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Preserving innocence

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Lost innocence. It's been a theme in literature for centuries. While the story may be as comic as Huckleberry Finn, a tale of lost innocence -- particularly of childhood innocence -- carries an undertone of tragedy. When lost innocence is the theme of nightly news -- children exploited for pornography, teen-agers living on the streets as prostitutes -- the tragedy is not poetic. It's a call to action.

None of us would disagree that children, the citizens of the future, deserve a good start. They ought to have a decent home, nourishment, education, safety. Some effort is being made to extend this foundational support to as many children as possible. But is that all we can do?

Consider, for example, what kind of world children would have if each adult defended not only the innocence of children but his or her own innocence as well. What would happen to corruption, crime, violence, infidelity, if each of us saw our childlikeness as something to treasure, to cultivate, to defend?

Some may argue that we cannot, or may not even want to, prevent the loss of innocence. Yet there is good reason to believe that innocence is one of the most powerful energies in thought and life. Innocence and childlikeness, understood in their truest sense, are a citadel and peak of vision, worth cherishing at any age.

The best example of the power of innocence is Christ Jesus. In his crucifixion and resurrection we find the ultimate triumph of purity. He had accomplished healing work unrivaled by anyone before him. Yet when put on trial , he gave no defense in the face of trumped-up charges.

A comment he made to his disciples may explain his response. "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." n1 For Jesus, innocence was the invulnerable citadel of his spiritual nature. He knew from experience that he was innocent not just of the Jews' charges but of mortality, of whatever would tie him to the lock step of a material world with its power struggles, its madness, violence, sensuality. This innocence of mortality -- innocence that was his God-given birthright -- made death itself powerless.

n1 John 14:30;

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