Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
‘Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man’
There is a lot of truth in the Jesuit motto, often attributed to Aristotle. As Piaget found, the lines between fantasy and reality are blurred in our minds until the age of seven or eight. Stories, metaphors etc. play an important role in moulding our sensibilities. As a father of four and a children’s author, I feel responsible for the future; the stories we tell our children aren’t just fanciful fun but will manifest the future.
Aristotle was right about storytelling – it is truer than history because it presents universal truths. Studies have shown the power of stories to change minds. The great genius of Christ was to speak to his audience in parables. Debating facts is for the few minds willing to do so. Most become defensive when arguing whose idea is best, taking it personally. Stories, on the other hand, allow you to feel and experience the life lessons of another; this bypasses the mind’s defence mechanisms and teaches lessons straight to your heart. Children, however, are still open and being moulded. They are relatively putty in our hands which, once hardened, cannot be reshaped with such ease.
We might say, then, give us Generation Alpha until they are seven, and we will show you the future.
Replacing ‘you do you’ liberalism in children’s media?
Many on the Right will point at drag queen story hour, for instance, and say that our children are being poisoned. Our libraries’ shelves are now being filled with titles such as Antiracist Baby, Feminist Baby, Woke Baby, and Daddy & Dada. These titles aren’t popular, nor do they promote the virtues capable of building civilisation, but they are being churned out nevertheless. When asked what can be done to remedy modern liberal societies, most of the suggestions I hear either fall short or promote the same problematic liberalism which got us here. Most resort to avoiding certain books and shows where they are able to police what their children consume. However, simply removing junk food from a child’s diet does not necessarily ensure they are well-fed; left to themselves, they will likely return to the familiar. Children’s minds, bodies and souls require careful nourishment.
We need better material for our children to consume!
Indeed, we all do, but children are the future, and they are especially vulnerable. We must remember the words of Frederick Douglass: ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.’ Seeing as our entire society is broken and all that remains of Christian civilisation are overgrown ruins, we must focus on the foundations and build anew. The world will withstand us as we raise large families, local communities of the like-minded etc. Still, it is only when we tell our own stories, repeated by the next generation, that we will have broken the spell of the masters of the mainstream narrative.
Telling our own stories
I have written two children’s books (so far) for Legend Books, following the European fairytale tradition. These were originally stories I made up for my own children as they encountered the various temptations and errors of today’s liberal world. My aim is to guide other children so that they might find strength and fulfilment, not least of all, spiritual fulfilment, through the best medium available – storytelling.
But there are many other ways to help children to grow spiritually. Being a firm believer in the argument from beauty for the existence of God, my suggestion is not only to fill your child’s heart with beauty from a traditional cathedral, the works of nature, sacred music or even my humorous books, but also to create your own beautiful media. Let your children follow in your example of being not just consumers, but producers of beautiful things. Whatever lifts one’s thoughts outside of oneself leads one closer to finding sustenance for that essential need of transcendence.
The year 2023 is almost upon us, and I would like to suggest a New Year’s resolution to you: do what you can to build up the next generation spiritually for the good of all years and generations to come. The greater the sacrifices we make now, the more we burn ourselves out now, the brighter their future. What could be more heroic?
It would be appropriate to leave you with a short story which speaks all of the truths I have argued above:
A classic story for old and young is that of ‘Cornelia and Her Jewels’. She was the daughter of the military genius Scipio Africanus, the ‘conqueror of Africa’ who defeated Hannibal. She is an archetype of the Roman noblewoman as she dressed in modest white robes. She was asked about the whispers from less virtuous wives suggesting she was poor. After all, why not be ostentatious and showy? Her response was to call her children, the Gracchus brothers, to her side. Through their mother’s careful attention, these boys would grow to become legendary social and political reformers. ‘Here are my jewels,’ said Cornelia. ‘They are worth more than all your gems.’
Your article is well and truly written, Sir. Children must be nourished on good intellectual and spiritual food and their minds, as well as their bodies, exercised, if they are to grow into their adult selves with full use of their faculties. Protecting our children from the bad is only half the story; giving them the good and the beautiful is the other part.
Perhaps, Christianity, rather than either Judaism or Islam, is the Problem Religion.