The recent arrest of Cobb County’s Justin Ross Harris for the alleged murder of his 22-month-old son Cooper is one more heartbreaking account of what seems to be an ongoing saga of parents killing their children. According to AP reports, a distraught Harris alleged that he mistakenly left the toddler strapped to his car seat inside the vehicle while at work after forgetting to take his son to daycare. The only thing is that Harris (and reportedly his wife) had previously made Internet searches to see how long it would take for a child trapped in a hot car to die. While no one wants to rush to judgment and Harris' innocence is yet to be determined, it seems an uncanny coincidence that both parents surfed for the same information, only to have their son die from what they both feared.
But is the suspected homicide of Baby Cooper indicative of a larger, more ominous trend causing heartbreak among our nation’s young families? Almost daily, local and national news sources report the abuse or death of child at the hands of one or both parents. The Bible states that in the last days, one of the signs of the End Times is a lack of natural affection or love: “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). One of the strongest emotions next to the love of God is a mother’s love for her child. Does the rise of infanticide prove that mothers and fathers are not only falling out of love with their children, but even hating them to the point of murder? And if infanticide is an ever growing trend, what can society do to stop the killing?
Desperate parents do desperate things
Crime author Charles Montaldo writes, “According to the American Anthropological Association, more than 200 women kill their children in the United States each year. Three to five children a day are killed by their parents.” Montaldo suggests that some of these murders occur when parents have difficulty rearing their children. Certainly, raising toddlers can be tedious; but it is hard to imagine a parent being stressed to the point of actually ending their child’s life. Infamous cases like Susan Smith’s murder of her two sons in 1994 and the 2001 bathtub drowning of Andrea Yates’ five children raise questions about what pushes parents to the brink of desperation, denial and premeditated death of their offspring.
There is a spirit of murder in the land
Some emotional triggers might be postpartum depression, financial woes, or in the case of Susan Smith, infidelity. But while all these might be contributing factors, another theory is also highly probable. The tendency to commit infanticide might be deeply rooted in a disregard for human life perpetuated by an almost wholesale acceptance of abortion in the United States. What we fail to understand is that the decision to abort a child may be within the limits of the law, however there are moral and psychological implications that few have addressed. Murder is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate against any age, gender, ethnicity or socioeconomic status. A society that advocates and legalizes abortion is a breeding ground for the spirit of murder. Once unleashed, the desire to kill the innocent—in or out of the womb—becomes paramount. Mind boggling is the thought that any parent who knowingly causes bodily harm and death to an innocent infant would do so without conscience and without remorse. The answer can only be a murdering spirit unleashed at the point of vulnerability to seduce a harried parent to do the unthinkable.
We all can play a part in vindicating Cooper
Everyone hopes that little Cooper Harris’ death is found to be accidental; but if his dad intentionally left him in that hot car to die, then law enforcement needs to ensure that his death is vindicated. Innocent or not, this unfortunate incident may force more parents to think twice before jeopardizing their children’s lives by being too harried and too hurried. If the spirit of murder continues to use unwitting moms and dads to kill their young, then we who do know the Lord must be vigilant in prayer and more keenly committed to get involved in their struggle. A constantly crying baby can drive parents to distraction, but there are viable solutions that can prevent moms and dads from going off the deep end. Physicians, relatives, friends, and coworkers should be more attentive to new mothers who may be suffering silently from postpartum depression. Offer some relief by babysitting for a few hours or treating new moms to lunch or a movie. Encourage women and men to talk about the problems that come with rearing a young child. Venting frustrations helps alleviate the pressure of difficult parenting, especially during the first four years of a child’s life.
Churches and faith-based organizations may want to initiate a crisis line for moms and dads facing parenting challenges. Older married couples can mentor new parents to help them overcome the obstacles of raising a family. Distressed parents should be encouraged to seek professional counseling or consider placing children temporarily in foster care or an adoption agency before resorting to desperate measures. Sure it sounds drastic, but far better than death is the placement of an unwanted child in a good home. Finally, an increase in federal and state funding for child protective services should enable agencies to more carefully monitor families that are problematic or have a history of child abuse allegations. If it takes a village to raise a child, it will take everyone in that village to protect that child from infanticide.