This Will Never Be A Children's Story!

Now the country’s boisterously divided—not only between political parties and candidates this presidential election season—but water cooler conversations reveal a nation divided as well over the videotaped encounter of a 17-year-old male lowland gorilla and a three-year-old boy. By now you’ve heard the story retold a hundred times (make that 101 now). An unidentified boy with his mother and a group of children were visiting the Cincinnati Zoo last week, when the youngster pulled away from his mother, climbed into the gorilla enclosure, slipped on the edge and fell ten feet into the moat. Whereupon Harambe, the popular 450 pound gorilla, appeared to attack the boy, tossing and dragging him across the moat ( Moments later zoo officials made the decision to shoot and kill the endangered gorilla in order to save the child.

Animal rights activists protested Harambe’s killing. Others sided with the zoo administration’s decision. And given social media’s ubiquitous platform combined with America’s penchant for overheated public conversation, it was the perfect storm for another raging debate. “The boy’s mother has not been formally identified by police, but other women who share her alleged name on social media have received threatening messages intended for her, attacks that called her ‘scum,’ ‘a really bad mother’ and a ‘[- - - - -] killer.’ ‘that animal is more important than your [- - - - -] kid,’ one man messaged. Another woman wrote: ‘u should’ve been shot.’ At times, the barrage of insults was racially charged, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer. By Monday, the threats grew so intense that Cincinnati police felt compelled to act.” (

But I retell this story—not as a commentary on the burgeoning demise of civility in our civil conversations—but as a startling reminder that we seem to be losing a common sense of human values. How much is a 3-year-old boy’s life worth? Never mind the parenting (or the lack of it) by the boy’s mother (whom bystanders described as being distracted at that moment by other children in the group). How much was that boy’s life worth, when to all outward appearances a 450 pound gorilla was taking hostile action against this small intruder? If you have to choose between an endangered gorilla or an endangered child, what’s the choice? That they should’ve shot the mother of the child instead? Or does the anonymity of social media excuse deranged dismissal of human life, or at least dismissal of its fragile value?

No gorillas in our parish—but little boys and little girls abound. How endangered are our own children? How does the value of Adventist education for these little ones compare with the greater value parents and guardians apparently have awarded a new car or a house equipped with the latest electronic gadgets and toys—but no one at home can afford sending their little one(s) to church school? What is wrong with that picture?

I realize this comparison between choosing the life of a gorilla over the life of a child and choosing personal or family luxuries over the Christian education of your children is a bit painful. Particularly because there are families who have forgone those luxuries and yet still struggle to afford church school tuition. But it is precisely those families on whose behalf I am appealing right now. There are many of us who have more luxuries and toys than we really need. Which means there are many of us who have the means to offer compassionate assistance to families who long to have their children in our church schools, but cannot afford the tuition. For these families, for all of our children, for all of us there is Line Three on our tithe envelopes—“Christian Education.” Your generous offering marked on that line goes directly to Ruth Murdoch Elementary School and Andrews Academy to financially assist our own families in need.

We’re not talking gorillas versus little boys now. But we are dealing with eternity, with eternal values taught and modeled to our children by our church school teachers every day. “Let the little children come to Me,” Jesus still invites us (Matthew 19:14). That’s why He invented church schools—and why we must support them. Today. Line Three. Your tithe envelope. Thank you.