As reported in the Washington Post, we have a sad story from Temple Hills, Md. It is sad because Ezekiel Stoddard is having his life shortchanged by his parents who have pushed him into Bible study and writing sermons instead of following a proper school curriculum.
Ezekiel, 11, believes that the Lord spoke to him two years ago and that he must spread the word of God.
Ezekiel says God spoke to him in a dream when he was 8. “God said, ‘You are going to lay hands on the sick and preach to the poor,’ ” Ezekiel said.
The voice, Ezekiel said in another interview, sounded like fire. “He said, ‘Son, you are going to be something.’ ” The boy’s mission? “Ministering the Gospel,” Ezekiel said, “and running souls right over to Him.”
He was recently ordained as a pastor in the independent church in which both of his parents are also preachers.
“The kingdom of God is at hand,” he said in a sermon at his ordination. His hands punctured the air, seeming to reach out to all of the 50 or so well-wishers present.
“Repent,” he said in a voice at once forceful and pre-pubescent. “To repent may be deeper than you think. You have to give your life over to the Lord. Don’t act like this world. . . . Have your own mind set in Christ.” The audience cheered.
Ezekiel is home schooled by his mother, and besides wearing his khaki uniform and doing schoolwork he spends a 13-14 a week studies the bible.
There are many who believe that God speaks through preachers. For them there is nothing unusual in an 11 year old in front of a church. For many other Christians, the idea of someone so young understanding the intricacies of theology is unbelievable. What can he possible have to offer followers other than bible quotes and empty platitudes. It could be said that no matter the age of the pastor, religion has nothing else to offer anyway. However, in the preachers I have met, the experience of years do tend to bring at least some understanding of human foibles.
Some children develop an aptitude at an early age for a skill such as music, mathematics, or sports. These skills should be developed if possible, and this encouragement of his talent as a speaker by Ezekiel’s parents is a positive thing, even if I personally don’t agree with this particular route. However, children also need to be given the skills to branch out or change in the future. While his parents state that Ezekiel spends time playing sports and in other activities, I can’t help but wonder how well rounded a adult he will develop into.
It’s easy to criticize this as parent’s brainwashing a child, and there may be some of that here. It’s more difficult to step back and ask what will be the long term impact on Ezekiel’s life? Will he grow to experience and understand the world outside of his Church’s narrow view? I very much doubt it.
That’s what makes this a sad story.