Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Response to "Fighting Bullying With Babies"

I will return to the subject of church and the economy soon, but today I have come across something that is too powerful not to talk about right away.  It is this opinion piece from the New York Times:

Fighting Bullying With Babies

This is really powerful stuff ya'll.  We need to take note.

For religious leaders I have a few special comments:

1.  This is one more argument for multigenerational, family-style church communities. Older kids and teens *need* opportunities to interact with babies (and it probably is a good idea for plenty of us adults too, to interact more with babies).

2.  The church could be a powerful agent in lowering all kinds of community violence.  The project described in the article actually started from the need to reduce in-home violence, not bullying.  I'm dreaming up an empathy-building ministry for a whole community as we speak!

3.  I think that this program likely benefits the babies too.  Babies who have empathetic interactions with older kids have been given a powerful gift.

4.  Related to the above #3, it is so easy as a church to stay out of the conversation about how to care for babies.  After all, everyone has their own philosophy of parenting, and parents of babies are often inundated with well-meant but irritating unsolicited instructions from busy bodies about how to care for their babies.  None of us wants to be an irritating busy body. 

On the other hand, if our churches have a calling to live out God's love in the world, we need to really be there for parents as they navigate their way through all the cultural roadblocks to children's development of empathy.  That starts before folks have even had babies yet, or when babies are just babies.  Reassuring parents who are making choices that build empathy -- such as responding to baby's cries rather than letting baby cry it out -- is an important part of raising kids together with parents as a church community.

What do you think?

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