Where Were Their Parents?

Posted: May 4, 2013

Growing up as a child in the village in Zambia in southern Africa, I remember my parents and grandparents teaching me about cruelty and kindness, and good and evil. Their teachings were mixed with personal example, sprinkled with generous doses of laughter and a sense of appreciation of all that is good: the gift of life, good harvest and meals, dance and song, wearing good clothes to go to church on Sunday, family, community, the goodness that comes from living a righteous and dignified life of hard work. All of these created in me and my community a deep sense of appreciation of life, and the power and magnificence that God created.

The senseless and utter cruelty of the bombings at the Boston Marathon brought into glaring confrontation the lifelong human struggle and contemplation of goodness and evil, human suffering and triumph, appreciation of both the beauty of human compassion and ugliness. In our public lives today, we do not want to see anything that resembles black and white in the way we understand and explain the tragic events leading to the bombings.

The shocking revelations after the fact show to be so obvious and clear what we should have done to prevent the bombings. Once we found out two brothers, and one who is only 19, may have caused so much carnage to the America soul, I kept asking: “Where were the parents? Where was the community? Where were the aunts, the coaches, the friends, the professors, the girlfriend, the wife, the church congregation members who should have seen this coming?”

When God created Adam and Eve, the two were endowed with spiritual passion and surrounded with physical beauty. One can see this beauty in the Shenandoah Valley and Blue Ridge Mountains, the Muchinga Escarpment, the gorgeous blue lagoons and magnificent blue waters and sand beaches of the world, and the breath taking green river valleys. The ability to engage in evil of varying degrees is present in all humans. Parents and the community are the first line of defense against evil. God helps as we raise and nurture children, be these our own or those of others in the community. A bad, cruel, poor or a lack of proper parental or extended family upbringing with little or no spiritual nurturing tremendously increases the chances that the child will not distinguish between good and evil.

Christianity and belief in God and Christ is the most powerful spiritual force when individuals open themselves and their hearts to it. God works through parents and the community to teach children about kindness, sharing, treating all human beings with fairness and respect, and to revere life itself. When we are born then we have a tremendous gift for doing good through our families and communities. When does evil begin to grow in humans? When we hate and become self-centered, or acquire power, material possessions and wealth for greedy ends. That is when the powerful, true, compassionate and genuine Christian beliefs are threatened or begin to decline. Lack of or weak parental and extended family upbringing and the desire to acquire material possessions and power beyond our immediate needs are the beginnings — if not the foundation — of misery, sin and evil.

I was not stunned to learn that the parents of the bombing suspects are divorced and live in different parts of the world, as do most of the relatives of the bombing suspects. This is no different from what most of us with the few family members we have live our scattered lives today. We may deny this ugly mirror on our society by claiming that despite the fact that many of us today live in two dozen different places away from our family members, none of our children have become marathon bombers. It is apparent from the recent tragic events that we all need to do something positive to change the circumstances in which we raise our children.

Mwizenge S. Tembo teaches sociology at Bridgewater College.

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