J. Edgar: The Power of Parenting

Posted: November 11, 2011 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Action, Drama, True Story
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Like most powerful public figures, long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had some memorable quotes that give us a window into his basic worldview. One of my favorites is this one: “Above all, I would teach him to tell the truth. Truth-telling, I have found, is the key to responsible citizenship. The thousands of criminals I have seen in 40 years of law enforcement have had one thing in common: Every single one was a liar.” As a man who mined secrets for most of his life, Hoover clearly believed that truth-telling was the most essential quality of a civil and orderly society.

But there are two other famous quotes of Hoover’s that demonstrate a more fascinating aspect of his worldview. The first is: “The cure for crime is not the electric chair, but the high chair.” And the second one is: “No amount of law enforcement can solve a problem that goes back to the family.” Sounds more like an old-time Baptist preacher than the chief law enforcement officer of the country, doesn’t it?

Whether he realized it or not, J. Edgar actually verbalized a Biblical worldview of human government: that the “goverment” of family is foundational to the well-being of society. Scripture teaches that the civil government is necessary and God-ordained as well–but it has its limits. In its role of “bearing the sword” (Romans 13:4), the civil authority can punish criminals and restrain evil, but it cannot take the place of the family. Hoover seemed to be aware of what was truly needful in the fight against societal crime.

The question is: Do you understand the vital role of family government? Do you recognize the incredible power of parenting? In my experience as a parent and Biblical counselor, I see more and more parents and families who appear ignorant to their power and responsibility. Today’s parents often play the role of impotent spectator, hoping their children turn out “okay” without contributing the necessary training and discipline. And in many cases, they even give their children undeserved freedom as well as the tools of their own destruction.

This passivity in parenting starts early–even in the “high chair” as Hoover quipped. Parents giving into their toddler’s temper tantrums and demands just to keep the peace. Television and other electronic media doing regular cultural indoctrination while parents sit idly by. The near-disappearance of childhood chores producing a generation without a decent work ethic. Children filling their time with useless activities just to keep from being bored. Parents too busy with their own work and recreations to do the hard work of spiritual education and discipline.

Even parents who do a pretty good job when their children are young often begin to contribute to their child’s lawlessness later on. Pre-teens being foolishly given cell phones and internet freedoms that swing the door wide open to addictions and relational catastrophes. Teenagers being endowed with unprecedented liberties to traverse through multiple dating relationships and experiment with all sorts of illegal substances. The specatator parent functions by the general cultural myth of “it’s normal for teenagers to rebel.” After all, they were parented in much the same way and turned out alright, right?

As Christians, we are called to be counter-cultural and embrace the spiritual power of godly parenting. We are to see the vast importance of the Biblical family. We must resist the false facade of moralism and religiosity while, behind the scenes, refusing to do our God-given duty to raise godly children. Certainly, Christian parents are dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit to change their children’s hearts. J. Edgar probably didn’t factor God’s grace into the equation of what makes a civil society! Yet we cannot cop-out and leave the parenting totally to the Holy Spirit. We must recognize the power of a praying parent, a participating parent, and a pervasive parent.

Christians, we must stop leaving our children to other “governments” to raise. Just like the civil government, the government of the church can only do so much too. Pastors, youth pastors, and Sunday school teachers will never have the tremendous power of a parent. We need a revival of the Christian family in America, not just better law enforcement!

  1. Lynne in NC says:

    Well said, John. Thank you for this thought provoking submission. Diligence in godly parenting can be lonely when done ‘alone’. Remembering He is with us is vital to the souls of our children.

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