RECENTLY I've watched and listened as my ten-year-old son's social and political awareness has come alive. He loves political cartoons and listens regularly to world and national news. Sometimes he's simply outraged. ``They just can't do that!'' he may cry. Doesn't that sense of righteous protest spring from the purity and directness that we so often identify with childhood? Must such innocence disappear as children grow and understand ``the ways of the world''? Naturally, every child grows up. But real innocence lies deeper than childish naivet or inexperience. And it never needs to end. That's because genuine innocence is a spiritual quality, a specific description of the way in which God creates man. We often think of innocence as including an open love of good with no idea that anything wrong or evil exists. It's that simple, wholehearted acceptance of honesty and purity as the way things ought to be that makes a child's innocence so appealing.
But, as we all eventually learn, it's not enough to be ignorant of the injustice that plagues human experience. Take the Biblical story of Daniel, for example. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because he persisted in worshiping God. Being innocent of wrongdoing wasn't enough. Daniel's spiritual innocence was sufficient to protect him from harm, however, because it rested on a basis of trust in God, good, to deliver him. As he explained when he was released unharmed the next day, ``My Go d hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me.''
No doubt Daniel knew full well what the lions could do! His ``innocency,'' then, must have been on the spiritual level, made stronger and clearer through his steadfast worship of God.