About This Issue
“A little child shall lead them,” writes the prophet Isaiah, imagining a coming age when “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together.”
Amidst the surfeit of books, programs, and online resources on parenting and education, it’s easy to conclude that there’s nothing new to say about childhood. And at least to those who aren’t parents or educators, the whole topic may seem over-hyped.
But childhood and children matter immensely – especially to followers of the one who taught his hearers that they must “change and become like children” in order to share in the future age that Isaiah foretold (Matt. 18:3).
The idea of childhood innocence, certain social historians and evolutionary biologists tell us, is a modern invention, a mere sentimental fantasy. But while the experience of childhood has undeniably changed over the centuries, Jesus’ words remind us of truths that remain unchanged. The mystery of being a child, and of becoming a child, is central to the gospel, and has been so from the start.
This issue opens with “Discovering Reverence” by Johann Christoph Arnold, whose new book Their Name Is Today: Reclaiming Childhood in a Hostile World raises a host of urgent questions. In response, a surgeon shares what he’s learned from children with disabilities. Dispatches from Ferguson, Missouri, the US–Mexico border, the South Bronx, and America’s kindergartens focus on places where childhood is especially threatened. Other contributors examine public, homeschool, and Christian education; highlight the role that fathers play; and grapple with Jesus’ uncomfortable version of family values.
The escalating violence in Iraq and Syria is another heartrending reminder that Isaiah’s vision of the peaceable kingdom has yet to be realized. These horrors also pose a tough challenge to those who are committed to Jesus’ way of nonviolent love: Is it still possible to insist on the absolute nonviolence taught by the early Christians and Martin Luther King Jr.? This is one question we ask of Ron Sider, a leading pacifist.
Do you have reactions, stories, or insights to share? How can we better put the gospel into practice? We look forward to hearing from you. In the words from Hebrews, let’s keep “spurring one another on to faith and good deeds.”
Peter Mommsen, Editor
Front cover photograph: Darius Clement