Parenting has always been a challenge, even in the best of times. When you think about it, it is quite a challenge to be a good Christian parent. A new baby is born, and then you have the responsibility for the next 18 years of taking care of that life, providing for their needs, protecting them from things that would bring harm. And at the same time seeking to instill into their lives those values that reflect life and truth, and for them to come to know the Lord in a life-giving and personal way. Yes, it is quite a challenge to be a Christian parent. More so today than ever.
Think of some of the challenges parents face.
While there are many fine Christian school teachers, it is sad to say public education has become more secular in America than ever. Some of the related issues are decidedly not biblical. Consider some of them. Many of them also relate to the larger issue of ‘religious freedom.’
- Curriculum – Your children will often be taught material and values that do not match up to Biblical teachings such as evolution. Now I know there are Christians who seek to reconcile evolution with the Bible record, but at the heart of it is a simple denial of the existence of God and the act of creation. Thankfully there are now fine Christian thinkers, well qualified in their fields of study, who have sought to confront these secular views.
- Sex Education – From an earlier and earlier age, children are being taught about sex in an inclusive way. So that homosexual relations are to be accepted as much as traditional relationships of male and female. Ideally, these are issues that should be addressed in the home, but many parents neither know how to do that, or they are too embarrassed to do that. So they leave it to the schools to impart their views of sexuality.
- Transgender Issues – Added to this is the issue of being transgender. Schools, in so many cases, are pushing this to the point that young people, on the basis of their choice, can use either male or female bathrooms, changing rooms for sports, etc. In addition, you have transgender boys now participating in girls’ sports, such as track. Bearing in mind, we need to be compassionate and aware of the needs of transgender youth, we also need to be aware of the needs of the majority of other students.
In light of these and other issues, more and more Christian parents are wrestling with the question of where we send our children to school. There are many options besides traditional public schools in America, including:
- Christian schools – Catholic and other denominations, such as Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, as well as individual churches or groups, have developed their own educational systems.
- Charter schools – These are growing in number and can provide another alternative.
- Home Schooling – This, too, is a growing movement, mainly amongst conservative parents. It is not for everyone. In some countries, such as Germany, homeschooling is forbidden.
Recently there was an article by Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, which argues “that homeschooling not only violates children’s rights to a ‘meaningful education’ and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society” (Breakpoint.org). Behind this faulty article, there is a reason for this attack on homeschooling, namely “a majority of [homeschool families] are driven by conservative Christian beliefs, and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture” (Breakpoint.org).
It is as Princeton Professor Robert George points out that this “isn’t so much an argument against homeschooling as it is for the compulsory secularization of American children (Breakpoint.org).
COMPUTERS AND THE INTERNET
One of the greatest challenges for parents today relates to their children’s use of their phones, internet, computers, and technology in general. This technology is a double-edged sword. There is much good that goes with it. I can vouch for that. When I want to research a subject, I no longer go to the library, it is all a click away on my computer. But on the other hand, there is much that is evil and soul-destroying on the internet, etc. and children need to be protected from this danger.
According to the American Psychological Association, “the average age of first exposure to pornography was 13.37 years old, with the youngest exposure as early as 5 years old”(cbs.com). Add to that 43% of children have been cyberbullied (breakpoint.org), and one in five children that have been contacted by a predator are under twelve years old. (telegraph.co.uk)” Parents also need to be aware of what is happening in sex trafficking, specifically online.
Is it any wonder that the parents of Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla, and other tech giants raise their own children tech-free (nytimes.com). Families need to determine how technology is to be used, what should be supervised, and when should be used. Should there be tech-free zones – e.g., at meal tables, etc? Parents should know their children’s passwords, and rules and boundaries need to be set.
I remember sitting in a conference in England where a Charismatic Episcopalian (Anglican in England) Priest said that there was no example of a perfect family in Scripture. During the rest of the teacher’s message, I was going over in my mind all the families in the Bible, and the conclusion I came to was that he was probably right.
However, I came to the conclusion that probably the best I could come up with was Joseph and Mary – the earthly parents who were given the responsibility of taking care of Jesus. Joseph probably died before Jesus reached adulthood, but he was there in the formative years of Jesus’ life on earth.
We get some glimpses into life in that home in Luke chapter 2 verse 40, 51, and 52. “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.” Following the trip to Jerusalem, when Jesus was twelve years old it declares – “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” [NIV]
That’s the kind of home life that Jesus experienced, and that’s what we would like to see every family experience.
Whilst the primary responsibility for our children is the parents, and they need to examine the issues that have been raised, we have, at the same time, the local church, as well as the church as a whole, both of which need to look at ways they can support parents in their primary role.
Maybe the local church needs to consider special training programs to help parents deal with these issues.
A FINAL WORD
Being a parent today is one of the most difficult tasks people face, so we need to be praying for Christian parents today, especially as the face extra issues in this day and age. At the same time, it is a most rewarding privilege.