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“Safe Spaces” and Family

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If you have not read about it yet, Ed Driscoll over at Instapundit has a great round up of the discussion about a bizarre incident at Yale in which a student screams at a prof. Please read it, and all that it links to if you want to really understand the situation.  The student is offended that the prof has allowed her to be confronted with uncomfortable possibilities.  Most of the discussion is about how the student and her backers are unwilling to debate, which is fair enough, but my reaction was different.  Most commentators have pointed out that the student needs psychological help of some sort, and certainly she does.  But there is a tell in her rant that brought me near to tears.

As she berates the prof repeatedly, at one point she says, near tears, “It is about creating a home here….”  That’s not about political correctness, that’s a Freudian slip born in the anguish of someone that has never really and truly had a home.  Look, I have no idea who the student is, or her background, but I am willing to hazard a guess.  She was either born out of wedlock or is a child of divorce, or is from some other non-traditional family arrangement.  She has spent her young life in the care of professionals more than her parents and perhaps shuttled between often competing “homes.”  She has probably never experienced negative reinforcement for her behavior at any point in her life.   While her behavior is wholly inappropriate and in dire need of correction, I could not help but hurt with her.  She needs to be hugged and spanked – pretty much at the same time.

Have you noticed what is commonly referred to as “family” entertainment these days?  Originally a euphemism for movies that were safe for kids, that tag has come to mean stories about finding a family when one is not presented to you in the traditional fashion.  This theme is present in everything from Bond films (really, seriously, wait until you have seen “Spectre,” and you should) to comic book movies (think about “Guardians of the Galaxy” for like, three seconds) to anything they show on “ABC Family.”  The prevalence of this particular type of story must be rooted in the fact that so many now seem to be in search of family for themselves.

There is something primal about family and family structure in us, and as our society moves increasingly away from it we are going to see consequences and ripple effects currently unimaginable.  Family is the original “safe space,” but with its disintegration it is not at all surprising to see young people screaming for it from their universities.  That is the time in their lives when they are supposed to begin to step out from their safe space, but for so many they are still in search of it.

Sadly, the university cannot, nor should it try to, supply the poor and violently upset child at Yale with what she really needs.  Further restoring family to its rightful place in a culture is a multi-generational effort.  The question is what can be done for students like this one now?

Well, for one thing, Christian youth ministry needs a major rethink.  It can be, because I have seen it happen, the safe space for kids when none exists at home.  But I will warn you.  That is not spectacular ministry – it does not produce mad stats that can be used to raise the big bucks.  It is personal ministry happening in small groupings and often involving things that are best not known outside the small grouping.  It is something that perhaps a ministry professional can organize and support, but not something they can do without an army of help.  It is not about opening your heart abstractly to a group or demographic of kids “over there.”  It is about opening your heart, very riskily, to one or two kids standing very near you.

It is the most frightening and rewarding thing I have ever been involved in.  I pray the same for many, many others as well.


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