Jun 27 2008

Human Becoming

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man SketchIt may sound odd, but I never really thought about the word “being” in the phrase “human being.” To me, the phrase has always meant the same thing as just plain “human” so the word “being” was, in my mind anyway, superfluous.

Why do we call ourselves human beings? Is there another kind of human?

Merriam Webster defines a “being” as “conscious existence” or “a living thing.” So, what other kind of human is there, if we aren’t all beings?

The answer, I’m afraid, is a shadowy reflection of who we have become as a society. I believe we, us humans I mean, have largely treated children as if they are not human beings … but rather human “becomings”… in other words, they are on their way to full “being” status but not quite there yet.

Why is it that so many people see children this way? Perhaps it’s because they don’t know how to mobilize for political clout. And why would they? They have no voice on election day anyway.

Could it be because of their physical limitations? I’m reminded of some brilliant minds that were attached to virtually useless bodies. Stephen Hawking, regarded by many as one of the greatest thinkers of our time, is a quadriplegic. Yet, his insights have challenged the thoughts of geniuses and forced the revision of textbooks in multiple levels of science and discovery. So the argument that a person must have some sort of physical ability to be considered a “being” is flawed, at best.

Maybe we don’t consider children as full-fledged “beings” because they don’t contribute on any measurable scale to the economy. I challenge that thinking. Sure, children almost never directly contribute to the labor force or economic stability of our communities … or do they?

While children aren’t pulling 9 to 5s (nor should they be), they contribute more to your economy than you may imagine. Consider the markets for toys, games, children’s clothing, baby food, diapers, and so on … and how many hundreds of thousands of jobs these products create — not to mention the billions of dollars spent purchasing these products each year.

Children may not produce much more than dirty diapers, but they are definitely consumers. Their influence on the national economy runs in the billions of dollars annually. Even if they didn’t have that type of economic impact, the argument that children can’t be treated as human “beings” because they don’t make money is a shaming and powerful indictment on our flawed value system.

Then something hit me really hard. Does the church see children as human beings or human becomings?

I’m ashamed to admit that the church I attend doesn’t even let children in the sanctuary. They actually have ushers at the doors to the sanctuary to discourage children from entering. Granted, the thinking here is that the sanctuary is for adult teaching and that we have classes for children to learn age-appropriate lessons. That’s wonderful. Age-graded curriculum is a must. But our children never see their parents in church … listening intently to the pastor … taking notes … worshipping.

During these crucial formative years, the church has treated them as human “becomings” who will be able to join us in worship “someday” just not today. This is where we should be most ashamed. Of all places, the church is where children should be treated as human beings. Psalm 8 tells us that “out of the mouths of babes” comes the power to silence the enemy. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something I’d like to have in my church!

We have a road map from our Heavenly Father in which He tells us very clearly how important children are to Him. There are literally hundreds of verses in the Bible referring to children. Jesus said they were so important that it would be better to be tied to a two-ton rock and thrown into the ocean than to cause one of them to stumble.

So maybe … just maybe … we ought to start thinking about children differently. Maybe we need to start in our churches. That’s where we should be setting the example.

On a side note: as I was looking up the definition of a “being,” Webster decided to add a footnote that says “See also: Supreme Being.” Interesting, I thought. So I checked it out.

The definition for Supreme Being was simply one word:

God

That’s all it says … Supreme Being … noun … God.

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  1. Jun 29, 2008
    at 2:02 pm

    Hmm…my own church does have a nursery, and children’s/teens’ services. In both the children’s and teens’ groups, they have a worship time; I know the children then split into their age groups for teaching. But I also see children and a few teens in “big” church, and the only times their presence has been discouraged were when the sermon was going to include some things that the pastors thought children probably should not hear; e.g., when they were teaching from the Sonf of Solomom. I also know that the children really learn to worship; a couple of times a year, kids from grades 2-5 lead the worship in “big” church, and you can see that many of them really are worshipping their Lord. It’s pretty neat.

    But your point, which Wess has also made, is valid. A friend of long ago once told me that she had never referred to her son and daughter as “kids,” but always as her children. But we agreed that, more fundamental than the words, was whether we saw our children as people.

  2. Jun 29, 2008
    at 2:13 pm

    What an interesting post. I’ve never been in a church where children weren’t allowed in the sanctuary! I think you made great “arguments” for why they should be there!

  3. Jun 29, 2008
    at 4:00 pm

    Vicki,

    Sounds like your church gets it. The only time my church allows children in the sanctuary, is when they are doing baby dedications.
    My former pastor used to make jokes all the time about children’s ministry…like he’d say, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to make you work in the children’s ministry…” like it was some sort of punishment…or it was a terrible place to be.
    That always bothered me. But, like I said, he’s my FORMER pastor. Ha!

    Thanks for reading and for writing.

  4. Jun 29, 2008
    at 4:02 pm

    Thanks Beth.

    Yeah, even if the teaching is more than the kids should hear, I like it when the service starts with the children, and then dismisses them after worship–for the teaching. I’ve also been to churches where the pastor brings the young kids up to the front and teaches them a little lesson before dismissing them. I love that. Wish my church did those things.

    Thanks for reading and for commenting!

    tim

  5. Jun 29, 2008
    at 8:55 pm

    “So maybe … just maybe … we ought to start thinking about children differently. Maybe we need to start in our churches. That’s where we should be setting the example.”

    Here’s my take on it. I believe our kids need to see us with our Bibles open, on our knees in prayer, and worshipping our Lord in our homes first and foremost. Personally, on Sunday and during a mid-week service, I want my child in an age-appropriate learning/worshipping environment (for the same reason I wouldn’t send my 2nd grader to a high school class).

    Hopefully my child knows what I do in church because she sees me doing it at home the rest of the week and she will emulate the behavior. In all honesty, if she were ‘made’ to sit in church between her mother and me, she would likely not understand the message and as a result not want to go to church. As it is now, she loves the experience of her age appropriate classes.

    I know this wasn’t the main-focus of your post, but I felt compelled to reply.

  6. Jun 30, 2008
    at 8:37 am

    Yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly Dave! We should be doing it at home. But I also believe our children need to see us involved in corporate worship.

    As I mentioned in one of my earlier comments:

    “Yeah, even if the teaching is more than the kids should hear, I like it when the service starts with the children, and then dismisses them after worship–for the teaching. I’ve also been to churches where the pastor brings the young kids up to the front and teaches them a little lesson before dismissing them. I love that. Wish my church did those things.”

    Yes…absolutely, our children need to see us worshipping at home, but they need to be “included” at church too. Just my .02.

    As always, thanks for reading and for commenting!

    tim

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