I recently read this post about the trend of making fun of strangers online. To quote the author, Valerie Alexander, “You are not fair game to be ridiculed.” I wonder how, as a society, we are supposed to put a stop to cyber-bullying among kids and teens when we adults are so good at it, when we actually model the best, most public ways to humiliate one another. When it comes to faith formation, I often hear people say that it begins at home, that we need to model what it means to be faith-filled people. But the truth is that kids’ “homes” are getting metaphorically wider and wider as they access the entire world at their fingertips right from their bedroom or from the living room couch. The people who ridicule others online are now cyber-guests in our homes. It’s like every night can be a digital Dinner for Schmucks right around our own kitchen tables.
This leaves me thinking about what it means to be models to young people. I wonder if modeling what it means to be Christian is really enough anymore (if it ever was enough on its own). We who nurture children need to go beyond modelling. We need to go beyond acting in Christian ways with the hopes that our children and teens will pick up on what we’re doing and emulate us. We need to intentionally have conversations with young people about what it means to follow Jesus, how we try to follow Jesus in our own lives, and how we fall short and keep on trying to do better next time. The influences on a child’s life (and they certainly aren’t all bad influences!) are too many to continue fooling ourselves into thinking that they’ll see their parents as their prime role-models. We need to go above and beyond in our efforts to nurture children into Christ-followers. And it will all begin when we take a stand like Valerie Alexander and say things like, “To me, mean pictures aren’t funny,” even if they might make us chuckle at first.