Real dangers vs. imaginary ones

Hospitals across the country are retheming after a recent study unearthed a startling fact.  Of 250 children surveyed, exactly 250 of them expressed an aversion or out-and-out fear of clowns.  I suppose a generation of administrators raised on Bozo and Ronald McDonald were slow to realize that garishly painted faces were just about the last thing children wanted to see when they were already scared out of their minds.

It’s no mystery where this fear comes from.  Virtually every image of clowns that has hit the mainstream media in the lifetimes of my children has been of a terrifying nature.  It’s rather sad — sad as a clown’s face, as it were — that a culture so devoted to spreading joy and happiness could be so completely, and perhaps irrevocably, turned in the precise opposite direction.

But that’s the power of Hollywood for you.  Take a wholesome thing and turn it into the stuff of nightmares.  Stands to reason, though.  The process has worked just as well in reverse for preachers, scientists and pharmaceutical companies — not that such groups haven’t had their share of legitimate monsters over the years.

The point is, we are better off when we embrace real-world reality instead of the so-called “reality” that is prepackaged and spoon-fed to us by people with an undisguised agenda.  I have never been attacked, threatened, or even gazed at sideways by a clown, and I’m betting you haven’t been either.  Clowns are harmless — at least, no less harmless than ringmasters, trapeze walkers and bear trainers.  But because of some movies and television shows, along with a handful of YouTube idiots, now we have an entire generation that is afraid to go to the circus or the rodeo.

We are programmed to fully expect home invasions, school shootings, and attacks on places of worship because such events make for good headlines and trending topics on social media.  The fact is, such events are extraordinarily rare.  No one is suggesting we should not take reasonable measures to protect against worst-case scenarios.  But to live in terror that our best efforts against such unlikely eventualities might be inadequate, that we live in real danger of having them happen to us in the near future — that’s unreasonable, and borders on delusion.  The problem is compounded when focusing on these things takes time away from real dangers that are ever-present.  Indolence.  Poor eating habits.  Delays in paying bills.  Extreme hoarding.  These problems and others like them affect large numbers of people every day — people who are often more worried about attacks from asteroids and North Korean missiles than basic health, hygiene and financial matters.

Preachers are often guilty of working this tendency to create hysteria — and often, drive up book sales.  Remember when it was all the rage to say listening to rock music would doom a generation of teenagers to hell?  Later it was Halloween.  Then Harry Potter.  Then The Hunger Games.  Then violent video games.  Then smart phones.  There’s always a bogeyman to blame if you are inclined to look for one.  And I wholeheartedly agree that the influences of the world, particularly in the entertainment media, can contribute to spiritual decline among our young people.  But the solution is effective, motivated and informed parenting.  If parents are not involved in their children’s day-to-day lives, banning Fortnite from the house will not accomplish much.

Worse, parents may congratulate themselves for “victories” in these small things and turn a blind eye toward real problems.  Worldly friends.  Worldly language.  Worldly clothing.  And most important of all, an entirely worldly outlook on life — a failure to see God as the focal point of our day-to-day existence.

Parents, work with me here.  Give yourselves a little quiz.  I’ll take it with you.

Question set #1: How much does your child read his/her Bible?  How does he/she participate in Bible classes?  How often does he/she pray?  For what, and for how long?  When was the last time you had a serious Bible discussion with him/her?  How much attention does he/she pay to the sermon?  What are his/her favorite spiritual songs?

Question set #2: What is the name of your child’s best friend?  Do your child’s friends drink alcohol?  Curse?  Show disrespect to adults?  What YouTube channels does he/she enjoy?  How much time does he/she spend watching Netflix, Hulu or other television programming?  What is his/her favorite book lately, and have you read it?

Question set #3:  What is his/her favorite school subject?  What kind of grades does he/she typically get?  What does he/she dream of becoming as an adult?  Who is his/her favorite Avenger?  Star Wars character?  Fast food restaurant? 

Now, which set got more “I don’t know” responses from you?

Being an Ephesians 6:4 kind of parent is far more about set #1 than set #3.  Set #2 may have some spiritual implications, and certainly godly parents should show some active interest in this arena.  But your child will not get closer to heaven because you monitored their Facebook feed — and certainly not because you bonded over DC vs. Marvel comparison videos on YouTube.

Satan is your child’s enemy.  Jesus is your child’s hope.  Think about that the next time you strike up a conversation over dinner — if, indeed, families still do that.