Blessed are the children: a liberation theology for abused and neglected children

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As the chaplain of MSVH, I work with children who are victims of all types of abuse. My interest in this area has grown out of lifelong experiences with children who have been abused as well as adults who were abused as children. While working with these children, I have become more and more sensitive to how physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect affect them spiritually, as well as how often children who are the victims of one or more types of abuse are also the victims of spiritual abuse. I am aware of how atonement theology not only cannot help these children but, in fact, perpetuates their abuse. I have begun to develop a practical theology and methods of pastoral care through activities and rituals to help children understand and heal from the violence and abuse afflicted on them. Activities and rituals that embody a sound understanding of the theological and pastoral issues raised by abuse can be instruments of pastoral care and grief work for abused children. Through these activities and rituals, they can begin to perceive the imago Dei within themselves, and perhaps the soul that has been fractured because of the abuse that they have suffered at the hands of people who supposedly care about them will begin to heal. The purpose of my research is to help abused children heal spiritually. This includes helping them grieve the losses that they have experienced as victims of violent acts, providing pastoral care around activities and rituals, and helping them see the imago Dei within themselves. As a professional clergy person who is in a position to help abused children, I consider it vital to understand child abuse historically, Biblically, and theologically, including how images of God and the Bible have been used to support the abuse of children throughout history.

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