The Grace and Lace Letter
1998: Christmas Remembered
Here are three separate but connected meditations on children and childhood.
I remember when my son was not yet two years old and had such innocence and trust. I was telling him that we are never outside the reach of God's love. "God is everywhere," I said. "In our hearts, in our brains..."
"And in our POCKETS?" he piped up, stuffing his little fists into the pockets of his big-boy overalls to see if he could feel God.
I always remembered that day as a good example of the faith of a little child as Jesus mentioned in Matthew 18. And I have always wondered why we persist in making everything so difficult. Mind you, I'm not opposed to a seminary education. I'm thankful for men and women who have devoted their lives to become ministers in the name of Christ.
But when I encounter persons who have twisted the word of God to make it conform to their own prejudices - as I've said elsewhere, making God in their image instead of the other way around - I remember Jesus's words to the Pharisees:
Perhaps if he were speaking in today's words, he would ask them, "What part of 'God is Love' do you not understand?"
Because that's what God is about to children.
When do we start teaching children about those people we say God "hates"? Or do they just observe our own actions and attitudes and adopt those of their parents?
Harry Chapin wrote "Cat's in the Cradle" about a father who never had time to spend with his son. After the son was grown with his own family, the father called to invite him to visit, but the son was too busy.
A child whose parents fear diversity and practice intolerance grows up to "swallow the camel" of intolerance also. The love of Jesus he sang about years ago turns into judgment of those unlike himself.
This verse is our segue into the second part of this essay. My point is that we harm our children by teaching them prejudice and hatred.
This, however, is not the interpretation some people derive from Matthew 18: 6. In contemporary society, if you want to cast someone in a particularly unpleasant role, one of the worst things you can say about that person is:
"He's sending the wrong message to our children!"
We are so deathly afraid of exposing children to anything we consider immoral, I suspect we create in them a curiosity for those things we're shielding them from.
What a strange set of values we teach. The most obvious illustration is that testosterone extravaganza we call the Super Bowl. It's quite all right to show multiple advertisements for pills to enhance male sexual function. It's even more fun to extol the praises of drinking not just socially, but to absurd excess. And it's okay for kids to be in the room during these ads.
But one brief exposure of a woman's breast - the maternal organ which nurtured and comforted each of us in our first days of life - and oh my God, the horror! Obscene! We must hide it from the children!
Can you really not see the irony in these turned-around priorities?
Of course you know what I'm leading up to.
"If children see these 'transgender' people out in public, parading themselves around like you and me, then they will think it's normal - and maybe they will try it also. That's their AGENDA - to destroy our families!"
The hysteria is deafening, and totally ridiculous.
In the first place, what "straight" person out there is so insecure in their own identity that the mere sight of a trans person will cause them to question themselves?
Yes. There are transgender children out there. I know, because I was one once. Transgender children are not converted to being transgender by exposure to one of us. Transgender children do not say to themselves, "this looks like fun and I think I'll pattern my whole life this way." Transgender children awaken, gradually or suddenly, to the reality that they have always been transgender. Those children are not going to be made "straight," no matter how much effort their parents, churches, and peers put into such an intervention. These children are the ones who need our understanding and support.
In the same way, a "straight" child is not going to "convert" to being transgender, no matter how many trans people he or she comes into contact with. We are not contagious, and we don't have cooties.
"We can't have this MAN going into a women's restroom at work!! Would you want your daughter in there when HE comes in? We must protect our children!"
I assure you, we trans people go to the restroom for the same reason you do. And it's not to bother your children.
I realize some parents have difficulty with the words to use when telling children about a family member or friend who is transitioning. If the subject is approached with honesty and without casting shame, children are remarkably capable of understanding.
We are NOT the ones causing the children to sin. Search your hearts, parents, and pray that Christ will take away the prejudice and hatred that may be within.
I am indebted to Kate Bornstein for the
There comes a time when children aren't so innocent anymore. They have adopted the values of their parents and peers, and some of them can be mean little kids.
And what do mean kids do? They build themselves up by putting others down. The movies out now, "Mean Girls" and "Saved," describe a situation many of us retain as a bad memory.
The persons who are persecuted are the "different" ones. Kids can be cruel to adults also - the Old Testament, in a grisly passage (2 Kings 2: 23-24), describes the youths who taunted the prophet Elisha because he was bald. You might say their punishment was in excess of their crime, but the point was made.
Of course, most of the time kids torment other kids. The unattractive, unathletic, and those from the wrong social strata come in for their share of teasing.
"Four eyes!" "Elephant ears!" "Clumsy!"
I remember that one. Many times. It never stopped hurting.
When we were children, we spoke as children, we thought as children. We may have disparaged others as children do.
But now we are adults. Wouldn't we do well to put away childish things? Wouldn't we prefer to accept the diversity of the human condition, rather than retaining our fears and prejudices to teach another generation of children?
"Freak!" "Pervert!" "Faggot!"
Surely, it is time to grow up.