Childhood Lost - Part III
From the book Rape Of A Nation by Jimmy Swaggart
We offer no easy solution. A vast multitude of social and cultural changes over the last several decades have seriously weakened the potential of the home for instilling values in children. The sexual revolution of the 1960s, a skyrocketing divorce rate, changes in women’s economic and social status, modern child-rearing methods, and legislation that interferes in parent-child relationships all contribute to the altered nature of childhood.
There is even today at least one organization promoting the child-free life — a condition that is becoming more and more acceptable in today’s society.
There is also an ever-increasing number of adult-centered homes — as opposed to the traditional child-centered home. At one time, almost all homes were child-oriented. At the turn of the century, there were very few singles in society, and the majority of parents didn’t survive long after their youngest child left home. This is no longer the case.
What has been called “the graying of America” is a result of medical advancements and longer life spans. Hence, the population of the elderly is increasing, and political power (and thus social power) is rapidly shifting from the young to the middle-aged — and even to the elderly. While it is right and necessary that our older citizens receive attention, the focus away from children can produce unfortunate results. It’s always the weakest political group that ends up neglected within a nation, and children are rapidly becoming one of our smallest population segments.
The rapidly disappearing division between childhood and adulthood breaks down the traditional generation boundaries. While there are those who delight at the thought of youngsters addressing their elders by their first names, generation boundaries are essential to an effective family structure. When these are distorted or lost, aggression, hostility, insecurity, and frustrations usually develop among the youth. In some cases, overt mental illness can result.
Although we tend to blame vanishing social institutions for the disappearance of childhood, God still holds parents responsible for the protection, training, and well-being of their offspring. All too often, parents, obsessed with personal fulfillment or social or business success, inadvertently surrender their children to exploitation. While some unfortunate incidents have arisen through situations involving human baby-sitters, many more arise when the baby-sitter is an electronic one — the ever-present television set.
A subsequent chapter is devoted entirely to an analysis of television’s role in today’s society, but certain points should be included here. Television, more than any other single factor, provides children with information that was traditionally reserved for adults. Television is a compelling force that serves not only as a training school for initiation into the adult world, but also as a broadcaster of gloom, which emphasizes the stress of living in a world teetering on the brink of destruction. Certainly our world, because of technological advances, is not the stable planet it once was. But tiny minds were never intended to be bombarded with the potential problem of survival in a nuclear war.
Then there is the matter of using young children as pawns in national marketing schemes that reach into the billions of dollars. Children who are habitual (and unregulated) viewers are exposed to hours of commercials directed at adult viewers. While the immediate effects of such commercials may not seem important, the subtle, long-range effects can be far more revealing than one may think.
Television doesn’t just sell products, it sells attitudes. Unfortunately, many of the attitudes promoted on television are not healthy or even realistic. TV promises to satisfy the child’s (and the adult’s) needs and wants — but seldom delivers in an effective way. It can lead to early disillusionment and a lifelong attitude of suspicion and cynicism. Commercials also use people’s insecurities as a lever to induce unnecessary spending. Such steady manipulations of a person’s weak points can eventually lead to mental problems.
If we are truly concerned about our children’s welfare and development, we will make ourselves aware of the hidden messages constantly beamed to the child’s subconscious. Such messages aren’t accidental; they are boasted about by admen and TV promoters and are known as “subliminal” suggestions. They deliberately set out to instill attitudes and values in our younger generation that are not those that parents desire for their children.
Most commercial messages aren’t lost on young minds. When a commercial declares that “gentlemen prefer Hanes,” no little girl is going to rush out to buy pantyhose — but it can leave the lifelong impression that women must dress to please men, that the attention of men is a competitive market, and that if one is to compete successfully in this market, one must use all the weapons at one’s disposal. Once the youngster reaches adolescence, this apparently innocuous subliminal message could be a factor in inducing promiscuity.
The day-in, day-out repetition of suggestive messages can’t help having an influence on the attitudes of children. Though mom and dad may speak out against something, the kids see all the sophisticated people on television doing it, so who suffers by comparison? Stuffy old mom and dad do, of course. No one can question the social and economic success of those serving as role models on TV, so why pay any attention to what the old fogeys think?
Television, for example, exalts the use of alcohol, intimating that alcohol consumption is glamorous or macho. Television shows and commercials lead youngsters to believe that drinking is not only desirable but necessary for social acceptance. Although alcoholism was long considered an exclusively adult problem, it is now becoming one of the major problems associated with growing up. We find full-blown alcoholics in their early teens, and they are not isolated cases. Teenage alcoholism is an epidemic, and its consequences (auto accidents, injuries, permanent paralysis, etc.) are among the major tragedies of teenage living today. Statistics also show that the youth of our nation consume as much marijuana, cocaine, and heroine as do adults.
Both the drug and alcohol industries are divided into two groups: the abusers and the users. The pornography industry also caters to two distinct groups: the demented porno addict and the curious. Unfortunately, our children are all too often the curious, and they don’t have much trouble finding material to satisfy their curiosity. Not only are printed materials readily available, but also hour after hour of frankly prurient visual materials are beamed into our own homes every day. Who watches this filth? You’re right, the babies we are trying to “raise unto righteousness.”
Television promotes and glorifies promiscuous and perverted sex. Television’s preoccupation with sex and the transference of its preoccupation to our young people is unquestionably a factor in the rise of venereal disease, illegitimate births, abortion, sex crimes, and the breakdown of the family. The consequences of pushing children into adult sex situations mushrooms in all directions as a frightening aspect of our “modern” society.
Television’s view of sex actually makes the perverse seem glamorous. Young, prepubescent girls are regularly presented in commercials and printed ads as sex objects. They are presented as worldly and sexually attractive potential partners. There is no question of the role they represent — they’re “Lolitas.” They know what it’s all about, and they aren’t opposed to anything. It wasn’t so long ago that even suggesting sexual activities with minors was an offense that could land you in prison for a long time. Today, TV executives and admen do it routinely and society passively accepts it.
Within a civilized society, it is generally accepted that sexual impulses must be rigidly controlled. Pressure is constantly placed upon adults to “cool it in public.” Sexually suggestive actions just aren’t acceptable around children. A barrier of secrecy is considered the proper shield to protect children from information that can be disturbing or harmful.
But what does television do? It throws open the gates and immerses the youngest and most innocent of children in a labyrinth of responsibilities and concerns that cause many adults problems. When this occurs, it tears down a major boundary separating childhood from adulthood.
Today’s children are hard to distinguish from adults. They dress like adults, demand inclusion in adult conversations, and participate in adult recreations. In short, they are just small adults functioning in an adult world.
Unfortunately, most do not have the mental and emotional resources to cope with an adult environment. Their collection of wisdom and experiences fall woefully short of equipping them for grown-up responsibilities. As children openly indulge in sex, drugs, and alcohol (not to mention crime and perversions), it becomes painfully evident that we are paying an awesome price for television and its values. Suicides, drug overdoses, violent deaths, alcoholism — they’re all part of the price our youngsters pay for the privilege of wandering unprepared into an adult world. Does this sound a little like conditions in the Middle Ages?
Of course, history does repeat itself. As a wise man once said, those who don’t learn from it are doomed to live through it again. Civilizations come and civilizations go. History recounts the manner in which the events of one age are repeated again (sometimes over and over) in succeeding ages. It records man’s efforts to elevate himself above the bondage that often seems to be his lot in life.
But bondage isn’t man’s lot as intended by God. Bondage is always imposed by some other man or group of men. Today, there are clearly men who feel that Christian virtues and traits are unnecessary or unacceptable and so must be excised from our society. These are the men who principally control our media today. They are consciously striving to root out every vestige of Christianity and replace it with anarchy, vileness, pornography, and atheism.
Thus far, they’ve done a mammoth job. It would seem that they’re about three-quarters of the way down the road toward reaching their goal. And to be painfully frank, as long as Christians blindly support them by watching television, buying movie tickets, and subscribing to (or even peeking at) the girlie magazines, it won’t take long to finish the job.
I think it’s apparent that we’re nearing the end of our age. The disciples asked Jesus (in Matthew 24 and Luke 21) what the signs would be to indicate the time. He gave a number of signs, and Paul and other Bible writers gave additional signs in a number of places throughout the Old and New Testaments. Among these was the list of traits pointed out by Paul in II Timothy 3:2-4, which he said would characterize the general state of humanity in “the last days”:
“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”
Perhaps —unknowingly — we are responsible for creating such a people, especially among the younger group.
God has given us the resources to protect our children and to insulate our homes against the forces of evil. It is our grave responsibility to prolong the innocence of childhood while we train our children to be mighty in spirit, not wise in the ways of the world.
In the Old Testament, the family with children was presented as the key unit of society. David, God’s great psalmist, wrote in Psalm 127:3, 5: “Children are an heritage of the LORD … Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”
Proverbs 22:6 speaks with regard to child-rearing, saying it is our responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Judeo-Christian ethics maintain a high regard for children, placing the highest of priorities on the welfare and education of the child. Children are commanded to honor their fathers and their mothers, while parents are cautioned to diligently teach the commandments of the Lord unto their children.
In the New Testament, children are esteemed as a gift from God. Jesus Himself reinforced the Old Testament teachings when He invited the little children to be brought unto Him. Wherever Christians have been found throughout history, this ethic profoundly influenced society. Within the Christian point of view, children were seen as much more than chattels. They had an intrinsic worth and value within themselves because of their potential as God-fearing adults. Each was considered a divine creature possessing the dignity of human life and the precious commodity of an eternal soul.
Neither did early Christians shrug their shoulders at the heathen practices of infanticide, pedophilia, and abortion commonly practiced about them. Instead, they challenged the pagan Mediterranean world. They were also the operators of the first orphanages for unwanted or abused children.