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Ronald Reagan : ‘Living Up To Our Children’s Expectations’

This weekend is the centennial of Ronald Reagan’s birth and he has been, rightly, in the news. We surely need a dose of the Gipper’s optimism and faith and policies these days. Even the current occupant of the White house thinks so, at the least in part. He read an autobiography of Reagan over the Christmas holidays, and publicly has been respectful to his memory.

Ronald Reagan

Commentators have called the State of the Union speech Obama’s “Reagan moment,” for some reason. In a coincidence of timing, the 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster also recently was observed; and President Reagan’s speech to the nation – “they touched the face of God” – was replayed to the benefit of us all. Lumps in the throat do not have expiration-dates.

That politicians since Reagan have cast themselves in his image, or encouraged others to do so, seems almost sacrilegious; and the Challenger speech is one affirmation of that. The recent presidential speech, a putative Balm in Tucson, is said to have been Reaganesque. The admonition allegedly inspiring a nation – “All of us… should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations” – is one from which, I suspect, Mr Reagan would have dissented. I sure do.

I have nothing against children. I have been father to three, and recall being one myself. Some of my best friends are children. Children are wonderful and precious, gifts from God, the Bible tells us. But they are… children.

Their innocence is being stolen in a thousand ways these days, by this society (another topic for another time, but one I believe this to be true, and a cultural crime). Now we’re supposed to burden them with drafting a list of expectations their parents and elders should live up to? How do kids wish we would act, and require them to act? What would those dreams be?

If most children were honest, their list would shock parents, elders, and teachers – at least those who forget what they were like as kids themselves:

* Abolish rules about homework and bedtime;
* Get over our hang-ups about hair, dress, hygiene, and keeping a neat room;
* Promise not to ask about e-mails, phone calls, certain friends, or that music. Et cetera.

I will jump from this new standard – that we should live up to our children’s expectations – from speculation about what another president would not have said… to what the Bible says, in disagreement: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

That is not a sacred fortune-cookie saying; it is more, even, than a prediction. It is a command – TRAIN UP children. For society to operate on a contrary standard (and, of course, everything it represents, and everything that flows from such beliefs) might, some day, lead to a country that is without any standards, not just a culture that strives to “live up to children’s expectations.”

The best wish for our children is that they desire to live up to our expectations of them… and that everyone’s aspiration be to meet God’s expectations.

The beautiful irony of the Christian life is that children don’t have to follow their inclinations or rebellion, and adults don’t have to impose authority or cram some set of rules. We find victory in surrender. All Jesus wants us to do – His expectation – is to lean on His Everlasting Arms.

The great gospel song of that title is here plaintively sung by Iris DeMent. Long an outstanding singer/songwriter, Iris’s version of this classic hymn closes out the hit movie True Grit; and is receiving deserved praise. The artwork in this video (a beautiful slideshow production of the excellent Beanscot Channel on YouTube) shows a variety of children, doing what Jesus expects of them, and all of us, leaning back in His loving arms.


Rick Marschall is the author of more than 60 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia Magazine called him “perhaps America’s foremost authority on popular culture”) to history and criticism; country music, television history, biography and children’s books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals; co-authoring The Secret Revealed with Dr Jim Garlow; and writing a biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series to be published by Thomas Nelson (2011). Rick is a former Director of Product Development for Youth Specialties. He is recipient of the 2008 “Christian Writer of the Year” award from the Greater Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, and produces a weekly e-mail devotional, “Monday Morning Music Ministry.” His e-mail address is: AmericaCiv@aol.com.


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