Even though Jesus was very clear about children being the ones who understand how to live in God’s Realm, as in “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:14-16),” we adults rarely consult children. Concern for the welfare of children keeps some adult people from being comfortable with same-sex marriage or allowing folks who are gay, lesbian or transgendered to foster or adopt children. There is an assumption that people, who are not straight, cannot create healthy family environments or be good parents. I wonder what children think?
It is not easy to find out what children think. Children and their opinions are rarely treated seriously. It does take a good deal of time and energy to cultivate the trusted relationship needed to ask a child specific questions about living in the Realm of God. And because children’s opinions are not valued, many of us do not bother developing the skill of listening to children.
However, there are two readily available resources that can give us some insights into what children believe makes for healthy families and good parents.
The first is a half-hour DVD, “That’s a Family: a film for kids about family diversity” (www.newday.com/films/Thats_a_Family.html). Though produced a number of years ago, I was happy to find it is still available. This little video is quite enlightening as kids reveal their feeling about their families. They come from every family configuration one can imagine. They are living with grandparents. They have single moms or dads caring for them. Some have been adopted by two men who are gay. Others have two moms who are lesbians. There are families in which some of the children are adopted and some are not, the parents are disabled, they are of mixed races and cultures, and on and on. In every single case, no matter the situation, the children talk about the love and care of their families being most important to them. The difficulties and the hurts they experience are generally related to the misunderstandings and the judgments of people outside of their family circles.
The second resource comes from The Australian Children’s Play Summit, held earlier this month in Melbourne, Australia. Here Australian children created a Play Manifesto (www.playbasedlearning.com).The manifesto reveals some interesting insights into what children need. I believe their revelations about play can also apply to what makes for healthy families and good parenting. Under the category, “Where we want to play,” the children say that they need places where they know they won’t be judged, where they can be free and independent. They want to be in communities where people care for one another and where people look out for each other. They want to be where people will support them and make them feel safe. They want to know that they can ask anyone for help when they need it.
Certainly there are many factors that have to be present in order for good parents to create healthy family environments, a particular sexual orientation does not appear to be one of those factors… at least according to children, the ones to whom the Realm of God belongs.
I pray that we, as people of faith, will learn to truly listen to children and that we work to create safe spaces for open conversation about the issues dividing us and separating us from the living God.