The Iyc: More Harm Than Help To The Family

Beware of the government as guardian.

As the sun sets on the International Year of the Child, it seems appropriate to consider its effects on the attitudes of North Americans toward children and family. Christians have expressed varying opinions about the IYC: some have given it unrestrained praise, some have criticized it for advocating socialist policies, and others have viewed it as a chance to bring to the world’s attention the plight of today’s child. How, indeed, has the IYC affected our attitudes toward children?

The IYC’s overall purpose is to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child by focusing the world’s attention on the special needs of its children. This declaration specifies ten basic rights, among them the right to affection, love, and understanding; to adequate nutrition and medical care; to free education; and to be among the first to receive relief in times of disaster.

These purposes seem altogether commendable; however, the records of the IYC’s most fervent supporters, Planned Parenthood and the Population Crisis Committee, do not appear to be consistent with the goals of the IYC. For example, Planned Parenthood publishes and promotes numerous sex education materials and films that use questionable language and illustrations. Its literature encourages the “free expression of one’s sexuality,” even homosexuality. The organization has also pressured Congress to liberalize abortion laws. Likewise, the Population Crisis Committee supports research to advance technology concerning abortion. While one cannot hold an entire cause responsible for the foolish things some of its supporters do, these policies have made evangelicals hesitate to support the IYC.

In addition to its message of good will to all children, the IYC seems to follow a hidden agenda that promotes secular humanism and excessive governmental control of the family. In Sweden, for example, the law forbids parents to spank their own children, and recently introduced legislation could allow children to “divorce” their parents. The government also prohibits many forms of discipline it says would “treat [the child] in a humiliating way.” Many parents there find themselves without rights or legitimate say in the upbringing of their own children.

Yet the U.S. National Commission on the IYC last May hailed Sweden as one of two countries “most advanced” in its recognition of children’s rights. “In that context, most advanced” seems to mean that the state accepts ultimate responsibility for a child’s welfare.

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The U.S. Commission will soon recommend a plan to President Carter for U.S. policy toward legislation affecting children. The proposals will harm more than help the family if they aim to place final responsibility for children on the government rather than on the parents. Visions come to mind of a socialist “utopia” where government experts “liberate” children from their parents’ religious and moral “prejudices” and instill secular humanistic values in their place.

On the other hand, those who oppose the IYC’s support of more state control over the family should not retreat to the other extreme by seeking to remove all such control. Legal authority is needed to restrict unusual and flagrant abuses of parental control and discipline such as child abuse or neglect. While the state should protect children from those who abuse their parental rights, it should not intervene in everyday family affairs. Admittedly, the line is difficult to draw. Erring on the side of too little control would at least preserve the family unit. But erring in the other direction could cause the family to dissolve completely.

The prospect of greater government control over children should cause evangelicals to emphasize even more strongly the biblical teaching on the centrality of the family and its guidelines for family relationships. The New Testament urges parents not to “provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This biblical balance can express itself in laws that allow parents a free hand in raising their children, yet protect the children from extreme abuses of that freedom.

Even though a secular humanist philosophy seems to underlie the IYC and its major supporters, not all groups participating in the IYC hold to that philosophy. Many groups, including some Christian organizations, have taken the IYC theme at face value and used it for worthwhile ends. Child Evangelism Fellowship, for example, designated 1979 “The Year to Evangelize the Child.” Other groups have used IYC publicity to gain support for programs to immunize and provide medical care for children, and to teach illiterate children to read and write. These positive effects of the IYC cannot be minimized.

Yet in the final analysis, the goals and legislative concerns of the IYC have done more to destroy the integrity of the family than to establish it. In the coming months, IYC lobbyists will continue to influence Congress to uphold the “rights” of children by passing laws that jeopardize the biblical view of the sanctity of the family. For these reasons, evangelicals would do well to view forthcoming IYC proposals with careful scrutiny and even some suspicion, though it would be inappropriate to reject all proposals out of hand. Each IYC recommendation should be evaluated on its own merits in light of Scripture.

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Methodists: Choosing Love Or License

It is time for members of the United Methodist Church to draw the line. A majority of the church’s 55-member General Board of Church and Society in October proposed that the denomination loosen its official position on homosexuality. The issue will be voted on in April at the triennial meeting of the denomination’s main governing body, the General Conference.

The church’s present position is set forth clearly in two statements: “We do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” and “We do not recognize a relationship between two persons of the same sex as constituting marriage.” Additionally, United Methodist boards, agencies, and other units are prohibited from giving funds to any “gay” caucus or group and from using church money to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.

The board wants the two statements and the funding prohibition stricken from church policy. In their place would be a statement noting that although “over the past centuries Christian tradition and teaching have condemned homosexual practice, today some biblical scholars, theologians, and ethicists are critically re-examining and questioning this teaching.” The church’s new position, as proposed by the board, would be one of “seeking the truth as we take seriously both the witness of our heritage and the Spirit who is leading us.”

Another board proposal, addressing “civil and human rights for homosexual persons,” would require denominational agencies and institutions at all levels to ensure employees’ rights, regardless of sexual orientation. Under this provision, seminary teachers, along with all other denominational employees, apparently could not be dismissed for homosexual practice. The board is one of at least two United Methodist units that have voted already to accept homosexuals for employment.

We hope that United Methodists will cling to their present position. Far from caving in to the board’s ill-conceived recommendations, the General Conference ought to deliver a ringing reaffirmation of commitment to biblical standards of morality. The church’s present position on homosexual practice is not out of harmony with Christian principles of love and acceptance. Our supreme example is Jesus Christ, who loves us all and accepts us but wants us to repent of our sins.

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The newly proposed change in policy would be clearly a repudiation of biblical standards and a departure from the historic position of the Methodist church. Some will argue that the board is seeking only to remove a “negative” tone from the church’s stated position, making it easier for homosexuals to feel loved and accepted by the church. That argument is a smokescreen. Make no mistake about it: the real reason behind the board’s action is the strong belief in some circles that homosexual practice is indeed compatible with Christian teaching. And if the board has its way, gay-oriented groups will be free to receive church money to promote public acceptance of homosexual behavior.

A clue to the intent behind the board’s actions is contained in the proposed new statement itself. The clear implication of the statement is that the historic, biblical position on homosexuality may be wrong, and that the Holy Spirit may be trying to show us that homosexual practice is okay after all. Such an implication is a blasphemous affront to the Spirit. It is the same as attributing to him a suggestion that heterosexual fornication is now acceptable in God’s sight.

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