Nov. 13, 2012
Not long ago, the kids at church put on a musical program that I wrote and was in charge of. The three-year-olds, one at a time, recited the ten commandments, in their cute, lispy little voices—“Don’t lie,” “Don’t steal,” etc.—and the older kids mostly repeated scriptures. When they said their parts at the microphone, their parents leaned forward and were often mouthing the lines they’d heard so often, eager for their babies to do well.
I sat on my little chair next to the podium, where I could prompt them if they couldn’t remember their parts, and just looked at them and loved them. It all brought a tear to my eye. The kids had been sort of awful during practices, but for the actual performance, they sat on the edge of their seats watching for when they had to stand, all tense with wanting to do their very best for their parents, and when they sang, they indeed did their very best.
I was reminded of the time an African American friend was listening to a children’s music cd I was playing. She said, “Why do white kids sound like that when they sing?” I said, “Sound like what?” And she said, “Like little mice.” I had to admit that when white kids sing, they do usually sound softer and squeakier than when black kids do. My kids claimed that their black friends were born able to sing in perfect harmony. I loved the musical school programs in Aberdeen, Mississippi. In our 95 percent African American schools, those kids REALLY got into the music. They danced and sang with so much gusto that it was catching, and all the audience would move with the beat.
But my darlings at church were amazingly sweet and warbled beautifully, if a tad more mousily. When the kids forgot their parts, I whispered the lines to them from my little chair, and I thought (tongue in cheek, of course), Am I like Satan, whispering into their ears? But I retorted to myself, No, instead I’m like the Holy Spirit. Church people have been accused of “brainwashing” children. The fact is that everything children hear is preaching in one way or another, whether good or bad, as their impressionable brains soak it up. We may not call the World’s agenda “preaching,” but that’s what it is. Every day of kids’ lives they are preached at from TV and at school and with their friends, telling them what they ought to want and do and say and believe. What’s important, what’s cool, what isn’t.
I once apologized and had to turn off the video that a friend had brought for my children to watch because of the profanity it contained. She said, “Jane, your kids hear that all the time at school.” In other words, they were used to it, so why not let them watch the video. “That’s why I don’t want them to hear it at home, presented like This is what’s good,” I told her. Maybe it’s my obsession with words, but bad language absolutely makes me cringe. And a recent BYU study showed that YA novels contain twice as much profanity as video games, and that the popular characters swear more than the unpopular. Again, this is what the World is presenting as what kids should strive for.
There—I’m preaching. Selah.