As my little ones are growing up (too quickly), I am finding that good parenting involves saying the word “No” a lot. I need to say “No” when my daughter wants to stick her finger in the electrical outlet. I have to strongly reject her wishes to lay down in the middle of the street. When she wants to go for a quick run with my kitchen knife in hand, I have to deny her the experience. The simple fact is this: loving your children in a dangerous world demands that you use word “No” regularly.
Not only is this true of physically harmful things, but, even more, the Christian parent must think about all the spiritually harmful things our kids will drift into if we don’t intervene. As Christian parents, we have to say no to allowing our kids to buy into the empty promises of the world that will only lead to destruction and dissatisfaction. Therefore, the word “No” must be put into all the more use as the spiritual sphere is considered.
However, this “No” saying, poses a threat and Natasha Crain puts her finger directly on it.
In a world like this, parents must increasingly say “no.” A lot. But if we’re not careful in how we execute our counter-cultural living, our kids can start seeing us like the alarmist…and resent Christianity because of it.
Helpfully, in her excellent post, Natasha goes further to examine four major ways that Christian parents unintentionally cause their children to resent Christianity as they do the necessary work of saying “No.”
1) We focus more on the dangers of the world than on the beauty of Christianity. In a world that seems to be going crazier by the second, it’s easy to spend more time pointing out the darkness of culture than the light of Christianity. Now, don’t get me wrong; we absolutely need to make our kids aware of cultural dangers. But when we don’t consistently point them back to the beauty of the Christian worldview which renders our culture so ugly in the first place, our faith will become defined by what we’re against more than what we’re for.
2) We spend more time addressing what is problematic about culture than why it’s problematic. When the message our kids hear is an ongoing stream of don’ts without meaningful explanation—don’t listen to this music, don’t visit these sites, don’t use this social media platform, don’t subscribe to this magazine, don’t join this political movement—they’ll start to wonder if our level of concern about the world is warranted. And meaningful explanation requires demonstrating how the problems actually relate to the Christian worldview. Simply telling our kids that a movie has violence and they shouldn’t watch it, for example, is hardly a meaningful explanation. Why is that a problem for Christians? How can that affect us spiritually? Where should we draw the line? These kinds of questions should regularly be discussed.
3) We frame our lives in terms of worldly limits more than Christian freedom. I often see ex-Christians comment about the freedom they feel in “letting go of God.” The language they use to describe their deconversion says so much. They saw religion as a limiting approach to life and therefore felt freer after shedding their beliefs in God. But as Christians we know that we are not free in our natural state at all—we are slaves to sin. When we put our faith in Jesus, we are given a new nature that is free from such bondage (Romans 6:18).
The reality, therefore, is that only Christians are actually free.
4) We focus more on authoritative parental decisions than on cultivating the skill of discernment. In many cases, parents have a bigger perspective than kids can possibly have given their limited life experiences. We have to make certain decisions on our kids’ behalves. But if we consistently present our “counter-cultural” lives as a series of decisions made by mom and dad (albeit for good reason), kids will naturally resent what they feel has been forced upon them. To the degree we can, we should always strive to cultivate our kids’ skill of discernment by involving them in the thought process of our decision making. After all, the second they walk out our door as adults, “authoritative parental decisions” no longer apply.
I highly recommend you read Natasha’s entire post here.
Even more, she recommends a book by my friend, apologist Brett Kunkle, that seeks to explain, “Why culture matters and how to handle topics with your kids such as pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, affluence and consumerism, addiction, entertainment, and racial tension.” It’s already on my wish list.