by ProfDave, ©2021

(Jan. 21, 2021) — Reality check: what is reality? Had a conversation with a teen about a TV show featuring graphic sex, violence and abuse. “But it’s reality.” Had a similar conversation with my son back in the day about the world of gangs and drugs. “But it’s reality.” Watched a bit of reality TV about a family homesteading in Alaska – “reality.” Our president was a “reality” TV star, for goodness sakes, and until yesterday he was in “reality” the leader of the free world! Or was he? Are we losing our grip on “reality?” 

There is an obvious problem with someone supposedly all alone in the wilderness with a disembodied TV camera following them around.  But there is a more serious problem with preferring the reality of crime and debauchery to that of going to school and graduating, going to work and getting paid for being productive, getting married and raising a family.  Which “reality” should we be following?

There is no question that evil is real.  In recovery circles we frequently hear stories of hideous things that people are recovering from.  War, rape, slavery and child abuse, homelessness, addiction and teen suicide are all too real.  Tornadoes and floods happen.  Perhaps there are real people living off-grid in the wilderness, too, God bless them.  That is another category of real.  These situations may be real for some, but not – please God – for most.  Is our young people’s obsession with them a good thing?  Are they the big picture?  Or the ideal picture?  The world and lifestyles we want our children preparing to join?

Evil is real.  It is a hereditary disease we all carry. The worst, the last stage of its expression depicted in popular culture, is far from as evil as it could be but is not the common experience of most Americans.  Evil is not the only reality. The good is really more powerful. We are all not nearly as bad as we could be. Even Los Angeles, as a whole, is peaceful, orderly and prosperous.  The world our youth should be learning to understand and preparing to live in is not Gotham, but the real world of business, church and family.  Would somebody please speak up for good reality?  Not to mention eternal reality – which is going to win in the end.

Let’s do a reality check.  The life of a child soldier, a prostitute, a drug dealer, and a starving beggar are all too real for them, but they are not reality.  They are exceptionally tragic circumstances and to idealize them is a distortion of reality.

You see, when it comes to the life we expect and desire for our children there are different kinds of reality.  There is the reality of wrong living.  Evil is real.  There is the reality of the average and the ordinary, how most of us actually live and things usually work.  The way most of us live is the reality of most of us.  And then there is the reality of right living, how things should be.   The right way is real, too, even if we don’t live up to it.  So we should be directing our young away from the first reality and toward the third, right?  Some drive on the wrong side of the street – with consequences.  We usually drive on the right side of the street, as we learned in drivers’ ed.  We don’t teach our students wrong-side driving. Concentration on the wrong way doesn’t help us drive right.  Just sayin’.

David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College.  He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota.  He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020).  He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.

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