The most recent example from the public square that I can think of would be the Miley Cyrus performance at the MTV VMA awards. I'm not going to dog pile Ms. Cyrus or drag that whole thing up again. But to me it's a great example of how different people view adulthood. I would wager that most adults over forty (the ones that are even aware of it) viewed that performance as childish - if not obscene. And a good number of people under forty would see it as her prerogative - after all, at twenty years of age, Ms. Cyrus is an adult, right?
The Oxford English dictionary variously defines adult as:
Noun: A person who is fully grown or developed; (Law) A person who has reached the age of majority.
Adjective: Emotionally and mentally mature.
Men and women - adults - are what we call males and females when boys and girls grow up. Our society has developed a number of widely accepted milestones which can herald our passage into adulthood:
- Ability to legally view adult or mature television and film content
- Ability to legally drink alcohol
- Ability to vote
- Ability to legally play "M" rated video games
- Engaging in sexual activity
- Becoming a member of the armed services
- Ability to get a driver's license (to a lesser degree)
Perhaps my first exposure to this dynamic was when I lived in the UK and our family went to see the newest James Bond film, Diamonds are Forever. (Spoiler Alert!) I was in seventh or eighth grade and when we got to the cinema, my dad found out I was too young to be allowed in, even with my parents. So what did that teach me? On the ride home in the cab - by myself - I thought, "There must be some cool stuff in that movie if they don't want kids watching it."
I remember when Mrs. X and I were raising our boys. There were times when alcoholic beverages were in the vicinity. When one of them - or another child - would ask if they could have some, our response was typically, "No, this is an adult drink."
We always tried to play it cool and not make a big deal about it. We didn't want to create an air of mystique about alcohol. Yet were we, even unwittingly, setting an expectation for that child - be it ours or someone else's - that drinking alcohol when they were adults was cool, something to look forward to? Think about the crush of advertising that exists today. From clothing, to alcoholic beverages, to sexual activity; our kids are bombarded with messages that say, "Grown-ups do this stuff, and it's cool."
At younger and younger ages we're seeing kids have and engage in things that used to be the purview of much older people. We continue to establish and throw open gateways that lure boys and girls faster and faster toward adulthood. Ever-increasing "graduations", nearly-mandatory limo rides for prom, even Middle School versions; getting their driver's permit and/or license at the bare minimum age. We're treating our kids more and more like little grown-ups every day.
I taught a preteen Bible school this past summer. More than 50% of the kids had cell phones. And not just the basic text/talk phones; we're talking iPhones and Androids. Fourth through sixth graders. With smart phones. Heck, I didn't have a bike until fifth grade. We're putting our kids on an ever-faster roller coaster to adulthood.
Is the smart phone a window to an x-rated world?
Parents are the biggest, best and last bastion against a world full of people who have reached the age of majority but are sorely lacking in emotional and mental maturity. Despite our best efforts, have we shortchanged our future society? Do we let our kids watch television shows or movies and play video games, but not equip them with a level of maturity and critical thinking that will allow them to understand the difference between a make-believe world and a real one? By setting these artificial bars to adult achievement so low, have we convinced a younger and younger set of boys and girls that merely by checking these boxes (drinking, watching R or even X-rated films, engaging in sexual activism, etc.) they can achieve adulthood early?
Do you want your kids walking a mile for a Camel?
In reasoning with the early church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul said, "When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things."
A couple of other interesting passages read:
Old Testament (1 Samuel 2:26): Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men.
New Testament (Luke 2:52): And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Nine hundred years apart, the sentiment was pretty much the same; both the prophet Samuel and Jesus had very similar statements made about them. Their growth in stature as men - as young adults - was not due to them smoking, drinking, romancing and doing all of the things that the world holds up as earmarks of adulthood. Today, we see young men and women raised in stature for exceeding the world's expectations, but God has been left out.
I know, it can't be as simple as that, can it? Just because God is left out doesn't mean a child can't grow up to be a decent adult, does it?
What do you think?