Teach Your Children
These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
Mass shootings are reported with sickening frequency in our nation – in malls, schools, workplaces, and now, even in churches. And, in the immediate aftermath we cry and shake our heads and bemoan the lack of meaningful gun control. And then we forget about it until the next massacre occurs. And so, today, we find ourselves outraged that Dylan Roof has entered a church, attended a Bible Study and then killed nine people. But in a month will we remember?
Let me be clear. I am in favor of rigorous background checks and bans on citizen ownership of automatic weapons. I am appalled at the violence which infects our society. And I am increasingly pessimistic about the world in which my children and grandchildren must live.
But I am also convinced that no manner of legislation or gun control will heal us. Such actions are well past due. What we need now are good old-fashioned ethics, values, and lessons in civics. And we need for them to be taught in the home as well as in the schools.
Barring mental illness, no child grows up to be a cold-blooded killer on her own; she learns, either by example or neglect, that violence is an acceptable response to pain or fear. Nor does anyone one form a conscience all by himself. It takes family, teachers, and spiritual communities working together, and working on a consistently regular basis to teach our youngsters how honest, decent people treat one another. It means confronting our own lapses in kindness, our own dishonesty, and our own fears and prejudices – and then refusing to perpetuate them through our silence.
We need to be about the business of helping our children form their consciences – in other words, teaching right from wrong, and holding them (and ourselves) accountable for words and actions which involve or provoke violence. And we need to start at home.
Expecting schools, governments, even religions to teach morality for us is puerile. Not only that, it is sloth and moral cowardice in the highest degree. Teach your children diligently.