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“The Kids are NOT alright”

The story of the 16-year reign of Ahaz in Judah (2 Chronicles 28) is a cautionary tale. In a list of Judah’s kings, Ahaz would be listed as one of the worst – if not THE worst – king in Judah’s history. It is the story of a leader who chooses to worship pagan gods and the consequences of his actions on the nation.

Under his leadership, Judah was led into the worship of the Canaanite deity named Molech. Worship of Molech included the sacrifice of children as a way of gaining the favor of Molech so that Molech would provide economic prosperity and more children. This sacrifice, known as “passing children through the fire,” was specifically forbidden by the God’s Law. In Leviticus 18:21, we read, “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech, for you must not bring shame on the name of your God. I am the Lord.” However, despite the law, the Israelites began to practice Molech worship first under the influence of King Solomon, who built an altar to Molech on a high place in Jerusalem to accommodate worship by his foreign wives. (see 1 Kings 11:4-8). The altar remained in place until Solomon’s great-grandson, Asa, tore down the high places and restored the worship of God. However, within 2 generations, worship at the high places resumed and under the leadership of Ahaz, an altar to Baal and Molech was built in the Valley of Ben Hinnom just south of Jerusalem. There, Ahaz offered his own sons in the fire and led the people of Judah to do the same thing. In Jesus’ day, the valley was known as Gehenna. We know it as Hell.

What was God’s response to the sacrifice of children to Molech? The nation of Judah suffered. Over the reign of Ahaz, the nation of Judah became weaker, losing territory to foreign invaders and influence. Aram attacked Judah and took citizens to Damascus as exiles. The northern kingdom of Israel attacked Judah and took citizens to Samaria as slaves. By the end of Ahaz’s rule, he had shuttered the temple and the nation was in ruins. God’s prophets, Micah and Hosea, had spoken God’s words of warning, but Ahaz refused to change his ways. Ahaz died at age 36 completely powerless and dishonored. In the end, God ultimately abandoned Ahaz and Judah.

Be sure of this: God will judge nations on the basis of their treatment of their children—the most vulnerable among us. Nelson Mandela said it. “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” And the late Vice President Hubert Humphrey said it. “The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children.” I believe the truth of these statements. How we treat our children reveals whether our values and morals are in alignment with God.

Our nation’s current treatment of children and our nation’s currently willingness to sacrifice the well-being of children for the sake of economic revival and profit reveals fundamentally that our nation is morally bankrupt despite all of the talk about being pro-life and the commitment of many religious folk to protect the lives of the unborn.

Many people of faith read the story of Ahaz’s sacrifice of his children and extrapolate that the practice of abortion is the equivalent sacrifice of our children to Molech. However, those same people who will use every means possible to shut down Planned Parenthood will be strangely silent when children are murdered in their classrooms or when children as young as 3 months are taken from their parents at our southern border or when leaders cut funds for children’s health insurance. As Sister Joan Chittister reminds us: “I do not believe that just because you are opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, a child educated, a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth.”

Government policy to separate children from their parents at the border is nothing less than child sacrifice. The threat to withhold funding from schools that do not reopen in the midst of a pandemic is nothing less than child sacrifice. The threat to reduce SNAP benefits for families, the refusal to extend benefits to unemployed parents and protect them from eviction and foreclosure is nothing less than child sacrifice. One in 3 black children and 1 in 4 brown children live in poverty, and there are over 16,000 children in Chicago Public Schools that do not have a permanent home. Our tolerance for such conditions is nothing less than child sacrifice. Shifting the weight of taxation from the wealthy to low-wage families is nothing less than child sacrifice. The desecration of the environment for profit that future generations will pay for is nothing less than child sacrifice. It is no different than Ahaz passing his children through the fire in order to secure the economic provision of Molech.

God cannot and will not bless the nation that rationalizes away the hunger and poverty of the little ones who are most vulnerable. God will remove God’s hand from the nation whose leaders treat children as if they are expendable and disposable. In the words of Jesus to those who would cause one of these little ones to stumble, “It would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)

But God can and will bless the nation that treats its children as precious gifts from God – worthy of protection and provision, worthy of the fullness of life, worthy of our investment and worthy of dignity. And if God so values the life of children, then we must also value them and sacrifice FOR them—including holding our leaders accountable for the well-being of the littlest among us. God will leave no child behind. Neither can we.

In less than 3 months, we will choose our leaders. Before November 3, open your ears and your eyes; listen and see through the lens of God’s commitment to the protection and preservation of children – not just those in the womb, but those who are being sacrificed in life. And then, like the prophets of Ahaz’s time, sound the warnings and call for justice and righteousness. Maybe yet, God will bless this nation.

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