Today’s youth are marrying frustrations
I read an article appeared in many internet publications titled, "Today's youth are marrying frustration" by Mr. George Abraham in the wake of a grisly murder in Bangalore. I do agree with the caption, most of its contents and the summing up in the last paragraph but differ some of the reasons put forth. Many responded expressing disdain regarding the comments about the "spiritual leaders."
Two decades ago, Malayalees in United States and world over were shocked by sad news that a Malayalee youth in Philadelphia axed his father down. The sensational news attracted many expert opinions as to what are the circumstances led to the crime and why youth are tempted to such heinous crimes. A few years later a young Malayalee woman was reported missing. Law enforcement agencies and news-media swung into action all over USA. After a week it was found the girl eloped with a Russian 'Romeo.' For about six months ethnic and cultural organizations and talk show hosts plunged into a series of seminars and discussions condemning "arranged marriages". People are too quick to react and pass comments when a crime takes place in a house or in a school, and too quickly they forget leaving the reasons and solutions untouched. None of the seminars and comments suggests any remedy and crimes are unabated. Crimes such as murder, rape, cheating, robbing, slander, and social evils such as, married men and women having children running away and living with others only to appease fleshly appetite, neglecting children, divorce, living in debauchery, abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, etc have become a fashion among "Americanized Malayalees in USA" and the same trend is increasing daily unabated in Kerala as a result of emulating western lifestyle. But the irony is that these are perversions of the Western/American culture. Modern American culture is evolved after the industrial revolution and heavy concentration of cities. It is not the actual culture because the real culture has a glorious past and high moral standard almost akin to Indian culture.
Why marriages fail is a question many of us ask and try to find answers but no one has yet come up with a conclusive antidote. Considering the complexity of the problem in today's social environment no easy solution is in sight. Mr. George Abraham's finding is worth to ponder and it is everyone's duty to find ways and means to find a solution and dwell upon it. As integral part of the society all of us are reasons and victims of this and many other social evils at once. The problem is not confined to Syrian Christians alone but they have special responsibility in the society "as chosen and bought with a heavy price of the blood of Christ," 1 Cor 6:20, and "called out of darkness into the marvelous light, to glorify and proclaim the wonderful deeds of God," 2Pe 2:9, by good deeds. Leading a righteous lifestyle and passing on the good legacy to the next generation is the reasonable response to which we are all called. Christians might not be the reason for all the social maladies, but they are appointed to obliterate the evils. Concerning leaders; influential laity, clergy and bishops, they have inalienable duty to lead the ordinary faithful to perfection; and yet they form only a fraction of social strata of a cosmopolitan/secular society. Therefore, it is not justice to pin-point a section and cast the blame of all the ills on it. It is a sort of escapism to cast blame on a class of spiritual leaders for all social evils, as if they are the only reasons.
In the impugned case, the author says, "It was a personality clash that led to the murder of Rajani. At another place the author says, "Both belonged to well-off families." Then, "She was said to be drawing three times the salary of Bejoy, which annoyed him. And she did not feel the need to give him the due regard that he expected." He laments the failures of the Spiritual leaders, "Service to the poor and the suffering is only a token." What is the relevance to the spiritual leaders' service to the poor when the talk is about well-off families? The author's comments, "This is admitted by the religious heads themselves, but it is doubtful whether they have attempted to look within and analyze the reasons. The spiritual heads are not setting the right examples to their followers. It is not spiritual welfare but material growth that they are working for. They build up enormous assets in the form of real estate, mansions and church buildings. Service to the poor and the suffering is only a token. And the youth find only masks of hypocrisy in religious places and they turn to other means: drugs, liquor and the forbidden fruit," is completely out of context. The fact is, without distinction of class or profession all are sailing in the same boat. The so called spiritual leaders constitute only a negligible portion of the whole community and they do not wield great influence on the present society obsessed with evil influences and wrong priorities. Not only the spiritual leaders but none others, such as parents, siblings, relatives are doing factual analysis of the problem or ready to change. It is simply a reflection or misconception that the spiritual leaders' failure is the sole reason for the tension and frustrations of the youth. How much do the present generation especially the wealthy and educated heed to the advices of spiritual leaders if the advice is against personal interests and bad habits; I say dismal? Why should they heed more to the human spiritual leaders than God and the holy Bible? Why a faithful should look upon what the spiritual leaders do or say when they are free to read and obey the Scriptures? More reliance on spiritual leaders' life and conduct rather than holy Bible is counter to Christ's advice, "Do what they tell, not do what they do," Mat 23:3. That predicament is misdirected spirituality. "We ought to obey God rather than men," Acts 5:29.
My question is: did the husband not know the huge difference in salary before he married her? Did the wife not know, as wife she had to honor the husband irrespective of her drawing more salary? Or is salary alone a criterion of mutual love and respect? There are more pervading questions but without knowing full facts it would not be fair to assume and base an argument on mere assumptions. Thus I do not dare judgment or any question that led to the horrible murder. What therefore I say hereunder is just for general thought and correction if one thinks there is need to correct.
Murder is the proof of animal nature present in the man. Animals do not kill another with pre-meditated purpose or to serve a vested interest. Killing and eating other species of animals is their way of survival. At times out of sudden rage or fear of being attacked they fight and kill own kind. That is because of the very primitive communication skill in the animals, namely, they lack the feature of thought and speech as means to convey ideas. But language often becomes the core problem of social unrest. Confusion of language and the story of Babel mentioned in Gen 11 is the best example for this predicament. Animals do not have alternate mechanism than fighting to control their emotion of rage. "But man is created different. There is no need for man to fight with his own kind. He has been endowed with the faculty of intelligence and speech so that he could employ various methods to control emotions so that he could resolve problems through negotiations and peaceful means; wisdom and spirit of forgiveness so to reconcile. Sir Earnest Barker said, "Man is an animal under the mask of manners." Devoid of good manners, righteous conduct and concern for the welfare of others, man is less than a wildest beast. I am opposed to killing animals even for food for man is firstly created vegetarian.
Arguments, murder and all human malice are nothing new, they are not the invention of the present generation, but as old as mankind. Cain killed Abel not for any material benefit but simply because of envy. He could not content his brother enjoyed favor from God, what he could not. From the prehistoric to the present, envy emerging from concentrated selfishness is the root of all evils. Selfishness blinds people and they fail to see virtues in others. Often the very cause of argument is anger and the first step that leads to disturbances, violence, hatred and even murder. In such situations the first recourse would be to learn not to argue or at least limit the argument. We live in a highly advanced environment; science and technology has elevated man to a high level. Education, income, living standard, information technology and such other developments reduced the world into a global village but one thing in man remains unchanged that is, selfishness and audacity to exploit and harm his own kind. Advancement of science and technology brought industrial revolution. Industrial revolution gave rise to urbanization and artificial culture, weakened the unadulterated village life, joint family structure gave way to nuclear family, TV and entertainments replaced family prayer and piety, which is the root of all social evils.
Without exception all; young and old, rich and the poor, scholar and the illiterate, male and female, discarded the oldest civilization of the orient and are enamored with western way of life. What now matters is sheer western materialism; excel others, gain more wealth by hook or by crook, put down others and get to number one position, etc. While the ancient oriental culture puts God first in everything western materialism bases its origin in the senseless Darwinism or evolution theory where God is relegated to nothingness. The result is a senseless, irresponsible, self-centered, individualism where no one is accountable to another. In this transition all are equally involved and are responsible. Thus it is unfair to pinpoint and blame any particular vocation or profession. The author's lamentation, "The spiritual heads are not setting the right examples to their followers. It is not spiritual welfare but material growth that they are working for. They build up enormous assets in the form of real estate, mansions and church buildings. Service to the poor and the suffering is only a token. And the youth find only masks of hypocrisy in religious places and they turn to other means: drugs, liquor and the forbidden fruit." The whole criticism about the spiritual leadership, however true it might be, is completely out of context. Criticizing the spiritual leadership, blaming them for all the social ills has become a fashion for many without introspection of own failures. I hold unequivocally that the spiritual leaders ought to be role models and honest to their calling, but their failure cannot be cited as reasons for the youth or anyone fall victim of evil habits and turning astray from the basic norms of social and moral responsibilities.
Life of an individual is influenced first, by the parents who are also the first guides and teachers. Manners, morality, ethics, distinction of good and bad, social behavioral pattern, spiritual life, love and concern for others, sharing and caring, discipline etc are learned first from parents, grant parents and close relatives at home. It is the parents' inalienable responsibility to nurture and bring up the children in such a way that they become good citizens both in this and the other world. The second influence comes from teachers, friends and social settings that mould the character. Influence of the spiritual leaders is very important by all standards and yet that comes in the last category of importance. Luminaries like Parumala and Pampadi thirumenies are surely role models at all times; many a youth were and are still encouraged emulating their life to lead an ascetic, holy and prayerful life. But they could not provide answer to all the evils of the society during their lifetime. There were on those days violence, murders, drug and alcohol addictions and all social evils which we abhor today. Even Jesus Christ in his life time could not transform the all the people and make the society whole, which is still an unrealized goal.
Certainly, no one shall become addicted to drugs, alcohol or any such; abuse, exploit or murder another individual, because of the hypocrisy of spiritual leaders, at the most they might turn away from religion. It is false allegation that bad modeling of spiritual leaders create frustration that leads to violence and unlawful activities among youth. Even acclaimed spiritual leaders who are best role models can hardly influence any, because people are more obsessed with material progress than being spiritual. In the rush of parents to "work more and get more," they ignore children. "Passions which are produced from the love of money become invincible when one loses faith in the providence of God. For the one who does not believe, trusts in money. And such a person who hears the saying of the Lord, 'that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom,' considers the kingdom as nothing - even the heavenly and everlasting kingdom! - And still yearns for wealth, which is both earthly and transient. Those who crave such riches do not obtain them, and they are injured enormously by the desire itself. For, according to what Paul says, 'they who yearn to be rich fall into temptations and the snares of the devil," St. Gregory Palamas.
Most parents are obsessed with a wrong notion that making more money and leading a flamboyant life is a symbol of status. They unduly pressurize the children to excel the friends of their age, in the matter of grade scores and other achievements. Many parents are wired to think that certain professions are only status-worthy and only if their children become doctors or engineers, they can lead a high-end life. Some parents compare their kids with others and put down them in the presence of others, not knowing what a heavy damage they are doing. To elicit an example: Ray had two sons, Vijay and Sajay. Vijay was very bright and became a medical doctor. Sajay was average, completed degree and went to a job. Ray always scorned at Sajay for not being as smart as Vijay. Unlike Vijay who had scholarship, Sajay needed finance from the father. Ray severely accused whenever Sajay sought money, "Learn from Vijay; I did not spend for him; he got scholarship. You idiot, is a curse to me, good for nothing fellow, you spoil my money, etc." Ray's habitually spoke high of Vijay and rebuked Sajay as an idiot to his friends. Having pushed to limit, at last, Sajay resigned his job, joined a medical school and without even telling the parents until the admission process was complete and became a doctor. Can you relate this to Rebecca's favoritism to Jacob? Later both the siblings married. The Vijay is ditto of the father in pursuit of making more money, spending 16 hours in office and owning two posh mansions, one kept simply for he could not sell. Sajay and his wife bought a two bed room condominium. The father's response was, "It is a shame for me to tell others that my son lives in a condominium. Sajay does not live according to Ray's status dream and casts all problems on Sajay's wife." He told the parish Christmas carol party not to go to his home! What a wonderful dad! Ray takes pride claiming "two doctors in my house," but who can find a remedy to Vijay's undisclosed ill-will, thinking his brother a competitor?
Abusive relationship of parents is often the cause of children stress. Let me quote a real story I wrote in my article "Fidelity in Marriage." Dave and Carol is happily married couple for 30 years, very outgoing, committed, religious, both professionals, gainfully employed with decent salary and investment income. They live in a suburban cozy custom-made home. Dave is a talented artist, composes and teaches songs, mostly religious. Carol is submissive and takes pride in what Dave accomplishes. They have five children, three of them in colleges. Two of them got perfect SAT score entitling free tuition, boarding, lodging and incidental expenses from accredited universities. They are talented in instrumental music, storytelling, elocution, etc. Thus here is an ideal family. Now the real story unfolds. Soaked in plenty, good health, wealth, talents, fame, etc Dave came into contact with a family, Dennis and Karen who had two children. Dave developed a special liking to Karen, a dream girl of his inner fondness and started secretly meeting often. As the filthy relationship surreptitiously enveloped, a few of their inner-circle friends felt the stink but none exposed it. The unsuspecting Carol was in dark but the teenage children came to know something of their father's hush deal and broke their heart. How they will confront the mighty father, how to tell fragile mom, how she would take it, what the friends and family would feel, what damage it would cause to the family reputation, etc were nagging questions. They warned Karen. Dave came to know of it and severely threatened the children and they were terrified. The result: the children withdrew from all activities inside and out. One child who had 100% SAT score and fourth year in college free of cost, took it seriously, deep delved in melancholy, lost interest, neglecting studies wandered around to get peace of mind, finally got fail notice and dropped out. Other children opted to stay out of home when the mother was at work. Unable to attend the lessons, some changed subjects a few time. All the children hated the father. The fornicator had already scammed by secretly taping the encounters in the house and extracted a good deal of money under disguise of loan. Karen even suggested elopement. After sometime Dave fell out of favor of certain close friends resulting in the publication of the tape. The matter spread like wild fire. Carol and children became so embarrassed, shy, dejected and withdrawn. One wonders, Carol did not commit suicide or divorced yet. However, needless to say, she said, "The trust is lost forever, relationship spoiled, family is ruined, I am like a cadaver," etc. Living under the same roof but in two worlds! Can an honest spouse ever love a dishonest spouse? No. Dave is yet not repentant but shows sad face. Dave lost moral authority over the children!
Instead of spending reasonable time and sharing good moments with the kids, parents provide them with plastic toys and unnecessary luxuries. Parents often forget to provide children "what they need" but make sure to provide "what they want." Providing unnecessary luxuries to children who are unable to comprehend the value and proper use of those luxuries are more a status symbol for the parents than the kids. Parents give the kids to spend lavishly money which they never worked for. Anything that comes without hard work will lose its value and result in lavish spending which serves a basic reason for later frustrations. By affording such unwanted luxuries the parents are spoiling the future of the kids. The recent cell-phone episode that led to the death of three young girls in a school and the hue and cry it created in Kerala and the ragging stories peculiar to Kerala are sufficient proof that irresponsible parents are responsible for the grim irony. Parents' failure to impart proper discipline to the child is the main cause of later frustrations. Those children who grow in physical nourishment and discipline at the same time will surely become good citizens and the parents will not regret and blame others for their own follies. Renowned psychologists say on the basis of extensive researches, "What a youth of twenty years behave is the fruition of what he/she imbibed at the age of three or even less." Many parents are conscious to provide their children, the best food, the best dress, the best comforts and the best education possible but miserably fail to bring them up in the Lord's discipline. The Bible says, "Spare the rod, spoils the child," "The rod and reproof give wisdom," Pro 29:15. "He that spares his rod hates his son; but he that loves him chastens him betimes," Pro 13:24. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him," Pro 22:15. "Withhold not correction from the child; for if you beat him with the rod, he shall not die. You shall beat him with the rod and shall deliver his soul from the hell," Pro 23:13-14. Bucks County Courier Times reported a debate on spanking on Mar 6, 1998. Psychologists, Gail Pedrick argued in favor of spanking and Irwin Hyman against. The readers overwhelmingly approved spanking. However, this does not mitigate the severity of the problem. Interesting, is it not, to know that Dr. Benjamin Spock, the spokesman against spanking, said we should not spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem. People quickly responded, "Being an expert he knows what he is talking about." Sarcastically, Dr. Spock could not save his son! His son committed suicide!
Many of you must have heard about Kannada actor, Raj Kumar. Back in early seventy's it is said he had five luxury cars. But his children were walking down to the school. Some fans asked him why he was keeping the cars and the driver at home and sending the children to school by foot. His reply was, "Children should grow knowing the realities of life. Their mind is not yet ripe to understand the value of luxury they never toiled for. They should not feel different from the ordinary." This is a great vision.
A peculiarity of Malayalee community is that the parents try maximum to hide the shortcomings, erratic behavior, attention deficit disorder, uncontrolled anger, other bad habits and failures of their kids. Some parents support, some encourage, some justify, and some ignore and fail to seek advice from spiritual leaders or experts on time so to nip in the bud. Finally when the kids grow older and are lost they start blaming all around them. One real case comes to my mind: There are two kids in a religious family. The boy served as an altar-boy from the age ten. In American context altar assistants are not need based but to satisfy the parents, a kind of competition. They are neither taught proper church discipline nor understand what is going on because of the language. Not only that the parents do not care how their children are conducting in the Holy Altar, but also they blindly support them and agitate even for silly reasons, forms groups and create scenes in the church. Then they go home, using phone indulge in gossip, scandalize, write and distribute anonymous letters against the dissenters, etc. They get drunk with alcohol and abuse wife and children at home. Children seeing all these heroism of the father grow with a notion, "my father is a hypocrite." Coming back to the story, the boy and the girl were admitted in far away colleges. The boy started living with a white girl and quit the community altogether. The girl joined a gang, became drug addicted, indulged in all kinds of forbidden things and dropped out; whereabouts unknown for three years. Unable to bear the setback mother became an acute mental patient requiring inpatient treatment at least twice a year and disabled to drive and work. After three years one fine morning the girl returned, not as a college graduate but as a mental and physical wreck, adding more sorrow to the parents. She does not talk to even her former close friends and what actually she went through remains still a mystery. Until now the parents have not divulged to anyone what happened, if they knew, including the vicar. In such situations what a spiritual leader can do? Then a new vicar came, during a formal chat he said, "I told my former vicars many times to conduct the service in English. They did not. Had they done, I would not have lost my children." The present vicar started various educative programs namely, started a yahoo group inviting youth to ask questions, not one came up with a question in five years; started a newsletter with a spiritual article from the vicar, the reception was too cold from both young and old and the pursuit had to end in fiasco. Older people objected sermon in English. English service met with stiff opposition. Some people went to neighboring parish on the day of English service or stayed at home only to register their protest. Some people are so intolerant to English causing indiscipline while service goes on. If a vicar is not fluent with English, people demand saying, "We want English. Kids are spoiled because of the achen's ignorance." If the vicar is fluent in English and do service in English people object saying, "We are Malayalees, our kids know Malayalam. We are not getting anything spiritually with English service. We do not want English." The vicar says, "I am at a loggerhead and confused how to deal with our people."
Another peculiarity of our people is that they do not tell the vicar even when they are very sick. By the time they tell, it will be too late. They are embarrassed to tell others as if t is a shame for others know of the sickness; hospital visit, inpatient treatment, surgery, etc. When the children and youth suffer from psychological problems; unstable emotional behaviors, attention deficit, eccentric behaviors, acute mental disorders, parents try hard to keep it secret. When it is somehow known to others, the society treats it lightly and support saying, "Let the boy/girl marry; the problem will go after marriage." Many a cheatings are common on this score putting the innocent people's lives at risk. Spiritual leaders cannot involve unless requested in such cases. Many people behave as if they expect the vicar to spontaneously know, without them telling. Some others think it is the duty of the vicar to find out from others and visit them. Worst of all, the same people will allege, "Achen did not visit me when I was sick." It is a biblical duty of the faithful to call the priest and invite him to visit and pray, James 5:14. Children of such people are bound to feel let down; lose self-esteem and fail to bring out the best in them and frustration builds up from the interaction of parents. Easiest thing for such people is to cast the blame on others for their own shortcomings. Another aspect is: suppose there is a quarrel between spouses and the wife calls the priest to visit the house. The husband dishonors and mistreats the priest; if the husband calls and the priest respond, the wife behaves the same mistreating because each one thinks the priest is in the other camp.
Parents do and say things that are not good for children to hear or see. They argue, use profane language, when they get angry physically abuse wife and children, conduct in-home alcohol parties, indulge in drunken revelry, play cards, smoke and gossip in the presence of children. It results in retarded mental growth of the children. Spiritual leaders can do very little in these cases.
Regarding the show of pomp in the marriage celebrations is also to appease the misconceived status notion of parents. "I cannot go down less than him," is the common attitude. Parents who advise their children to prepare spiritually for the marriage are very rare. Many of them ask the vicar to cut short the liturgy. Paid choir, video, photography, DJ, unlimited liquor service (open bar), etc are more important. Is that because a priest advised or does anyone think that people will obey the priest who says them not prioritize external things? They are poised to aggrandize the event at any cost. Nowadays everywhere, particularly in America, the liturgy itself is adulterated; people draft their own liturgy, add what they need to hear and delete what they do not want to hear and they talk very high of the Orthodox doctrine! Many internet theologians and idealists are "outstanding-standing outside" and "understanding-basement parties" members, who never fully attend the Holy Eucharist. I dare say they are offspring of satan and real problem makers in the church. I do not forget that a few priests also think it good and supply liquor in marriage receptions; by all standards they are showing a very bad and sad example. It has become mindboggling and really embarrassing to partake in the wedding parties.
I shall quit this discourse lest for length with a few real examples. (1) Marriage was fixed for a girl who was a medical doctor. Vicar of the parish told the girl's father to send the boy and the girl for pre-marital counseling. The father replied to the vicar, "My parents did not have counseling but their marriage survived 55 years. I consider it is not needed. Children are busy with better things to do" (2) Thirty years ago in Bangalore a girl decided to live with a Hindu boy. Parents were hurt and after much deliberations; finally daughter made the Hindu boy agree to convert to Christianity to save the face of parents. The matter was brought to the priest and he prescribed a pre-conversion course, study of basic faith matters, prayers, Creed, etc and set dates for counseling, baptism, marriage, etc. An enthusiastic faithful helped the vicar and taught the church faith to the newcomer. The priest advised that conversion is a matter of heart and only if he honestly and willingly believed, accepted and confessed that "Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior" and agree to uphold the doctrines and practices of the Holy Orthodox faith, baptism and marriage need be conducted. The boy agreed and everything went through as planned. Later the priest came to know that after the Christian ceremony in the morning, Hindu customs followed in the evening for the satisfaction of groom's parents. The couple never once showed up in the Church after the marriage. This is not an isolated incident. There are many similar instances. In USA, boys and girls date together, vacation together, live together and even have children; parents never even know for years. But there is a relief part for these episodes which is more interesting; after a few years a non-malayalee partner opt out by divorce contenting with child support. Some clergies are also facing this sort of problems. In such cases, whether clergy or laity, what moral authority a parent has him to teach others about good family life, church discipline and personal integrity? What sort of counseling he could impart to others? Maximum he can do is to hide and hope no one knows what happened in the household. Suppose a clergy or a laity is preaching about moral discipline and spirituality, if what he preaches does not influence his own children what is the use of his preaching? Here is the relevance of the adage, "preach what you practice and do not preach what you cannot." First and foremost reason for the moral dereliction of children is the hypocrisy of the parents, spiritual leaders are no exception. Most parents' prayer these days – if at all they pray – is, "Lord, help our son live with a woman; and daughter with a man. We know well that it is a crime to differentiate human beings on the basis of race, religion and nationality for, you created them all!" Whom shall we blame for all these maladies but the parents? Even the best known spiritual leaders cannot do any good unless they are role models and people trust them, seek their guidance and involve them at the very start of the problem and that is much earlier than he or she attains adolescent stage. In other words, nurture children in the Lord's discipline conforming to the biblical standards. Send them to Sunday schools instead of dance and karate class. Teach them how to pray and respect others, instead preaching to others. Stop gossip, especially about spiritual leaders. Show them good examples at home, instead of being hypocritical. A good husband only can become a good father; a good wife only can become a good mother; therefore first learn how to lead a Christian family life instead of running for more wealth and status neglecting the children. Behind every failing youth there is an untold story of neglect, violation of integrity and trust in the home because of the bad modeling of parents. Family is basis of social existence and it was the first institution God established. When that divine foundation is abused and destroyed all kinds of calamities would follow. Many are leading double life; pious and gentle outside and violet and abusive inside home. This must change if youth should become fruitful. First rectify the family relationships then set proper priorities and obey the Lord; that is the solution for today's ills. God bless you all,
Written by Rev K.K. John
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