Today we live in a society that more closely resembles the Lord of the Flies than The Swiss Family Robinson. Both of these are fictional stories of humans trapped on an island. One is a story of uncivilized horror by way of child-rulers; pre-teen boys shipwrecked. The other is a tale of love and survival for a family of six; Mother, Father and four sons. In the Lord of the Flies the tiny society is governed by immature minds culminating in chaos and violence. But in The Swiss Family Robinson, there is a healthy mix of ages, with each acting in accordance with their state of maturity. The children are children, the teens are teens, and the adults are adults; there is rarely admixture except toward growth.
Would you invest as a shareholder in a company run by a 3-year-old? Would you plead a case before an 8-year-old judge? Or follow an 11-year-old into battle? Of course not. No reasonable person would want a child in any position of power and authority because they are still unable, mentally, emotionally, and even physically to adequately govern.
With humans, chronological age matters, because the learning curve – if they are to become good decision makers – requires the ability to reason, gain knowledge, and acquire a learned temperament. Without these components, even fictional school boys from well-heeled British families will fester in ignorance, lack good judgment and self-control. While age alone does not presume maturity, without age there can be none. Becoming a responsible human takes a long time and requires years of sustained and proper development.
Though most minors in America are legally declared “adult” at age 18, science has shown us that the human brain does not fully mature until the age of 25. Yet most minimum age requirements are skewed to the lowest range. For better or worse, the idea that voting, military service, driving a vehicle, marriage, drinking alcohol, smoking and purchasing a gun are legal between 18 and 21 is risky business. Perhaps that is why, in order to run for Congress, the minimum age is 25.
Unfortunately, many adults today over the age of 25 prefer to act like children; particularly in temperament. We see this on the internet, television, and through personal experience. There is nothing uglier than an adult throwing a temper-tantrum, and yet it has become common place. Adults, sometimes parents themselves, act in the most abhorrent of ways. They wear black masks and throw Molotov cocktails or bricks at authority. Physically or verbally attack flight attendants on planes, and commit acts of “road rage” that often lead to homicide. Too many adults abuse their positions by preying on the weak and innocent. They lie and cheat and steal without reservation, then cover it up, which begs the question: Where have all the grown-ups gone?
God has much to say about this issue, and especially how his children should conduct themselves in this life. Today, Catholics, nay all Christians, may well be the last bastions of adult-hood in a juvenile America, and it is time to step up. In the first letter of the Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth we read, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
Stay tuned for Part II