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“The Boarder”*

Bill and Jane have a boarder in their home. He’s been with them for many years now. In fact, he joined their family soon after they got married.

Now I could never understand why a young mar­ried couple would want to take a third party into their home, but Jane assured me that he was no trouble at all. It seemed to me that they quite enjoyed having him in their home. He was usually very quiet, speak­ing only when asked to do so, and yet full of the most interesting stories that you could imagine. It was easy to spend a whole evening listening to him. He was very imaginative and certainly knew how to keep his audi­ence spellbound.

As time passed I couldn’t help but wonder if this boarder of Bill and Jane’s was such a good influence on them. It became clear that they spent many evenings engrossed in his stories. Some of them were not so innocent, telling about a side of life that clearly laced any Christian influence. When I mentioned this to Jane once, she laughed at me and declared that I was “too square.” After all, that’s the way the world is, and what harm can it possibly do to hear about how the other side lives?

As time passed, Bill and Jane had a family, the same as we did. Those were very hectic times: the baby was crying and needed feeding, the supper on the stove was boiling over, and the other children were fighting about the toys. Those were days when I some­times doubted if I would stay sane.

Jane had it much easier than I did. She had her wonderful boarder to help her out. Those were times when I was just plain jealous. While I was running around trying to be in three places at once, she could relax, for her boarder kept all the older children quiet and occupied. The stories he told them were totally enthralling. The children would sit on the floor listen­ing to him with rapt attention. Jane’s house was quiet, instead of being filled with shouts and crying and run­ning footsteps.

Jane was convinced that her children were learn­ing a great deal from her boarder. Not only were they learning about other countries and cultures, he was also teaching them how to read and to do arithmetic. Surely her children would do well in school – they were so far ahead of my children who only had toys and books to learn from.

However, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat uneasy when I learned about some of the stories her children talked about, things they had heard from the boarder. The stories seemed to be full of worldly ideas, families that were broken by divorces, children who didn’t lis­ten to their parents, homes that were full of material­istic things, dancing, movie-going, and rock music. It seemed that the boarder had also started to teach songs to the children. They were not the type of songs Christian children should be singing. There was sel­dom any mention made of families praying together or going to church. Clearly, the people portrayed in the stories were not Christian,

In fact, it seemed to me more and more that the stories the boarder was telling the children were in conflict with the Christian principles that Bill and Jane were teaching their children. For Bill and Jane certainly were doing their best to bring up their chil­dren in a Christian home. They were regular church­goers, always had devotions at their meal times and sent their children to a Christian school. Yet it didn’t seem to them to be a contradiction that their Bible reading at the table was immediately denied by the boarder in his stories to the children right after sup­per.

As the children got older, the boarder’s stories became increasingly disturbing. The children were no longer satisfied with baby stuff. Now they needed more exciting fare in order to hold their attention. Good guys and bad guys predominated the themes. Car chases and killings were a regular part of the plot. Even ordinary good and bad guys were not enough. Motorcycle gangs, weird space monsters and creatures were the usual characters. Even more disturbing to me was the fact that the bad guys were frequently the heroes of the stories.

When I mentioned to Jane that more and more of the boarder’s stories were teaching a message that was totally opposed to the Biblical message that they were trying to teach their children, Jane felt that 1 was being too alarmist. The children, she said, could easily understand that what they taught the children was the truth and that the boarder’s stories were just fan­tasy. They could understand that, when they read in the Bible “Thou shall not kill,’ that was the truth by which they should live. The fact that the boarder told them repeatedly about murder and killings in his sto­ries, about shootings and bashings as ways to solve conflicts, would not affect their way of thinking.

When their children were teenagers, Bill and Jane were frequently away from home. But the boarder was there to look after the children. By now his stories were full of sexual overtones. The children were not upset to hear about unmarried people going to bed together, about nakedness being described in lurid detail, and about relationships between members of the same sex. This was, after all, part of the reality of life.

But slowly a revelation was sinking into the minds of Bill and Jane. Their children were not turning out quite as they had expected. They didn’t like the way their children dressed. They didn’t like the music their children listened to. They didn’t like the activities their children participated in: going to movies, frequenting bars, and participating in parties where alcohol and drugs were being used. They had the dreadful suspi­cion that their children were participating in premari­tal sex. On top of it all, their children were not willing to listen to them. Curfews were ignored and their opinions were laughed at.

Bill and Jane were stunned. What could possibly have gone wrong? Hadn’t they done their very best? Hadn’t they always given a good example, had a Chris­tian home life, gone faithfully to church, and sent their children to the right schools? It must be the fault of the teachers! The church isn’t appealing enough! The minister is too dry and dull in his sermons! Maybe we’ve overdone it with religion; the poor kids are sick of it by now.

It never occurred to them that the fault was pre­sent in their very own home: the boarder. All these years they had allowed him to do his thing. He had filled the minds of their children with ideas and values that were completely opposed to Christian ones. For years he had fed them a diet of violence, sex, material­ism, pleasure seeking and worldliness. No, even now Bill and Jane deny that this had any effect on their children. After all, their children always understood that this was all fantasy and not real.

In fact, if you were to visit their home today, you would probably find them sitting in front of their boarder watching him doing his stuff. As for the chil­dren, they’ll grow out of it. All those years of teaching have to have some effect, don’t they?

*Printed with permission from the “CLARION”