America’s young people are being sold short, and with tragic results.
All of us are concerned about youthful delinquency, about a “lost” and “beat” generation, but wherever such is the case it is we of the older generation who must share the blame. Juvenile delinquency is a national menace but of even greater concern is that large group of decent young people who are looking at life aimlessly, so far not involved in crime, but without those moral and spiritual standards and restraints which are a vital part of Christian character.
We are letting these young people down in multiplied ways and the harvest of their neglect will be reaped in the years which lie just ahead.
They are being let down in our homes whenever the place where we live becomes just a house, and not a home. Parents have no right to expect more of their children than they themselves contribute towards their moral and spiritual upbringing. Parental delinquency begets youthful delinquency, and the economic and social standing of a family has nothing to do with it. Neither money nor social prestige is a substitute for right values, nor do the social graces do more than veneer a life devoid of spiritual perception.
Young people are being let down in our schools wherever the imparting of knowledge is considered an end in itself. Not for nought does the Bible tell us that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” An analysis of the curricular and extra-curricular activities of most schools today, be they high schools, colleges or universities—secular or church-related, indicates that the overwhelming majority of our young people are receiving an education completely divorced from God and His Word. In many places we are confronted by the tyranny of an infinitesimal minority who would eliminate from all schools even a prayer or the reciting of the Ten Commandments.
But far more reprehensible is the fact that so many to whom there are entrusted the duties of teaching have no faith in or concern for God who is the source of all true wisdom. Secularism and materialism are so thoroughly entrenched that a Christian boy or girl finds the school environment a battleground rather than a training ground.
By and large American education is so largely in the hands of secular forces that what once was the very bulwark of Christian ideals is today a force attacking and tearing down the institution to which it owes its origin.
The Church is letting down our young people wherever she is neglecting her primary task and responsibility in favor of secondary considerations.
The writer has examined the youth programs of some of the major denominations only to find them so diluted in their Christian approach as to be useless, while the emphasis is on a philosophy of one-worldism which may one day rise up to destroy us.
Apparently many who prepare these programs have a definite philosophy in mind by which they hope to influence the next generation. But the Christian message is not there. The Bible receives scant notice, if any, and young people are sent out into the “brave new world” with neither the shield of faith nor the Sword of the Spirit.
In almost all of these programs the authors have strong convictions regarding world problems—social, economic and political—while at the same time they have little but negative convictions so far as the verities of the Christian faith are concerned.
We are letting our young people down with reference to hard work. Rightly concerned about child labor in the past we have raised a generation of young people many of whom know little or nothing of the blessings and honor of hard work. Our laborsaving gadgets have contributed to this situation but our philosophy of as little work as possible for as much pay as possible has eaten to the very core of honest endeavor.
We let our young people down when we let them think our high standards of living are an end in themselves, rather than a means to an end. Man does not live by bread alone, nor can he subsist solely on cake. Only as spiritual values are given their rightful place can youth see the futility of life without Christ.
We have let them down by our example. On radio and TV they see the advantages of various brands of cigarettes extolled while apparently only those who use alcoholic beverages can enjoy “gracious living.” We have set before them the examples of sex obsession, so much so that many young people speak casually of things which should rightfully be reserved for man and wife alone.
A recounting of our shortcomings is of little value unless we face squarely up to the solution. To close our eyes to the situation magnifies the problem. To admit it and take constructive steps to meet it is the Christian, the only right approach.
We are here writing to Christians, for we cannot expect unbelievers to exhibit either concern or to lead in the way out.
There are three areas where effective counter measures may be taken: the home, the school and the church.
Christian parents, if they are to exercise their responsibilities as such, must make their homes truly Christian. Where Bible reading and prayer are a part of home life a foundation is being laid for our children which can sustain them all through life. Children are acutely aware of sincerity, or lack of it, on the part of their parents. Once the mother and father assert their rightful authority as priests of the family altar, and, along with Christian instruction, demand obedience and right living, a large part of the problems of youth are solved.
Again, our schools should cease to be purely secular institutions. Separation of church and state never envisioned the separation of children from worship. Where militant minorities try to use legal means to enforce their own will they should be confronted with a higher law—that of the good for the majority.
Where godless teachers scoff at the Christian faith or in other ways try to undermine religion they should be dismissed, for “contributing to the delinquency of minors,” if for no other reason. Teachers are paid to teach truth, not to destroy it, and where they are found actively engaged in anti-religious activities they rightfully deserve to be eliminated.
As a final resort Christian parents may find themselves obliged to set up private Christian institutions where their children can be taught and trained as they need to be taught and trained.
Finally, the Church needs to take a long, hard look at her own programs for youth. Take nothing for granted. Most of these young people do not know Christ as Savior. Therefore they are incapable of making Him Lord of life. By taking for granted a personal experience with Christ—or ignoring its necessity—the Church can let our young people down and in the process fail in the area of her greatest responsibility and challenge.
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