By Ronald L. Dart
I was thinking recently of a Scripture I have sometimes heard cited at funerals: “The righteous perishes, and no man lays it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come” (Isaiah 57:1). The Scripture was comforting in an odd sort of way. But it fell strangely on the ear in the good times we have enjoyed in years past. I wonder what people will think nowadays should they hear it read over the casket of a dear old friend.
I was reading a column by Peggy Noonan when this came to mind. She described New York in these days of a sharply slowed economy: “We have been living in a carnival these last many years, an unreal world of wealth and plenty. Now we have to think about a different kind of world. Our leaders are pessimistic—which is an odd thing for leaders. They are supposed to mobilize us, to tell us the truth, but to hold out hope. Yet we hear words such as crisis and catastrophe coming from leaders who seem more concerned about political power than the welfare of those they lead.”
I’ve wondered what prompted this message from the old prophet, so I took a little time to look and think about it. The lead into this passage was sobering, and startlingly apt to this generation. Isaiah said that his nation’s watchmen were all blind and lacking in knowledge. He compared them to mute dogs who cannot bark, who lie around and dream. They have mighty appetites, Isaiah said, they are shepherds who lack understanding. They all are more interested in getting rich than in watching out for the people (Isaiah 56:10 ff.).
Mute dogs. Somehow I had overlooked this reading the King James. The old Bible calls them dumb dogs, but to the King James boys, it didn’t mean dumb as in stupid. It meant unable to speak, as in “deaf and dumb.” I know, there are times when you wish your dog was mute, but dogs want to let you know what is going on. They are concerned when the doorbell rings that you might not hear it. Barking is their way of saying, “Someone’s at the door!”
When a little girl was taken from her bed in the middle of the night, I thought, “If I had a little girl like that, she would have a dog that sleeps in her room, maybe on her bed. A big dog.” But of what use is a mute dog that cannot bark—that only lies around, sleeps, and eats?
Isaiah shifts the metaphor from dogs to shepherds. “They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain. ‘Come,’ each one cries, ‘let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better.’”
Many kinds of shepherds
I groan when I read it, for there are many kinds of shepherds. There are presidents, governors, congressmen, preachers, teachers, school board trustees, and administrators. Tomorrow, they say, will be just like today and even better. And that is the way nearly everyone has been acting for a long time now. It is at this point that Isaiah comes to the Scripture I started with. “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.”
Human nature doesn’t change
So we don’t live in a world that goes on to greater and better things, after all. Tomorrow may not be all that abundant. It may get bad enough to be grateful our moms didn’t live to see it. But what happened to bring this situation about?
Isaiah goes on: “But you—come here, you sons of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes! Whom are you mocking? At whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars?” (vv.3-4).
Would you have to look very hard to find children who sneer at society, who stick out their tongues at the rest of us? Times change. Cultures change. But human nature doesn’t, and the divine nature doesn’t either. When you read a passage like this, you can say, oh, this isn’t now, not us. This was then and those people. And, yet, the ratio of children born without a father in the home grows on apace, and the children of adulterers and prostitutes abound among us. As much as we try to be understanding and compassionate, we can’t deny what is right there in front of us.
The cost is terrible
There is a terrible cost associated with this. Lay aside for the moment the cost for the kids themselves and consider what it means to society. Too many people are in denial about what all this is costing. Did you know, for example, that the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is being raised by a single parent? Three studies and a well documented book stress the point. Seventy percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers were raised by single mothers. Seventy-two percent of juvenile murderers and 60 percent of rapists come from single mother homes. Seventy percent of teenage births, drop-outs, suicides, and child murders involve children of single mothers. Girls raised without a father in the home are sexually more promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced. A 1990 study by the Progressive Policy Institute showed that, after controlling for single motherhood, the differences between black and white crime rates disappeared.
The cost for single motherhood is dear
I don’t think I could ever have tracked all this down, But Ann Coulter, in her book, Guilty, lays it all out with full documentation. This time Ms. Coulter is not trying to be funny. Thinking about her statistics made my blood run cold:
sixty-two percent of youth suicide;
seventy percent of teenage pregnancy;
seventy-one percent of adolescent chemical substance abuse;
eighty percent of all prison inmates; and
ninety percent of all homeless and runaway children are from single parent families.
Children brought up in single mother homes are:
five times more likely to commit suicide;
nine times more likely to drop out of school;
fourteen times more likely to commit rape (boys);
twenty times more likely to end up in prison; and
thirty-two times more likely to run away from home.
Now you tell me: is this a huge problem for society at large or not? And does it not have an economic impact? Then consider that God will send a prophet with the primary aim of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children lest an entire society collapse into ruin.