Dennis the Menace is a disconcerting American image of childhood. Our knowing guffaws at his pre-juvenile delinquency are in the same tradition that found Tom Sawyer hilarious. The novelist who pictured “momism” as the great threat to America must have had an atypical home life. The American home is not matriarchal or patriarchal; it is a filiarchy. We are not afraid of Big Brother. It is Little Brother with his six-guns who runs the ranch.

Child-centered living has at least made us more realistic about child nature. We may even be less inclined to adore the boy Jesus as a symbol of romantic, innocent childhood. Indeed, Christ Jesus was born of Mary not to symbolize childhood but to save it. Our hope is not in the children but in the Child.

Yet at the manger we learn not to despise the little ones. From Bethlehem, from the memory of Jesus blessing the children in his arms, flows Christian tenderness toward boys and girls. Martin Luther shows it. Beside the virile drum beat of “A Mighty Fortress” is the childlike simplicity of the “From Heaven on High” which Luther surely sang with his children and may have written for them:

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,

Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,

Within my heart, that it may be

A quiet chamber kept for thee.

Kierkegaard has “Climacus” say that Christianity is not for children. The reverse is true. It is for children and the childlike only. Jesus laid his hands on the children and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” He is saying that to us of our children. In the Christ-centered home the child in the midst is not idolized but respected and loved, admonished and nurtured—in the Lord.



Sincere thanks … for the two editorials … the ...

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