Today we live in a society oppressed and often terrorized by our own children. Criminal acts, once viewed as shocking for adults to commit, are now commonplace among teens and adolescents. Our children are robbing us, assaulting us, raping us and even murdering us. American and British youth crimes have shifted to a new level of violence. Lawmakers, police, and other civil authorities are gravely concerned and are quickly losing hope that the new wave of violent youth crime can be stopped.
At War With Youth
Since this decade began, news readers have been shocked at the disquieting headlines involving youth and crime. In early 1995, The Evening Standard, a London newspaper reported that more than half of the car thefts and robberies in London were carried out by 14 to 20-year-olds. It also stated that one third of all the arrests reported in the previous year were for crimes committed by youths. Police surveys showed that nine out of ten Londoners feared young criminals. The title of the Evening Standard article was in itself revealing: “Yard goes to war as muggings and car thefts by young thugs soar.” British Police are at war with youths.
Other British newspapers have reported similar disturbing stories. One news article told about a gang of 10-year-old boys carrying out organized muggings of elderly ladies. Another told of a group of youths terrorizing adults on trains demanding their money and jewelry. The oldest youth leading the modern train robbers was only 12. An especially terrifying story was reported about four teenage girls who held a London actress at knife point demanding she give them her money.
Americans have been equally shocked. In May 1997, the country was stunned by a story reported in Newsweek about two New Jersey teenagers who ordered two cheese pizzas, had them delivered to a desolate address and then killed the delivery men. When police arrested Tommy Koskovich, 18, and Jay Vreeland, 17, the gruesome details of the double homicide were unbelievable. The two teens called five pizzerias to see if they could draw a delivery to an abandoned house in rural Sussex county. The first four pizzerias turned them down. But Georgio Gallara, 24, owner of a new pizzeria, needed the business. He took an employee, Jeremy Giordano, 22, along for the two-mile delivery run. When the two men drove up to the address and opened their car window to deliver the food, the two teens shot the men eight times in the face and neck. They then dragged them out of their car and dumped them on the ground. Investigators found that neither the pizza nor money was stolen. What was the teens’ motive for the killings? It appears they killed just for the thrill. One investigator said, “There is no rational answer for this irrational act.” We must take warning—adults are prime targets of young criminals.
But our youths are also committing vicious crimes against other youths. Some are behaving like skilled predators. This is probably the most unpleasant aspect to the new wave of violent youth crime. In the U.S., many have been left devastated and numb by the in-school mass murders taking place. In Pearl, Mississippi, on October 1, 1997, Luke Woodham, 16, entered his school cafeteria and opened fire on his classmates. He killed two and wounded seven. In Paducah, Kentucky, on December 1, 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal walked in on a prayer meeting at his school and shot eight students, killing three. These are chilling events.
But the most horrifying school violence of all recently took place in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Two boys, Andrew Golden, age 11, and Mitchell Johnson, age 13, dressed in camouflage clothing, opened fire on their middle school classmates during a false fire alarm on March 25, 1998. Here are some of the gruesome details of the military-type strike. One of the boys pulled the fire alarm. When students began filing out of the school, the two boys opened fire on the students with semi-automatic rifles and hand guns. Investigators estimated that nearly 27 shots were fired. Four girls and one English teacher were killed in the ambush. Nine other students and one teacher were wounded.
One particularly disturbing aspect of the attack shows that it was pre-planned. At the middle school, the doors are set to lock as students leave the building during a fire alarm. When the shooting started the middle school children were trapped. No one could return to the building because of the locked doors. This means the two boys coldly intended to kill their fellow classmates. The two boys were caught escaping into the woods. Officials found a getaway van filled with food, survival gear and other weapons. The boys, with the help of an older boy, had planned to live on the run. This criminal-type thinking and planning hardly seems possible for an 11- and a 13-year-old. Yet it happened.
There is a cause for events like these. Do you know the cause?
The entire town of Jonesboro is questioning why the boys committed such an act. An early investigation revealed that the 13-year-old, Mitchell Johnson, was upset because a girl broke up with him. He planned to kill this girl. As it turns out, this girl was only wounded. But what would cause a 13-year-old to murder just because he was jilted by another 13-year-old? This world has no answer. The tragedies of Pearl, Paducah and Jonesboro will long live in the memories of the residents of those towns. Many will look for an answer to the question—why? Why this epidemic of violent youth crime? There is an answer. There is a solution!
The book of Isaiah is an end-time book. It was written down for our people of this time now (Isa. 30:8). Isaiah predicts many positive things for our world after Jesus Christ’s second coming. But just before that, this same book records many dire prophecies. Isaiah shows that our time is to be a violent time. Unfortunately, Isaiah shows specifically that our children would cause a portion of the violence affecting our nations.
Isaiah writes, “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths” (Isa. 3:12). Notice Isaiah says that children would be our oppressors. The Hebrew word translated “oppressors” means to drive (like an animal), to be a task master, harass, or tyrannize.
This verse is a great summation of today’s news headlines concerning young people. The majority of children do not respect their parents or those in authority. They drive us like beasts of burden, always wanting more. They harass us. And now some have become tyrannical monsters who murder us. Britain and the United States have enjoyed unparalleled wealth, education and technological advancement. Isn’t it almost inconceivable that this kind of problem should be plaguing us? What have all of these blessings brought our children? A self-destructive sickness that is destroying us. Who is to blame?
No Moral Teaching
In this article I want to discuss a few of the causes for our violent youth. The primary cause for our youth on the rampage is our modern deficit in moral teaching. It is virtually nonexistent. As a society we no longer believe that there exists absolute right and wrong. Why? Politicians and educators have misapplied Albert Einstein’s theory of special relativity and created their own kind of moral relativism.
Paul Johnson discusses this misapplication on page 4 of his book, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties. Writing about the world’s perception of Einstein’s theory, Johnson states, “But for most people, to whom Newtonian physics, with their straight lines and right angles, were perfectly comprehensible, relativity never became more than a vague source of unease. It was grasped that absolute time and absolute length had been dethroned; that motion was curvilinear. All at once, nothing seemed certain in the movements of the spheres. ‘The world is out of joint,’ as Hamlet sadly observed. It was as though the spinning globe had been taken off its axis and cast adrift in a universe which no longer conformed to accustomed standards of measurement. At the beginning of the 1920s the belief began to circulate, for the first time at a popular level, that there were no longer any absolutes: of time and space, of good and evil, of knowledge, above all value. Mistakenly but perhaps inevitably, relativity became confused with relativism.” Simply put, relativism is the belief that there are no absolutes in law, government, justice, morality or values.
No one was more distressed than Einstein in the misapplication of his scientific search. He was a man who believed in absolutes. He believed that there was a God who created absolute law and order. As Johnson states, this misapplication of Einstein’s theory was inevitable. It was as though our modern world was looking for an excuse to throw out the values of the Victorian past. The new relativism permeated all facets of society, including religious institutions, but especially our educational institutions. University, college, secondary and primary school students have been taught for years to throw out all absolutes. Publicly educated students have been encouraged for decades to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong. And what is the result? Our juvenile courts are overloaded with cases. Our juvenile detention centers are swelled beyond capacity. And now we have a new generation of adolescent killers.
As a people, we have forgotten that education is more than reading, writing, math and science. Education must also focus on morals, virtues and values. In other words, education must show young people how to live. The rise in youth crime shows we have failed to teach our young people right from wrong. How has this happened? The cold hard reality is we are not teaching our children right from wrong because we no longer know what is right and wrong!
Why? When all absolutes were thrown out of society, so were the Holy Bible and the Ten Commandments. The Bible is God’s revealed instruction to man. God’s Ten Commandments show us right from wrong. The Bible and especially the Ten Commandments give us the moral compass to guide our paths.
There is only one authority over moral education. Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in his book The Missing Dimension in Sex, “This brings us again to that striking truth, that the word of God is the foundation of all knowledge! God is the Supreme educator! The Bible is far, far from the sum total of knowledge. It is the basis—the foundation—the starting point, and the foundational approach to the acquisition of discoverable knowledge.
“God, through the Maker’s Instruction Book, reveals what man cannot otherwise learn! Full truth comes from the biblical revelation, plus acquired and discoverable knowledge approached through the concept revealed in the Bible” (pp. 59-60). As a society we have rejected the Bible. What’s more, we have rejected God and His revelation. We have rejected God’s revealed principle that a safe, peaceful and abundant society can only come about through lawkeeping. The solution to our youth crime is to teach right from wrong God’s way! We must get back to the Ten Commandments. They reflect ten absolute laws that produce great happiness.
Britain’s and America’s struggle with youth crime is a struggle with the Ten Commandments. Our moral fabric is deteriorating quickly. In America, the crisis in the White House is really a crisis in the moral character of the entire nation. Ira Hadnot, writer for the Dallas Morning News, sums up our moral dilemma. On February 22, 1998, Hadnot quoted pollster George Gallup Jr. as saying, “The shift away from moral absolutes is the great untold story of our day. We have been a people debating the relevance of the Ten Commandments. Is One applicable, Two, Three or Four? Should we ignore the one on adultery? Is bearing false witness lying?”
Hadnot then quotes Victor Worsfold, who teaches a course on thought, values, and society at the University of Texas at Dallas: “America has become fragmented with no consensus on absolute moral values. We may have once believed in them, but somewhere after World War II, we gave up trying to inculcate these absolute moral values. There aren’t many people who believe we have absolute values—except for the very small group of people who take the literal view of the Ten Commandments and live by them” (Dallas Morning News, p. 10). Only very few in this country embrace the Ten Commandments. Is there any wonder why we are reading the headlines we do?
Train up a Child
When obeyed, the Ten Commandments produce peace, happiness and success. When disobeyed, there is violence, crime and extreme sorrow. We have rejected God’s law. And we are paying a painful price.
Moses taught the people, “Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the Lord thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee, thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son, all the days of thy life; and that thy days may be prolonged. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the Lord God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey…. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 6:1-3, 7).
Moses understood that God intended all adults to fully embrace His Ten Commandments and then diligently teach them to their young children. Notice this teaching was to be done while the children were young and was to be reinforced constantly. Doing this would bring great abundance, peace and happiness. If ancient Israel had done this, as Moses stated, it would have been well with them. Ancient Israel failed to do what God commanded. As a nation, they suffered captivity and slavery. America and Britain are now doomed to suffer the same fate as our forefathers. Mr. Armstrong taught for over 50 years that America and Britain are the modern descendants of the ancient Israelites. Write for your free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy to learn more about this vital subject.
We must recognize that effective moral teaching and discipline begins at home. Too many parents today either lack the will or understanding to train and discipline their own children. Those parents who do know how to train and discipline are in danger of being legally prosecuted for doing so. Recent television news magazines have run stories about teenagers taking their parents to court for disciplining them. What is even more mind-staggering, some lawmakers and court officials are fully supporting the teens! As Isaiah states, our society is turned upside down (Isa. 29:16). Our leaders think they know better than God! Corporal punishment has been outlawed in the schools. Spanking is quickly becoming outlawed in the home.
No one advocates child abuse. But we must love and discipline our children. If we don’t discipline, then we are making criminals of our children. King Solomon, one of the wisest men to ever live, understood proper child training. He wrote, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24, RSV). If adults refuse to love, train and discipline their children, the Bible says they actually hate their children. It takes great love and a lot of sacrifice to properly raise a child. Many today are not willing to put in the time necessary to raise a law-abiding citizen.
Solomon also wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Moral teaching mixed with love first and then loving discipline has long-lasting effects. Moral training when done properly will last a lifetime. Teaching and enforcing absolutes is foundational in order to solve our rising youth crime.
Broken Families—Criminal Children
Another contributing factor to our rise in youth crime is our broken families. Statistics prove that the majority of teens and youths involved in criminal activities are from single-parent, divorced families. The divorce rate in western countries is staggering. This means we have millions of children growing up in single-parent families. No wonder morals, values and absolutes are not being taught.
The National Fatherhood Institute reports that 18 million children live in single-parent families. For most children this means that they are growing up with working mothers—which means they are virtually growing up alone. Because most single mothers must work to support their family, kids of single mothers spend most of their waking hours either with peers or at home alone.
Let’s look at a few statistics gathered by the National Fatherhood Institute. Eighty-five percent of all children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from a fatherless home. Ninety percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. Seventy-one percent of all high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. Seventy-five percent of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes. Sixty-three percent of all youth suicides are from fatherless homes. Eighty percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes. Seventy percent of juveniles locked in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes. Eighty-five percent of all youths in prison are from fatherless homes. It is not hard to draw the simple conclusion that broken homes often produce criminal children.
Now what do all these statistics mean? The same institute reports that children from single-parent families are 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, 32 times more likely to run away, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 9 times more likely to be detained in a juvenile facility, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. These statistics also show that children living with both natural parents are less likely to fall prey to criminal acts.
From all of this it is very safe to conclude that to solve our youth crime, we must solve our marriage and family problems. A stable society can only be built with stable families. Three of God’s Ten Commandments protect the marriage bond and family relationship. The fifth commandment, Honor your father and mother, ensures respect for parents (Exod. 20:12). This command also establishes authority in the home. Children must obey their parents.
The seventh commandment, You shall not commit adultery, preserves the marriage bond (Exod. 20:14). This commandment was designed to prevent sexual infidelity. It was also designed to prevent premarital sex and sex perversion. Few married or unmarried follow this commandment today.
The tenth commandment, Thou shall not covet, preserved a neighbor’s possessions (Exod. 20:17). The phrase thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife was designed to prevent remarriage while a spouse was still living. Statistics show that those who divorce and remarry are more likely to divorce and remarry again. Today it is normal for many divorced people to be remarried several times. This is not only emotionally wrenching, it becomes total confusion when children are born into the separate marriages. Many children grow up with multiple step-parents and step-siblings. All of this shows the vital importance God places on the family and marriage. If we truly desire to fix our marriage and family problems, we need to get back to and obey these commandments. Fixing our failing marriages is a vital step in solving our youth crime.
Before closing this article, we must consider one final factor contributing to the rise in youth violence—our entertainment industry. Our 90s television shows, movies, computer and video games rely on violence to create excitement and action. If we stand back and look objectively at our television, movie and computer screens, it is not hard to see that our children are being fed a steady diet of fighting, blood and gore. This steady savage diet is conditioning our young people to accept violent acts as a normal way of life.
The trend in our 90s movies is toward more and more violence. Movie makers are competing with each other to produce the most shocking, action-packed scene. Wide-eyed onlookers see and hear vivid fight scenes often employing every major martial art known to man. Necks are snapped and bones are broken as lifeless bodies are hurled across rooms. In these highly visual fight scenes furniture is smashed and windows are broken. Often fantastic displays of explosives are used to wreck cars, buildings, and even people. Violent sex crimes are often graphically displayed in today’s movies. Television producers are working hard to imitate their big brothers from the movies. And we wonder why our children are more violent?
Computer and video games are probably the most guilty of promoting youth and teen violence. Recently these games have achieved a new level of clarity and reality. They allow the user to feel and sense that they are actually in the game. Many of the most popular games involve dark themes of overcoming demonic beings with superhuman powers. It is not unusual to play a video game where the object is to cut off human body parts. A graphic and bloody scene is the result. It is not unusual to find strong language and strong sexual content in the games.
Not all movies, television shows, video or computer games are bad, of course. Participating in some forms of modern entertainment is not evil. It’s the wrong use of the entertainment industry that is evil. Parents should monitor closely what movies, television shows and video games their children watch or play.
Solve the Problems
Youth crime, violent youth crime, is careening out of control. It can be stopped though. How? Our society as a whole, individual parents, and even our youth must do some serious self-examination. Our rising youth crime is a result of our own adult failings. Let’s get back to absolutes. Let’s teach right from wrong according to the Ten Commandments, and let’s take back the responsibility for our own children. When we do these things we will solve our youth crime problems.