Our series of reflections on the family coincides this month with the end of the summer season and the beginning of the school year. This is a remarkable time of activity that naturally leads us to consider vital elements in the cycle of our family lives. Among these elements is the role of the family in maintaining a steady Orthodox Christian learning environment for our children in the midst of an advanced technological society.
Our careful consideration of this role is very important. Expanding information technologies and the growing presence of a constant broadband Internet stream in the home and the workplace have saturated our lives. Our reliance upon online technology is redefining approaches to business, education, law, science, personal banking, news, entertainment, relationships, marriage, religious devotion as well as our very notions of security, property, and identity. Many of the effects of our technological age are welcome and positive, though we must acknowledge that some are confusing and, at times, even unsettling.
As we consider these unavoidable and reconfiguring aspects of our information age, there is a corresponding challenge in understanding the role of the Orthodox Christian family. In response to a perplexing and unfamiliar environment, some parents and guardians in our society advocate an extreme approach to child-rearing, one that aims at restricting unreasonably the social relations of the child with others and with any form of external stimuli. Such an approach may have the unintended result of blocking the growth and adaptability of the child. On the opposite extreme, some parents may neglect to place any additional and necessary safeguards upon their children as they are exposed to unfiltered information that is changing the world.
In regard to these and all matters, the way of our Orthodox Christian faith is a way of balanced discretion, prayerful reflection, and godly discernment. In this manner, the role of the family must be to provide children with moral instruction, shelter from harmful stimuli, and a prayerful environment that emphasizes faith in God and reliance upon Him. At the same time, a responsible family must work to equip children properly with the technological savvy they will need as emerging Orthodox Christian adults in a world that will indeed ask much of them. The responsibility of the Orthodox Christian family to function as a learning environment for our children that emphasizes the integration of faith with knowledge must remain clear, particularly in consideration of the ambiguities of our age.
Certainly, the role of the family in the midst of an advanced technological society is a subject that could command the devotion of an entire volume or series of volumes. This month, however, this subject can serve as an important centerpiece of discussion and reflection in your own families during an active and opportune time of the year. Our world is complex, fast-paced, and constantly changing, and the duties that are asked of parents and guardians today to safeguard and equip their children are no less challenging. As Orthodox Christians, we have the additional responsibility to perfect our children's learning with the indispensable element of faith. It is my prayer that you may approach this responsibility with every confidence both as a sacred and welcome joy, and that your family may "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).
Archbishop of America