Monday, September 23, 2013

Bullying Begins at Home

Parents and other concerned adults worry a lot about the things, ideas, and behaviors to which children are exposed.  Parents worry about what their children are hearing and seeing when they are not around to protect and monitor them.

Our children learn to be who they are becoming from a variety of sources—people with whom they associate, places they go, movies they see, sites they visit on the internet, teachers and coaches who guide them, etc.  All of this can’t be controlled 24/7.  What’s a parent to do? 

While not a parent, I am an adult who is concerned about our children.  I see children with good parents from good homes end up in a world of trouble, and I’ve seen children raised in the worst of situations evolve into wonderful, responsible adults.  I know that good parents can have a child that goes in the wrong direction.  What can we do?

If we want our children, our biological ones and those for whom we share responsibility, to grow up to be wonderful, responsible adults, we need to watch what we say and do.  In other words, we need to practice what we what them to learn and copy.  We talk a lot about peer influence. It is not unimportant, but parental influence tops peer influence more often than not.

In recent years, we’ve become much more aware of the problem of bullying in our schools.  Schools and parents across the country are searching for better ways of preventing, identifying, and addressing the problem.  While this is appropriate and necessary, I wonder if we’ve failed to explore where our children learn to bully each other.  I fear it is in our homes.

Young children catch on quickly.  They observe one parent bullying the other.  They watch the same TV programs their parents watch.  They hear their parents talk about other people—too often in demeaning ways, which is a first step toward bullying.  I suppose what I’m trying to say is that adult bullying becomes the pattern for the bullying that goes on among our children.

Here is something else I’ve observed.  Children who grow up in homes where respect for others is practiced and preached are more likely to grow up respecting others.  The problem with practicing what we preach is that we must be consistent.  Children are quick to catch on.  Daddy is nice to Mommy and the neighbor to the right, but he talks really bad about the neighbor who lives on the left.  Mommy is so sweet when she meets Mrs. Smith at the store, but you ought to hear her on the telephone talking to her best friend about “old Mrs. Smith.”

Politics is one area of our lives that may be a real breeding ground for bullying and other inappropriate behavior.  Adults often say things about the mayor, the governor, and/or the president that they would never say about others.  Search for political cartoons about presidents and you will discover some of the most vindictive and bullying statements around.  What are we teaching our children when we publicly degrade our elected officials?  What might our actions say to our children if we were to follow the guidelines in I Timothy 2?  That is the focus of the sermon—how we are to respond to leaders and everyone else.  If we want our children to respect authority, perhaps we should invite them to join us in praying for the mayor, the governor, and the president—and perhaps for the pastor. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Dad's Prophecy

Faithful Readers,

Many years ago, my dad said something to me that sounded preposterous.  “It won’t happen in my lifetime,” he said, “but in yours the kind of violence we’re seeing in poor countries will be happening here.”  He said he believed this because we were a country in which the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer.  “The day will come when those who have been disenfranchised will take to the streets,” he added.

While none of us are rich by the standards of the truly rich, most of us are rich when compared to the very poor; and we are very rich compared to the poor of the world.  We have more than adequate food and shelter, and we have access to the medical care we need.  Comfortable in our sufficiency, it is easy to see the poor around us and declare them to be poor because they are lazy.  “Why,” we declare, “if they would get off their backsides and get jobs they could have a decent living.”

We’re still buying the “American dream”—that any poor person can rise to riches if he/she is just willing to work.  The “dream” is still believable because occasionally there is a poor person who does rise to riches.  Most sink into deeper poverty.

I recently sat in a neatly kept home of a very poor person. The person is disabled. Oh, this person could do some types of work, but because of the disability, he can’t do anything that requires him to stand or be mobile.  If work were available, he would be unable to take it.  He has no means of transportation.  If he could qualify for a job, it would be a minimum wage job with no benefits.  While he only draws $710.00 a month plus $200 in food stamps, he does have a medical card.  Of course, he seldom uses the card because he has no ready means of getting to and from his doctor’s office; and if medicines are prescribed, he never has enough money to cover the full costs.

Our government spends billions on wars in other places, depleting our national resources while increasing our national debt. In the process, we create more enemies than friends.  What if war-money were spent on health and human needs for people of the poorer nations of the world?

Here in Kentucky, we spend millions of dollars to purchase and maintain pristine forest lands while destroying other lands and displacing people to obtain fuel.  I not a simpleton.  I know there are no easy answers as to how to meet the needs of society and protect both people and environment; but there is still something wrong about this.

I raise these issues only because they contribute to the growing distance between the rich and the poor in our own society.  I raise these issues because I fear that we’ve forgotten that God loves all people and that God expects all people to work for the good of each other and to care for creation.  I raise these issues because God has never looked with favor on the rich who exploit the poor or on those who neglect God’s expectations.

God’s judgments never come falling upon us from above.  They arise from the chaos we create.  It was so in Jeremiah’s, and it is so in our day.

I pray my dad’s prophecy will be proven to have been wrong; but I fear that unless we hear the call of God as spoken by Jeremiah (4:1-2), it may be dead right.