A generation ago, when Art Linkletter on his television program Kids Say the Darnedest Things asked a child to identify the president of the United States, one chuckle-producing response was, "Uncle Sam." Today, Bill Cosby has a similar show, but the answers sometimes are sadder: One little boy, asked the name of our current president, replied, "Oh, I can't think of his name. You know--that guy who cheats on his wife."
One of the worst aspects of the Clinton scandals is the cynicism they produce among our sons and daughters. Some parents want to protect innocence by keeping news of sad current events from children; since many bright kids read WORLD, even our mild descriptions of adulterous behavior draw concerned letters from parents. I sympathize: I don't want children to play follow-the-leader in fornication, nor do I want them to grow up thinking of the White House as a mansion of lies.
And yet, I think it's vital for our children to come to grips with today's truly darnedest things, and to learn to view them biblically. Our children need to know that God's Word applies to the real-life issues embedded in current events. They need to know that God is in control. They need opportunities to integrate in their consciousness a Christian worldview about all of the activities, moral and immoral, that surround us.
One passage from Scripture concerning our responsibility to report and analyze current events has particularly gripped me in recent years. In chapter 33 of Ezekiel, God says, "When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head.... But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood."
God in his sovereignty is now bringing against our land the sword of scandal in high places. All of us, including our children, need to hear the trumpet and take warning; those of us with trumpets need to blow them. But we also need to steer clear of hysteria: Chicken Little, as he screamed about the sky falling, showed that he had not only a small brain but a small god. Adults and children can learn from current events that God is still in control; as Christ said when he walked on water and those who saw him feared a ghost attack: "It is I. Don't be afraid."
Whenever the smell of panic is present, we need to tell ourselves and others not to fear, for God is near. Rudyard Kipling's oft-quoted poem If praises the one who "can keep your head when all about you/Are losing theirs," but he does not say in the poem from whence that grace comes. We know that it comes from Christ, and we need to teach our children that, while there is much to guard against, there is also much to look forward to.
My family and I live in a tall house near the top of a tall hill, so during storms dark clouds stutter-step by. When we thank God for rain, we are recalling that each of those dark clouds has a silver lining. The linings are easy to miss, but we need to pray for eyes of faith to see them and report them. At the same time, we need to steer clear of the tendency to disregard the clouds and report only the silver linings, for that is ignoring the watchman's trumpet and the real education that hearing and responding to the trumpet can bring.
As a new school year begins and we have many older students reading WORLD and many younger ones reading our God's World News for Kids papers, all of us hope to think God's thoughts after him, through whatever grace he offers to us as fallen sinners. Our goal in examining Bible translation questions, politics, international news, and everything else, is to be passionate but calm, because Christ "speaks and, listening to his voice, new life the dead receive; the mournful, broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe." The poor, the mournful, the dead themselves come out of the cloud as Christ unzips the silver lining-and our goal is to report both the harsh storms and that great news.