August 26, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Teaching the idealism that never fails

A friend of mine told me about a conversation she’d had while driving in the car with her 11-year-old daughter. My friend was trying to find a teaching position and having no luck, so she was thinking about the Scripture passage that talks about how all things happen (or don’t happen) for a good reason in God’s scheme of things.

She asked Cassie what she thought about the idea that all things happen for the good, and was surprised when her daughter replied quickly, “Why are you asking me that?”

Now, Cassie is a little girl who’s 11, going on 35. She is an extremely bright, only child whose antennae are always alerted to what’s going on anywhere, anytime, with anybody. So, as I told her mom, it’s no wonder she was suspicious of that question.

Modern American culture is secular, if not anti-religious, and it’s not politically correct to consult Scripture for advice, or mention God or touch on any religious subject out loud. In fact, sometimes it’s illegal. I’m not surprised that Cassie, who’s entering the age group where peer pressure rules, didn’t want to be caught discussing such a thing even privately with Mom.

Not only that, maybe she wasn’t quite sure that Mom wasn’t slyly trying to inject her with religion. Moms are like that sometimes because they think reverence should be right up there with cleanliness and obedience in their kids’ lives. But, even when a child has faith, she may not be ready to reveal that fact.

On the other hand, maybe Cassie is not yet mature enough to talk about abstract philosophical ideas, and merely felt embarrassed to be put on the spot. As usual, the best defense was a good offense.

Another thing is at work here, namely Cassie’s age. She’s approaching the peak years of youth, when they feel anything is possible. They believe they’re empowered to be or to do just about anything they wish, just because they think they can. It’s also a time when the catastrophes that can occur in life have probably not yet happened. Or, if they have, as little children they were largely unaware of them.

It’s no wonder young folks don’t feel the need during their teens and early twenties for connection with a God who loves them and gives them support. Indeed, these are the very years when most people fall away from the Church, or from religion in general, because of the very human belief that they can do it (whatever it is) without anyone or anybody, including God.

Furthermore, young people are idealistic, and sooner or later someone or some event will disillusion them. As examples, we see that many younger members leave the Church because of the sex scandals, or lose faith in our country because of politicians’ feet of clay. Having no experience to speak of, they draw the wrong conclusions and blame the wrong sources for what they believe went bad.

Here’s where Cassie’s parents and the rest of us can help. We need to put human behavior in perspective, keep a sense of humor, pray always and remember that it’s God who’s in charge here, not us. Those are the ideals that never fail. They may even, perhaps to our surprise, lead to the ultimate good.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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