Thursday, December 22, 2005

kid stuff

On Monday the NY Times published a piece of investigative reporting that the Exorcist found more disturbing and saddening then any possession story.

This kid, Justin Berry, started his online porn service when he was barely 13. He became a star in the frighteningly depraved world of Internet sickos and made all kinds of money doing it. His mother, oblivious; his father, complicit; his clients and admirers hungry for the next turn-on at the boy's expense.

Read the story. It is hard to believe.

A girl showed up on the church doorstep about two months ago. 17, hispanic, at the end of her rope. She hasn't seen her mother since she was 4, her father was just released from an 8 year prison term, she has lived in foster homes, shelters and the YWCA for most of her young life. She knows the sordid side of life - from abusive relationships to addictive behavior to gratuitous violence - and has long since figured out that nobody owes her anything.

She shows up on the church steps one morning, thin, disheveled, tear-stained cheeks, and asks for help. She says the one place she remembers being well treated, accepted as is, is right here. Years ago. We've been helping her and the horizon is slowly brightening.

The only thing I find remarkable about Jessica's story is the fact that she hasn't given up. Her self-esteem is in the gutter, but she still thinks she can be someone.

She's right. I'm just surprised that she knows that.

Anyway, generous friends of his parish have put together Christmas dinner and gifts for Jessica and many others like her.

I am intrigued by the high regard given by Christ to childhood in his outlook on the human condition. "If you do not become like children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Childhood, in Christ's mind, is not a transitory biological state through which each man passes on the way to bigger and better things. In some way, what is essential to the meaning and purpose of a human being is found in childhood - to the extent that, if lost, lost too is man's final destiny.

What has become of childhood in this country? Our kids are over sophisticated and underloved. We kill off the weakest and unwanted. We spoil them silly and prey on them remorselessly. They are abandoned by parents and family to find themselves on the Internet, in the malls, with a gang or through the X-Box. We 'protect' them from religion and surrender them to the claws and fangs of the materialistic, indifferent monster we've created.

They are often reflection of the strange, inhuman society that has begotten them. Have you ever noticed how wierd kids are nowadays?

Yet Christ could think of no better way to describe himself than 'son'. Son of his Father, son of man. Every son starts as a child and remains so for his parents, even as he advances in age.
His birth, assuming it happened as the gospels narrate it, should remind us of the value of childhood... that we value it, protect it and return to it.