I just finished watching the latest viral video. Sadly, this one doesn’t have a girl in a beauty pageant saying something dumb or a guy falling down the stairs. In this video, several middle schoolers are verbally abusing their school bus monitor. The bus monitor, Karen Klein, is a 68 year-old widow and grandmother of eight. Her son committed suicide ten years ago.
During the ten minute verbal assault, one of the kids tells Klein, “You don’t have a family because they all killed themselves because they didn’t want to be near you.”
The other nine minutes and 50 seconds of this video probably contains more profanity than the typical 90 minute long R rated movie.
As disturbing as this video is, I don’t think we have any reason to be surprised. When understood in the context of our culture and all that we seem to reject and accept, what these kids did was completely natural. On to the next viral video please.
There are plenty of directions for our accusatory fingers to point. No doubt, what with this being an election year and all, Bush, Obama and Romney will probably have some blame thrown their way. But we can be sure of this, in a society where fathers are increasingly absent, this is the new normal.
I don’t know the first thing about this group of bullies or their families. Maybe they all live at home with a dad, mom, sister and a dog. Big deal. Our problem is not just that dad isn’t around but that when dad is around, he isn’t really around. In the Bible, men are called to lead their home. That means that a man should sacrificially and lovingly lead his wife (Ephesians 5:25) while bringing up his children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” without provoking them to anger (Ephesians 6:4).
More and more, even in situations where the father is present, the roles of leader and primary instructor of the children is left to the mother. Or the grandparents. Or Dottie May’s 24 Hour Learning and Child Development Center. Remind me again why it is that we are surprised by this video?
I grew up in a single parent home so my talk about the crisis of missing fathers is not academic. It’s personal. Yes kids can and have thrived without a strong fatherly presence but if I may speak from firsthand experience, it’s a long and hard battle. And yes, the presence of a strong, loving, Bible-believing father is no guarantee that children will grow up to be Jesus-loving good citizens but experience shows us that it certainly helps.
I never imagined that I would have a family like the one I do. I eat most of my meals with my wife and two sons. A lot of the food for those meals came from our garden. Some of the bread for our meals was made by my wife when she had a few free minutes between cleaning and homeschooling our boys. Mine is the family that my wife and I both would have made fun of when we first got married. For the record, my wife does not own a denim jumper.
The issue isn’t whether or not kids should be taught at home, in private schools or public schools. I believe that God can and does honor all three options. I hope this video forces us to consider the importance of fathers before we turn our attention to school choices. You can homeschool your kid all you want but if the father is failing in his responsibility to sacrificially lead his family like Jesus leads the church, those precious homeschooled kids won’t turn out much different than the ones who were yelling at their bus monitor.
The missing dad epidemic, to the church’s shame, isn’t just the world’s problem. In some churches, the first talk of a man’s responsibility to be a leader sparks a contentious debate. I talked to one pastor recently who was asked to leave his church simply for suggesting that his church needs more male leadership. Even worse are the Christian dads that see no problem in driving their kids all over the state for another tournament or performance but can’t even manage to read the Bible and pray with those same kids just one night a week.
A home where the father is present, engaged and leading, regardless of whether the wife makes her own bread and the children are homeschooled is an abnormal home in our culture. Today’s normal home looks much different and tends to produce kids like we see in this most recent viral video.
Fathers, it is our job to sacrificially lead in order to ensure that our homes not be normal.