What comes to mind when you hear “three 12-year-old girls at a birthday party sleepover?” Popcorn, movies, giggles, games, manicures … ?
You would think.
But that wasn’t the scenario at a recent sleepover in southern Wisconsin. Two of the girls had a plan and the plan had nothing to do with popcorn or manicures. For several months the friends had been figuring out how they could kill the third girl – as a sacrifice to a fantasy character who supposedly lived in a mansion in the forests of northern Wisconsin.
The plan was to kill their “friend” (and then walk north to the mansion).
When Plan A didn’t work (killing her in her sleep), they went to Plan B. The morning after the party, during a game of hide and seek in a nearby park, they carried through – by stabbing the third girl 19 times and leaving her for dead. They began walking north and the injured girl was able to crawl to a nearby sidewalk. Thankfully someone found her rather quickly and she is in stable condition.
To make this story even more horrifying. One of the girls said she didn’t feel remorse. Both girls could face up to 65 years in prison.
Our first reaction to these kinds of stories are “Where ARE the parents?” Would a parent not know that his/her child is obsessed with killing a friend or so obsessed with an internet fantasy that the fantasy was taking over the child’s life?
Interestingly, one of the dad’s (who is into skulls and other death-related symbols) has a username of “I love evil.” He also posted his daughter’s drawing of the mythical figure on Facebook. Yes, children make their own decisions (and at 12, many of those decisions are thoughtless because their brains aren’t fully developed). But many 12-year-olds have been taught at least some sense of right from wrong. And most 12-year-olds (thankfully) are not plotting to kill their friends. And most 12-year olds don’t have parents who encourage a love of evil.
God is not surprised at what is going on in the world.
A couple thousand years ago, Paul (inspired by God) wrote three warnings to Timothy about following myths. His words are as relevant today as they were then (as is all of the Bible.)
1. Be warned about devoting yourself to myths. First he wrote, not … to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.” (1 Timothy 1:4)
These girls were devoted to the fantasy character to the point where the character consumed their lives. Obviously from their own admission, they were obsessed with him, they dreamed about him, they plotted how to meet him.
2. Be warned about turning away from godliness. His second warning was about the tendency to … turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:4)
When our kids are so obsessed with fantasy worlds that their virtual world becomes their reality world, they are not thinking about the truth of God. I don’t know the girl’s dad or why he has the username of “I love evil,” but I do know there’s nothing godly about advertising a love for what is wrong. We can’t serve two masters. We can’t serve darkness and light at the same time. We can’t serve good and evil. Doesn’t work.
3. Be warned about even getting started with silly myths. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness. (1 Timothy 4:7)
The best way to keep from getting overly involved in myths is to stay away from them in the first place.
Obviously there’s nothing wrong with a good fiction story. Christ, Himself, used stories to present truths. But when that “fiction” is evil-based and becomes reality in a child’s life, we are facing a serious problem.
What can we do (as adults) to guide our kids toward godliness?
As Parents –
- We can keep the lines of communication open with our kids. What are they talking about? What are they watching? What are they reading?
- We need to be willing to say, “Look, let me read that book or watch that program first. If I’m ok with it, I’ll allow you to read (or watch) it and then we’ll discuss it. If I’m not ok, then you will not be reading it and I’ll explain why.”
- We need to teach our kids the difference between truth and non-truth. These girls wanted to prove to the world that the evil fictional character was real. As parents we need to “pick up” on those misconceptions. From the time our children are young, we need to explain truth to them.
- We need to guard against kids “going to a dark place,” disappearing in their rooms with the lights off, the door closed and listening to music that encourages evil.
- We need to be good examples of adults with healthy and appropriate hobbies and interests (and be willing to take the effort and make the time to bring our kids along with us.)
- We need to recognize that not all parents are diligent about keeping their children away from evil. We need to be alert and join in conversations and give honest opinions about books, movies, internet stories, etc.
- We need to be willing to research so we can answer kids’ questions. If a clubber/teen comes to us and asks what we think about this or that character, we need to give an honest answer. This might be saying, “I don’t really know, but let me look into that this week and get back to you.” (Pretending we know or saying something is bad without information will harm our credibility with the child/teen.)
- We need to teach lessons on “not following silly myths) and guide our clubbers toward godliness.
- We need to emphasize the truth of God’s Word and the falseness of anything that goes against God’s Word. (These girls thought sacrificing their friend to a mythical character would provide them a wonderful life in a forest mansion.)
- We need to be good examples with healthy, appropriate likes, hobbies, activities, etc.
I don’t know the girls in the news other than what the media is telling us. I pray for them. I pray that they will meet someone who introduces them to the loving, heavenly Father who does promise a wonderful home. I pray that they’ll respond to the message of God’s forgiveness and grace.
And know THAT message is the truth.