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A history of separation

We’ve grown used to everyday acts that remove children from parents


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Separating little children from their parents, whether it happens as the result of a deliberate policy or only as an incidental and unintended consequence, turns out to be a pretty boneheaded political idea. It’s hard—at least in the near future—to imagine any politician at any level proposing any public program or idea that even hints at such an outcome.

Except, of course, that splitting up family units has always been a specialty of what we used to call “liberal” political interests, but which many refer to as “progressive.”

My very first exposure to the general truth of that assertion came some 70 years ago when I overheard my father talking with my mother and other folks from our church. “There’s just no way,” I remember Dad’s saying, “that we’re going to keep tolerating our children being swallowed up by those big yellow monsters—just to go and be taught an alien gospel.” Several local public schools were in the process of being consolidated into just one, and for Dad, the big buses that would haul us to a more distant town were grim symbols of a government stripping from parents their God-given rights and duty to shape their own children’s education.

Dad’s conversation about school buses helped lead over the next few months to the establishment of a Christian school that through the years shaped the lives of hundreds of youngsters. It was a boarding school, and we always struggled a bit with the irony that as such it too separated its students from their parents! But governmental influence in the huge educational structures—local, state, and federal—always seemed to be competing for influence over the students. “We can do it better than you can,” the state said condescendingly to parents again and again.

For Dad, the big yellow buses were grim symbols of a government stripping from parents their God-given rights.

On a totally different front, the state used its power and influence to move the hearts of the nation’s children from their fathers and their mothers to other loyalties. A gigantic shift in divorce laws over the last two generations has produced an “alienation of affection” that has stolen and splintered families everywhere. No-fault divorce, opposed at first by conservatives and evangelicals, is now more and more accepted and practiced in all our circles. Divorce, as easily pursued these days in most evangelical churches as in their more liberal counterparts, has produced practical orphans in staggering numbers. The blame here lies no more with liberals than with conservatives acting like liberals.

To make our recent Fourth of July a bit more memorable, my wife and I invited a dozen neighbors to stop by, share a few goodies, and get a bit acquainted. I wasn’t surprised to conclude that none of the handful who came would be inclined to call themselves Christians. I was surprised that no one in this likable little group seemed to claim a “typical” marriage. Everyone was either living together, using two different last names, or leaving me guessing some other way. Am I wrong to worry about the children of such relationships?

But we’d be poor observers of culture and our times if, as we focus on policies and practices that separate children from their parents, we forgot the destruction inflicted on us all by the practice of abortion.

Here there is no ambiguity. Abortion, of course, is the dark grand champion of all gloomy practices that separate children from their parents. Abortion is a one-way dispatch. There’s no hope of reconnecting with a distant uncle or grandmother. No chance of getting a friendly judge to hear your case. No counselor with good advice for the future. No warm clothing for chilly nights.

The Trump administration surely made itself look incompetent with its ill-conceived and extended treatment of immigrants’ children. But the parade of critics of that fiasco should have the decency to shut their mouths until the biggest offense to children gets a lot more attention. When such folks cry their eyes out for an immigrant child’s temporary separation from his or her parent, and then go on to insist that a new Supreme Court justice must pledge to support abortion on demand, take my word for it: That society is drowning in crocodile tears.


Joel Belz

Joel is WORLD’s founder. He contributes regular commentary for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Radio. Joel has served as editor, publisher, and CEO over three decades at WORLD and is the author of Consider These Things. Joel resides with his wife, Carol, near Asheville, N.C.

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