Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, March 8, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…

In the 1960s and for a couple of decades after, pseudo-historians theorized that until modern times, people really did not care about or pay much attention to their children until they reached school age, or the age when they could profitably be put to work, because the infant mortality rate was so high that they dared not get attached to their children.

I suspect that authors sometimes tell more about themselves and their own attitudes, in this case toward children, than they tell about history.

Until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin [1], children worked a lot, but primarily not outside the family home and farm. Poor Whitney inadvertently increased the slave trade and child labor with his invention. Cotton was such a big improvement over other fabrics, but it had been rare because it was so labor-intensive and thus expensive to process it. The gin made it available and inexpensive. However, picking cotton was labor intensive, requiring more slaves in the cotton growing states. Slaves were not as necessary in the North, so Northern slave states began to sell excess slaves to the South, causing the breakup of slave families, since cotton plantations wanted only slaves who could work in the cotton fields. Then cotton mills began to proliferate to make cotton into cloth, but there were not enough workers, especially those small enough to crawl in behind looms to adjust things, and with small fingers for delicate work, so enter child labor.

I think about the story of Jesus coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration. It was literally a “mountain top experience” for him and the three disciples he had taken along-a time free of the worries and anxieties of the world below. As soon as they came down, though, they ran into a dispute among his other disciples, over against the “scribes,” the teachers of the LAW, about the possibility of healing an epileptic boy, and the proper way to do it.

The boy’s father, though, simply said to Jesus, “I believe; help me in my unbelief.”

Just like today, and all the time in between, parents are parents. If your child or grandchild is sick, whatever the sickness, regardless of how many you have, regardless of how many are dying all around you, you want your child healed! [2]


1] “Gin” is simply an old word for engine. Whitney’s was not the only invention that sped the onset of child labor, but it is especially relevant for American culture.

2] A friend told me about one of his colleagues. She was a highly-placed public school official and advocate for public education. But she sent her daughter to a private school. When my friend asked her about the discrepancy, she simply said, “This is MY child.”

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