Are We Really Better Off? Ask the Children

By Michael Patrick
March 13, 2000

 -- Our national leaders are quite fond of asking, are you better off than in the past? The presumptive answer in our economically prosperous nation is "yes." But are we measuring our wealth the right way? Our nation's children may be paying too high a price for the financial successes of the "Me First" generation.

Certainly, we feel we are doing better by our children in our "healthy" economy than in parts of Asia and Africa, where children are forced to march in child armies or work to survive in slave labor conditions.

However, many members of Americaís younger generation are suffering deep emotional scars from our social and economic choices. Too often, we donít ask the uncomfortable questions about our childrenís welfare until the emotional and spiritual grenades begin to explode in the headlines around us:

Mt. Morris Township, Michigan. A six-year old child aims a pistol at a classmate and murders her. We are horrified and puzzled by one more childhood shooting. Meanwhile, politicians grapple over the problems of guns, rather than the harsher reality of neglected children.

Richmond, Virginia. A mother is found fit to stand trial for conveniently microwaving her baby boy to death.

Washington, D.C. The foster care system is in "pandemonium," with scores of children cramped into government buildings awaiting placement. These homeless children wander the system after their parents are arrested for drug abuse and child neglect.

Record numbers of teen-agers are adrift in jails and state prisons around the nation.
We want to believe that these news items are mere aberrations, but the "it canít happen here" defense has been buried along with numerous young people in school shootings from coast to coast.

We have built a fast food, throwaway culture where our goal is instant gratification. We want it all and we want it now. Unfortunately, this self-centered trend has taken a horrible toll on our children. Too many parents take the next logical step -- they dispense with their children like dead batteries when the trouble of raising them begins to drag down their lifestyles.

In the wealthiest nation in the world, it is now commonplace to hear of a child stuffed like so much dirty laundry into a sack and left to die in a Dumpster. Each year, thousands of children are abandoned at hospitals or in alleyways by parents with better things to do than care for them.

In Calimesa, California, dozens of tiny crosses dotting a graveyard mark the latest trend in our wealthy nation -- children killed by their parents. At the Garden of Angels one woman quietly polices the small, lifeless bodies of children left like unclaimed freight on the streets of Los Angeles and nearby areas.

In Hamburg, Germany, the community has started a "baby bank" to help address the problem of abandoned children. Mothers can quickly and conveniently deposit their unwanted child in a drop slot, much like returning a movie to a video store. When youíre done watching it, just drop it off. It's the latest dark "choice" in parenting that fits with our modern lifestyles.

At least 14 states from California to New York are considering "safe haven" programs where busy parents can safely abandon their children, rather than leaving them to die in the snow. Communities in Texas, Alabama, Minnesota and Florida are experimenting with ways to help rescue unwanted children.

When the economics of our prosperous culture are mixed with our self-centered ways, the results can be toxic for our children. We have been lured into believing that it is a nobler idea to build a society where both parents can find their ultimate self-esteem and satisfaction in the workplace. As a result, our industries enjoy a larger pool of cheaper labor. Lower-paid service jobs are mushrooming along with single families. Wages are now so depressed that it often now takes more than two incomes per family to support a middle class lifestyle. Guess who is left behind when Mom and Dad are busy "finding themselves" in the workplace, or with new sexual partners of various stripes?

The biggest sacrifices made to raise most children these days are made by the children. Studies now estimate than 10 million pre-school children spend some or all of their day in the "care" of someone not their parents. They may not have been dropped off at a baby bank, but they are too often tossed from pillar to post, praying for so-called quality time with at least one parent before bedtime.

When the children show the consequent signs of emotional trouble, we sedate them with chemicals. Sometimes parents feel trapped by circumstances, but no more so than the children themselves. The number of American pre-school children being force-fed Ritalin, antidepressants or other psychoactive drugs has skyrocketed to worldwide record levels. Is there something so suddenly and biologically wrong with American children that makes such widespread drugging necessary, or could some of the problem lie with our social and parental choices?

The surgeon general has declared that 21 percent of children nine years of age and up have a mental disorder, including depression, attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity or bipolar disorder. Itís no small wonder we need to pray for these families.

In the book of Leviticus, God commanded, "Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God" (Lev. 18:21).

As a 21st century nation, we mistakenly believe that because we do not burn children alive in the fire to stone gods, we are superior in parenting to ancient families. But in our modern civilization, many similar childhood treacheries abound, and children are still sacrificed to the god of Self.

Jesus said, "You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness, and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see" (Rev. 3:17).

If our nation ever hopes to rescue our children, it will be by obeying the words of Jesus, and by abandoning our selfish ways rather than our children. In the meantime, the Church must arise to care for the hurting families and children all around us, amid the self-centered fires that are consuming the next generation.


Michael Patrick is a Senior Analyst for CBN News.