Robert A. Heinlein stated that “Age is not an accomplishment, and youth is not a sin.” However, the current legislation surrounding youth minority in the United States implies that our concept of minority and the Christian concept of sin are not unrelated. Much as Christians surrender control to their God, minors are forced to surrender control to custodians and adult officials. Where Christians are expected to be pious, youth are expected to be reverent of authority. When searching for the rationale behind laws that disenfranchise youth, it is important to trace them to their source. Though the United States may be nominally secular, laws are passed by people: people who have emotions and biases and who, overwhelmingly, subscribe to some variant of religious ideology.
Minors in the United States are; through a system of curfews, closed juvenile courts, custodial subjugation, and behavior modification camps; systematically denied seven of the eight personal rights set forth in the Bill of Rights: the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to due process, the right to a public trial, the right to trial by jury, and the right to protection from cruel and unusual punishment (the only one of the eight personal rights afforded to minors, the right to protection from involuntary quartering of troops, is generally nonapplicable, as minors cannot enter into the contracts necessary to purchase property). Proponents of these age-based deprivations claim they are not meant to punish a crime or sin, but to protect those who do not yet know proper from improper behavior and so are unprepared to handle such privileges. While on its surface, this argument may appear to sever any link between the disabilities of minority and the concept of sin, further analysis of the Christian classifications of sin reveals an undeniable parallel.
Colloquial usage of the term “sin” hints at a definition interchangeable with that of “crime”; “sinner” is often defined as one who has committed a specific malicious act and is now deserving of a specific repercussive punishment. This is actual sin. Original sin, as opposed to actual sin, refers to a necessary state of humanity, a tendency toward actual sin that is intrinsic to human nature. Original sin should not be punished, only accepted as a fundamental limitation of humanity. It is here that the conceptual link between original sin and protective age restrictions lies: in the shared relegation of human minds as inherently incapable of producing goodness or consistent propriety, in the shared judgment based not on personal actions but on demographical existence.
It is often argued that the restrictions of minority, in addition to being necessary societal safety measures, are not true curtailings of human liberty. Yes, all people are entitled to their own benign self-determination, but in an adultcentric world, adults are people and children are merely those affected by the unfortunate condition of youth. In this society, “youth” is not a personal classification, but something akin to a disease. The parallels between this treatment of minors and the Christian treatment of sinners is no more evident than in the saying “love the sinner, hate the sin”. This phrase draws a distinction between a people and their actions. We are all sinners, the rationale goes, so while an actual sin is worthy of hatred, one who has committed an actual sin is no more sinful than those who are sinful only by nature. American minority laws are enabled by the artificial distinction that is drawn between youths and their youthfulness. The disabilities of minority are meant to suppress youthfulness; any effect on the lives of youth is purely incidental. Where the notion of removing an adult person’s ability to make personal decisions is seen as a repugnant stifling of freedom, the disabilities of minority are seen as enabling freedom by preventing children from committing actions inspired by an inherent and debilitating mental condition.
Some may find the concept of original sin quite hopeless: if we are all necessarily sinners, how can we ever hope to be good people? The answer provided to us by Christianity is simple: surrender ourselves to God. While we are sinful by nature, God is pure and redeeming by nature. To be good, we must first admit that we do not have the capacity to independently determine what is good; we must then look to God for guidance in every situation. Youth find themselves in a similar quandary. If they are all necessarily youthful, how can they ever hope to be mature? The answer provided to them by society is simple: surrender themselves to adult authority. To be mature, youth must realize that they are inherently youthful. They must accept that their own judgment, marred by hormones and inexperience, is not to be trusted. They must understand their congenital failings and respond by adhering completely to the legal and societal restrictions set in place by powerful adults to assist youth in their prostration.
Sinners cannot hope to be truly good; they must settle for least-bad, a state achieved by acceptance of God and adherence to his teachings. However, this struggle is only temporary. The highest Christian goal is to maintain the least-bad state for the duration of life, whereupon they will be accepted to Heaven, their original sin will be dissolved, and they will at last be truly good. Youth cannot hope to be truly mature; they must settle for least youthful. As youthfulness is inherent to youth, this can only be achieved by full internalization of adult directives and complete abandonment of self. The highest goal of youth is to maintain this repressive state for the duration of minority, whereupon they will be accepted to college, get a well-paying job, and at last be truly mature.
Why have we accepted these arrangements? Who has created them and who is benefiting from their continued existence? One trait that truly is inherent to humanity is the ability to be easily controlled by fear. We are afraid of burning in hell. We are afraid of being ridiculed. There is no way in life to permanently eliminate these risks. Should our minds stray from the teachings of Christ, our ticket to Heaven can be cancelled. Should we desire to leave our niche in the pyramid of authority, to forgo college or quit our jobs or question the way of society, our status of maturity can be revoked and the respect that comes with it lost. It is a system of fear and a system that perpetuates itself, and the only beneficiaries are those at the very top: dictator, dean, or deity.
This piece is a couple years old and was originally written as part of a portfolio for college applications. Hopefully, it’s aged well.
Well don’t doubt it on account of that commandment. Bill from Pro Youth Pages did a fantastic write up on the 5th commandment and takes a quick look at Jesus’ relationship with his parents. Definitely worth reading:
KPalicz, that writeup is just one interpretation among many, a lot of things in religion are interpreted differently depending on who writes it, how they envision the religious message (what it means to them, what they personally want to make of it), and where they source their information. Believe me, conservative, traditional christianity is patently pro parents´ rights. The writer of the article doesn´t quote the mosaic law from the Pentateuch (Leviticus? Numbers?) that if parents have a “disobedient son” (seemingly an unruly teenager) or if someone strikes or curses (IIRC) their parent, they should be put to death (Jesus referred to this approvingly at one point when speaking to the Pharisees). Also, St. Paul writes in at least two epistles (e.g. in Ephesians) “Children, obey your parents” and “Children, obey your parents in everything.” (In the same passages, he tells slaves to obey their masters, even those who are unkind, and wives to submit to their husband. He does tell the other side not to be too oppressive to the ones that are to submit, but they must still submit. The original Christian morality is IMHO full of very evil concepts). In Romans, St. Paul lists those “disobedient to parents” as among those whose hearts have been hardened and who are deserving of hell. Also, part of Biblical Christian morality is the disgusting concept of not resisting those who are unkind to you (the whole “turn the other cheek” drivel from the sermon on the mount). If there is anything good in Christianity, IMO it has been surpassed by secular morality, is redundant today, and since the truly faithful need to accept the whole morality as a package, runs the risk of leading people to accept evil as good, as above.
Amy33amy33, I encourage you to think why you believe in religion in the first place. I am an atheist because I don´t see any evidence for the truth of any religion. Why are many Americans religious? Because their ancestors were. Why are many Asians Buddhist or Shintoist? Because their ancestors were. Why are many Arabs muslim? Because…you get my point. Whether or not a person is religious, they should believe or disbelieve on the basis of evidence, and I see no evidence that any religion is more than a bunch of old myths or a modern con. Nor do I see any necessity for there to have been a creator. I believe scientists have presented a good case for the universe to be too random and imperfect for it to have been consciously created, and that the elements were never created, but (if one doesn´t accept the idea that they may have somehow come out of nothing) that they always existed in some form and that through their own energies and processes they very gradually evolved into what they are today.
foxfire, different Christian denominations and different individual Christians use the Bible differently. To legions of practicing conservative Christians (e.g. fundamentalists/evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox), the words of the Bible are not subject to debate, at most interpretation. Do a google search of the commandment “honor thy father and mother” and you will find scores of religious texts written by pastors, church fathers (early Christian theologian saints who in the Catholic and Orthodox church have a lot of weight) which claim that it is a duty of children to honor their parents and obey them in everything not contrary to God’s will (some of them, for example the founder of Methodism John Wesley, or Father Tadej, a 20th-century Orthodox monk, even want adult children to obey their parents). And many people do follow these teachings without question, because they believe they are god-ordained. Otherwise, the 10 commandments would be called the 10 suggestions.
You have a point that James’ Epistle could have been written to refute Pauline teaching – but that is not how conservative churches think about it. Since the disparate texts that make up the Bible were assembled into one “canonical” book by the early church in the 4th (IIRC) century (IIRC at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea), it has been doctrine that ALL the writings of the Bible are correct and holy, despite evident contradictions. Your example with Satan is not the same – Jesus had a dialog with Satan when Satan tempted him, but it was not a congenial exchange of ideas. Jesus indicated to the devil the error of his ways and then told him to leave. The message of the book is quite clear: Jesus=good. Satan=bad.
If anything, the fact that the morality in the Bible as a whole is not cohesive should be an indicator to you that it was not divine-inspired, but was scribbled down by different primitive religious people according to their own ideas of 2000-3000 years ago.
OK, foxfire, so how do you define what is the correct teaching of Christianity? And how do you convincingly demonstrate that what you consider to be Christianity is the correct version, rather than that of the conservative religious groups you are mentioning? Honestly, I think you’re picking and choosing what you want to believe.
KPalicz, my point is that the author of the above article could be told that (s)he is ignoring other parts of the Bible which contradict the point of the article. I am not saying only the fundies are “true Christians”. What I’m saying is, owing to the large number of Christian sects, there is no standard for what is “true Christianity”. What is true Christianity to one person is the opposite of what is true Christianity to another. Also, how do you choose which part of the Bible is good or bad? Jesus Christ spoke as if everything he teaches were good. St. Paul says that all scripture is useful for teaching. My point is that conservative churches accept biblical (mainly New Testament but depending on the church, not exclusively New Testament) morality as a package, whereas more mainstream churches tend to tolerate picking, choosing and reinterpreting things more. Which is nice, only how do you decide which parts are divine-ordained and which are not? In practice, by doing something completely secular and human – using your head and following what seems natural to you e.g. accepting that you should not steal, but rejecting that women should obey their husbands and be silent in church (even though both are ordained by the “good guys” in the Bible). Accepting that charity toward one’s neighbor is a good thing, but rejecting the notion of allowing an assailant to hit you after he has already hit you, or the notion of richer people selling their possessions and donating the proceeds to charity (again, all are examples of things Jesus told people to do). Do you know how many different interpretations and takes are given on different Bible passages? Which is the correct one?
It’s not my intent to mock or insult anyone. I am merely stating my opinion, if vehemently. My pro-atheist comments here are also only presented as an opinion. I (we atheists) don’t see any good reason why Christianity should be seen as more than a belief system based on ancient myths, and I am expressing that as an aside.
I think you guys and I don´t quite understand each other on the question of different religions´ approach to scriptural authority and the importance of this to the rights of children, that is, whether children are defined as those undder 18 or as children of parents, including adults.
However, I have decided to withdraw from this debate. It´s going nowhere and maybe I have thrown it too much off topic, so I will leave you to your thoughts on this article.
What was the point of this article it just seemed like it was just created to piss off the Christians and shouldn’t we be trying gain the support of everyone we can.
Also is Christianity truly incompatible with youth rights and other monotheistic religions believe in submitting to God and they don’t believe in original sin.
Why are you attacking Christianity? Christianity is not against youth rights; on the contrary, the Bible actually depicts youth in positive light. The Lord Jesus Christ was 12 years old when He spoke in the Temple (Luke 2:41-49), and in Biblical times, the teen years were seen as a preparation for adulthood, and young people play major roles in the Bible.
In fact, I believe it is because society has turned against the Bible that childhood has been prolonged. In the last 50-70 years, American society is much less religious than ever, but yet, laws restricting youths are far more numerous, with laws on driving, guns, schooling, work, and everything you can imagine. By contrast, in the Bible, young people are depicted doing great things for God, such as David battling Goliath when he was only a teen (probably 14-15). At 20 years of age, Josiah was ruling the Kingdom of Judah and tearing down places of idol worship. Could you imagine allowing a 14-year-old today to enter combat? Or to let a 20-year-old become the president/prime minister of a country?
The Bible says that childhood and youth are vanity (Ecclesiastes 11:10). The Bible certainly does not value extending childhood; in Biblical times, it was normal to be taking on partial adulthood by the time you were 12-13, and full adulthood is mentioned to begin at 20 years of age (Numbers 1:1-3). The Bible forbids sex outside of marriage (1st Corinthians 7:1-3), which serves as an incentive or encouragement to get married young (early 20s, from 20-22 years of age).
The Bible says that parents are to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-4). The Bible never says that parents are supposed to be sheltering their children until 25, 30, or 35. The Bible never says that parents should prevent their children from growing up, from working, from taking on responsibilities. The Bible never says that parents are to hover over their children and control every decision. The simple responsibility is to teach their children to love and serve God and follow His commands.
In short, the Bible is probably the most powerful argument against infantilization of young people. I am a Christian myself and I strongly respect young people. Do I see them as less mature and less experienced? Yes. However, this is not a reason to infantilize them.
I am strongly opposed to extending childhood, helicopter/overprotective parenting, tiger parenting, controlling parenting, etc. The precise reason is because I believe in the God of the Bible and follow what HE says, not what the secular world says. I oppose the idea of the “teen brain” because it contradicts what Scripture says about sin and human nature, and the fact is that God clearly sees 12-year-olds as accountable for their actions and sins.