Debates around the world have been triggered by the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, the 4-year-old British girl who has been missing for nearly 3 weeks now after vanishing from her hotel room in Portugal.
Were Madeleine's parents wrong to leave their daughter and 2-year-old twin children alone, even though they were at a poolside restaurant only 50 yards away? Or was it justifiable since they were just seconds away from the room and checked on their sleeping children every half hour?
Undoubtedly, the most important question at the present time is "Where is Madeleine?" and what time and energy there is should be spent on finding ways to bring her back home safely rather than on the bickering and finger-pointing that has ensued Madeleine's disappearance. However, the former questions need to be addressed for the sake of families in Europe, many of which seem to have lost sight of God's purpose for them - both in the Church and in the household.
While certainly, as reports have noted, there are cultural differences within Europe and across the Atlantic over the treatment of children, and no one ruler from any country can be used to measure another, what does set the standard for all of mankind can be found in one place – the Bible.
As recorded in the book of Acts and the first letter of Apostle Peter, we are called to shepherd the flocks entrusted to us, serving as overseers. And a true shepherd, as Jesus himself noted, does not abandon their sheep as the hired hand would do. He instead lays down his life for his sheep.
But what we see today – most notably in Europe – are cultures that are not centered around the sheep, but the shepherds (if one can even call sheep-less people shepherds).
In 1997, a toddler was left in a stroller outside a New York City restaurant while the mother dined and drank inside, prompting diners to phone police.
After being arrested for neglect, the mother maintained the practice was common in her native Denmark and sued the city for false arrest. The charges were dropped and she was awarded $66,401.
Six years later, a Swiss father was arrested on charges of child endangerment after a maid discovered his 2-month-old in the family's Waldorf-Astoria hotel room while he and his wife were out to lunch.
"We are nice people and good parents," the wife told The New York Post, calling it a simple mistake. "It's just a matter of a different culture." Here, too, charges were eventually dismissed.
It is because of this unbiblical, spouse-and-self-over-child culture that birthrates have reached historic and prolonged lows in European countries, from Italy and Germany to Poland and the Czech Republic.
In 1990, no European country had a fertility rate less than 1.3; by 2002, there were 15, with six more below 1.4. No European country is maintaining its population through births, and only France – with a rate of 1.8 – has the potential to do so, according to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Europe seems to have not only lost sight of its children, but also the first commandment given to man by God – to "be fruitful and increase in number" (Genesis 1:28). Both physically and spiritually, God's Word is largely not being heard.
So the current missing child saga in Portugal not only reveals a neglect for children, but even deeper a neglect of God's Word.
For traditional and biblical family values to be restored in Europe, what's needed is a return to God Word. Else the disappearance of Madeleine is the least of Europe's worries.