Summary: 1. Children need to learn a positive view of life. 2. Children need to learn obedience. 3. Children need to learn values.

This past March there was a congressional hearing on human-reproductive cloning in Washington, D.C. Brigitte Boisselier, a chemist who works with couples wanting to use cloning to have children, read a letter from a father who had lost his 11-month-old son after heart surgery. In the letter he said, “I decided I would never stop until I could give his DNA, his genetic makeup, a chance.” The room was starkly silent as she read the father’s expression of grief and his refusal to accept the finality of his son’s death.

But present at the hearings, as well, was Dr. Thomas H. Murray, a nationally known bioethicist, who was also a grieving parent. His daughter, Emily, was murdered while a student here at Kenyon College. We all remember the days while we waited and wondered what had happened to her — her sparkling photograph haunting the cover of our local newspaper. Emily was a promising student who was robbed of fulfilling her dream of marrying, becoming an Episcopal Priest and one day retiring on Cape Cod surrounded by her grandchildren. At the hearing, Dr. Murray said to the congressional committee: “Creating a child to stand in for another — dead — child is unfair. No child should have to bear the oppressive expectation that he or she will live out the life denied to his or her idealized genetic avatar. . . . Of course, we should have expectations for our children: that they be considerate, honest, diligent, fair and more. But we cannot dictate their temperament, talents and interests. Cloning a child to be a reincarnation of someone else is a grotesque, fun-house mirror distortion of parental expectations.” Here is a man of deep intellect and profound understanding of the reason we are given children.

What is the purpose of children? Is it merely to give parents joy? Is their purpose simply to keep the human race going? Do we have children like we acquire a puppy — so that we will have someone to hold and cuddle? Do we have them because of the pressure of the culture that sets having children as the norm? Do we want them to grow up to accomplish something and be successful so we will have something to brag about? Or is there something more?

Beyond the obvious purpose of the home and the continuation of the human race, is there a purpose for our children? What is God’s purpose for children during their growing up years? I believe there are several things which children need to learn to fulfill their God-given purpose. Three of those important life lessons (certainly not an exhaustive list, and not necessarily in order of importance) are: 1. Learn a positive outlook on life. 2. Learn obedience. 3. Learn values. There are many other lessons and purposes for children, but these are the ones I want to address today.

To begin with, God’s purpose is that: Children need to learn a positive outlook on life. I understand that the Andy Griffith Show and the Cleaver family were perhaps unrealistic models of life. I realize that to see the world from a Pollyanna viewpoint, or keeping our heads in the sand when it comes to the harsh realities of life, may not be healthy. But, on the other hand, there is more to life than harsh realities. Life is full of beautiful, good and wonderful things. When God made the world he stood back and made a very positive statement about it. The Bible says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). The world really is a wonderful place. It is full of good things which are the gifts of God. He loves to bless us. The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:1). Our focus should be on the good gifts of God, not on the horrible things that happen. We should be on the lookout for those who are wounded and in need of help. We should be sensitive to the very real needs of hurting people, but we should also be in touch with just how good life really is. The Bible says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Paul wrote to the Romans saying, “I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19).

My concern for children growing up in today’s world is that they are being fed a steady diet of the dark, the morose, the violent, the negative and the perverse through movies, television, computer games, and music. So much of television programming these days is dark and gruesome. Cruelty and grotesqueness is becoming normative. The news rarely reports the good things going on — as though that is not real news. The Gothic culture among our youth came into the public limelight after the Columbine shootings — teenagers who dress only in black, wear dark make-up over pale faces, parodying vampires. They are preoccupied with death and the macabre. Every day is Halloween for them. We have yet to see what the impact will be on the next generation who have been given a constant entree of violence, evil and cynicism. Maybe shows like “Father Knows Best” were unrealistic, but so is today’s programming with its dark and gloomy outlook on the world and preoccupation with crime and horror. Home should be where we learn that life is good. To focus on the bad and evil part of our world misses the best part of life. There is more good in the world than bad, and we need to help our children see that. They need to develop a sense of gratitude for the goodness of life.

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