Churches are preparing for multiple Christmas services and activities for children. Not guarded by farm animals and without the star of Bethlehem to point them out, can we ensure their safety and well-being in the world? Before you respond, answer this.
How can North American Christians love sweet baby Jesus, whom they’ve never seen, but not the baby racialized as black under the colonizing terms of white supremacy, not the baby crushed under the rubble caused by the indiscriminate bombings in Palestine, not the baby caught in the crossfire of a civil war in Yemen and Sudan, not the baby mining cobalt in the Congo whom they see on the news every day?
How do we love not just the “chosen” children of privilege but unexpected children like Jesus and John the Baptist, whose births were unplanned but miraculous indeed? How do we help the child who doesn’t have her own means of salvation?
“For just 25 cents a day, you can feed these starving children.” A Feed the Children commercial of my childhood played on white saviorism and the myth that Africa is the face of need instead of a victim of the greed of empire.
Their bloated bellies and sunken faces were part of an incessant commercial mixed in with late-night television. What was I supposed to take away from this as a young and impressionable African American?
Now, as an adult, I see how much is taken away to satisfy the tastes of the rich. The only way to accumulate massive wealth is to take it from others through labor exploitation of the most vulnerable populations and by harming the environment. There is no ethical way to become a billionaire.
Elon Musk is the poster- child for the super-rich. He is more interested in investing in social media platforms and taking outer space trips than solving world hunger and other issues closer to home.
“We need the help of billionaires who have made so much money during COVID – unprecedented wealth – this is a one-time ask. Please help us. Please help us save little girls and little boys,” U.N.’s food and hunger agency chief David Beasley told CBS News Radio from Rome in 2021.
For just $40 billion each year, we can feed those who are hungry and facing famine. For just 43 cents a day, the U.N. World Food Programme can provide one nutritious meal daily to those in need. Why not ask the churches to cut back on worship services to save the children since they receive nearly $75 billion yearly?
Our religion begins with a birth announcement, “Unto us a child is born” (Luke 2:11). But we couldn’t leave Jesus with some church leaders.
“Sex abuse and cover-up scandals have shredded the Catholic Church’s reputation and have been a major challenge for the pope, who has passed a series of measures aimed at holding the Church hierarchy more accountable, with mixed results,” Reuters staff reported in late September. Washington Post writer, Joshua Pease called sexual abuse in the evangelical church “the epidemic of denial” in 2018.
There’s also a long but incomplete list of adults that children should stay away from in the Southern Baptist Convention. Recently, a report from the Maryland Attorney General found 150 priests from the Archdiocese of Baltimore abused over six hundred children.
What are we to do then with faith leaders who cannot be trusted with children? What does this say about the church’s ministry to children? If its leaders and members are still not mature enough to hear it, Jesus said it anyway.
“If any one of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42, NRSV). Jesus said, “Take them to the water”—not me.
Unfortunately, we won’t be able to save all of God’s children. But it’s not because we don’t have the money or the means to cure our societal ills or that the children haven’t heard the Christmas message. It is more likely because we have forgotten or stopped believing who we are.
When asked how he survived the cruelty and hostility of discrimination as a child, Howard Thurman, a distinguished theologian and mystic, said, “My mama kept telling me I was a child of God and I believed her.”