“Whoever wants the next generation in America the most – will get them” is a quote from my friend, Dr. Harris Malcom. (Harris played Kirk Cameron’s dad in the movie Fireproof.)
When I heard Harris say this, it reverberated deep in my soul. It forced me to consider the possibility/truth that as Christians we have lost several generations and are losing the next generation simply because we don’t want them badly enough.
We have surrendered the Christian expectations and consequences that should challenge and guide the next generation. By doing so, in essence we have surrendered part of our own freedom. As individual Christians and as churches we bear the bulk of responsibility for this.
There was a time in America when parental expectations and consequences were the order of the day for a child. Parents expected their children to obtain a better quality of life than themselves. This expectation was coupled with the expectation that Godliness, morality, character, and ethics would govern the life of the child. These expectations transcended all racial, socioeconomic, age, religious, and gender barriers. And everybody knew there were consequences for failing to meet and maintain these expectations.
There was a time in America when even persons who didn’t profess to be Christians or attend church were still men and women of good moral character whose lives reflected the values of a society that was very different than today. It was just expected that adults would live decent and honorable lives, raise their children with a basic knowledge of right and wrong, instill in them good moral character and values, teach them a respect for civil authority, teach them manners, and teach them that life has an ebb and flow.
In life, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but through it all you play fair, play by the rules, give everything the best you have to give, and learn to be gracious in success or failure. Parents expected their children to earn their way in life. They were taught to learn a trade that made them valuable to society – because there were no free lunches, so to speak. And children were taught that the only limits they had in life were the ones they placed upon themselves. They were taught to believe if they could dream it – they could achieve it. Not so much anymore!
By and large, we have long since surrendered expectations and removed any consequences associated with the next generation’s failure to meet those expectations. And by doing so – we have surrendered part of our freedom.
In my opinion, somewhere along the way we surrendered the battle for the next generation. We threw in the towel. All too often today, parents no longer have high expectations for their children. And God knows there aren’t any consequences for children failing to meet expectations.
I remember a day, when in about the third grade, I came home with a B+ in deportment (conduct) on my report card. As I made my way from the bus stop home, I knew my proverbial goose was cooked! Momma was in the chicken pen feeding the chickens. I handed her my report card. She saw that B+ in deportment and blew a gasket. It was like a volcano erupting. I don’t know what she grabbed.
For all I know it was one of them chickens. Anyway, she started “whupping” me! (A “whupping” is much worse than a “whipping!”) But I remember to this day what she said while “whupping” me. She said, “Boy, I can’t make you smart. I can’t open your head and pour smarts in. But I can make you behave! Ain’t no young’un of mine gonna go down to that school and embarrass me like this!”
And it was me and her and the chickens all going ‘round and ‘round in the chicken pen – and it was mostly her! That day she modeled to me that I was her responsibility, not the government or some “nanny state,” and that she wasn’t going to skip a payment on the price of my freedom – and hers! I was too important to her for her to throw in the towel. Both she and my daddy set expectations for my future and enforced the consequences of my failing to meet them. You see, they wanted my future for me more than the forces in the world that would have taken it from me.
Column space prevents me from writing all that needs to be said on this subject. But remember, “Whoever wants the next generation in America the most – will get them.” And I’m afraid that mommas and daddies, good Christian people, and churches no longer want the next generation more than the gangs and the dregs of society. I pray I’m wrong! Parents – set expectations for your babies and in love enforce the consequences for not meeting them. Model before them the life they need to see – and get yourself and your babies in church – starting this Sunday!