While driving to work this morning, I heard a news report of legislation introduced in a Northeastern state that would require a medical attendant to be on standby at many summer camps which have campers playing games in which they have the potential to be hurt. Included in the list of “dangerous” sports was whiffleball and dodgeball. How about they make a state law that requires parents to put kids in bubble wrap at birth? Truly ridiculous.
At the other extreme I have been thinking recently about Hollywood parents who are so bent on making their kids “famous” that they expose them to incredible debauchery and conduct that will suck a young soul dry before they ever have the chance to form values. Among the ones that come to mind are the parents of Angus T. Jones who plays the “half” in Two-and-a-Half Men. This kid from Texas started acting at age five and for most of his years, has been on the set of the vile sitcom that stars Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer. What chance does that kid have of ever embracing an even moderately stable worldview equipped with values and principles that won’t land you in crazy town as it has with the show’s star?
Almost daily, one can pick up a newspaper or read an internet story that gives a story of some pathetic parent who has been involved in child abuse or neglect. Every time I hear of such a case, I’m always impacted by the shocking sadness and I am repulsed by the cruelty.
Isn’t it ironic, though, that we are so often outraged by example of parents who beat or abuse their kids, who curse at them or don’t take them to get medical attention, who let them live in squalor or leave then unattended for long periods of time? On the other side, we have some who are so intent in “protecting” the body of the child that they don’t want them to play vigorously for fear that they’ll get hurt or who will sue a school district so that they get picked for a part in the school play or who would legislate away the child’s freedom to enjoy a hotdog, french fries or kool-aid at lunch.
Sadly, between these two extremes, we see many who ignore equally brutal cases of neglect that involve the heart and soul and not just the body and emotions of a child.
How many times have we gone to a mall to find packs of young teens roaming the interior or hanging out in the parking lots with nary an adult in sight. Our kids disconnect from family dinners, family drives and family walks and plug in to you tube, I-Tunes and Netflix. I’ve been shocked as a pastor to hear stories of things that have happened at overnight “sleepovers” or Risky Business-style parties in the very homes of intelligent parents who are distracted by other pursuits and who often shrug off egregiously inappropriate (and even wicked) behavior on the part of their children with “what are we going to do?” or “kids these days” expressions. While living in South Florida a few years ago, I read with horror of a girl who lost her life during breast augmentation surgery which her parents had given to her as a sweet sixteen birthday present! One recent report revealed that fully 80% of our young teen males have visited or regularly visit pornographic sites via the internet while mom and dad are asleep at the switch.
My question is this, is it not as equally abusive or neglectful to allow one’s child to be morally or emotionally scarred as it is to physically scar them? Is a parent who fails to get their child immunized or who lets them eat junk food any worse than the one who allows their child to watch graphic sex and violence on TV or the internet? Isn’t a parent who signs off on letting their son go to watch “Saw VI” or “Superbad” guilty of a unique level of parental abdication?
Would I not be thought a bad parent if I allowed my ten-year-old to play with my loaded gun? Should I not be thought a bad parent if I allowed my ten-year-old to listen to a song that describes a man beating his wife to death with the butt of a gun or play a video game that depicts men raping women? Is there really that much difference?
What kind of message does a parent send to a child and all her friends when they say to their sixteen year-old daughter, “Of course, dear — at your age it is important to be overtly sexually attractive to boys, so let’s have your breasts enlarged.”? Is it much less of a message to purchase clothing for them that emphasizes their cleavage, encourages men to see up their skirts or which emphasizes the curves of their body simply because it is considered “stylish?”? If a parent talks to their child about drugs and not getting in a car with a stranger and eating a balanced diet — should we not also be talking to them about modesty and chastity and doing difficult tasks and showing respect? Isn’t that a part of parenting as well?
If the moral decline of this nation is to be reversed, it will not occur because of political efforts. It must begin with a revival in the hearts and homes of our nation. As each generation of dysfunctional and ill-trained children gives birth to a new generation of even MORE dysfunctional and ill-trained families, the snowball of decadence and decline grows larger. Not only that, the chasm between those who are committed to sound values and Biblical principles and those who embrace irresponsibility and moral relativism grows.
Ultimately, I cannot control what goes on in other people’s homes, but I can control what goes on in mine. When I see the neglect and abuse that others tolerate, I know that I must redouble my own efforts to raise my children in a protected and planned path that will allow them to learn and hopefully embrace the values that will keep them safe (physically, emotionally, intellectually AND spiritually) and which will honor the Lord.