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Quarreling With God

October 10, 2021 Featured Today No Comments

By DONALD DeMARCO

I recall hearing a statement that a teenager made when a TV hostess asked her: “If there is one thing you could tell your parents, what would that be?”
“I would tell them,” she replied, with an unmistakable air of confidence, “to be more lenient with us because the times have changed!” She gave the last four words strong emphasis as if her mom and dad were either hard of hearing or hard of thinking.
It was a most revealing answer, if one is willing to read into it. At face value it may have been predictable. Teenagers are likely to love freedom more than discipline, the open road rather than the narrow path.
Yet, it is far too simplistic to believe that teenagers are alert to change while their parents are insensitive to it. Is there any parent who is not on life support who is not keenly aware of change? We now have the COVID Pandemic, flat-screen televisions, high-speed Internet, online banking, ATM machines, iPads, same-sex marriage, bone marrow transplants, keyless entrances to cars, genetically modified food, cyber-space bullying, physician-assisted suicide, and the persistent threat of terrorism.
A person, parent or otherwise, could no more be inattentive to such changes than one could fail to notice the presence of rain during a thunderstorm. Change is merely a synonym for what’s happening. Both parents and their children face the same formidable problem of how to navigate through the stormy seas of incessant change. They need to assist, not oppose, each other. There has never been a time when the times were not changing.
The problem that vexes the teenager, however, is the very same problem with which adults wrestle. Teens have more in common with their parents on this point than they realize. But the real problem that transcends change has nothing to do with change itself. The real problem is that God wants both teenagers and their parents to change, though in different ways. Parents should be more patient and understanding; teenagers should be more respectful and docile.
Since time immemorial people have been quarreling with God. Why do you make things so difficult for us? Why is your road so “narrow”? Why can’t we have the freedom to do as we please? Why is there so much suffering in the world? And why do you assail us with guilt if we fail to heed your commands?
The answers remain the same. Because God loves us, He wants our better self to emerge. And just as the artist or the inventor must take pains in order to perfect his finished product, so, too, we must suffer the pain of discipline and the inconvenience of self-denial in order to become who we truly are as children of God.
The experience of guilt simply means that our own complicity in wrongdoing has put us on the wrong track. Guilt is part of our moral compass pointing in the wrong direction. Quarreling with parents as well as quarreling with God gets us nowhere.
The teenager’s criticism of her parents is an image of man’s universal quarrel with God. It is fair to say, however, that parents are in a better position, all things considered, to raise their teenagers, than the latter are to raise their parents. The alternative view is one change that we should neither advance nor tolerate. No teenager aspires to being married one day and then look forward to his or her children insisting how they should be raised. The task of parenting belongs to the parents.
More important, however, let us acknowledge that God is in a better position to advise us on how we are to live, than we ourselves are.
Marked on Robert Frost’s gravestone are the words, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” In his own estimation, these words epitomized his life as a poet. Quarreling with the world, however, must be a frustrating activity since the world cannot answer back. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard stated: “It was completely fruitless to quarrel with the world, whereas the quarrel with oneself was occasionally fruitful and always interesting.” Quarreling with God can be as frustrating as quarreling with the world if one does not take the time to listen to Him in silence.
G.K. Chesterton once said that people quarrel because they do not know how to argue. A quarrel tends to be one-sided, and argumentation yields to the objective evidence. An argumentation, as students of Logic 101 are taught, is a model of reason. The teenager cited above is ill-prepared to argue with their parents because she insists she is right, therefore no argument or appeal to reason is necessary.
In a less disputatious mood, Robert Frost remarked: “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” Preferring argumentation to quarreling is a sign of humility and respect for the other. How more peaceful the world would be if people settled their difference through argumentation rather than through quarreling.
Quarreling tends to be self-centered and because of that narrow foundation it can mistake blessings for curses. The great American educational reformer Horace Mann has advised: “Much that we call evil is really good in disguises; and we should not quarrel with adversities not yet understood, nor overlook the mercies often bound up in them.”
Yes, the times have changed. Parents grow older and worry about how well they have discharged their awesome responsibilities. Teenagers anticipate their own need to change and deal with new challenges. Let us not quarrel, but try to understand each other. That could be a revelation.

  • + + (Dr. Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus, St. Jerome’s University, and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College. He is a regular columnist for St. Austin Review and is the author of 38 books. One of his latest books, The 12 Supporting Pillars of the Culture of Life and Why They Are Crumbling, is posted on amazon.com. His latest book, Glimmers of Hope in a Darkening World, is now available.)
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