Recently I asked more than 3,000 people in a Christian parenting Facebook group what it feels like to raise kids in our current culture. The responses were telling: “Challenging.” “Heavy.” “Terrifying.” “Bombarded.” I’ll add a description of my own: Overwhelming. Even as an author, speaker and apologist, I often feel overwhelmed as I try to correct false information, anti-biblical sentiments and self-focused ideologies that are coming for my kids through virtually every media outlet and social encounter they have.
Where to start
It’s literally my job to defend our biblical world view, and yet sometimes I feel like I’m playing a game of Whac-A-Mole. This was my favourite arcade game as a kid. I would hover over the board and wait for the little plastic moles to peek out so I could wallop them on the head with an oversized, soft mallet. Whacking plastic moles was fun for a kid in an arcade.
But it’s not so fun for a parent in the realm of ideas. As soon as one lie pops up in a “family” movie, another rears its head in a tutorial YouTube video. Moments after I address one lie, another emerges from a billboard sign or a television commercial in a doctor’s office waiting room. It’s becoming nearly impossible to shield our kids from encountering these deceptions in their daily lives. But rather than being discouraged, there is good reason for us to be encouraged and excited by the task at hand.
As Christian parents, we have a responsibility to train up our kids with a biblical world view. This is like playing offence in sports. Giving them a solid foundation will help insulate them from many of the unbiblical ideas they will inevitably encounter in their culture. But we can also play a little defence and protect our kids by exposing the lies that come against them.
These lies are packaged in countless ways, but here’s the good news: Most of the faulty slogans, messages and ideas our kids will encounter in our culture can be boiled down to three modern lies that are disguised as truth.
Let’s equip ourselves to spot these lies so we can teach our kids to recognise them too. Let’s also look at some of the ways wise parents have navigated these lies with their own kids.
Unbiblical idea #1: My feelings determine truth
If our current culture could be summed up with one slogan, it would be “Live your truth!” It’s almost become a creed among younger generations who have come to accept that truth is relative to each individual person, especially when it comes to their religious and moral beliefs.
One 15-year-old summed it up this way: “Whatever you feel is what is real, and everyone else should accept that.” There is only one problem with this sentiment: That’s not how truth works.
Truth is a statement or belief that corresponds with reality, and truth is true no matter your personal opinions and preferences. Teaching our kids about the nature and definition of truth can go a long way in training them to think well about the confusing messages in today’s culture.
Train them up to discern truth
Gina* taught her highly emotive daughter, Sarah, to navigate the world of feelings versus reality in an intentional and consistent way. When Sarah was approaching her teen years, Gina helped her compare what she was feeling with what was real, taking care to point out that there’s a difference. At one point, Sarah said she felt that no one liked her.
Gina remembers, “We would ‘feel all the feels’ and then talk about the wealth of friends and family she had who were incredibly invested in her and her life. After a couple of tough years, I realised one day that she was coming to me and saying things like ‘Mum, I feel this, but I can see that the truth doesn’t line up. . . . Help me figure it out.’ ”
Gina pointed out that although this didn’t solve every problem that popped up over time, it made the toughest years more manageable. She had shown Sarah time and again that she could be trusted with her daughter’s emotions and would guide her toward truth.
If you disagree with someone, you hate or fear them.
Love is one of those words that has been given a redefinition in popular culture. However, we learn in 1 Corinthians 13:4-10 that biblical love is patient and kind. It also says that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” In other words, it’s not loving to approve of or find joy in anything that is sinful or untrue.
But our culture has flipped this definition upside down. Our kids are constantly being taught that love means you accept and even celebrate another person’s feelings and preferences, and disagreeing means that you must fear or hate that person. One of the major areas in which this is constantly reinforced is the topic of sexuality and gender.
Unbiblical idea #2: The cultural definition of love
Kristie started talking with her daughter Kayla about sexuality and gender at a young age. Although it seemed counterintuitive to introduce concepts like homosexuality and transgender ideology to an eight-year-old, Kayla was mature for her age, and Kristie knew these subjects were fast approaching anyway. She established herself as a safe place for Kayla to discuss these issues, ask questions and think things through.
Kristie provided a healthy environment for her daughter, now 12 years old, to tell her mum that a good friend from school announced to her that she was a lesbian. Kristie calmly asked how the conversation went and was surprised when her daughter did a complete turnaround in what she believed.
“I’m OK with it, Mum. Because I love my friend,” Kayla articulated.
Remaining calm, Kristie casually asked, “You know that you can love someone even if you disagree with them, right?”
Kristie helped Kayla see how she had unintentionally bought into the cultural definition of love. She showed her daughter how defining love properly and biblically would clear up any perceived conflict between loving her friend and holding biblical values.
Unbiblical idea #3: God just wants me to be happy
“I want you to do whatever makes you happiest in the world,” popular teen heartthrob and singer Harry Styles shouted from the stage at one of his concerts. Soon the sentiment was spreading around the Internet via memes and tweets, accurately summing up the headspace of many young people in our country.
One study coined the phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism” to describe the trend among teens who believe that God just wants them to be happy and only cares about everyone being nice to one another. In our current culture, being happy seems to be the end goal. If something makes you sad or uncomfortable, it should be avoided. If something makes you feel happy, it should be pursued. When the pursuit of happiness is built upon constantly changing feelings, it fails to give young people the tools and inner strength necessary to navigate difficult situations in life.
Train them up to engage with reality
Melody, a public high school teacher, noticed recently that many of her students struggle with extreme anxiety over relatively small issues. For example, she writes, “In my school district, if you say you have ‘anxiety’ you get to take the test at a later date, and you go to the wellness centre on campus, where they provide a Zen space, counselling if needed. Because students’ feelings are constantly validated and never challenged, Melody noticed that many students can’t take criticism. That’s quite an uphill battle for a Christian teacher trying to shape the minds of the next generation.
Thankfully, Melody discovered that asking questions is an effective strategy to help lead students to truth. For example, one student informed her that women can do everything men can do, even physically. Melody agreed that men and women are intellectually equal, but pushed back when it came to physical strength. She challenged the student to look at the track records posted in the gym.
Then she asked, “Why is the fastest time always in the male column?” Challenging our kids to engage with reality and align their feelings with what is true (and not the other way around) is a great starting point in discipling them to live according to truth.
These real-life stories demonstrate that with truth on our side, we need not fear the daunting task of parenting in a culture that has largely rejected truth. We need to expose our kids to controversial topics as early as possible in age-appropriate ways. Then we can demonstrate a consistent and long-term discipleship in the realm of ideas, defining our terms biblically. This allows us to teach our kids to manage their emotions in light of truth and reinforce their biblical worldview. Age-appropriate exposure, discipleship, teaching and reinforcing Christian principles are excellent places to start.
© 2023 Alisa Childers. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.