I received many thoughtful comments on the blog and Facebook (all in love thankfully) on last week’s post about the controversy over Beauty and the Beast. They highlighted an interesting problem that Christian parents face in this postmodern culture: the conundrum of sheltering children from influences of the world, yet not leaving them in a position where they’re unable to interact with it.
We want to produce the perfect hybrid of a child who is both innocent and worldly wise. I’ve wrestled with how to accomplish this myself, over the last 8 years of being a parent.
Most of us tend to worship at the altar of public opinion when it comes to this issue of shielding our children. Even our own church leaders tell us that they must be submerged in the culture so they can adapt to it.
We can all point to at least one real life case study of a kid whose parents sheltered him his whole life and then one day he went off the deep end. And we all know some of those “weird, unsocialized homeschoolers”, right? 😉
In But Not Of The World
Relatability is now somehow our highest priority as believers, as if becoming like the world is the only way to win lost souls. However, in an effort to be relatable to the lost, we have become virtually indistinguishable from them. We have hidden our lamps under a basket. (Matthew 5:15)
And we have unnecessarily exposed our tender, young children to the poisonous elements of a culture that hates the very thing we teach our kids to love.
Because we live in this fallen world, we are not exempt from its effects and we have no choice but to come into contact with it. It’s not realistic that we even could shield our children from everything, without becoming hermits. And that’s not really a choice, since we are called to impact the world for the Gospel.
But there’s a difference between loving the world and loving the things of this world. Are our kids’ heroes icons of pop culture? Can they sing the lyrics of the latest song on the radio by heart, but have no idea what the gospels say?
Raising Alien Children
2 Corinthians 1:12 gives us an example of how we ought to live as believers in a secular culture:
For our proud confidence is this: the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world…
We cannot forget that we are foreigners (aliens) and we must raise alien children – children who are not surprised by or afraid of this culture, but know how to impact it for the gospel.
Our kids shouldn’t be so at home in this world that they become desensitized to the very things that our Savior died for. If we continually feed them- and ourselves- with entertainment, literature, and education that rejects God’s Word and bases its thinking on the idea that man determines truth, we end up normalizing sinful behavior.
As I pointed out in last week’s post, homosexuality shouldn’t have been the tipping point for Christians to start boycotting movies and canceling trips to Disney World. Many Disney films are already filled with violence, sexual content and innuendo (often between people who are not married), cursing, blasphemy, witchcraft, and all sorts of other unbiblical behaviors that reflect the secular culture that we live in.
We should be angry at sin, but never shocked. Shock means we got too comfortable here. It means we made ourselves at home in the enemy camp and were offended when the enemy tried to kill us in our sleep.
Why is it that so many Christian parents send their children to secular schools and feed them a steady diet of secular entertainment, and then are surprised when their children actually become secular?
We’re warned as aliens and strangers to “abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul”. (1 Peter 2:11) Instead, Christians sadly often embrace and justify sin as humorous or entertaining, and we begin making excuses for our behavior. What would have shocked us in previous years hardly turns heads anymore.
Sheltering Rather Than Isolating
I understand there being a fear of, or resistance to, shielding so much that it takes away a child’s choice. If all they ever hear is they’re not allowed to do something, they probably will rebel.
When my son and daughter ask me if they can watch a certain tv show or listen to a particular radio station, or even read a certain book, and I say no, I always explain my reason. I let them know I don’t believe those things would be pleasing to God, and that He wants us to fill our minds with whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and of good repute (Philippians 4:8).
I tell them that their father and I have decided to serve the Lord in our home, and because we choose to honor Him in all that we do, we will not watch, read, or listen to certain types of media.
Our motivation for sheltering cannot come from fear, but out of obedience to God who has entrusted these children to us. As parents, we need to recognize that our kids still have free will and can choose to reject the faith.
That’s why we lead them to have their own personal relationship with Christ.
We walk beside them while they’re growing and maturing and teach them about the world while offering the cover of our protection. Instead of skipping over or crossing out sentences in books that present an evolutionary perspective, I confront those statements from a biblical worldview.
I don’t just tell my kids things like evolution aren’t true; I engage them in actively discussing and seeking out answers to the world around them. In our home my kids get a crash course in apologetics and investigate the claims of skeptics. They learn that science and faith aren’t mutually exclusive. Laying the foundation for a biblical worldview involves training our kids to “examine everything carefully” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
And yes, when the time comes I will teach them also about God’s beautiful and perfect design for sex.
If public education and Hollywood are trying to indoctrinate our kids, then we must indoctrinate them first. When the time comes for our children to leave the safety of our homes, and they are surprised by challenges to their faith, we haven’t done our job as parents.
Children’s hearts need to be “greenhoused” until they develop deep roots in faith, before they’re ready to be transplanted out into the world. Through our discipleship and training, they will be equipped to defend their beliefs to a world desperately in need of what they offer.
And we also have the privilege of praying for our kids what Jesus prays for us: “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)