Last week I watched my 10-year-old grandson play something called “Spin Jet-Su.” Seven evil-looking Lego action figures, armed with swords or spears, were mounted on small rounded cups and set spinning on a surface about two feet square. The purpose was to let them spin around, crash into each other, and see who knocks whom down. And, of course, to declare the victor, standing alone in a field of bodies. Reilly accompanied the whole repeated sequence with leaps and shouts of, “Go!” “Get ‘um!” “Kill ‘um!”
At one point he looked back at me, apparently noted a look of concern, and said, “Don’t worry, Grandma. These are Quaker ninjas. They kill each other for world peace.”
Needless to say, that was a big relief.
Then he notched the game up a level by adding his own Nerf gun skills to the pageant. He set the figures all spinning, then tried to knock them off one by one before they got to each other.
I asked him, “Are you also fighting for world peace?”
He answered quickly, simply and directly, “Yup.”
Our daughter and her husband don’t teach their children violent games. They try to promote peace (especially in the minefield between siblings). Reilly earned the Nerf gun himself by pulling weeds this spring, and he is not allowed to aim at people. I guess Quaker ninjas don’t count.
I certainly can’t judge. At one point last week as I fled to the bathroom for momentary relief from brother-sister hassles, I found myself mentally rehearsing what I really wanted to say to those little rascals, and it was not a peaceful homily. I ended up praying, “Lord, have mercy on us all. Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
In raising children to become followers of the Prince of Peace, I sometimes feel caught between two forces. On the one hand, our culture of violence and consumerism finds perfect expression in the toys, games and movies it markets for kids. And on the other hand, human nature plays a strong role. Kids raised in homes that don’t allow toy guns soon discover the utility of a fist and two fingers aimed at little sister’s forehead: “Pow! Pow! You’re dead!” Who needs a plastic rifle?
The devil may play a part in all this, too.
Peacemaking begins at home and takes all that the Spirit of God can supply. It’s the day-in-day-out consistency that has more to do with the fruit of the Spirit, with love, joy, and our own sense of peace as we care for our children and patiently coax out those attitudes and behaviors that lead to life. “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18). But it takes a lot of time.
And it takes a lot of praying, “Lord, have mercy.”