For some reason, this has been a day for pondering our changing world. I’m currently in Indiana where I spoke earlier today at the Prevent Child Abuse Howard County annual meeting. The gathering of youth serving professionals from law enforcement, healthcare, social services, churches, schools, and community organizations had gathered to hear me speak about changes taking place in youth culture along with the skill sets needed to keep up with those changes on a daily basis. I’m not sure how I could ever have enlightened these folks as they find themselves entrenched in dealing with one of the ugliest realities of our times on a daily basis. They visit the dark side each and every day. Their work on behalf of abused children and teens is commendable. Everyone I met is passionate about kids, committed to doing right in the midst of a social problem that is very wrong, and sacrificing opportunities to make a much better living at something else in order to help those who have been victimized by this scourge. The issue has been on my mind quite a bit lately as I continue to hear and see stories of adults taking advantage of and violating those who are younger. Typically, the old perpetrators are male, and the young victims are female. Some of them are so very young that you wonder how they could ever recover. Yet, woven in and through this morning’s non-sectarian presentation was the hope of freedom and new life through the Gospel. Our morning began with prayer. It ended with prayer. Not ceremonial prayers, but heartfelt prayers that recognized the depth of depravity in our world, the complexity of the issues, and the hope and healing that can only be found in Christ.
My morning began with another reminder of the times as one of the news shows again ran the now very familiar video of the cheerleader beating. No surprise that it was a topic of conversation during this morning’s breaks. “What kind of world are we living in?” was a question I heard one woman ask. “What would drive kids to do this, film this, and post this on the Internet?” asked another. There’s no easy answer. But our kids are making sinful and dangerous choices as they live in the perfect storm where forces like postmodern amorality, narcissism, celebrity-obsession, violence, lack of guidance, relational brokenness, and pent-up anger converge. Sad, but not surprising. Perhaps we should be asking why it doesn’t happen more often.
But the day’s not all dark. For one, today’s the day that one of my favorite recent films hits stores on DVD. Lots of kids will be watching and talking about Juno. In fact, it’s likely to develop a cult following. Disturbing as it was to watch the film’s opening scenes, and discouraging as it was to see the realities of relational brokenness and self-centeredness played out on film, this is a movie full of redemptive themes and signs of life. If you haven’t seen it, you should. If your kids have already watched it, watch it with them before springing into a discussion about how Christian faith speaks to the issues raised by the film. CPYU’s Derek Melleby has written a wonderful little 3D review of Juno for the latest edition of ENGAGE. We’re posting it on our site as a free download in the hope that you’ll find it helpful in your ministry to kids. And, if you’re struggling to learn how to watch a film like Juno with eyes of faith, check out this article on “What Makes A Movie Good?”
And finally, the paper just informed me that on this day in 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. I’ve been on this earth for over a half century, making it hard for me to admit that I’m just now learning how significant April 15, 1947 was. The recent anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King had me revisiting the Civil Rights Movement through some viewing and reading. Enjoying Dick Doster’s novel about small town baseball and racism in the South of the 1950s has served to open my eyes a little bit farther. And watching Ken Burn’s Baseball on PBS this past weekend dropped Robinson front and center onto my consciousness again. Have you seen it yet? One of the weekend’s installments was timed perfectly and I’m sure, by design, to coincide with today. The episode told Robinson’s story. I was especially moved by the interview with his widow, Rachel, who told how Robinson would go to bed at night wondering how he would ever be able to muster the strength to go on. Then, as she said, he would wake up refreshed and renewed in his quest to do what was right.
All these things combine to remind us that these are our times. Every minute and square inch of life this side of ultimate redemption is a battleground between the Kingdom of God, and the kingdom of the world, the flesh, and the devil. The battle goes on as we play our part in living out Kingdom priorities as all things are claimed and counter-claimed as the battle rages. It’s ugly, but it’s where we belong. It’s sometimes tiring and we wonder how we can ever get out of bed tomorrow morning to carry on, but by His grace it somehow happens.