Headlines in both large and small newspapers, over the radio, in all sorts of magazines and in every medium which reaches the masses shout about “juvenile delinquency.” These references are frequent, condemning, and accusing as they make the term “teenager” synonymous with such words as criminal, delinquent, evil-doer, destructive, and many more derogatory names given to wrongdoers as they picture the misbehavior of today’s youth in communities throughout the U.S.
Currently, no social problems arouse so much attention as that of juvenile delinquency and as is true in so many intricate problems, no one solution is in sight or at present even plausible. That delinquency is a cause for concern is true. The problem is complex and contradictory. In accordance with common belief, slums do breed delinquency. Yet many good citizens began their lives in slums or under slum conditions. Rejection and over-protection by parents has contributed to make the list of delinquents longer, but many children who suffered these experiences are not delinquents. Children from “rich” homes as well as “poor”, from “right” neighborhoods as well as the “wrong,” have gotten into trouble. It is the contradiction of empirical observations which gives the psychologists and sociologists particular difficulty in prediction.
How must we as clergy, teachers, parents, and teenagers view these individuals whose behavior is contrary to our values and mores? Are they normal or abnormal; are they just plain naughty, bad, or wicked or are they sick, ill or diseased. The answer is simple and reasonable. An old geometric axiom can be applied here: the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. Or as the Gestalt psychologists put it: the whole of the personality entity is equal to the sum of its parts. So that if one part is stricken or diseased it affects the whole personality. Thus if a person has delinquent behavior, which is, incidentally, not considered normal, that behavior affects the whole, which must then also be considered abnormal.
But now that we have established the status of the delinquent we peer around the corner and find that the common law tells us that we do not condemn persons who are mentally or psychologically unable to “keep straight.”
Now the problem is, do we condemn them or help them. That is, do we use our time and energy to help them, or do we consider them lost and condemned before God forever. We shall for practical purposes (not absolute) dichotomize and establish two levels in the social realm; that of a God-man and man-man relationship.
Since we do not and cannot know God’s eternal will and good pleasure let us not (Romans 14:13) therefore judge one another anymore, but rather judge this, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. We must strive for the rehabilitation and correction of the offenders with all the gifts of love God has given us, and then we may know that we are not a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. We must strive for the rehabilitation and correction of the offenders with all the gifts of love God has given us, and then we may know that we are not a stumbling block to our brother. The rest is up to the ethical motivation God has given him for his behavioral change. We know that every tongue shall confess to God and every man will give account of himself to God.
Because we are Christians, a reflection of our God-man relationship is directed toward our relationship with other men so that we react with true love and sincerity.
Since we know there is reason for all behavior, must we say one man to another we can excuse this individual for his antisocial behavior because we know it is due to certain psychological and environmental stresses and strains? Reasons do not excuse. Man is responsible to God and society. If he is not able to abide by the law and rules he may not have the privileges of a free man in society.