Carol’s Challenging Question – Child Abuse

It’s really hard to contemplate how a fully-grown adult can wield power over an innocent baby or child and maim, or even kill, that child.  No-one in their right mind can imagine how angry the perpetrator must have become to even contemplate such an action.  However, we are all humans and, once the red mist descends on any given emotional situation, actions can become uncontrollable and it is feasible that injury or death could be the outcome.

Photo – Pixabay – pexels.com

The definition of child abuse is any physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or neglectful action towards a child. It is a deeply complex subject which is experienced all over the world. The reasons for it are many and varied – an abuse of power; substance and alcohol misuse; poverty; unemployment; part of domestic violence in the home; varying parenting styles; economic recession; parental stress, etc.

It is not only experienced in poorer homes or with young, inexperienced parents or carers. Children from all walks of life – whether from wealthy background, in foster care, in an educational, sports or church setting, youth movement or other child-related environment – have been the subject of ill-treatment – often hitting the news headlines when tragedy has resulted from abuse.

The harm that can emanate from child abuse is well-catalogued.  It often affects the person for the whole of their life, sometimes causing untold mental health, emotional and physical agonies. Often it can lead to self-harm and even suicide. Thanks to the bravery of people who have reported such crimes, often quite late into their life, society is now much more aware of what can happen and better prepared to believe what a child says.

Most of us want little ones to have a happy, stable and enjoyable childhood and it is abhorrent to think that some children are suffering in any way behind closed doors. However, we know abuse happens and it is useful to be aware of some of the signs that a child could be experiencing: unexplained change in behaviour or personality; becoming withdrawn; seeming anxious; becoming uncharacteristically aggressive; lacking in social skills and having few friends, if any; poor bonding with a parent, sibling or carer; the child having knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age; running away or going missing; always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body.

We’ve all seen on the television or read in the papers about the shocking actions of some professionals whose appalling behaviour has harmed the very people that they are employed to look after. People such as doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, social workers, nursery assistants, sports coaches – and even priests! – who are all respected and put on a pedestal by our society for the work they do.

Graham – Jesus said “suffer little children to come unto me”. I have absolutely no doubt that He didn’t mean this literally. As I often wonder about many issues, why does God allow such things to happen, especially affecting innocent children and what should a Christian’s approach be when we hear of such despicable behaviour?

Rev Graham replies:

In all that you have outlined, Carol, child abuse happens because people feel that they will, in one form or another, get away with the actions they commit and are eager to fulfil their desire even at the cost of getting caught and being punished. As to why God allows such things to happen and what should a Christian’s approach be when we hear of such despicable behaviour, I will try to answer in my own way.

The State of a Nation

It may be argued that one way of assessing the health of any nation is to see how it treats the old, infirm, young and vulnerable. If child abuse is prevalent within a nation, then one may conclude that it is not a happy or healthy nation. If people grow up believing that there is no difference between actions that may be considered right or wrong in certain situations, then they will seek to gratify their own desires in a physical, sexual, relational or material manner. At the heart of a person is self-centredness that can take us to dark places which not only causes individual distress but has a massive impact upon families and society.

When we think about God allowing or not allowing things to happen, we have to appreciate that God in His wisdom and planning allows human beings to have a free-will that enables them to act, for better or worse, in a way that affects communities where they live. Conversely, if people’s actions are considered evil in the sight of God and society then they have to take self-responsibility and accept a rightful punishment for their actions and not to blame God or anyone else.

Ethics and Laws

Photo by Mikhail Nilou Pexel.com  

At the heart of any nation, throughout the world, there will be certain Ethics and Laws that are agreed upon which act as a means of control, guidance and help for people to live together, promoting peace and harmony. To combat areas where people break a law or violently offend people’s property or person, there has to be some form of punishment and retribution for any offender and some form of re-integration back into society for those who have completed a custodial sentence.

Within community, there has to be some form of collective thinking that helps it to fuse and stay strong together. Alongside the thinking there has to be a collective will or heart to conform and contribute to the welfare and success of a nation, recognising the need for laws and rules that promote harmony above anarchy. The vision and sight that people share is also important. For instance, if people have eyes of selfishness above selflessness, then people will see with a selfish eye and think and act in a selfish way that will undermine the rights of others which, in extreme cases, can include child abuse and murder and not be seen as a crime or deficit to society.

Christian Tradition

Central to the Christian tradition is the teaching about forgiveness and a requirement that justice must take place to uphold those who have been offended and those who have broken the law. Such punishment has wavered from the death sentence to other types of custodial sentences. It can and has been argued that, the more severe a sentence, then there is more of a likelihood that people will not commit crimes! There is a parallel between crime and punishment in that in some countries in the world the punishment of classified crimes are so harsh that the rate of crime overall is very low because people are afraid of the consequences of the crime they may possibly commit.

If society is based on everyone doing their own thing then in the short and long term it will only act as a recipe for anarchy and the ultimate end of that community as it has been known. In the Old Testament we find that many generations ‘did what was right in their own eyes’ (Judges 21: 25) which caused chaos. We also we read of people offering up child sacrifices in an attempt to appease the gods they worshipped. Many societies have and continue to practice slavery in various forms which includes young children to mature adults with each one treated like a commodity to be used, exchanged and even thrown away.

A New State of the Nation

Heart

Thanks Kardina Grabowska Pexels,com

In the Judo/Christian tradition we are called to have a new heart that seeks, in acts of worship, to show love, compassion and kindness to all peoples within society and without any prejudice. ‘I will give them a new heart to know me: they will be My people and I will be their God’ (Jeremiah 24:7). ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36: 26).

Mind

The Apostle Paul says that we should “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 1 – 2) which will cause us to live our lives in a different way to how people live around us.

Spirit

We are encouraged to embrace a different spirit ‘Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on level ground’ (Psalm 143: 10). When we live by a different spirit it will produce in us and society different fruits. The fruits of the spirit in individuals and society can change evil behaviour into Godly actions that will benefit all peoples (Galatians 5: 22-23).

In the Old Testament we find that we have a template for Godly living as found in the Ten Commandments which Moses received from God. The codes help people to live a different life from those around them that can result in a safer and better community for all. In the New Testament, Jesus built upon those Commandments in his teaching of the Beatitudes that also offers society different attitudes to live by.

If individuals live a Godly life that includes daily confession of their short comings before the Lord, then life would be better for everyone because there would exist greater respect and love for each other that would reduce unloving and harmful actions. In exercising self-restraint and following spiritual and societal laws, there would be a breaking of the cycle of offending in the context of how much child abuse takes place today. 

Some of the building blocks of Western Society include a promotion of self-determination and no accountability to a God. This compares to Christian communities that realise we have all fallen short from God’s perfect life and it is only in Christ and God’s forgiving grace that we are able to think, act and live a different life full of contrast to life without God’s grace.

Loving and supportive, not lustful or envious. Sharing and caring, not taking and robbing. We are respectful and do not take advantage of each other. We are truthful and not deceitful. We reflect the love and compassion of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and do not promote self-pride, gain, wilfulness and excess.

Any society will reflect its own ethics, morals and laws that are enshrined within them and to be upheld, monitored and enforced in a respectful way and, if they are not, then such a societal model will fail and crumble.

Restoration, Reconciliation and Healing

Today in the Western world we have primarily turned our back on the Judo/Christian teachings and therefore cannot expect godly examples from High Priests, professionals, ordinary, young and mature people and so evil actions are certain to take place. The good news is that, even in a fallen world, God is in the business of restoration, reconciliation, healing, renewal, forgiveness and so much more.

For the person who has committed the worst crime ever, it can be said that, after completing the appropriate punishment for the specific crime, renewal and some form of restoration can be possible for the good of society and the individual. This ensures that the ethics of forgiveness and restoration exist alongside punishment and correction for any wrong committed which will only strengthen any society and reduce the stains that can exist from offenders and those offended.

Take Away

Today there exists ‘cycles of abuse’ that continue in any community because, so often, the one that abuses another has, at some stage in their lives, been abused themselves. God loves all peoples and He is particularly close to the orphan, widow and broken-hearted. In a perfect world no child should feel vulnerable and experience any form of unloving actions that are classed as abusive. In turn those who grow up with experiencing any abuse should not want to abuse others.

Carol – In relating to all the problems you have highlighted, I am reminded of that verse in 2 Chronicles7: 14 that, if My people turn from their wicked ways, then an alternative philosophy and lifestyle in Christ will bring a change of heart, thinking and acting for the good. As we embrace the love of Father God, Jesus the Son of God and the Holy Spirit of God, may that cycle of abuse be exhumed, ensuring that the sanctity and value of every human being from birth, right through to a person’s last breath, is upheld.

Graham

As we require God’s healing may this powerful worship song minister to us: Come to the Altar by Elevation Worship

SIGNPOST ORGANISATIONS

Premier National Christian Helpline

Premier Lifeline is open 9am to midnight every day of the year. Our telephone number is 0300 111 0101 (Landline Rate – included in call packages where landline calls are included). 

Association of Christian Counsellors – Tel 024 7644 9694 email: office@acc-uk.org If you need a counsellor please use this link to our Find a Counsellor search facility

Counselling Directory If you require support remotely you can find a therapist offering online or telephone services.

BACP – British Association Counsellors – bacp@bacp.co.uk – 01455 883300BACP

Police – dial 999 if you think the child is in immediate risk of harm.

NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) Tel: 0808 800 5000 or

email help@nspcc.org.uk

Childline – Tel: 0800 1111 Samaritans helpline   116 123

Local doctor/teacher/priest or other trusted person.

Local Social Services Care Teams.

Child Law Advice (free legal advice and information service) Tel: 0300 330 5480.

Previous questions

Homelessness

Asylum Seeker/Refugees

Suicide

Poverty

Crime and Punishment

Pornography

Abortion

How can God forgive Terrorist?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s