Spring Break And The Broken Me: Panama City Beach Edition

The lurid tales reaching across the bridge from the Rapneck Riviera (aka Panama City Beach) via cable news and social media are disturbing. I stand with Frank McKeithen’s recent crusade to protect and secure our shores and citizens during Spring Break season. But I wonder if our outrage is misplaced if it’s leveled only towards the drunken frat boys and sorority girls and “100 mile” gang of deviants.

We may hang our head with every voyeuristic Fox News Spring Break expose that works to throw soil in our white sand. But our little beach community isn’t the only ones that should be slumped in shame. Sure, there’s much to lament about Spring Break; not because it’s happening in Panama City Beach, but because Spring Break in Panama City Beach is the manifestation of long broken hearts, homes, and heads in this generation.

Twenty year old kids didn’t learn hedonistic anarchy during their short stay in Panama City Beach. They brought hedonistic anarchy with them. It was a twisted culture ingrained in them. From their music, movies, and magazines of choice. These were long-held values and learned traits. From their colleges, towns, and dareIsay: families.

Spring Break in Panama City Beach may be the delta where this generation’s worldview is spewing it’s fruit, but it’s not the spring. For 30+ years American culture has treated the stage of adolescence to adulthood as a moratorium on morals and common sense. A time to “sow wild oats” and “live it up” until they enter the real world of responsibility. You know obligations to families and bills and such? It’s no wonder the trend now is grown twenty and thirty somethings seeking to extend that adolescent stage into adulthood. Peter Pans with beards loiter in their childhood bedrooms on the continued dime of mom and dad. Seventeen year olds in the greatest generation beat a hell-bent Nazi Regime in World War 2; with their blood. Twenty seven year olds in this generation beat Nazi Zombies in the Call of Duty; with their thumbs.

Bay county can make laws and enforce restrictions that progressively choke the life out of this type of Spring Break in the coming years. I hope it does. That will be good for Panama City Beach. But the delta will spew elsewhere. It must. Because rocks and laws and land can’t stop the powerful rivers of the human heart.

We may say, “That’s not my kids out there.” But they are. They’re America’s kids.

They’re the fruit of the culture of excess and “adolescence” we’ve passively ingested.

Our teenage sons have the common sense to hide their drunken exploits on this side of the bridge. But when we do catch wind of our perfect sons hypocrisy some of us shrugged and winked, “Well, boys will be boys.” Little did we know the can we kicked down the road then would be the grenade that exploded across the news today.

“Our” kids may never indiscriminately shoot a gun into a crowded party. Thank God. But many of “our” kids do passively absorb the cultural trappings that make such a situation ripe. There’s a quiet complicity that pervades the minds of even the best middle class church kids we know. They may never be gang bangers but I promise many will buy the next gang banging album released and know all the lyrics before you can say “Sean Hannity.”

I know this because they’ll be singing it in the hallways, classrooms, and locker rooms of my school.

I’m not just an old codger simply lamenting the olden days of Leave it To Beaver ethics. I’m a decade removed from being a college student. Thirteen years ago I was one of those golden boy youth group leaders buzzing off Jesus on Sunday mornings while still buzzing off the Natty Lites from the night before. Hypocrisy has a home in this heart. I see a kindred spirit in the Spring Breaking revelers. Even now my planks are just masked with an acceptable cultural Christian facade.

The problem isn’t out there in the mythical dark corners of the world we dare not tread. The problem is the actual dark recesses in our own chest cavities we dare not tread. The evil that touches us most intimately every day doesn’t come from without but within (Jeremiah 17:9).

It takes some courage to face the lawlessness of the Spring Break; but it takes supreme courage to face the lawlessness of our own hearts. But a revelation of our own lawlessness begets our own brokenness. And brokenness has a bent towards the only grace that can heal it.

Grace found in Christ is where the wildest hardest hearts are reigned in and melted. It’s where the hope of mourning beach communities like ours resides. Because the deepest issue is not legal, cultural, economical, or social.

It’s moral.

The gospel solution changes moral behavior by forgiving our immoral behavior. Again and again.

Every morning (Lamentations 3:17).

The spring that never runs dry.

And that’s good news for scalawags like Spring Breakers and me.

Bryan Daniels

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