Parenting Like A Foreigner

A nagging question: what are those in the U.S. Congress teaching our children? – those, that is, who are shutting down the government and threatening to refuse the raising of the national debt ceiling, under the threat of national and world-wide economic havoc?

It’s a relevant question since there’s a chance that some kids – those old enough to hear or read about what’s going on – could question and reverse what they’ve been taught about not using threats to get their own way.

“No, mom, I won’t put my toys away until you give me that doll I’ve insisted you buy me.”

“No, dad, I refuse to do my homework until you increase my allowance.”

Oh yes, the children will also learn that when they get push-back from their parents, they are to say, “Well then, I demand that we negotiate this or else I’ll intercept and destroy all your payments to the mortgage company and we’ll lose the house.”

That essentially is the behavior and rhetoric certain children in the U.S. Congress are demanding of Daddy Obama: that he rescind or delay his prized piece of legislation (making it possible for millions of people who haven’t had health insurance to obtain it at a reasonable cost) or, more recently, that he radically reduce the cost of entitlement programs (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid) or else…!

It’s teaching our American children to be the very things we say (or at least we’ve said in the past) we’re against: kidnapping, extorting money, demanding a ransom for stolen property, hijacking a plane or a ship, hostage-taking, bribing. You get the picture.

It isn’t that there are no other ways for these congressional kiddies to get what they want: there’s a Constitution that lays out how legislation is passed and rescinded, and rules in both chambers of the Congress that spell this out in more detail, and even elections to bring different people to the presidency and legislative offices with alternate agendas.

But that would be playing by the rules – something responsible parents see as something they should teach their offspring to do as a matter of course. It is something that has to do with preparing their children for fundamental, full, and healthy citizenship, whether in the family, or the organization, or the government.

Jesus, I want to suggest, may have made this point about parenting as a part of one of his acts of healing.

While on his way to Jerusalem, he was nearing the entrance to a village and ten lepers approached him and asked for his healing mercy. Jesus granted their request as he sent them on their way to the priests in the village, who would confirm their healing and thereby the restoration of their citizenship in the village.

But only one of the ten – the only foreigner in the group, a Samaritan – stopped in his tracks and went back to praise God and thank Jesus for his healing.

Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?”

It was as if to ask, why did these nine Jews, who should have been taught by their parents to give thanks whenever they were the recipients of God’s mercy, choose not to follow the rules?

Why is it that only a foreigner, albeit a nearby one, knew the rules and chose to follow them?

It’s only speculation, but I wonder if it crossed Jesus’ mind that it must have been good parenting in the foreigner’s family.

That is, he might have recalled the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, where Moses shares the Great Commandment with God’s people, telling them that “the Lord your God charged me to teach you this (the Great Commandment and all the statutes and ordinances) to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and to occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you.” (vv. 1-2)

And he might have remembered the lines that follow: “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when your rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (vv. 7-9)

At any rate, according to the story, the nine were just made clean but only the foreigner was healed and made completely whole.

We can hope that those in Congress currently acting like badly parented children will recognize that, in addition to their legislative duties, they also have an adult role of displaying good parenting for the rest of the nation (and the rest of the world, for that matter).

If that’s unfamiliar role-modeling for them, they might try to take their parenting lessons from a biblical foreigner and his family.

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