Special to 0-A News
From Walter Albritton, Senior Pastor Trinity UMC
For Sunday, May 2, 1999

Are we learning the right lessons from Littleton?

No doubt most of us have listened to so much talk about the massacre in Littleton, Colorado, that we are experiencing compassion fatigue. Just how many sad funerals can we endure in one week? How many tears can we shed?

Watching children and their parents attending funerals and crying on television day after day is exhausting. We want to watch but it breaks our hearts as we think about our own children and grandchildren. We shudder to think that it could have been one of our own who was doing the killing or being killed.

What lessons are we learning from this tragedy? Have we learned anything from Littleton that can help us in Opelika? Obviously there is not one simple answer to this complex problem.

Some believe the solution is legislation, more laws that will deny children access to guns and require more careful parental supervision of children. Tougher laws could help. The tragedy is that we already have laws, the laws of almighty God, which our nation has deliberately chosen not to teach our children. Where, then, shall we find our standards for right and wrong? Will we wait for Congress to release a list of do's and don'ts by which we are to live?

Some think the answer is more money to help people these tragedies occur. But while this might indeed help somewhat, it is another example of the dangerous tendency to expect Congress to "fix" our cultural problems with tax dollars. It may well be that the lust for money by parents who are willing to neglect their children for the sake of "success" is one of our society's basic problems. What difference will it make if we acquire two homes and a boat while our children's minds are warped by the pagan influences of a society turned from God?

Others believe the problem is the vile music that is so available to our children. Much of it is indeed pornographic and so sexually explicit as to make grown men blush. Rock music groups have thrived upon the insatiable appetite of teens who crave being entertained with songs that recommend rebellion against authority and sometimes satanic worship. Many parents are reaping the rewards of permissiveness based on the foolish notion that they must allow their children the freedom to make their own choices.

Here is one of our worst problems. We have failed to understand that parents have a moral obligation to teach their children to obey their parents and other authorities so that in adulthood they can learn the wisdom of obedience to God. Parents have a responsibility to know what music their children are listening to, and to insist that listening to vulgar music will not be tolerated. The exercise of parental authority will help many children to stay away from degrading music that damages the their souls.

Is there a lesson to be learned from Littleton about racism? To be sure. How many of our children must die before we become willing to teach our young, in our homes, that racial prejudice is wrong. How long will it take us to realize that God will not bless a nation that tolerates racism, no matter how prosperous the stock market?

Bigotry usually has its origin in our homes. If we stop racism in our families, by teaching our children to respect and value all people, then it will be less likely to become a societal disease. Here again, parents are the keys.

Should we throw out the television sets from our homes? A strong case is made by some that television is essentially a conduit for garbage. That is true in some ways. But it is also true that television can be a wonderful medium for learning. Perhaps the best solution is for the television sets to be controlled wisely by God-fearing parents who know how to turn the TV off and keep it off.

Is the public school itself the major problem? Some feel that Christians have no alternative other than to withdraw their children from public schools and put them in private schools or educate them at home. I respect those who make this decision, but I refuse to believe that well-meaning people cannot solve the vast problems of our public schools. Indeed if our public school system goes down the drain, then the future of our nation will certainly be moral bankruptcy.

What is the chief lesson we may learn from the shootings in Littleton? That parents must turn to God, repent of the neglect of their children, and ask for divine help to raise their children to know and to love God. Parents must once again be willing to be parents. Fathers must be willing to be resident daddy's. Mothers must understand that there is no substitute for the tender, loving care of a mom. To survive and mature, children must have the control, affection, encouragement, and moral guidance of their parents.

Children need to learn from their parents about the "spiritual" dimension of life. As kids grow up, they need to be taught to face the reality of sin in their lives, and be shown how to trust Jesus Christ for salvation. They need to discover spiritual resources that can enable them to make decisions that will honor God. Without these resources, they become easy victims for the evil, insanity, and corruption that preys upon them in modern culture. When the soul of a child is neglected, that child as an adult will likely suffer from hopelessness, lostness, and a lack of meaning and purpose.

In this the church can partner with parents. Wise parents will bring their children to Sunday School and worship to encourage their development spiritually. It is not enough to provide for a child's cultural, social, and physical growth. Children need to get to know God and this relationship is best developed by moms and dads who teach their children to pray and to trust God.

Those busy parents who manage only occasionally to take their children to worship are actually teaching their children that God, worship, and the church are not very important.
Parents must be willing to make personal sacrifices for their children in order to spend time with them, enough time for the children to understand that they are greatly valued by their parents. One tragedy of our time is that "child care" is now provided more by surrogates and hired help than by parents themselves. We can raise better children where most of the "child care" is provided by one or more of the parents.

It is not too late for us to learn from tragedies like that in Littleton and, with the help of God, recover our families, our homes, and our schools. If we fail to do so, then those precious boys and girls in Colorado will have died in vain.