There may be something to Lisa Mladinich’s view that as a nation we have become so suspect of authority that we have lost sight of our responsibility to wield authority (or perhaps, “holy authority”) when it comes to our children or our students.
It’s not just your imagination. The problem of kids who won’t behave in class is getting worse. We can take the easy way out and blame parents, claiming they just can’t be bothered to discipline their children, but that’s like saying a person is sick because he’s coughing, and then refusing him medicine for spite. I think, for the sake of Christian compassion, that we should try to understand the root causes. But the key to solving this problem is a supernatural one.
Let’s first define the problem; parental authority is undermined by many cultural and media influences. It’s not a simple matter, but from what I can tell, parents of the last few decades have been barraged with more parenting advice than ever before, and the influence of so many conflicting “sure-fix” programs has undermined confidence in the day-to-day use of their own judgment. Marketing being what it is, hyperbole abounds; anxiety results. [...] our national consciousness developed such a kneejerk distrust of authority that we have begun to distrust ourselves as authority figures. Add to that the aforementioned cultural confusion regarding parenting methodologies and you’ve got a very stressed, insecure population of parents.
It’s a toxic cocktail, particularly for people of faith, for it is in loving obedience to God that we are called to exercise authority, to be leaders and teach His laws with conviction.
Possibly thanks to media, rhetoric and social movement, we have internalized an idea that authority is unfair, or a negative power:
But there is a difference between laying down a hard-line, narrow and stultifying way, and establishing healthy boundaries for children. They need to know that there are limits and boundaries to which they are answerable, and I think they want to know them what those are.
Perhaps many of our current headlines would be different, if adults–especially us parents–understood their roles as primarily authoritative, rather than “pally” but yes, that is a fearsome thing.
Interesting to ponder. You’ll want to read it all.
Over at First Things, R. R. Reno is also writing about authority.
UPDATE: The news that there was a disruption in Jared Loughner’s family the very day of the heinous massacre in Arizona just makes the gut-wrenching humanity of this story even worse, and it seems to render Lisa’s column all the more timely and relevent.