On Labor Day weekend this year an estimated 300 kids (ages 17 to 21) vandalized an unoccupied house in eastern upstate New York. The wild party was planned by a boy the owner had shown kindness toward. This boy’s “invitation” to come one, come all, spread fast. Teenagers turned up from several regions nearby.
During the party, graffiti were scrawled on walls, windows were smashed, and carpets ruined by urine and alcohol. The trashing was apparently swift.
According to reports, the wild party was fueled by alcohol. There was rowdiness, vulgarity, shameless sex, and some thievery. Drunken participants used their i-phones to send images of this mischief far and wide via the internet.
The house is the summer home of Brian Holloway, former offensive tackle for the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders. At the time he was at his primary residence in Florida. But his son came upon the internet postings while the party was in progress and notified his father.
Holloway’s early response was surprisingly generous. His first concern, he said, was not for the house; it was for the damage the perpetrators were doing to themselves. He wanted to keep them from ruining their lives permanently. Accordingly, he broadcast an invitation to all participants to come and join in the cleanup – in a sense letting this serve as a token of their regrets and restitution. According to reports, only one father and son showed up.
Holloway’s response then became more severe. He reposted on the internet the pictures the revellers had already posted there — pictures of destruction in progress. He asked for help from the public in identifying the faces.
(I remember in my youth, and also during my sons’ and daughter’s childhood, a few episodes of parent-prompted immediate and profuse apology along with restitution even for small and unintentional instances of damage to something owned by another.)
But not so here. In fact, shockingly, some of the parents apparently disregarded their children’s criminal conduct, responding instead with threats of lawsuits against Holloway for reposting the pictures on the internet. Imagine! Parents were going to sue the victim of their childrens’ wild antics for reposting pictures the children themselves had first posted publicly!
Mr. Holloway’s property damages are estimated at $20,000. Some estimates place the cost much higher. Several participants have already been charged. It’s estimated that more than 100 will eventually be charged, many with felonies, some with misdemeanors, some with both.
One can only wonder how differently this might have turned out had parents and the children involved accepted proper blame.
The story has stayed with me for days. First, does it show in a stark way the moral laxity of not one but two generations — both parents and their children? Given the large “population sampling” this group comprises, does it reveal some fearful thing about society in broad measure here in North America?
Even if half the parents were heads of single households there would still be as many as 450 parents who should have registered regrets and expressed a willingness to help to make amends. Yet only one father and his son turned up to apologize and help with the cleanup. The two generations apparently shared similar levels of moral irresponsibility.
Should this wanton wreckage speak a cautionary word to Christians everywhere? We are people of grace, but grace does not sanction moral laxity. Call such an event a visitation of moral darkness. Since it is so easy for the church to catch the world’s diseases, do Christians need a prophetic alert?
Jesus said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
And, the Apostle Peter exhorts, “do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil” (and) “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2: 16,17). That’s the quality of conduct we should be resolutely demanding of our children. And demonstrating ourselves.