The “Rehoboam Syndrome” (I)
As a father of six children you’d think I should know a little something about raising kids. I think I have gained a lot of insight from the Word of God and also have a lot of “trial-and-error” experience. Common sense has its place in raising children too—at least it ought to. Unfortunately, listening to many of the radio talk shows today makes it clear that some parents either don’t have any common sense or choose not to use it. It’s one thing to make blunders as a parent. I know because mine are “legion.” It’s yet another thing to be so concerned about your own entertainment, to be so self-centered and so self-absorbed that you refuse to take the time to instill the requisite values and virtues into your children. That paragon of “values clarification,” Ms. Gloria Steinem reminds us that, “It’s never too late for a happy childhood.” Sadly, many parents tend to follow Ms. Steinem’s advice and remain children—seeking that ever-elusive happy childhood, whatever that might be—and never grow up. What can those that are still acting like children themselves offer their own children?
We ought—certainly by this time—to be very hesitant to take the advice of someone like Ms. Steinem. She and her handful of cohorts have all but ruined a generation of women with their feminist ideology. They brought their propaganda to the cultural table and both men and women devoured it. Carolyn Graglia reminds us that “As detailed in The Sisterhood, the most influential leaders of the women’s movement that was revived in the 1960s were the late Betty Friedan, Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, and Gloria Steinem. Including the international movement, Simone de Beauvior was a fifth. Of these five women, only Betty Friedan had both married and borne children.” Graglia issues this qualification to us regarding the few that so profoundly affect our culture. “While Betty Friedan had tasted a life devoted to marriage and motherhood and pronounced it foul, the remaining four women were unacquainted with the experience.” In other words, “Contemporary feminism is the creation of women who rejected the traditional family and traditional femininity, who were career-oriented, and who either rejected motherhood altogether, or believed it should play a very subordinate role in a woman’s life.” Here we can observe how just a few people can distort reality.
Both modern men and women have—to their discredit—turned to the “experts” for the answers to life’s dilemmas. As the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer so aptly put it, all you need to give man is personal peace and (relative) affluence and he’s happy. Few words describe American culture prior to September 11, 2001 as aptly as Schaeffer’s. Heather MacDonald has outlined how experts hinder rather than help us.
Feminist Barbara Ehrenreich has given us a trenchant analysis of the impact on society of men who refuse to be men; of men who have rejected their role as supporter of a wife and family and who have withdrawn from the “marriage market” in favor of a quasi-hedonistic Playboy role. “Playboy trumpeted the message that to be free a man had to be single. The sexual revolution that Hefner & Co. zealously promoted with feminism’s able assistance, guaranteed that plenty of sex was available with a much lower price tag attached than marriage. At least that was the idea. While Playboy depicted men as fools for working to support wives and children, it never disparaged sex or work as such.” The net result was not liberation but a bondage for removed from the freedom promised.
Confusing economic necessity and economic advantage modern Americans have embraced shallow materialism and consumerism (toys) and a mindless egalitarianism at the expense of morals and the traditional family. Personal peace and affluence reigns supreme. Add to these ills the influence of the media and you have a recipe for disaster. Graglia cites just one example of how a seemingly innocuous “sit-com” can wreak havoc on a culture. “M*A*S*H effectively promoted pacifism, disparaged authority, glamorized the sexually predatory male, and depicted casual sexual intercourse as common and acceptable.” One of the results of the impact of shows like M*A*S*H is that “Parents have failed, in part, because they themselves have embraced the popular media’s cultural views.” How does this play out? Graglia believes that many parents “have ratified the ubiquitous message of sexual revolutionaries by themselves adopting sexually promiscuous lifestyles, reinforcing these teachings to their children. Others have been shamed, as it were, into tacitly accepting what they believe to be wrong but have lacked the fortitude to condemn, lest their children think them unsophisticated and old-fashioned. In a reversal of the normal hierarchy, many parents now crave their children’s approval. . .”
And precisely therein lies a huge part of the problem. When you have parents adopting the popular media’s cultural views and lacking adult parental fortitude—guts—and craving the approval of their children you’re in big trouble. The caveat is that to act otherwise will cause your children to think of you as unsophisticated and old-fashioned. So what’s new? It really doesn’t matter how many degrees you have, your children are still going to think of you as unsophisticated. They’re almost always going to think of you as old-fashioned. The point is: who cares? Am I such a “wuss” that I get all upset if my teenager thinks I’m unsophisticated and old-fashioned? Come on! Give me a break! Isn’t my skin any thicker than that? Aren’t I more mature than that?
Now I realize that we are a “youth-driven” society. All of the advertisement is geared to the young people. They’re the ones with the money. Dad and mom just earn the money and provide the home. The kids get an allowance—often a lavish one—and they go to the movies, buy the CDs and DVDs, and generally spend the cash. The parents don’t have time to do those things because they’re too busy trying to make ends meet and figure out ways to train their children to be responsible citizens. And so our culture understandably dotes on the teenagers and young adults.
Recently I was listening to talk radio and the host was amazed at all the people who were saying that we should listen to what the college students had to say about the terrorist attack on the US on September 11, 2001. Why in the world would we even care to want to know what the teenagers and college students thought about it? I was not the least bit interested in their ideas, although I am very interested in people their age. In most cases, you could measure the cogent and coherent thoughts of high school and college students with a calendar. Their young skulls are filled with mush. To make matters worse, many of them have been under the tutelage of LRL (Liberal Religious Left) tenure-tracked professors. If I ever am concerned to know what a young adult in America thinks about the terrorist attack I’ll watch Bart Simpson.
So to come back to Ms. Steinem’s maxim, how do we decide—precisely—what constitutes a “happy” childhood? What is the universal standard that will tell us, beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt, what “happy” is? Is it wealth? Is it prestige? How about status? Could it be “fun” in all its various forms and guises? What is it? I know many people that would say they had a “happy” childhood and never had any of the things I just mentioned. I know wealthy kids who had a miserable childhood, or so they thought. I know people who were poor growing up, but had the comfort and love of a two-parent home and did just fine. I suppose that you don’t have to be one of Rosie O’Donald’s kids to have a “happy” childhood.
The Bible has a different slant on life than the one Ms. Steinem and the modern pop culture presents. We are called to be infants in one respect: with regard to evil. In 1 Corinthians 14:20 Paul reminds us of this. “Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” In chapter 13 he had spoken to the Corinthians about the need to move on to maturity and to put childlike ways behind them. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 he said, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
Our culture might be rushing headlong into what Graglia and others have described to us. In one sense—sadly—that’s to be expected. Modern culture with its inordinate emphasis on relativism has few options. They have denied reality or redefined it or distorted it or all of the above, but their options are few. What concerns me most, however, is when the Church of Jesus Christ looks, speaks, and acts in an almost identical fashion. This booklet is directed at the Church and I’m asking ever member of it to reflect on where we are now and where the Word of God says we must be.Life in the covenant community entails becoming adults and putting childish ways behind us. It means taking the responsibility of being a mature adult male or female with all that that entails. It means acknowledging the Creator/creature distinction as well as the adult/child distinction and living life in that reality. In a word, it means that adults are to grow up and that children are to accept their rightful place in God’s hierarchy for them. To live according to the truth of the Bible means peace and order. To live according to the ways of the world means to further the chaos and confusion that characterize and typify our society today.
 Quoted in Reader’s Digest, September 2001, pg. 61, from her book, Revolution from Within. You just have to know that this is a very subjective book from the title.
 F. Carolyn Graglia, Domestic Tranquility. A Brief against Feminism, (Dallas: Spence Publishing Co., 1998), p. 13.
 Ibid., 17.
 Heather MacDonald, The Burden of Bad Ideas. How Modern Intellectuals Misshape our Society, (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000.)
 Barbara Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment, (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983), pp. 11-12.
 Graglia, DT, 65.
 Ibid., 83.