All across America, millions of young men & women are faced with a full spectrum of challenges; poverty, violence, hyper-sexuality and abuse of every kind. Despite this, decade after decade, our country produces loving, caring, strong and industrious adults. We see it, with our volunteer military second to none, in the impressive number of business leaders and missionaries helping all over the world.
But there is growing competition for the lives of our boys & girls, and it doesn’t come from across the sea, or over the border. This competitor has an almost unlimited amount of resources and resolve. Their plan is simple, to poison the well of this current and future generations, with death being the ultimate goal. And before you think this is hyperbole, let’s look at our own homes, schools, and neighborhoods.
We worship death, not just in all forms of media, which one can argue is fantasy, but more effectively in our streets. Visit any city in America where poverty has a zip code and you’ll see what I mean. Barely a weekend passes without a street corner candlelight vigil, a rally for peace, or a flood of t-shirt sales with the face of some local young person on it. Inevitably reading, ‘RIP’ or ‘Gone but not forgotten’. In-fact there are t-shirt shops who actually specialize in memorializing products. I’m not talking about ‘In honor of’ stones and park benches, but shirts and stickers with all kinds of ‘rest in peace’ templates to design from. Unfortunately many of these young people were already leading very risky lives, sometimes depicted right on these memorial shirts. A handgun pointed at the camera, or some other picture of bad life-choices.
There are also entire families who embrace their ’15 minutes of pain’. I’ve talked to people whose family members have been absent for most of a young persons life, only to suddenly appear when the crowds do. Strangely enough, this is not unlike the families of suicide bombers in the middle east. After killing themselves for Jihad, families receive community praise, support and even financial assistance. Going from obscurity and hopelessness, to fame and encouragement, literally in a flash.
On the surface, these tokens seem like harmless gestures of love and respect, but not when you compare to how we recognize those still living in, or from these same neighborhoods. I know young men, raised in very difficult environments, who have chosen to take the high road. These guys have good jobs, are raising families, joining the military, paying taxes and going to college. For example we have an alumni who rides his bike to college 18 miles round-trip, three times a week. When he’s not in school, this same 19 year old man works at our landscape business. Where is his community recognition and music videos? We have teenagers volunteering to participate at Victory Project, committing to tutoring, spiritual growth and hard work. Where are their rallies of support? I know dozens, trying to better themselves, not thru bad choices, but education. And unless one of them is tragically killed, most people will never know their names or see them held up in public praise. Let’s not forget about the moms, dads and grandparents who work overtime, and pray for their children’s safety and prosperity. Where are their spotlights of fame and encouragement?
Our local businesses, churches, media, and government institutions must find a large-scale way to celebrate the young people and their families who are winning these daily battles. But first we must recognize, and call it what it is. Celebrity thru tragedy, this whole sale worship of death is poisoning the spiritual wells of our young people, families and communities.
Don’t wait for someone else to do something, start with your own family; model service by volunteering. Encourage your job to recognize local students/families for academic success, despite their circumstances. But most of all, demand your church to increase their efforts in their own city, walk them into breach, begin by honoring their own church members and neighbors who are beating the odds everyday. The power of Christ, and His people are the only antidote for the poison unleashed on our most vulnerable. And if you’d like to meet some of the amazing young men mentioned herein, who are beating the odds, I’d be honored to make the introduction.