Onward, Christian Children
Regular readers here may recall a piece I wrote several months ago about the confirmation of Chloe, a seven-year-old girl, into a local Salvation Army congregation. I recently came across a post from another blog that reminded me of my earlier confirmation post.
Here is an excerpt from the recent post, written from an evangelical Christian perspective:
Last week I raised a question of what it means to respect a child and sought reflections on the implications of really doing so. This week, I want to reflect on some writings by the founder, William Booth from his work ‘The Training of Children’.
Why? Because I have been involved in children’s ministry for a little while now, and I am constantly amazed by a child’s capacity to not only grasp the truth of God, but to both apply and propagate all that comes from that truth….
I enrolled a Soldier last month. Firstly let me say how excited she was to make a covenant with God. She was counting down the days and could not be distracted. Since her enrollment, she has read God’s word like it is her daily bread and prayed as though it was second nature. She reads her covenant every night before bed and has committed to learning the eleven doctrines by heart. When told harshly she could no longer evangelise to her mother, she obediently locked herself in her bedroom, and then sang songs of Jesus. She is desperate to take her Bible to school and she is working on bringing her friends to the Army so they too have the opportunity to become a Soldier. She has a genuine awe and love of God and she is hungry to partake in her mission. She is an inspiration. Oh…and she is nine years old. That every soldier would have her faith, this is my prayer….”
The reason this Christian’s blog reminded me of my post is that, in the months since Chloe’s confirmation (enrollment as a Junior Soldier), her parents have shared stories of Chloe’s evangelical fervor. Most of Chloe’s efforts to date have focused on the little girl who lives next door to her. When I’ve heard these stories, I’ve had to suppress my shudders. These girls should be playing games, reading books, maybe even watching TV (although I’ll concede that last one’s debatable). Why on earth should they be talking about religion? What good can possibly come of it? Read on, if you want a Christian blogger’s answers:
“In my opinion, respecting a child means respecting both the mission God has for their life now, as well as respecting the capacity God gives them to complete this mission for His glory. Respecting a child means teaching and training them to be real soldiers in a real war that is happing in real time.”
Let’s think about that paragraph for a moment. First, our Christian author asserts that God has a plan for every child’s life, right now. At the very least, according to evangelical Christianity, they should be winning their playmates to his kingdom and expanding the heavenly ranks. Second, according to the Christian author, children should be taught to be militaristic about their faith: they are “real soldiers in a real war.” Heed carefully, readers: the Christian who wrote this blog means those words literally. In the minds of many evangelical Christians, the spiritual warfare in which they imagine themselves to be engaged is more concrete than any and all earthly warfare. Afghanistan? Iraq? For the fervent evangelical Christian, the consequences of those conflicts, while real and serious, are minimal compared to the consequences at stake in their spiritual war. Yes, many Christians oppose or regret earthly warfare, but, at a very deep level in their psyches, they see earthly wars as only mattering in the short term. The spiritual war is the one that counts for all time. It trumps all other concerns. And this Christian believes she should train children to participate in this war.
Where did this Christian author get such ideas? The source she discusses in this post comes from William Booth, the founder (or co-founder, if one gives due credit to his wife, Catherine) and first General of The Salvation Army. I’ll just share one brief excerpt here. This quote is from Williams Booth’s work (see link above):
“You must make the children understand that God expects them to do their share of the fighting, and encourage them to do it. Beget within them the conviction that soul-saving is going to be their life-work, and get them fired with the ambition to go to their post and die there before they are brought into contact with cold, freezing, unbelieving, half-hearted professors….”
Children are to fight for God, to commit their entire lives to the fight, to be willing to die in the fight (there’s that martyr complex) … and, here’s a new (but not surprising) twist: they must learn all of these things before their minds are poisoned by education from godless, heartless, uncaring professors. As far as some evangelical Christians are concerned, it’s perfectly fine, even desirable, to indoctrinate children. But – for God’s sake – whatever they do, Christian parents must not let their children get too much education (which, as we all know, might lead them away from their faith). Or, if they must get some education, particularly at post-secondary levels and above, it should be acquired through trustworthy Christian institutions (where the professors are, presumably (and unlike their non-Christian counterparts), warm, believing and wholeheartedly committed to their calling) or under the supervision of Christian faculty at secular institutions (yes, Virginia, such people do exist). If you aren’t thoroughly disgusted or angry yet, you will be when I tell you the rest of the story: the Christian post I’ve been discussing is entitled, Respecting Children – Part two.
– the chaplain