We Coddle Teens By Not Holding Them Accountable For Their Actions
Religion & Liberty Online

We Coddle Teens By Not Holding Them Accountable For Their Actions

affluenzaIn the book A Conflict Of Visions, Thomas Sowell explains that progressives look for the cause of crime because they believe human beings to be essentially good and not prone to self-interest or moral failings. For progressives, “It is hard to understand how anyone would commit a terrible crime without some special cause at work, if only blindness,” observes Sowell.

Progressives “see human nature as itself adverse to crime, and society as undermining this natural aversion through its own injustices, insensitivities, and brutality.” In other words, criminals are not responsible for their actions. We have to find some external cause to make sense of why anyone would commit a deviant act. For the millennial generation, raised in a therapeutic culture, when they commit crimes the ultimate culprit is usually one class of people: their parents.

It’s not that “the devil made me do it.” No, that would be too simplistic and supernatural. Today, it’s “my parents made me do it.” This progressive vision of human nature is so injurious that it is perverting our justice system. For example, in a recent Texas court case a 17-year-old student who caused the death of several people while driving drunk was given probation because he was too “coddled.” Leigh Jones at World Magazine summarizes the case:

A Texas judge has reaffirmed her December decision to give a teen who pleaded guilty to four counts of intoxication manslaughter 10 years of probation instead of the 20 years in jail prosecutors asked for. The state’s lawyers were back in court this week asking Judge Jean Boyd to reconsider. Victims’ families say Ethan Couch, 17, is getting a free pass because his parents are wealthy. During his trial, Couch’s lawyers mounted what has been dubbed an “affluenza defense.” Couch should not be held accountable for his actions, they said, because his wealthy parents coddled him. Couch grew up with a sense of entitlement and developed poor judgment, they argued. Boyd agreed, and sentenced the teen to probation and an indefinite stay in an expensive drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, said his office is trying to determine whether Couch’s sentence can be appealed.

A teen who alleges that coddling by his wealthy parents led to his drunk driving manslaughter is now being coddled by the state of Texas. If you love America and the rule of law this ruling should be alarming. It points us to a future society where money and psychological imagination excuse people from being held accountable for their actions. If the rules do not apply to all of us equally and if we are not all called to moral responsibility, our constitutional republic is the on the path to extinction.

Justice should not be for sale. If Ethan were a poor kid from a trailer park in West Virginia he would have been incarcerated for the same offense. If our nation’s children, or at least the wealthy ones, are never held accountable for their actions it promotes a type of narcissistic entitlement that sets the stage for the devaluing of every legal structure that built this country. The message it sends to the larger culture is that the rules do not matter and that if you break them it is not your fault. What follows is social chaos.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony Bradley, Ph.D. is Professor of Religious Studies at The King's College in New York City and serves as a Research Fellow at the Acton Institute. Dr. Bradley lectures at colleges, universities, business organizations, conferences, and churches throughout the U.S. and abroad. His books include: Liberating Black Theology: The Bible and the Black Experience in America (2010),  Black and Tired: Essays on Race, Politics, Culture, and International Development (2011),  The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone of the Black Experience (2012), Keep Your Head Up: America's New Black Christian Leaders, Social Consciousness, and the Cosby Conversation (2012), Aliens in the Promised Land:  Why Minority Leadership Is Overlooked in White Christian Churches and Institutions (forthcoming, 2013). Dr. Bradley's writings on religious and cultural issues have been published in a variety of journals, including: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Detroit News, and World Magazine. Dr. Bradley is called upon by members of the broadcast media for comment on current issues and has appeared C-SPAN, NPR, CNN/Headline News, and Fox News, among others. He studies and writes on issues of race in America, hip hop, youth culture, issues among African Americans, the American family, welfare, education, and modern slavery. From 2005-2009, Dr. Bradley was Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO where he also directed the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute.   Dr. Bradley holds Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from Clemson University, a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  Dr. Bradley also holds an M.A. in Ethics and Society at Fordham University.