Recently my PJ Parenting colleague Kristina Ribali mulled over how exactly she’d approach talking to her own kids about Jared Fogle, who will now and forever more be known as the pervert who used to be in the ads for Subway. It’s a good question: How, exactly, do you talk to your kids about the sick, sad world we live in?
While I can’t yet speak as a parent to this question, I can speak to it as a kid. I grew up during the Clinton years. Want a tough topic to breach with a teenager? Try a president who decides to dub his favorite room in the White House the “Oral Office.” Thinking back on it, I’m sure there were plenty of conversations about the shame Bill Clinton brought on his marriage and the nation with his lewd infidelities. Most of them boiled down to my parents making it clear that he was a pervert, but it wasn’t so much what they said as how they said it. His actions were un-Biblical. They weren’t in accordance with Torah and therefore they led to disastrous results, period, end of story.
And that’s where it ended, for me at least. With the Bible as a foundational resource I felt a distinct cultural separation from Bill Clinton and his ilk, those who chose to pursue perversions of one sort or another. As a result I relate to Jared Fogle much the same way I related to Clinton: A guy who made un-Biblical decisions and is now paying the price. Much like Clinton’s title, Fogle’s fame means nothing to me, again because I was raised on Biblical values. When you have a solid relationship with God the actions of men are rather irrelevant to your own big picture.
The reality is that most kids today aren’t going to give a crap about the guy from Subway, or Josh Duggar, for that matter. If they’re old enough to understand what these guys did, they’re old enough to be consumed with their own lives. Although Kristina is right, social media is doing its best to own the teen psyche. And I do recall there being a deep-seated need for compare-and-contrast activities among a certain set of my peers. I was never one of them. How can you focus on being just like the girl or guy at the popular table when you know God? Let’s see: God, or guy in trendy clothes. No comparison.
Keep in mind, though, kids are smart. And they love calling out hypocrisy. Which is why I’m not talking religion; I’m talking faith engaged in an intellectual, emotional and, above all, personal way. I also grew up in the era of WWJD bracelets and virginity pledges at concerts. Being Jewish these things were in my periphery, but nevertheless highly mockable when in audience with my Christian friends. Oh, if only King Solomon had signed a virginity pledge he wouldn’t have had all that trouble with women. Too bad the tour bus didn’t stop at the palace.
How will my experience inform the way I approach these topics with my kids? They’re going to learn how to read the Bible from day one. They’re going to understand that God is omnipotent and human beings are not. They’re going to learn that God gave us an instruction manual for life on this earth known as the Torah. They’re going to read and understand that Torah is a set of principles and consequences as demonstrated in the prophets and the writings. And by the time they’re old enough to be exposed to these media scandals, they’re going to be so well-grounded in the culture of the Bible that they will feel as separated from the scandal-makers of their era as I was from Bill Clinton.
To borrow a phrase from Shakespeare, my children will hopefully learn to weed out the real news from “all the sound and fury, signifying nothing.” As Isaiah says, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.”