November 18, 2018

Sometimes It’s the Bogeyman

I guess it’s the stage in life I am in, but the millennial generation really scares me. It’s our fault. We’ve fed them a steady diet of artificial sweetener and then wonder why they can’t handle the bitterness in life.

Last night I was jarred awake. For full disclosure, this is absolutely the worst thing you can do for someone who has an occasional panic attack. Panic attacks are nothing to be ashamed of. They are like any other illness and, in 2018, we can overcome the bad biology. However, when one is awoken with sheets being pulled off and lights being turned on, bad biology wins. This is the background for how I received the news that my daughter exposed her computer to a ransomware virus. She naïvely thought that it was Microsoft asking for permission to access her computer.

People wonder why fathers like me get so nervous when their children move to another city. I worry less about them and more about how they may wander into unsafe situations. My daughter assumes it is always Barney knocking at the door. While they sleep soundly, I lie awake at night worrying it is the bogeyman who is asking to come in. My children don’t understand that they grew up in Mayberry. They don’t even understand the reference. My wife and I have been blessed to have been able to provide that scenario. Now my challenge is not so much Mayberry but now teaching them that is not the real world they will experience in their adult lives. They have to learn why Andy has to carry a gun now and Otis isn’t really that loveable.

My youngest daughter always proclaimed “that’s not fair” when she saw an injustice in her life. Her saying this was always “nails on a blackboard” to me and another reference our Millennials won’t understand. Life has to be fair to someone who has been given a participation trophy instead of being taught to lose. Extra effort is not rewarded when life is always graded on the curve and we now can’t even have valedictorians in high schools because it might make someone feel bad. Passing out a few more “D’s and F’s” will challenge and build character. If it makes someone feel bad then good, go home and study.

Ever since I was a child this has been how our faith was taught. My CCD focused “someone is hurting Lord, be with us” rather than teaching me how to pray through my struggles. This is the challenge that the Church faces today. Too many of us face life’s issues without a faith taught to address them. When we use a childish faith to address adult issues it doesn’t work. A childish faith looks at evil in the world and says “why would a God allow this?” An adult faith responds “why do I allow this?” We constantly have to remind people that God did not intend evil, but it exists and, it exists because we allow it. Satan has no power over us. He exploits the power that we give him.

He exploits the power we give him? This is a very important notion of our faith. God has given us each the autonomy to steward the life he gave us. This is where that darn participation trophy gets in the way again. We want freedom, autonomy and “control” when everything is going our way. We don’t need or acknowledge God for this. Yet, life’s challenges are never a response to these freedoms that came with our autonomy but, are God’s fault. The faith of children cannot fathom the fairness in this. God allowed an autonomy that is inconvenient to me. God should limit that autonomy while leaving mine alone. Our free will has been reduced to a participation trophy.

Our Millennials have been led astray. The real world doesn’t have participation trophies or at least, the companies that use them have gone out of business. Athletes that work the hardest eventually win the race. People who study and get “A’s” do financially better in life. In essence, it is sacrifice that brings reward. Yet, some don’t seem to have to sacrifice to get the same reward. Cute bunnies get eaten by coyotes too. You can sit back and cry about the unfairness, but that is not what we’ve taught you. Whether it is in football, dance or a cancer diagnosis, victory is getting up to compete again after a fall, not in the points scored. We taught you to play to win and accept when you lose as a challenge to play harder next time.

Mayberry does exist. Not as a place, but in how we should approach our lives. Jesus taught us the Beatitudes not to make life fair, but to teach us how to live it fully. Jesus never excused or denied that evil was in the world; he taught us how to deal with it. Jesus spoke of Satan. Pope Francis speaks of Satan. It is Satan who hides. It is Satan that seduces us into thinking that he doesn’t exist. That gives him great freedom to entice us to take his path toward destruction. People love to debate whether Satan exists but, in the end unite on the fact that evil does exist. We grow up thinking that evil exists outside of Mayberry. The truth is that evil exists wherever God is asked not to be present. Evil exists in darkness and ignorance. Evil exists when I am fooled into not paying attention. Evil exists when my desires are given precedence over everyone else’s.

We can acknowledge that someone is always trying to take a dollar out of our wallet. Whether it is the government or ransomware hackers, one cannot assume others have our best interests in mind. We respect their autonomy without diminishing ours. Society is telling us that we cannot judge how people use their free will. That is wrong. We can judge actions without judging people. Some actions are evil. Our lack of access to a certain hard drive shows that. Be thankful we only lost bits on a computer. Others will be losing their houses. Jesus asks us to forgive but, he doesn’t mind if we update our malware. Our malware in life is prayer. With a fruitful prayer life we know the ultimate ransom has already been paid. Jesus is Lord.

Sometimes it’s Barney at the door and sometimes it is the bogeyman. We have to be aware and control if we let them in.

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster

REVEREND DR. GREGORY WEBSTER is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate by Francis Cardinal George in May 2014 and is assigned to St. Raphael the Archangel Parish in Old Mill Creek, Illinois. Deacon Greg holds a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from Northern Illinois University, M.A. in Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary and an M.A. in Bioethics and Health Policy from Loyola University of Chicago. Deacon Greg and his wife have been married more than twenty-five years and are blessed with three beautiful daughters and two pretty cool terriers.

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Written by Deacon Gregory Webster