As a Christian parent we skate on a razor’s edge between protecting and sheltering our children from certain topics or talking to them about these things before someone else does. Our children’s bodies, minds, values, and futures seem to be laid bare on an altar of cultural vulnerability everyday. When is it too early to talk to them about sex, substances, and other societal ills? We don’t want to be early, but we sure don’t want to be late.
In a media saturated culture the issue is not beating someone else to the punch. Truth is, we don’t have to wonder if someone else is talking to our children, someone already is. Unless you and your family live in a buried bus in the Mojave desert your sheltering techniques are probably sub par. If you do live in a buried bus in the Mojave desert, I’m sure there is a reality show that would love to talk to you. You are must see TV.
One would think that Disney Channel is kid island in a sea of un-family friendly TV. Yet Walt’s vision has become little more than a presentation of fabricated, unrealistic worlds of superstardom and popularity replete with an primo environment ripe for teenage romance without parental guidance. But please understand, the people watching Austin and Ally are not their teen peers. The average age of Austin and Ally’s #1 demographic is 9. Sure, you can wait until your child is 12 to start talking about dating, but remember, Disney has already been modeling a version of physical attraction and affection to your tike for at least 3 years.
Off your kids go to school. The social environment of adolescent academia hasn’t changed much. Kids talk. But if you were raised in a Christian family in the 80’s, there were plenty of families that shared your values, even if they didn’t go to church. Now if your family has only nominal Christian convictions you are a unicorn at a petting zoo. And if you think that sending your children to a Christian school is your solution, the percentages of shared family values may increase somewhat, but a buried bus in the Mojave your Jesus school is not! It is startling to know how many students attend the weekend’s raunchiest movies either with parental consent or with parent’s in tow. And if they didn’t go to the theater, they probably sat on the couch with their daddy and saw it Saturday night on HBO. Your baby may not have seen the movie, but he heard all about it at school.
So what’s the solution? Bury the bus?
The church tried the ascetic, desert, withdrawal thing in the 3rd century. When martyrdom came to an end, some felt that the ultimate expression of devotion to Jesus would be withdrawal. The end result was a desert sideshow of a monk sitting on a pole with deep thoughts but no viable applications of the gospel to culture. Again, bury a bus, people will come to see you. Ironically, the Desert Fathers sought a place of solitude but, even “ the desert became a city” according to Athanasius of Alexandria.
As Christian parents there is no sufficient place to send our kids for societal shelter. As a matter of fact, the Bible has never endorsed withdrawal. Instead, the Bible has always been a manual for Christ centered morality for a minority people. Following Christ is not about where a family is, following Christ is about what a family is. Christian families are households of topics. They are pools of counter-cultural teaching, modeling, and molding. They are places where a father and a mother watches people with their sons and daughters and points out the freaks and the fools, much like we see happening in the Book of Proverbs (Prov. 1:8). They are places where Christian parents share histories and stories, much like the original audiences 1 and 2 Kings who were living in Babylon. These stories served to instruct a new generation. This is why we are as we are and this is how we overcome.
Christian families are to be places where Sunday sermons find their next breath. As odd as Isaiah and Jeremiah may appear to us now, these prophecies were at one time table talk. An astute Christian parent can find numerous ways Biblical preaching has crept into the week a dozen ways by Thursday and talk about it with their kids. Christian homes are places were the arts are not banished, but places where excellent arts are fostered. After all, the Bible’s longest book is a collection of songs.
Before you bury the bus, let’s talk.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing short snippets from a series that is going on in our church (www.libertybaptistchurch.ws) on Sunday nights entitled Topics: things your kids need to hear from you, not someone else. I hope in doing this we can not only glean wisdom from one another, but foster a profitable conversation. I will moderate comments, but I will also post profitable ones as quickly as possible. Share your stories, concerns, and Scriptural gleanings with me and other parents who read FeelMyFaith. It is not easy to raise godly children in an ungodly world, but it must be done. Check back often and follow this important conversation.