Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Spirituality: An Antidote For The Ills Of Our Times

April 24, 2006

We are seeing a flood of violence, crime and corruption spilling over the banks into our society. We throw up sandbags and levees to protect what we can protect.

Urban outlaws terrorize our cities. Violence in the suburbs and the heartland shocks us. The rising tide of violence is everywhere. As the number of dysfunctional families increases, their failures spill into already burdened schools and streets.

Why is this? Is it the casual cruelty and violence portrayed in our popular media? Is it the glamorization and promotion of pervasive promiscuity as normal and expected? Is it the result of materialism and consumerism impoverishing our souls? Yes.

Is it an over permissive society flowing over its low banks? Children whose parents struggle with authority will have even less respect of authority. How can it be otherwise? The rebellion of the 60s grows into even bigger waves of disrespect for authority in the 90s.

Homes torn apart. There is a more basic explanation. As we see the corruption and violence spilling downstream, the headwaters themselves have become polluted. The home is the basis of a moral life. The home is where values are taught, lived, experienced and perpetuated.

The cultural enticements of wealth, careers, hobbies, power, recognition, entertainment and glamour cause marriage partners to neglect their basic obligations to each other. Parenting suffers.

The distractions of this world add up to a self-serving manner of living that is hard on relationships. There is too much taking and not enough giving. Too much entertainment and not enough teaching. Too much gratification of ego and not enough service to others.

Religious leader, Neal A. Maxwell commented, "How can we value the family if we do not value parenting? How can we value parenting if we do not value marriage? How can there be love at home without love in a marriage? So many selfish tugs draw fathers and mothers away from each other and away from their own children."

What children need most is a mother and father living together in love, respect, courtesy and encouragement. Strong marriages make strong families.

With so many two income families, who is doing the nurturing? When do rushed families have time for each other? How are the great memories being made? The answer - not enough care is being given, not enough time is spent together, too few memories are being made.

Children do not raise themselves nor do they have the capacity to absorb unrestricted adult experience, though many parents like to think otherwise.

A spiritual crisis. Lack of time or supervision are not the biggest problems. Most parents do not pass on spiritual beliefs and values to their children. Without strong values, children are set adrift in raging waters of a popular culture that defines life in terms of pleasure, greed, cynicism and disrespect for authority.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett sees the real crisis of our time as spiritual - a spiritual laziness. This isn't laziness as it pertains to life's affairs. It is an undue concern for life's affairs and worldly things and a low esteem for things divine. The lazy do not want to be confronted by their own weaknesses they would prefer to ignore.

On the other hand, spirituality:

- makes strong demands on self-improvement and effort.

- honors our potential for individual nobility and obligation to be morally responsible.

- recognizes right and wrong and uses moral principles to set bearings in a world that mocks virtue and honor.

- understands that we are children of God and the difference that makes in the way we live.

- bows down in prayer before an authority greater than one's own.

- sacrifices the things of this world in hope of better things of another.

- rises above selfishness to bless, inspire and serve others.

The spiritual strength of every new generations has its roots in parents and grandparents - in families. Prime relationships deserve prime time. Instead of asking, "What can I get?" and, "What's in it for me?" spiritual parents and grandparents ask, "What do they need?" and, "What can I give?"

The biggest problem facing society then is the lack of spirituality in the lives of parents and the failure of parents to transmit these values and beliefs to their children. It is hard. It can't be faked. Yet, it is the only way that parents can push back in an age that pushes so hard against children.

For protection against the rising tide of violence and wickedness, the answer is to turn to God. Put Him and His commandments first and our children's lives will be safe. If enough good families do that, lighthouses of safety will be created in a world intent on abandoning its spiritual birthright. Our children and grandchildren will learn to walk in goodness, justice and mercy despite the flood of decadence around them.