Protecting Your Children from Reductions of a Living God
Christian parents tend to spend a great deal of mental energy thinking about how to arm our kids against worldly propaganda. There’s a tidal wave of progressive influence in our culture right now; humanism, socialism, and hedonism are being dressed up in their Sunday best, pushed into dishonest marketing campaigns that tantalize young thinkers.
Parents understand this danger, and we are on alert. We try to make sure our kids are ready for the lies of secularism. We read to them. We talk to them. We might even sign them up for programs that will help them be aware of hidden traps
However, at this point in my parenthood, I am wondering if the most dangerous propaganda my children have encountered has been faith-based. I fear that of all the damage done, the deepest damage has been done by good people trying to do good things at all costs. And saddest of all, I wonder if there were times when I was one of those people.
I love the church deeply, so this isn’t another one of those cliché, institution-bashing posts written by a disillusioned evangelical. Writers who slam the whole of modern Christianity because of a few infections have erred as badly as those who are unwilling to see its flaws. Angry church bloggers are the Crocs of the internet. Clunky. Awkward. Yesterday’s news.
Looking at the church objectively, I think we find an organization that is largely generous, gentle, humble, and sincere. As a whole, the body of Christ does great good in America, and should it all shut down tomorrow, the masses would cry out in need. In a flash, we would suddenly realize the beautiful, silent impact God’s people are making in our culture.
However, I do think that fear has tempted certain groups of Christians to react badly to changing times. This criticism is valid. Panic has launched desperate attempts to sway public opinion, and media resources created out of that desperation haven’t been properly researched.
Intelligent children who are exposed to this sort of propaganda can feel lonely at first, because it’s difficult to connect emotionally when you have a sense that you aren't being told the whole truth. And when kids realize major faith claims were based on exaggerations or bad logic, they are disappointed. Of course these young people feel sense of relief when they finally escape pressure to “just believe” in what hasn’t proven intellectually trustworthy. This sort of strained, fear-driven, religious material concerns me as much as any secular effort I see in the world today.
I could be wrong, but I think every honest, humble explorer will eventually wear hedonism out like an old pair of shoes. And humanism has a way of growing stale as an open bag of crackers.
Sure, the process of figuring out what doesn't work can be rocky; discovering the ends of ourselves tends to be painful. Wanderers often become addicted to harmful things while trying to medicate the ache for heaven, and rebels often become angry or suicidal when their chosen anesthesia doesn’t work. Materialists tend to flail about inside cynicism, or sex, or a deified government, or academic highs that tickle the ego.
But if God allows the spiritual vagabond to live long enough, each of his pursuits will tend to turn to dust. In twenty, forty, sixty years, he will hold out his withered old hands while the allure of the earth falls through his fingers like sand. I've seen it happen over and over again.
Why? Because reason cannot negate a living God. Science cannot negate a living God. Math cannot negate a living God. Pleasure cannot negate a living God. Curiosity cannot negate a living God. God made those things, and He lives inside them. God waits at the end of our best gifts and disciplines, not outside them.
What slams a soul’s door shut to God is not joy, intelligence, or information, it is primitive resistance. The soul's door slams shut when a quiet decision is made ... a decision that we are fundamentally unwilling to comply with Authority.
When we conclude that we would not want to be ruled by a God if there were to be one, we are unlikely to find him. We cannot gouge our own eyes out and expect to see with them simultaneously.
But in honest, humble searching, finding God is inevitable, because God is alive, and He loves, and He chases us. He will not appear at our whims in a puff of purple glory. Sometimes he hides Himself from the proud. Sometimes He is subtle and slower than we would like. Sometimes He asks us to walk over a bridge of mystery. But He eventually reveals Himself to the willing.
So when I think about my kids, I’m not as concerned about the world being too intoxicating as I am worried about a true belief system – Christianity - relying upon false teachings to offer a reduced version of faith.
I wish I could go back in time now and think more carefully about what I was allowing my kids to receive with God's name stamped on it. I wish I could go back and listen more respectfully. I wish I could go back and employ a stricter filter for things of faith. I wish I could go back and be more sincere. I could go back and let God be God and not try to play His role for Him.
Because as my friend Natsu reminded me, idolatry "'means turning a good thing into an ultimate thing' (Keller)." It's idolatry to believe we can step in and jimmy rig a process, or a threat, or a culture to glorify God. He doesn't need us to do that.
In fact, when Uzzah tries to catch the ark of the living God because he believes a human can keep the presence of the Lord from hitting the skids, he has perhaps committed a far graver error than those who construct altars to idols. When I have parented like that, it was an insult to God and it was an insult to my children.