The influence of christianity on childhood-a christian perspective

The Influence Of Christianity On Childhood-A Christian Perspective

The framework for societal understanding of the nature and the place of the child has for a very long time been shaped by the church, upon which all depended for direction and guidance. For instance, when a child was born, during the medieval period and even today in quite a number of places across the world, it was a requirement that that child undergo the Christian rite of baptism. The aim was to ensure that the child was incorporated into the particular society. Now every society is governed by particular rules and regulations. In Christianity, the most prominent figure of childhood was that of Jesus Christ, who also happens to be the founder of the church. It was understood and required therefore, that every child be shaped within the context of Jesus. This is because Christ was the model, and so ideas like the pure childhood, holy childhood, were all coined based on this understanding. As soon as the child was baptized, it was expected that that child would conform to the demands of the Christian principles. The question that comes up with regard to this understanding is whether Christianity was sufficiently informed about the teachings that it imparted on the people regarding the child and childhood. At some point, there were cases of indoctrination, whereby children were forced to believe that the kind of knowledge they were given was the absolute truth, and were therefore required to follow it with great religiosity.

The greatest model parental guidance is the family of Nazareth, which is considered by Christianity as the most exemplary family. The parents of Jesus therefore provide great lessons on the ways in which childhood is to be ordered.

The Christian Culture and Childhood

Christianity is a culture by its own rights. This is because, every aspect that is found in Christianity has been founded on the Jewish culture. Therefore, this culture has greatly shaped the understanding of childhood. For instance, the child was considered inferior to the adult. This is why it would be unacceptable for a child to stand against an adult, while there was no problem for an adult to stand against a child, with a reason of course. This placed children in a very risky situation, because children were somehow vulnerable. Children did not have a lot of defenders in this situation. It is common in the Bible for instance, to find children not being counted, because they did not total to a person. This view shaped the idea of childhood for a long time in many parts of the world. Children were expected to stand for instance, when an adult was passing, and so on. Childhood became like a punishment, and children craved for the time that they would become adults. In this way, childhood was not enjoyed, and as science today reveals, this situation leads to even more complicated situations. This understanding of childhood was very well seen in the medieval period, where in many societies, even today, children were not considered as comprising the membership of their particular societies. This of course meant that children could for instance not work, and so on.

The Idea of Innocence

This idea has become widely accepted among the non-Christians. It is common knowledge that children are innocent and pure. According to Christianity, the child is born in a state of innocence. This understanding has been greatly informed by the fact that children had traditionally been considered incapable of making informed decisions, meaning that they cannot be held accountable for their acts or omissions. This idea of innocence however, is kind of contradicted by the understanding of the original sin, which is taught by the church. The idea claims that when a child is born, there are certain sins that somehow pass onto the child from the first parents, Adam and Eve, through what has been referred to as propagation. Therefore, although a child is claimed to be innocent, they are required to undergo a certain kind of ritual, in order to be purified from this sin. The contradiction lies in the fact that the child cannot be innocent, and have a hereditary sin at the same time.

The idea of innocence has also been greatly contradicted by the fact that Christianity teaches that a child is born with the potential to be sinful, what has been referred to as concupiscence. If it is absolutely clear that childhood will at some point be riddled with sinfulness, the dormancy which is seemingly there cannot be considered as innocence. It is for this reason that the idea of childhood innocence as advanced by Christianity seems to lack sufficient ground. At the same time, it is important to make a distinction between innocence and ignorance. Christianity has for very long time confused ignorance in the child with innocence. This is because, if there was innocence, it should not be lost. However, it is very clear that as soon as a child develops further, innocence is lost, or rather, the ignorance is gone, and the child becomes informed about the realities of life. This cannot be considered innocence; it is pure ignorance. John Locke came up with the understanding that a child is born with absolutely nothing in the mind. In there is only the potential for acquiring something. Innocence can only be acquired where knowledge has already become possible.

The claim of childhood innocence has also been very greatly boosted by the scientific claim that mind lacks full development. This claim does not suffice for the claim of innocence. In other words, the fact that the mind is not fully developed does not mean that there is no sufficient knowledge of moral issues. Therefore innocence as such cannot be fully justified in childhood.

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