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Document Details :

Title: Neither Angels, nor Devils
Subtitle: Theological Views on Children's Responsibility
Author(s): DILLEN, Annemie
Journal: Marriage, Families & Spirituality
Volume: 18    Issue: 2   Date: 2012   
Pages: 192-202
DOI: 10.2143/INT.18.2.2963266

Abstract :
The article discusses the theme of children in western society on the basis of different meanings of 'saint', the ethical, more common meaning referring to horizontal relationships and the theological meaning referring to the relation with God. It focuses especially on the concept of 'innocence' in relation to children, highlighting first the link between vulnerability and innocence and the related attitude of 'sacralisation' of children, and second the moral meaning of the term 'innocence', referring to the common interpretation of being 'a saint'. This hermeneutical framework of thinking about children in terms of 'saints' and 'sinners' can shed a new light on the way people in society and in church consider children and what this means for relations with children. From the theology of Karl Rahner and others, we learn that children should be taken seriously and – in dialogue with broader childhood studies – we know that the gap between children and adults should best be bridged. The pedagogisation attitude is valuable as it is an expression of care for children, but it is also ambivalent because as a reaction towards insecurity and as a means to create a better world through the education of children, it can become very frenetic as a secular way to create a better future, in a society that is not built on eschatological hope. Seeing children as 'saints', as sacralised innocent and vulnerable beings or as moral heroes, is not totally wrong, but we should not forget that children are always different from parental projections or ideas, and that every child is unique. The Christian belief in children as gift of God or as humans referring to Jesus Christ (Mk 9,37) urges parents to care for their children, without deifying them. Christians are called to question a tendency that glorifies children – because children should be seen as full human persons, which means that they have competences but are not perfect. Furthermore, Christians believe that they are not alone responsible for the world and hope that God will continue what people have started. Therefore, the ethical imperative to care for children and to educate them for the future is strong, but should always be seen in the light of the kingdom of God.

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