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America’s current crop of bright young things, like every crop before them, seems sure they’ve invented some new ideas. Like smoking pipes, home-grown vegetables, and over-sized mustaches.
Of course they didn’t, but don’t get me wrong, I’m also a big fan of . . . well, some of those things.
They also seem to believe they’ve invented a new virtue. They call it “irony,” meaning the appreciation of things for reasons other than were intended.
Cheap beer is enjoyed not because it tastes good and is refreshing (since neither are usually true), but because of the blue-collar aesthetic that goes with it. Victorian-style beards are grown not because they look handsome, but because they clash with contemporary styles. Nothing is appreciated at face value—only things which have been subverted in some way are considered worthwhile.
In fully-developed cases, the ironic lifestyle progresses into what C.S. Lewis called “flippancy.”
“Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against [God] that I know.”
– the demon Screwtape
Now, as anyone over thirty can see, this is an age-old phenomenon in new (thrift-store) clothes. The sky is not falling, and I doubt that many who are enamored of the ironic lifestyle will come to lasting harm by it.
But I come at last to my point, a point especially for parents: Irony is foreign to children. For them, chocolate is simply wonderful. Naps are simply awful. Tantrums are to be thrown with the abandonment of a dervish. And when they are a little bit happy, they’re jumping-up-and-down happy. Because whatever they do, they’re naturally all-in. Whole-heartedly. And this is very good!
Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. (Ecclesiastes 9:7, 9-10 ESV)
So if you, like me, sometimes find the un-ironic, undivided enthusiasm of your children a little uncool, and a LOT to handle, resist the urge to criticize. Remember that being whole-hearted, like a child, is a requirement for entering the Kingdom. And maybe, try jumping up and down with them. You might even like it! (Un-ironically.)
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:12-16 ESV)