A Season Of Hope – And Battle


By: Johann Christoph Arnold

This is the season of hope, of light coming into darkness.

For years, psychologists, educators and church leaders have warned about subversive and decadent influences on children in our society--the Internet, pornographic literature and films, violent video games, raunchy TV, and so on. It's an old story: the more sexually perverted the entertainment, the more teenagers watch it, and the higher the ratings and the profits.

In my books on parenting, I have pointed to these dangers and suggested that the greatest trap is not anger or abhorrence, but indifference. And that indifference increasingly alarms me, because public and private morals are no longer merely slipping, but plummeting. Values most people once took for granted are simply not expected anymore, with catastrophic effects in our children and young people. What has happened to honor and respect for father and mother, for one's nation, for law enforcement or authority of any kind?

I have often pointed out how big companies, exploiting our greed and materialism, are destroying our children. Both business and government are now pressuring schools to excel in academics, rather than focus on developing character and integrity. Apparently, our culture prides itself on producing brilliant CEOs, with Ivy League degrees and zero moral values. We can see the bitter fruits in the recent spate of corporate scandals.
Faced with these realities, many parents are afraid, and with good reason, to send their children to public schools. Every week I hear of another family pulling their children out of public schools to teach them at home. Naturally this solution brings its own problems, since working parents too often are forced to give home-schooled children short shrift as they valiantly try to earn a living and educate them at the same time.

Further, healthy parent-child relationships are becoming rarer and rarer, in part because children are loosing their childhood innocence earlier and becoming jaded and worldly-wise long before they reach adolescence. Most tragic of all, many young people are so discouraged (and, because of the adults around them, such strangers to the idea of long-term commitment) that they have no desire to marry, let alone have children.

In a way, it seems that the terror of 9/11, far from uniting people--as many predicted it would--has divided us. Everywhere, fear and mistrust are destroying relationships. I am not just talking about a nagging, low-level nervousness about terrorism, the sagging stock market, or looming war in the Middle East. Those uncertainties have become a fact of life for everyone in recent months. I am talking about the very real demons of fear, violence, lust, greed, and divisiveness that are literally pushing individuals, couples, and even whole families over the edge.

This is a global crisis--one that demands our full and undivided attention. The Roman Empire collapsed not only because of external invaders, but because of its own decadence and decay. It pains me to see my own country, like the Roman Empire, self-destructing from within. We are waging war on terror all over the world--and meanwhile neglecting our own homes, neighborhoods, work places, and schools.

These are the real battlefronts we ought to be concentrating on. If only more of us realized that what really matters in life are healthy relationships between individuals who respect and love each other. This is the glue that holds a society together, which no amount of prosperity, laws, or security measures can replace.

Over a hundred years ago, the great Russian novelist Dostoyevsky wrote:

"Everywhere in these days men have...ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort. But this terrible individualism must inevitably have an end, and all will suddenly understand how unnaturally they are separated from one another. It will be the spirit of the time, and people will marvel that they have sat so long in darkness without seeing the light."

Which brings us back to the holiday season. The answer--whether we are Christian, Muslim, or Jew--is to believe that the God who created us has not given up on us. This is the original Christmas message: on a dark night 2000 years ago, angels announced to the world, "Fear not, I bring you good news." And the good news? A little baby was born, pure and undefiled, bringing light into the darkness.

Even today, new children are born into the world every day, and each one is, to quote the Indian poet Tagore, "a renewed message that God has not lost faith in humankind." If the creator has no lost faith in humanity, who are we to do so?

Johann Christoph Arnold is an author, family counselor and spokesperson for the Bruderhof movement. Read more of his articles at http://www.bruderhof.com/.

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