesus then what does one think that the world is doing to the Lord right now? Has "Suffer little children" now become an imperative: "Suffer, little children"?

Yet of course it is not just Christians who should be disturbed by the slaughter of children. The Muslim musician-poet K'naan (of "Wavin' Flag" fame), whose family fled to Canada from Somalia following the outbreak of the latter country's civil war in 1991, writes in the song "In the Beginning" that

in the eyes of the youth
there are question marks
like freedom
freedom for the mind and soul,
we don't see them
see them for their worth at all,
that's why we lead em
lead em to these wars
and what is it we feed em
feed em our impurities
and who it is we treat em
treat em like the enemy
humanity will need em
need em like the blood we spill

We "treat em like the enemy," and yet "humanity will need them." Spot on analysis, K'naan. We need to stop killing children. Not only is it intrinsically wrong, but it turns out that our collective future, our collective salvation, might well turn on this matter.

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