Eating children

Published 11:46 am Friday, July 5, 2019

By Nathan Decker

I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for the landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children.”

– Jonathan Swift in “A Modest Proposal”

Herman Melville was once asked about the inspiration for Moby Dick. It came from the true story of the Essex whaling ship, which was attacked by a sperm whale in the deep of the Pacific. The survivors poured out onto the smaller vessels. One decided to row toward a nearby island. It was risky; a false rumor had spread that the island was inhabited by cannibals. The other boat decided to row in the opposite direction. They were afraid of being eaten by cannibals, and so they set off deeper into the Pacific. Ironically, the men aboard this boat ran out of provisions, and so they began eating one another to survive. Their fear drove them to become that of which they were afraid.

We are cannibals in this society. When we do not nourish each other in hope we consume one another in fear. And worse, we are eating our children. No, we aren’t field dressing, butchering and baking them whole. We do it piecemeal, one small bite at a time through fear, labels and justification. When we teach them to be afraid of others because they are different, we nibble at their morality. When we show them that it is OK to put children in cages because they are ‘illegals,’ we carve a slice out of their soul. When we equate abortion with birth control and social justice with left-wing politics, we stab with our steely knives our children’s perspectives and openness to learn, develop, and love.

We have to be careful, or we will devour the very dreams our children smile about in the night. As children, we see the world in an immature light. The good guys are the Avengers, the Flash and anyone wearing a white hat.

The bad guys smoke, have a Russian accent and wear black hats. I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less easy it is to see the color of those hats. Spiritual maturity causes us to see gray in a world of black and white and to follow Jesus more than we follow our own understandings.

Instead of eating our children because of our own fears, insecurities and issues; we should feed our children hope, trust and an inquisitive spirit. If we teach children to question the way things are, hope will feed them a future filled with the way things can be. If we give our kids an opportunity to see us as adults engaging in fruitful conversations with people with whom we disagree, we nourish their self-confidence to trust in their own opinions and beliefs. When we take off the self-imposed prisons of our armor and defenses, we allow our offspring to see that learning is far more important than knowing.

Let go of fear, put on hope. Let go of apathy, dress in compassion. Take down defenses and embrace the difficult conversations. Whatever we do and say, let’s have an eye toward the next generations. Wendell Berry says it this way, “Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” That’s good advice, and after all, it’s what Jesus would do.

Like shepherds, tend the flock of God among you. Watch over it. Don’t shepherd because you must, but do it voluntarily for God. Don’t shepherd greedily, but do it eagerly. Don’t shepherd by ruling over those entrusted to your care, but become examples to the flock.” – 1 Peter 5:2-3

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.