Long ago, or so I thought, people said that children born with anomalies were warnings to their parents that covenant with the gods had been violated. The Latin word for "to warn" is monere from which comes the English word, "monster." Thus, children (and adults) with disabilities were thought of as monsters to be feared, because they were proof that the gods were angered by violations of their laws.
I had thought that this kind of thinking which turns people with disabilities into monsters was long past. I was wrong. On February 18, a Virginia state legislator, Bob Marshall of Manassas, made the following statement to support his opposition to state funding for abortions through Planned Parenthood.
"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically. Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children. In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There's a special punishment Christians would suggest."
I'm saddened that Marshall drags all Christians into this ugly diatribe against children with disabilities. I too am opposed to abortion, but to suggest that children are punishments (from God!) smears the children, their parents, and worst of all gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Children, whether or not they are born with disabilities, are not punishments but are blessings from God. (Psalm 127) All people, whether or not they live with disabilities, are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1)
Perhaps Marshall was not saying that the children themselves are the punishment, but that the disability that the child lives with is a punishment. Perhaps he is saying that punishment comes on the heads of the children for the sin of the parents. But this idea also is opposed by Scripture as taught by the prophet Jeremiah.
In Jeremiah's prophetic vision of the coming days of the Messiah, he says that no one will be punished for the sins of their parents. (Jeremiah 31:29, 30) Rather, a new covenant will be made with God's people in which his people will not be punished for sins at all, and certainly not children bearing the brunt of punishment for the sins of their parents. (Jeremiah 31:34)
Marshall did issue a brief apology on his website.
As we observe this season of Lent and look forward to Good Friday and Easter, we can celebrate that Jesus took the punishment for all the sins of his people. I thank God that his grace is wide as the sea. God is just, yes, but his justice does not come out as an unjust punishment upon children. His justice is gracious, and his grace is just. God loves and cherishes all people, perhaps especially children and adults who live with disabilities. (Luke 14:15-24)