Why We Must do Better for Our Young
Life of Christ (Week 16 of 27)
In the life of every individual and in the life of every nation, there are three moments: a time of visitation or privilege in the form of a blessing from God; a time of rejection in which the Divine is forgotten; and a time of doom or disaster. Judgement (or disaster) is the consequence of human decisions and proves that the world is guided by God’s presence. His tears over the city showed Him as the Lord of History, giving men grace, and yet never destroying their freedom to reject it. But in disobeying His will, men destroy themselves; in stabbing Him, it is their own hearts they slay; in denying Him, it is their city and their nation that they bring to ruin. Such was the message of His tears as the King goes to the cross. – Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Life of Christ Chapter 33, Paragraph 9
Why We Must Do Better for Our Young
Through the lens of history as well as a close examination of the human heart, it is evident that men seek meaning. Within our DNA is an acute desire to live for something greater than ourselves. To live for something worth dying for. We were created for the cross. In the hearts and minds of men, this knowledge rests squarely in our pursuit of happiness. For those who have no cause become lost in the confines of their own experiences, their own ideas, their plans, their pleasures. I say lost because these selfish, material trinkets do not bring lasting happiness. Rather, they bring a sense of emptiness, from which we so long to be relieved.
There was a time when our purpose in life was handed to us on a silver platter. There was no mistaking life’s value, its beauty, its end. Whether in the confines of our homes under the tutelage of intentional parents, within the brick and mortar walls of formal education, or among extended institutions, family, friends and the Western world in general, our purpose was plastered before us in capital letters: HEAVEN.
Whether we were taught the whole Truth or a portion of the truth, Americans were united in our mission, born and raised in a Judeo-Christian culture, calibrated to pursue the Good. For the most part, the West as a whole was grounded in a Judeo-Christian culture, living for something greater than themselves. Pursuing truth. Convicted of the Presence of a Good God, in Whom all things were glorified.
Not to argue that there are no good causes left. Of course, there are causes that contribute to peace. To justice. To unity. To Good. Those causes are grounded in the King of Peace; in Justice Himself; in the TRIUNE God from whom all Goodness stems. But those causes are losing ground in a secular world. (Even the good inherent in justice and peace has been co-opted by those who seek to twist them into a diminished secular version of their former selves.)
With the ever-compounding effect of a secular culture, the world been left without a common cause. Without a united purpose. Without the universally clear conviction that comes with a knowledge that there is a Truth and it can be known.
But sadly, the effort to paint a secular brush over the West, covering it with a canvas of “enlightenment” and “relativism,” has not erased the deepest desires of the human heart.
If the young are not raised to appreciate a desire for heaven, the pursuit of truth, they will seek to fulfill their needs elsewhere, rather than let them go unmet. But not having been given a map, they will search in all the wrong places, unaware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, easily lured into causes which would shock the sensibilities of those who have gone before them.
We see evidence in the world of “causes” that have provided some sense of “purpose” to lost souls. Obama has claimed that radical Islamic terrorism (a term he refuses to use) is due to poverty, a lack of education, tumultuous economic and political conditions and sheer desperation:
…when millions of people — especially youth — are impoverished and have no hope for the future, when corruption inflicts daily humiliations on people, when there are no outlets by which people can express their concerns — resentments fester. The risk of instability and extremism grow. Where young people have no education, they are more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and radical ideas. – 2/2015 Obama speech on countering violent extremism
But according to Zeeshan ul-hassan Usmani, owner of data company PredictifyMe, which analyzes data involving various groups for corporations and institutions, those most ready to radicalize have a very different profile. Rather than poor and downtrodden, ISIS recruits overwhelmingly include young men from middle or upper-class families. Many are second or third generation immigrants. Additionally, most ISIS recruits aren’t overly religious. In fact, the more secular the recruit, the more easily they are radicalized.
Take, for example, the perpetrator of the Nice, France, attack where hundreds were mowed down after a fireworks display celebrating Bastille Day. The press has reported – with some semblance of surprise – that the attacker drank alcohol, took drugs and used dating websites, giving rise to confusion as to his level of devotion to the “cause” of radical Islam. There were similar reports about the terrorists involved in the Paris attacks last November.
But the above profile fits the description of the most likely to be radicalized. Lost. Alone. Secularized.
And radical Islamic terrorism is not the only dangerous cause which tempts our young. In recent years, other causes have been on the rise. Some dangerous in terms of advocating violence. Some dangerous in terms of contributing to economic devastation. All dangerous with respect to the means with which they pursue their proclaimed ends.
All these radical causes – all the demands, all the violence, all the division – stem from our innate need for a purpose. A cause. A mission. A God-given need to matter. To make a difference.
We are confounded by those who are lured to the depths of these causes. Those who would take the lives of innocent celebrants, of police officers who were attempting to serve. We are at a loss as to why anyone would choose to stir flames into infernos, who seem to thrive on division and fear.
But is it possible that those people have been left to their own devices? Trying to find meaning in a world that has ceased to offer it?
Somewhere, someone had the idea that each should choose for himself what matters most to him. As a culture, we are no longer promoting a Cause. A Good. As long as we continue to withhold man’s deepest desire from the public discourse, someone will be lying in wait to offer him a cause. If we refuse to present The Prophet, our children will choose false ones.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” – Matthew 7:15
Those wolves will offer to meet the deepest desire of our young: the desire for a life of meaning. A desire to believe in something greater than themselves.
And our children will succumb to their wiles.
This is no longer a trifle. We have been through Moments One and Two mentioned by Archbishop Sheen above. Before we cycle through Moment Three, we must turn back to God. Otherwise, the consequences of our choices will be irreparable. We must take back our institutions, our schools, our homes and begin to share the Truth once more. We must offer greater meaning to the next generation than that of a secular, material world. We must give them something to live for. SOMEONE to live for.
We must begin to rebuild what we have lost.
Before we have nothing left to lose.
1. How can you make a difference in your community today? Have you any suggestions for the rest of us? Take some time to pray for those most affected by all the violence of late. For victims. And for perpetrators. Pray for our country. Pray for the world.
2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
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