by Robert L. Rodenbush
“We’re losing a whole generation — I call it mass murder.” These are the words of a heartbroken mother who buried her son at just 34 years old due to an opioid drug overdose. Yet, despite the crises, there are few places ready to support the families who suffer due to this epidemic. Struggling to deal with her loss, she placed calls around her city for a support group or someone to help. No one called her back.
This mother’s words, taken from an article in Alban Weekly, a publication of Duke Divinity School, were jarring to my spirit. The phrase is not new, I’ve heard it used over and over in the context of losing the battle for this generation’s mind through media indoctrination, losing a generation to pornography or losing a generation to worldliness – but at least in my case, I hadn’t really ever considered that our church family would be at risk of losing a whole generation to drug addiction and overdose.
I realize this is not a new problem, but the rate at which it is escalating is new and it should be alarming to all of us. The kids in our pews are not immune. These drugs are cheap, easy to access, and are affecting adults and children from every socio-economic status, every ethnicity and every neighborhood. And it seems no matter whose lives are left shattered, those in the aftermath say they had one common misperception — “That won’t happen to my kid.”
Sadly, it does happen to “our” kids. In the past month our church has been affected by the overdose deaths of four young people, one of whom was just 13 years old. If this were a type of cancer or a communicable disease, the panic and the urgency to protect our families would be unprecedented. Overdose is now the leading cause of death of Americans under age 50. Yet, we still think somehow we are insulated, protected and it won’t happen to us. It is that mindset that must change. First, we must start educating our children and teens. They need the facts, they need guidance and direction in dealing with the availability of these drugs, and they need close monitoring. Secondly, we have to be ready when our communities need support. We have to return those hard calls.
The article mentioned above documents the efforts of a small congregation in Massachusetts that is reaching out to their community. They canvased their rural town with simple signs that had “#2069” printed on them. 2069 is the number of people who had died from overdose at that time in their state. The number has grown, but the message and the support of this one church continues.
“Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).