Like most states, the children of Tennessee are in crisis. Issues of adolescent mental health, suicides, and accidental fentanyl overdoses plague every county of our great state. Recently, a video that showed children in the care of the Department of Children’s Services sleeping on the floor of their regional offices set off quite a stir. Children in the care of DCS suddenly had everyone’s attention.
A follow-up story in The Tennessean quoted Margie Quin, the Commissioner of DCS, thanking faith groups for stepping up and helping to ease the crisis. I’m grateful that so many churches and other faith-based organizations have responded to the needs of Tennessee children. While the problem isn’t close to being solved, we have relieved the immediate crisis. Now, we must commit ourselves to the long-term problems that caused this crisis in the first place.
But that’s another story.
Here’s the question I have right now. If, as Commissioner Quin stated, the faith-based community has stepped up, when did we as the followers of Jesus Christ decide to step down from children and their families in Tennessee? Or for that matter, the children of the United States? The world rightly condemns us for being pro-life until the child is born. If we are serious about the sacredness of life then we must be concerned about the entirety of that life – from birth to death.
That means local churches have to be the biggest advocates of adoption and foster care. There should never be a child in Tennessee who can’t be placed in a home. Now, I understand that some children need different levels of care and some aren’t ready to be placed in a home, but that is a minority of the children who are waiting for adoption. Of course, not everyone is called to adopt a child, but all of us can wrap around those families who are adopting and providing foster care and support them in multiple ways. If we preach that we’re pro-life, then we need to step up.
That means that every church should be engaged with local public schools. Some will choose to attend and support private schools and that’s their right. Some think public schools have surrendered their positions as trainers of our children – and that’s another blog – but we have to face the reality that we will never be able to build enough private schools to educate all of the children in our nation. Public schools are here to stay.
Some will say that public schools won’t let them pray or lead a Bible study – again, that’s another blog – but I’ve never seen a public school turn away a volunteer math tutor or reading instructor. If you can’t start where you want, start where you can. Salt and light are always needed.
Get involved in youth sports, youth orchestras, youth dance companies, or volunteer in juvenile courts. Show up wherever they let you and do what you can. Every child deserves the opportunity to develop their God-given talents. Every child bears the Imago Dei. If you claim to be pro-life then, step up.
And every child belongs to the Father.
And because of that, every child belongs to us. Not every story has a happy beginning, but we preach a resurrection gospel that says every story can be baptized in mercy and raised to live in joy. That happens when the followers of Christ start believing in a child and will call out the goodness within that child that has been marred but not destroyed.
Resurrection overcomes death. Resurrection overcomes trauma.
If you’ve done it for the least of these, Jesus said, you’ve done it for me. It’s time for the church to step up and this time, not step down again.