Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: Early Home Influences

Some children survive dysfunctional homes, but more people than you imagine are haunted for a lifetime by what happened to them at home when they were children. There are grown people who are economically successful, but who live in a state of emotional misery because of childhood abuse of one kind or another. Parents who were abused tend to become abusers, and the dark specter of abuse crosses generational lines until someone gets therapy and stops the evil process from moving into the next generation. For more than sixty years I have watched dysfunctional relationships in progress that had deep roots in the past, and tentacles reaching into the future. Here are two examples of parental behaviors that have disaster written all over them.

There was a small boy in Shreveport, Louisiana who had been causing problems at the First United Methodist Church. He lived in one of the run-down neighborhoods nearby. He would break into cars in the parking lot, and often managed to get into the church building. No one could catch him though they had a pretty good idea who he was and what he looked like.

One evening the senior minister, Dr. D.L. Dykes, happened to be walking down a semi-darkened hall when this little fellow came scampering around a corner and ran right into Dr. Dykes' arms. He tried to wriggle loose, but Dr. Dykes held on to him. Finally the kid gave up. He was only 8 years old, and he had on a pair of faded jeans - no shirt, no shoes, etc. The pastor decided to take the boy home instead of to the police station. He lived just a few blocks from the church.

When they pulled up in front of the house the boy's father was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. When he saw Dr. Dykes and his son walking up to the house, he bounded out of his chair and came running right at the two of them. When he got there he slapped the child across the ear, and then yelled "What the blankety-blank have you done now?" Out of breath, he turned to Dr. Dykes and said, "I'm sorry, mister, for whatever he has done. I've tried everything. I don't know what on earth to do with that boy. I try to beat some sense into him every night, but it doesn't seem to do any good!" Hmmmmmm.

This reminded me of an experience of a young minister who was assigned to a declining downtown church on the wrong side of town. Trying to make the best of the situation, the young pastor developed a program for children of the inner city. There were after-school games and food, Bible stories, singing, etc. Fifty to sixty children came every day.

One day a mother came to the young minister and asked if he was the one running the program. He gladly acknowledged he was. She said that her son was in the program. The minister said, "Well, we are glad to have him. We're having a good time, and I hope your boy is enjoying it." "Well" she said, " he can play the games and eat the food, but I don't want him listening to any more of those stories." The pastor replied, "We just get them out of the Bible." She said, "I don't want him listening to any more of those stories." "Why?" asked the pastor, "We are not trying to indoctrinate him. We are just telling Bible stories."

She said, "My boy has gotten to where he is coming home now thinking he's as good as anybody in Kansas City, and you're setting him up for bitter disappointment. I don't want him to hear those stories any more!" Hmmmmmm.

Some stories haunt me. I hope they haunt you too.