"The church has no quarrel with the sacrifice of children--except when such sacrifice is made to a false god."
--Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, by Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Abingdon Press, 1989, p. 149
My friend and I have been reading this book because we have heard good things about Hauerwas (she actually studied with him), and so we read this book and get together each week to talk about it. It's an OK book, but not the best one out there.
The point the authors are trying to make with this quote is that being a Christian means being willing to sacrifice something--it's not just all fun and games. When Jesus said Christians will be persecuted he meant it, and we should expect it. When we're following Christ even those around us may be persecuted, and we can't and even shouldn't shelter them from that.
I understand their point and agree, to an extent. At the same time, the above quote brings up major red flags! I've heard of (and know) too many people whose parents were missionaries or something, and their parents chose to sacrifice their childrens' childhoods and intimate connection with them for doing "God's work." I think this kind of sacrifice is completely un-called-for and not what God asks us to do. I suppose the authors would say that is sacrifice to a false god, and the person is not actually then doing the work of God, but it's incredibly easy to get confused if that's the case! People praise the missionaries for the great work they've done when their children grow up with attachment disorders and in need of emotional healing.
Yes, our faith requires sacrifice, and sometimes that will affect those around us, but it should not affect them in such a way that they do not feel loved by their parents or like they're able to grow in healthy ways. Maybe a parent is called to die for what they believe is right, but this death, although painful, shows the parent's conviction of the truth and their willingness to stand up for it. Maybe a parent is called to do mission work, but this should not cause them to ignore their children, but to love their children in a way that shows the love of Christ to that child and those around them. Maybe a parent is called to work in the American work force, but that parent should not have to work tons of hours and overtime just to show "love" by buying the kid a lot of stuff or experiences. Sacrificing one's children is a huge moral issue, and not one that should be taken lightly. I think usually God asks for sacrifices from us that in some ways might look difficult for a child, but if done right end up helping the child to grow because they know more about God's love, mercy and justice, rather than feeling abandoned or like love is only shown through material possessions.