Friday, February 26, 2010

What Have We Done to the "Least of These"...?

Evolutionary psychology claims that class status is about survival. That power of some over others is necessary in order for the fittest to survive ... and therefore we have inequality.

But ... this doesn't explain the utter lack of class status and inequality in the unfallen peoples... why the unfallen groups (of yesterday and today) do not have authoritarian leaders, make their decisions via consensus, manage to share food, do not divide according to classes/castes, and do not permit expressions of greed and selfishness.

Due to the Fall, humans have craved power as a compensation for the lack of completeness, and the sense of separation we feel ... we yearn to feel important and special ... as if this will stop the discord within. And, in order to feel important, we need to usurp another's importance ... as if this, like water and food, was somehow scarce ... as if we could only have what we want/need by taking it from another.

To justify this, we have concluded that some are better than others. We've seen how males have done this to females ... and so too have adults done it to children.

Unfallen peoples treated children with gentleness, affection, and even respect. They were whole people to them ... not "potential people." Even today, the Eskimo tribes of northern Canada do not punish children ... instead, they spend inordinate amounts of time teaching what they should do ... training them by example, and with great patience. Violence toward a child is unthinkable -- even showing anger to a child is deemed to be unacceptable... seen as demeaning. They've concluded that scolding a child leads to rebellion, whereas compassion and understanding leads to behavior that's good for the whole community. Orders are never given to a child ... children are allowed to think for themselves, and to learn *to* think. Experience, and resulting consequences, are seen as the best life-teachers. A child is trusted to know how to play, how much to eat, and when to sleep.

Fathers in unfallen culture (whether those of the ancient world, or those of today), are strikingly different than fallen fathers. Rather than being emotionally attached, and too-busy, these fathers are very involved with childcare, right from the start. They enjoy(ed) bathing, feeding, and playing with the children, from infancy through childhood. Fathers are regarded as nurturers ... providers of love and affection ... with a tremendous amount of physical touching going on (on which the children thrive). These men carry the children for hours, bonding with them as the mothers do. These "primal" men are akin to the "new men" of today ... those who are realizing that the stereotypical "distant father" role just "is not working" for them. These men are allowing themselves to have empathy, emotional vulnerability and transparency, and do not get their identity in violence or aggression. They are unafraid of appearing to be "feminine", and are thus willing to take on the more traditionally "feminine" roles of child caring, housework, and cooking.

(Pausing to put in a plug for my own husband, Mark ... who has always done all the laundry, is a hands-on-daddy, who has changed as many diapers, and given as many baths, as I have, if not moreso ... who has relished doing everything *but* childbirth and nursing, and who, to this day, takes out each of his children on a "date night" for some one-on-one time ... whether the child is 22, or 10 or 5. I am SO happy to have a "primitive" man...!)

Let's look at what happened to children since the Fall:

There was no evidence of child-beating prior to 6,000 years ago, but it became common after that. Just like with wife-beating, it was seen as "necessary", to keep them in line, to ward off sinful and disobedient behavior.

The early Christian church told parents to regularly whip their children ... even going so far as to indoctrinate "Holy Innocents Day" -- when children were whipped to remind them of Herod's massacre of the innocent children. And if children dared to cry, they were beaten harder, as the crying was thought of as a "sign of the devil".

Swaddling was another form of child abuse ... with babies wrapped from head t toe in a tight bandage or sheet - completely preventing movement. Supposedly, this made them feel secure ... but it was done to an extreme excess ... children were left in swaddling until the age of 3 or 4, leaving the children in direct contact with urine and feces ... often hung on a hook in the house, left alone, so that parents could go to work in the fields for hours per day. This would cause the children to become passive (no kidding - eventually they would stop resisting, for it was futile!). As a result, parents didn't have to pay much attention to them ... but why get attached, if there was no guarantee that the child would survive childhood anyway? And is there any doubt whether these children would become detached adults, who would pass on this behavior...?

Children were expected to be "seen but not heard" ... they were property, "less than" beings ... required to be unquestioningly and cheerfully obedient (Ohhhhh, I cannot tell you how this mirrors the child-raising and homeschooling advice I received within the church...!). Any sign of autonomy, of independent thinking, was to be squelched and punished. "Break the will!"

Children, like women, reminded men of the lack of control they really had over them ... child likeness is impulsive, instinctive, and is lacking ego ... children are attuned to their bodies, reminding men of their bodies. And so, they "must be dominated."

The fear, in fallen cultures, is that children who are not dominated and punished, will grow up to be out of control hedonists. But is this true?

Unfallen children are actually psychically different ... they seem to be significantly less "unruly" than fallen children are. They display less selfishness and greed ... are more eager to share and cooperate ... less likely to fight and squabble. There seems to be a direct correlation between how often children are touched as infants/children, and how unruly and "badly behaved" they thus behave.

Touch-deprived children, it seems, are more likely to act out as they mature ... in cultures where children are touched often, and kindly, nurturingly, they do not seem to need to demand attention through aberrant behavior.

In societies where a child's cry is seen as a need for holding, the children turn out quite well-adjusted ... whereas in societies where we're told to "let the child cry it out," the children seem to learn to "shut down" ... and to act out later in life.

What HAVE we done to the least of these, who grow up to become ... like us?

How is this working for us, anyway?

Shalom, Dena

Next: The Origins of Our View of God...

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