Wanted: Morality

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his generation has mortgaged the morality of the next, and struggles for a way to comfort itself.

Conservative author Peggy Noonan wrote a commanding and powerful editorial for the Wall Street Journal of April 22, 1999 in response to the violent murders at Columbine High School. Drawing an analogy with fish that swim in deep waters without any choice about their environment, she questions if people realize that today's children exist in an "ocean" of the wrong way to live and have no more choice than the fish.

Many adults assume that because they have "turned out OK" the children of today will likewise have the good sense to throw off the evil influences of their environment. "But they never had a normal culture against which to balance the newer, sicker one. They have no reference points to normality. We assume they know what we know: 'This is not right.' But why would they know that? The water in which they swim is the only water they've known" (ibid).

For selfish reasons, the present generation has excused itself from its responsibility to adequately prepare its children for life. It has taken pride in becoming an "enlightened" society that is remarkably creative in excusing itself from individual responsibility for its actions, that hesitates to be too specific about expected behavior lest it infringe upon "the rights" of all creatures.

Adults are able to survive the pleasure-binge mentality of the present culture because they have some foundation in the right way to live thanks to their parents or grandparents. In selfish shortsightedness, they claim that this sick culture of violence is okay, not realizing that they are mortgaging the morality of the next generation. In short, children do not know how to live right if they do not see how to live right.

Many would-be healers have come forward in the aftermath of Columbine's tragedy advising that the lesson to our society is that we need to "listen to our children." "They have something to say." "They are basically good." All true, but pablum. No reasonable person would disagree with these suggestions. But they miss the point, and unless many get the point and do something about it, the worst it yet to come. Children need to be led, parented. Parenting means adequately equipping children to be able to live their own lives and eventually to bring up their own families. But before they can do that, parents must come to grip with the fact that they have a serious responsibility -- responsibility that too many are leaving unfulfilled. Parents must themselves know the way of life that is right, shun the way of life that is wrong, and then teach the right to their children by their examples. Sure, it needs to be done in the context of a loving environment, in the context of listening to them, in the context of respecting them for their unique talents and abilities.

But until parents live godly lives, they will not produce children that are upstanding citizens. To the contrary, children will be swept in whatever direction the current of "the ocean" of our evil culture carries them.

Who will counter the present culture asks Noonan? "The good parents and good families of our children. They are kind enough, sensitive enough to give them religious belief, the knowledge of a God, the sense that life has coherence and purpose. They are generous enough, and loyal enough to the future, to show through their actions that doing your best to show love is good, doing your work is good, contributing is good. 'This is what we do,' they do not [only] say but [they also] show. 'This is how to live'" (ibid).

Is Noonan overly optimistic about the existence of enough "good parents" to make a difference? Perhaps, but she is certainly on the right track. In advising the people of Israel how to preserve the prosperity of their nation, God told them: "You shall teach [My Commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:7-9 Deuteronomy 6:7-9 [7] And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. [8] And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. [9] And you shall write them on the posts of your house, and on your gates.
American King James Version×
).

Here is a dramatic portrayal of that "ocean," the broad environment in which our children live. "Doorposts" is symbolic of the everyday comings and goings from one's house -- the individual family environment. Similarly, "gates" refers to the entrance to the city, and is symbolic of the comings and goings, the everyday activities of the community environment.

"Your hand" is symbolic of action, and "your eyes" a reference to the influences of thought. In other words, how parents live, as well as what they read or watch (printed material, television, and movies), is critical to their success in preparing their children for life. It is also critical to the survival of their communities -- and their nation.

Understandably, people all over the world were horrified by the shootings that turned a pleasant, middle-class suburb of Denver into a symbol of the worst of the present culture. But will they consider their own actions, that they may well have helped to create and sustain our present evil world? More importantly, will their shock motivate them to the level of change that is needed?

A culture that excuses its disobedience to and ridicules respect for the Ten Commandments of God has mortgaged the morality of the next generation.

Until it returns to that foundation, our culture will continue to bequeath evils such as the assault on us all that took place in Littleton, Colorado -- and worse...

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