“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” Hebrews 12:1
I recently read an article by Ross Taffell entitled “The Decline and Fall of Parental Authority”. This article was nothing I expected it to be. I expected the author to argue from national statistics and personal anecdotes that today’s parents were not strong enough. I anticipated that he would describe teenagers run amok, parents providing alcohol at parties, and 7 year olds with I-phones.
I was surprised when, instead of heaping guilt on parents who were working very hard to raise their kids, he offered an old solution to the new problem of the decline of parental authority. The author notes that arguably the most damaging thing to parental authority today is the fragmentation of society. Taffel believes that a parent’s authority is attacked from every corner of the world. Children are bombarded with alternative voices of authority from the online world, television, school, friends, and advertising. Each system sells its values as the most important part of leading a “successful” life. Friends say it is being “cool”, TV says it is having the right stuff, school says it is getting all A’s, and the Internet says it is having all the right information. Each of these systems preys on a parent’s fear that their child will not “measure up”.
The solution offered by Taffell is to raise children in community rather than isolation. The technology that fills our lives and was intended to connect us seems to actually separate us. Families are so busy with activities that little time is left to socialize with neighbors and connect to one another. Taffel says, “what most overwhelmed parents of out-of-control kids need… is a strong, vibrant community that includes other parents, parents need help and encouragement in authority building.” I am reminded of Hebrews 12:1a “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” I imagine a group of parent’s who “by faith” raise up their children to honor and serve the Lord. I pray for a community of parents standing a long the edges helping to steer and direct the development of my family.
When I was growing up my parents personally knew each of my friend’s parents. If I did something stupid they would hear about it. The other parents helped to support and enforce the values created in my home. Taffel challenges parents to build communities of authority in which to raise their children. He encourages us to build partnerships with schools, to support other parents, and to be active in our neighborhoods. I am inspired by his suggestions yet overwhelmed by the task. To build community requires risk and sacrifice. It requires slowing down and intentionally connecting with others. I am hopeful that as my children grow, I will also grow in my ability to assemble a “great cloud of witnesses” to cheer them on as they run the race marked out for them.