I woke up this morning thinking about little children. As a father and grandfather, I suppose this isn’t surprising. But my thoughts this morning were not of the pleasant variety.
Perhaps it’s because of the troubling clips I saw on television recently when adults were screaming shameful words at frightened immigrant children who had nothing to do with their present circumstances.
Perhaps it’s because of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s hard-ass attitude toward juvenile lifers. From his point of view, kids who committed vicious crimes very early in their lives should never get a second chance.
Perhaps it’s because the Kent County Prosecutor has decided to charge a 12-year-old as an adult in a tragic homicide which claimed the life of a 9-year-old.
Perhaps it’s because of a news report that court officials had to appoint a guardian for a 16-year-old gang member, who faces a charge of murdering another teenager, because no parent or guardian bothered to show up for his court appearance.
As a follower of Jesus, I can’t believe the world is supposed to be this way.
Here in the HFP office, we have seen what happens when little kids get thrown into the adult prison system. It’s not pretty, and the results aren’t good. And it’s simply not fair to make statements to the effect that if the kids hadn’t gotten into trouble they wouldn’t be in jail…or that we must consider the victims, because they never got a second chance.
We have also seen evidence that old ways can be abandoned, and God can renew and restore: A newspaper story this week told of a former gang member and ex-convict who is now devoting his life to help teenagers from falling into a similar life of crime. And, a good friend who committed a terrible crime as a teenager was recently given a second chance, and is now a productive member of a free society. Proof that it can happen.
I have no quick answers to these troubling situations, but the harsh statements against kids in trouble remind me of the harsh positions against prisoners that we face daily.
Yet Jesus reminds us that how we treat prisoners is how we treat him.
And regarding kids, he had this to say: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.