The New York Times published a report this week that details the harrowing status of America’s children’s wellbeing entering this new year.
Not mincing words, the report led with this sentence: “The pandemic has created a crisis for American children.”
Data from a wide variety of sources tells us that, educationally, kids fell way behind during the first year of the pandemic, and they have not caught back up. Additionally, many kids are experiencing mental health issues. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics, recently declared a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. Suicide attempts by adolescents are up; gun violence against children has increased; and behavior problems have increased as well. A problem that several friends of ours who work in local schools can corroborate with much anecdotal evidence.
Let’s be blunt: Our kids are in trouble!
If as faithful people we take the gospel seriously, we are commanded to care for those who are the most vulnerable among us. And who is more vulnerable than our children?
Matthew 18:6 reads: “If any 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 fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Is that clear enough?
But you need not be Christian to agree that figuring out how to set aside our differences and place the priorities of our children above politics is vital in this new year. This is an unprecedented time for us and our kids. We don’t have the slightest clue what the long term effects of the educational disruption, social isolation and the witnessing of our adult rancor will be on our children. But common sense should tell us what comes of it down the road as our children mature won’t be good.
Some might say that this isn’t a faith issue at all, and even some faithful may dismiss this as a parenting or educational or a governance issue, failing to take ownership. But, if we claim to be faithful followers of Jesus, we are compelled to follow in his footsteps. And he would be the first to say that fixing the affairs of our children is imperative.
In this first week of the new year, could we set a collective New Year’s resolution together? A resolution that demands of us to set aside our divisiveness, our single mindedness, our pettiness, our selfishness to focus on our kids and the many ways we are failing them?
If you ask me, that’s exactly what Jesus would do?
Devlyn Brooks, who works for Modulist, a Forum Communications Co.-owned company, is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. He serves as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minnesota. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for comments and story ideas.