(Originally published in World News Group)
The early church was born into a world of child victimization. Abortion, infanticide, child castration, selling children, and child sex abuse were common. The practice of infant exposure, casting disabled, illegitimate, or female children into rivers or onto trash heaps, was routine. Children from poor families could be sold as laborers, either permanently or temporarily. The sexualization and abuse of children, especially by adult men was not only accepted but expected. Eunuchs, men castrated as children for the purpose of household servitude, were in high demand. A standard archaeological method for identifying brothel sites in the ancient world was the discovery of mass graves of male infants, who were of less interest to future patrons. In the first century, children were seen by some as objects to be used, abused, and discarded.
Christians had a radically different view of children. In contrast to the Roman world, which didn’t consider children human until they could walk and talk, the people of The Way followed a Savior who had been an infant, born in Bethlehem. He grew into a man who “bid children come to Him,” exhorted His followers to “become like little children” to enter into the kingdom of God, and gave a dreadful warning to those who would “cause little ones to stumble.” The Apostle Paul identified the developmental importance of “letting kids be kids” when he explained that he “talked, thought, and reasoned” differently as a child than he did as an adult. This was such a radically new conception of children that some historians posit that Christianity “invented childhood” by recognizing the imago Dei and extending to them value and protection.
As a result, the first Christians distinguished themselves from the surrounding culture by their treatment and protection of children. The unflagging prohibition against sex with anyone other than one’s wife or husband safeguarded children from adult sexual abuse. Further, the first believers forbade abortion and rescued discarded children; and their pro-child mentality led them to out-breed their pagan counterparts. The rapid growth of Christianity across the West was in part due to how they valued, welcomed, and protected children.
Today, we are seeing a resurgence of anti-child practices—abortion, commodification, sterilization, sexualization. Like the first century, children’s lives, family, minds, and bodies are under assault. The termination of a child’s right to life is promoted as a woman’s “choice.” “Exposure” is experiencing a revival as Democrats resist efforts to extend life-saving measures to babies “born alive” after a botched abortion. Babies are routinely discarded, sold, and separated from their parents through reproductive technologies. Young students are sexualized through graphic, innocence-violating content. Children are being surgically and chemically sterilized in the name of transgender “treatments.” Official medical guidance has even been published for children who identify as eunuchs seeking “castration to better align their bodies with their gender identity.” It almost appears as if we consider children objects to be used, abused, and discarded.
In light of the resurgence of these ancient threats to children, the church must re-embrace one of its first expressions of faithful Christianity in action—defending children. While practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population, many pastors and Christian leaders are unfortunately silent on other matters of child protection. This is often rationalized as simply wanting to “focus on God” or needing to “stay out of politics.” But our unwillingness to speak and act on these pressing social issues harms real-life children. That needs to change.
The church must decry the injustice of abortion while simultaneously caring for both the mother and the unplanned child. We must work to ban fertility “treatments” that traffic the sperm, egg, and womb of the economically vulnerable, commercially separate children from their mother and/or father, and often place them in unstable and risky households. Christians need to back legislation that ends transgender “medical care” responsible for children’s surgical and chemical sterilization. We must vocally oppose sex-ed and “drag queen” story hours that sexualize, confuse, and groom children. We must support the removal of books from school libraries deemed too graphic for the evening news and require age verification for porn sites in every state.
First-century believers had little legislative authority, thus the ability to protect children was restricted to their immediate family, church, and community. Christians in America must not only care for children “in our midst” but also seek justice on their behalf in the public square. The church must publicly and unequivocally lead the charge on any matter threatening children’s lives, families, minds, or bodies.
Like the first century, modern society is again at war with children. And like the first-century church, Christians today must rise to their defense. Our involvement in these matters is not a distraction from the gospel. Instead, it is a manifestation of the gospel taking root. Speaking boldly and engaging courageously on matters threatening children is not a departure from Christianity’s origin but a return to it.