Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them~ Deuteronomy 4:9
All hell broke loose in the Charm City this past week.
Madness and pandemonium erupted after the funeral of twenty-five year old Freddie Gray. Gray died of unexplained injuries sustained while in police custody. The particulars of this case are unsettling and raise serious questions about police practices and potential brutality.
From a social and spiritual perspective the reaction to Gray’s death is every bit as troubling as the case itself. It appeared that the entire city collectively lost its mind: buildings were burned to the ground, businesses plundered, onlookers attacked for any and no reason. Twenty police officers were injured, six of them seriously.
These events have had the chattering class chattering around-the-clock. Reporters and pundits have debated the details of the case nearly to death and have theorized endlessly on why the people of Baltimore would react with such tremendous violence. Poverty has been identified as the principal cause for the behavior of the rioters.
Journalists and social commentators have repeatedly referred to residents of West Baltimore as “have-nots.” Some of these same commentators have used poverty not only as an excuse for bad behavior but as a justification. I do not dispute the fact that many, if not most, residents of West Baltimore are poor and in many respects disadvantaged. That fact is plain and indisputable. I do take issue with the notion that poverty automatically puts people in the category of “have-nots” and that poverty is a viable justification for violence, anarchy and hate.
The poor have been a part of human society since the dawn of human society. Jesus himself promised that poor people would continue to be a part of human society as along as human society endures (Matthew 26:11). There is nothing fundamentally wrong with being poor, just as there is nothing immoral about being rich. It is how one reacts to the conditions they were born into that determines how that individual turns out.
Much of how an individual responds to their circumstances depends not on the size of their bank account, but rather on what their parents sowed into them when they were young. Parenting—not tax bracket—is the real dividing line between the haves and the have-nots.
There is a ridiculous myth that has taken root in Western thought. The crux of the myth says that in order to produce a civilized, respectable, God-fearing and useful human being; one is required to have two good incomes, money in the bank, a four-bedroom house in a highly rated school district and a college degree. Nothing could be further from the truth. Things may be helpful, but ultimately things are just things. Things do not produce god-fearing, decent human beings; good parents do.
Good parents work hard, at menial jobs if necessary, to support their children financially. Good parents model honesty and virtue don’t cheat the social welfare system. Good parents get married before bearing children and do what it takes to stay happily married afterward.
Good parents introduce the concepts of discipline and self-control early in life understanding that discipline and limits help ensure that children will become law-abiding citizens later. Good parents teach the truth that right and wrong are fixed standards rather than squishy opinions that adjust to the times and setting.
Good parents value education enough to insist that children stay in school, pay attention to their teachers and do the homework. Good parents demand that that kids respect authority and discipline kids who are disrespectful towards teachers, police and other authority figures. Good parents teach their kids that human beings are obligated by God and human law to do right even when life is hard and circumstances are trying.
Just as poverty is not an excuse for bad parenting, poor upbringing is not an excuse for bad behavior. People are only savage, soulless animals ruled by circumstances if they wish to be. We are moral beings capable of making moral choices regardless of resources or upbringing. The events of this past week support the notion that we need a rebirth in this country. A rebirth of good parenting, personal responsibility, common sense, and fear of God. When one has those things, they have everything no matter their tax bracket.