CHILDREN in darkness -- it's a disturbing image. So troubling, in fact, that it might seem a lot easier simply to turn away from information about the desperate situations faced by many children in the world, situations highlighted in the series that begins in today's Monitor: ``Children in darkness: the exploitation of innocence.'' But turning away won't make the problem disappear. As the series makes clear, indifference only helps to perpetuate the misery of exploitation. In fact, dissolving indifference may be the most important first step we can take toward finding genuine, lasting solutions.
But what do we replace indifference with? Outrage? Righteous crusading? Past experience has shown that anger and fervor are not enough to sustain long-term reform. Perhaps our deepest need is for a change of heart, for the sort of spiritual awakening that allows us to understand childhood in a radically different, and powerful, light.
Christ Jesus certainly made a clear case for the importance of childlikeness. When his disciples tried to keep young children away from him, he responded, ``Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.'' Jesus then drove home his point with words that still ring with profound significance: ``Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.''1
Obviously, Jesus placed great value not just on the state of childhood itself but on such childlike qualities as innocence, trust, unselfishness, and purity. His words indicate that the recognition and expression of these qualities are what enable us to enter the kingdom of heaven, to witness here the presence and power of God, good.
What a radical promise -- and warning -- the Master has given mankind! The childlike qualities that humans often perceive as weak and vulnerable are actually the cornerstone of our salvation from evil.
But how does cherishing childlikeness make a dent in the complex problems that lead to the exploitation of children? To realize clearly the God-derived powerexpressed in childlikeness is, at least in some measure, to understand where genuine authority lies -- not in wicked, carnal thinking but in Almighty God. And prayer that embodies something of this understanding can certainly help lighten the darkness of the world.
No matter how dire the facts of any situation appear to be, they're not telling us the whole story, because they don't represent what God, who is totally good, has actually created. Man in His image is loved and cared for. God's offspring are not at risk, because in God's infinitude evil has no legitimacy.
These are the actual, spiritual facts of being, though they seem hidden to a limited human sense of things. Through prayer -- through our mental insistence on the spiritual reality of good and our refusal to be indifferent to man's true status as the child of God -- we can have a direct, healing influence on world problems such as the exploitation of children.
Prayer is a powerful help. It's a practical, effective remedy because it calls upon the supremacy of the one almighty creator. The acknowledgment and wholehearted acceptance of the father-motherhood of God and of man's invulnerable spiritual selfhood must inevitably lessen the evidence which suggests that evil is insurmountable and that children are rather helpless mortals, capable of being mercilessly victimized.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, stressed the importance of childlikeness and its relationship to world salvation. In an address to her followers, she urged them, ``Beloved children, the world has need of you, -- and more as children than as men and women: it needs your innocence, unselfishness, faithful affection, uncontaminated lives.'' And she added, ``What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!''2
The world has need of innocence, of spiritual steadfastness, of our stand for the reality of good. Such qualities can't be victimized; they must, and will, be victorious. Faced with the divine demand to conquer evil, can we afford to be indifferent?
1Mark 10:14, 15. 2Miscellaneous Writings, p. 110. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21