Monday, September 18, 2006

Casting About, Looking for a Thread

It is interesting to watch people grasping for threads. They will desperately cling to any thread they can find no matter how improbable or illogical, because the alternatives are too horrible to contemplate. For years I’ve been hearing about young people engaging in a variety of criminal acts. Theft, vandalism and worse. And for years I’ve been reading impassioned letters to the editor asking “where are the parents.” Indeed that is an important question, and one I plan to address in a future posting.

One of the standard explanations is that young people are bored and we need to find activities for them. Yes, it sounds reasonable, but this is just one more thread for people to grasp as they try to come to grips with the problems of our society. But let’s be honest. There has never been a society that has had more activities and opportunities available for young people. The range of clubs and teams and events and activities is mind-boggling. If young people want to be busy every night of the week, they certainly have that option. And it is no longer the best and brightest who receive educations, but almost any young person with a desire for higher education will receive the opportunity – and largely at the taxpayers expense.

What is different about young people today is the amount of free time available to them. True, there are some who are incredibly busy with school, part time jobs and various activities and community commitments. But these aren’t the ones who are out torching play structures in the playgrounds or stealing people’s cars. It’s the ones who have incredible amounts of free time because their parents and their society have no expectations of them. A previous generation didn’t fret because their city only had one skateboard park, because there was plenty of work to do around the house, around the farm, or just trying to make ends meet. As parents we should make sure our children have time to be children. But we’re not doing them any favours by extending their childhood into their teens and giving them everything they want without the need for them to work.

That’s what’s different about the young people today. But young people today share some things in common with young people of a previous generation, and that is the inclination to get into trouble. A previous generation may have been too busy to get into as much trouble. And a previous generation was blessed by the opportunity to learn what a dollar was worth in effort. But make no mistake, the propensity for getting into trouble has been there in each generation. And that is where the moral dimension comes in. While many in our society would cling to various threads such as education or activities for reaching our children, we will fail unless we consider the moral side. The Bible is clear that all mankind are sinners (Romans 3:23). We have not sinners because we sin. No, that is putting the cart before the horse. The fact is we sin because we are sinners. And any attempt to reach young people, teach self-worth and self-respect or to help young people achieve their potential will fail unless it comes with a realization that there is a moral problem with all mankind, and it is the kind of problem that requires divine intervention. Yes, young people should have the opportunity to have fun. And they should be given increasing levels of responsibility. They should have the opportunity to learn the value of work. But moral problems require moral solutions, and that’s where God comes in. People can cast around desperately looking for some other solution, but no other solution exists.


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