Monday, November 23, 2015

No news is good news. . .

I have come to dread the 24 hour, 7 day a week news cycle.  I cannot remember a morning when there was not breaking news on my local TV stations and none of it is good.  I often listen to satellite radio in my car and I can listen to any number of news programs but more and more the choice is classical music.  The stress of hearing about every bad thing that happens throughout the world is often more than I can bear -- amid the bad news from hospitals, doctor's offices, funeral homes, etc... of the folks in my parish.

It makes me wonder what kind of toll this is all taking on us a society.  Bad news travels too fast and it gets to the point where we are not sure whether or where to hide from it all.  As bad as this is for adults, what are we doing to our children?  I was talking with parents who describe the fears their children express -- fears not of monsters under the bed but of the real death and loss of the parents, siblings, and loved ones.  I cannot recall my own children expressing such fears and it makes me wonder whether any of us realizes the intense stress and anxiety we are placing upon our children who absorb bad news like a sponge and often without knowing what to do with it all.

As hard as it is for me, once a confirmed news junkie, to say this -- I think it has gone too far.  I think it is high time to exercise a little discretion and to allow our children to be children for a while.  We have placed academic pressure upon the preschool, the kindergarten, and the elementary school to the point where we drug every antsy child, ditch recess in favor of prep for standardized tests, and insist that they choose a vocation by age 7 or they will fall behind the learning curve of their peers.  We have stolen their fun and steal every game which threatens to leave them with a hang nail or else we impose rules upon the game designed to prevent winning or losing.  Even recess is no fun anymore.  And then we leave them to the mournful sounds of tragedy, trouble, trial, and terror that is the news.  No wonder we are prescribing anxiety medicines to our kids!

No doubt the pressures on moms and dads in this regard are greater than were upon me or my parents.  They may not be able to escape fully the constant press of bad news, the onslaught of fear, and the accompanying anxiety but their role as parents requires them to provide a childhood for their children.  Part of the comfort of the children flows from their confidence in God's providential care, in the presence of God when fear and terror are also found, and the power of God to fight for us that we may endure the twists and turns of this mortal life and remain faithful.

I am not suggesting that we raise our children to be naive but I do believe that we should carefully discern the amount of bad news they absorb from the news.  We cannot prevent them from hearing or experiencing the reality of our fallen world but we surely owe them the full benefit of Christ's steadfast and enduring love as their strength, support, and security in uncertain times and amid the real despair all around us.  From ISIS to sex predators to hidden enemies, there is no shortage of fear.  What there is a shortage of is confidence in God's providence, courage of faith amid disappointment and within the darkness of the times, and the consolation of God's mercy when things are bleakest.  If you are a parent, do your children a favor.  Make sure they know even better God's merciful love and protection as they know the things that foster the power of fear and terror in their lives.

Our children see way too much violence, they are dulled by the constant barrage of erotic images, they learn too quickly what the little blue pill does but not to delay medical treatment for an erection lasting more than four hours, and the constant disappointment of our leaders, our institutions, and our role models... they do not hear enough about God's goodness, about His never-failing love, about His mercies new every morning, about the wonder of His creation, and the surprise of grace.  If there is a kid at your home, think about what they see and hear from others and what they need to see and hear from you.  Children are resilient but they are not indestructible.  Whether yours is a picture perfect household or a broken home with one parent barely keeping it together, don't let your children grow up to a constant string of bad news.  It steals their childhood and, even worse, it embitters and poisons their adulthood.


Kirk Skeptic said...

Making church a safer place would help matters as well, but I guess it's easier to blame the media than to clean up one's own act.

Padre Dave Poedel said...


Your words resonate with me and my situation as Campus Pastor at our Lutheran High School (though retirement is coming very soon). I am reading a book "The Epidemic of Narcisissm". You may have recommended it, I can't recall these dsyd. The amount of pressure our kids feel because their parents have such high expectations of them; all of their lives they have been told how wonderful they are, et. al.

You and I are of one spirit on this, but for the sake of the other readers, can we please limit our activity at church to things they can't get anywhere else? I'm thinking things like, oh, maybe, Word and Sacrament. Maybe the kids and parents will find us to be a refuge from the storm that expects so much success in any given subject or topic. How about we model "grace" and the love of God, yes with a proper balance of Law.

I know that I am exhausted and with my chronic pain, I am finding it necessary to retire early, praying that the Lord has some little mission outpost in the Phoenix area where I can serve a few souls with the Word and Sacraments. Enough.