Navigating a pagan world that labels itself christian

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crgfstr1
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Navigating a pagan world that labels itself christian

Post by crgfstr1 » Thu May 12, 2016 8:55 am

I am trying to figure out how to raise my child to be a true follower of Christ in this world that seems so very lost. Maybe it is me who is making too big a deal out of things. I joined a group of Christians who home school their children even though my little one is too young for that at this point. I was hoping to find resources and ways that they are navigating this world. One of the recent posts was about a Christian Youth Theater play, "Bridge to Terabithia," and how to get tickets for it.

I see so many things wrong here that I don't even know where to begin. The picture used to advertise the play just strikes me as very pagan in ways I can't put my finger on. Though the story is written by a professing Christian, it seems to belittle Christian faith and represents that belief in the bible rather than Jesus is the important aspect and there is much freedom and happiness to be had if you don't go down that path. The logo for the Christian Youth Theater looks like a devil with a pitch fork to me even though it is a c with a Y as a person and a t.

I see the same issues with all of Disney's stories but find little else as alternatives. They have an underlying thread of kids know best and parents are lost. Magic is good and is what you should seek etc.

How are others navigating their children in this world that to me at least looks far more pagan than Christian?

Thanks

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steve
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Re: Navigating a pagan world that labels itself christian

Post by steve » Thu May 12, 2016 11:17 am

This is relatively new territory for Christian parents in America. The previous two generations also had to deal with it, but not to the degree that the newest generation of parents have to. I am not talking about the idea of raising kids in a pagan world. All generations of Christians have had to do that. I am talking about a society that was formerly sympathetic to Christianity, but which has turned upon that belief with venom and vitriol. The problem is that each of the recent generations has had to raise their children in a world where Christianity is slightly more disdained than it was when they were children growing up. Even if our parents raised us well in the world of our youth, we probably can't do things in precisely the same way, because the society is placing more and different pressures on our children than was the case a generation ago.

I am no bastion of insight about this, since the new developments in our society are as new to me as they are to anyone else. My children were raised a generation ago, and I have not had the opportunity to try-out every child-rearing strategy in the new circumstances, or to see how successful it would be in the changed conditions of the present world. However, there are some principles that remain true through every generation, in my opinion:

1) Father and mother must maintain a consistent, mutually-respectful and loving relationship with each other for life. Broken marriages (or very bad ones that stay together) traumatize children, and certainly seem to give the lie to any verbal instructions about Christianity that those parents have sought to transmit to their children. The children will not adopt philosophies from their parents which they perceive to be insincerely held by them. There has never been a time, in the last 100 years or more, when it was more essential that Christian parents be totally committed to Christ, to each other, and to their children. The children will someday move out of the home and be exposed to every evil that the parents despise and dread. It is necessary that what the children have seen in their home stands in stark (and appealing) contrast to the darkness outside. They will eventually see everything. The question is, which world will they find more attractive and satisfying? If they are raised with a taste for an environment characterized by peace, love and purity, it is unlikely that the world outside will have something more appealing to offer.

2) Leading your children to Christ cannot be forced upon them, or they will probably live to wonder whether this was their own conviction or only one adopted from their parents. Yet, they should be hearing the truth in the home consistently (Deut.6:6-9). They should grow up in an environment in which Christ and His kingdom are recognized as the primary reality. They should be informed, early on, that most people they meet will be unaware of Christ's kingdom, and that they will, on that account, not share in the family's values. Reading the scriptures aloud to your children on a daily basis—not as if forcing them to believe, but as something the truth of which is taken for granted by the parents—will instill a proper worldview from infancy, and will acquaint them with God, His laws, and His Son. Rather than driving children to the altar in a desperate effort to "get them saved" (something that is not even in the parents' power to do), the parents should create an environment in which God's reality, presence, and goodness are taken for granted. They should hear you pray—naturally and frequently (remember Tevye's prayers, in "Fiddler on the Roof"?), so that they might grow up in an environment wherein speaking to a real God, who is really present and listening, is treated as a given. Praying for your children's souls, both in their presence and in their absence, must be high on your list of daily priorities. Teaching them to pray, as Jesus taught His disciples, cannot be neglected, but it should not precede their having picked-up, as if by osmosis, the spirit of prayer modeled in the home. If you do not yet know how to pray, then learning to do so should be your highest priority. There are demonic powers ranged against our children. We cannot afford the luxury of neglecting spiritual warfare on their behalf. This may require elimination from our lives of time-consuming, but fruitless, activities, in favor of extended seasons of intercession. Yes, it means we must actually become Christians again ourselves.

3) Protecting children from outside influences in the course of their tender years is an increasingly delicate enterprise. First, because they must eventually face those influences without you, and second, because those influences will be encroaching from every side—whether from unsaved relatives, other children in the neighborhood, even by them being present when you are listening to the news with its reports of cultural decay. To be overprotective will generally not produce the most desirable results. You cannot shield them from everything. However, you can supervise their exposure.

I count it essential that young children not have unsupervised (by you) access to a television set, a computer or a smart phone. When I raised my children, cell phones were brand new, expensive, and a luxury. It never occurred to us that our children would need or have them. If I were raising children today, I would wish for them to have cell phones only when they were necessarily away from me, and might need to contact me—or me them. I would have a rule that I keep the phones at other times, and they should understand that I will check and see what calls have been made on them in my absence (I am talking about young children here). There is not the slightest need for them to have phones that give access to the internet, and very good reasons for them not to.

Neither parents nor children should be allowed to read or send texts when in conversation with others in the room. The new phenomenon of texting has created the ability for a child to be in his or her own virtual social environment, indepent of the actual social situation in the room or at the table with them. This allows them to replace real, face-to-face social skills and interaction with an artificial, remote network—and an unsupervised, unaccountable one at that.

Meting out children's exposure to the media and technology would seem to be one of the greatest challenges to the modern parent. I would think you would want them to be aware of television, movies, the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and other permanent fixtures of their future world (though with limited involvement in them), because they will otherwise become unduly fascinated with them when they discover them later in life (possibly when they are beyond your supervision).

In preteen years (this is merely my opinion) the Internet should initially be used by the parent with the small children looking on, and gradually shifting to the child using it while the parent looks on. No minor child in the home needs to have unlimited access to the Internet. The household television, computers and Internet connection belong to the parent, and are the parents' to regulate upon the same principle by which they regulate visitors who will be allowed into the home or given access to the children. A television should never be employed as a babysitter—though there are times when it can be part of a child's education. Movies and television shows, selected for their age-appropriateness, can be viewed together as a family, after which the father (or mother) should review the material with the children—teaching them critical analytical skills from a Christian perspective.
"What was the main message of that show?"
"Is that a true message, or is that show trying to make you agree with something wrong?"
"What emotions did you feel when such-and-such happened?"
"Does it seem that those are what Jesus would feel or do, or was the show trying to make you feel wrong attitudes?"
"Who was the 'hero' that we were made to sympathize with?"
"Do you think, in God's eyes, that person is really a hero?"
"If the story were true, how do you think God would feel about the decisions made by so-and-so?," etc.
In my children's upbringing, we did not have a television in the home (we never missed it). We did have a VCR and a monitor so that we could let our children watch selected movies once a week—which we all watched as a family (some of the same ones ten times, for the lack of acceptable titles available at the time). Today, there is an increasing number of Christian movies, even in theaters, which could reinforce in your children the things you are teaching them. I would make use of them. However, they will eventually have to know about such secular cultural icons as "Star Wars," and certain other narratives that everyone in their adult world will know and talk about. These should be included, if at all, in the media diet, only with supervision and parental analysis, unless the more mature children have mastered the skill of critical analysis for themselves.

Remember, absorption in the media world, by nature, has been proven to tend toward illiteracy and short attention spans. While wou can not eliminate the media entirely from your children's lives, I would suggest that good books (not only Christian books, necessarily) should be read to the children daily, until they are able to read for themselves. After which they should be kept in abundant supply of good, mind-enriching reading material—especially the Bible, of course.

4) Obviously, most of these policies will be all-but-impossible to maintain, if your children are in the state schools. Depending upon the spiritual strength and preparation of your teenagers (and the condition of schools when that time arrives) it may be desirable to put them into high school when they reach that age. If they are as strong as Daniel, then they may be trusted to be sent into Babylon—at least for part of their day. This may not be best for some children, but the dreaded truth is that your children will, probably, someday live and work in an environment very different from that of their childhood home. It could be disastrous if their first exposure to that alternative world comes after they have left your home and your oversight (e.g., if they go away to college, or get a job away from home). A Christian child in high school will encounter most of the ungodly notions, influences and temptations that they must eventually encounter after they have left your home. In my judgment, it would be good for them to begin having such exposure for a few years while still under your supervision in your home.

Other than their parents, the strongest social influence upon developing children will generally be the other kids with whom they associate, and whom they wish to please. If they spend more time with other children than they spend with their parents, it will be natural for children to develop "peer-approval" dependency, rather than "parent-approval" dependency. Other children should not become the virtual babysitters of your children. Parents need not hover oppressively over all of their children's social interactions, but listening in, periodically, on the conversations of your children with others can never be regarded a bad thing. God listens to every word we say, and holds us accountable, too! He must not think parental supervision to be inappropriate.

As I write, it is still legal, in the USA, to home-school children. This strikes me as the most ideal option for children in their pre-high-school years (Jr. high is the worst time to put them into public schools). The outcome of the next election may soon remove this option. Ms. Clinton is a supporter of "The United Nations Treaty for the Rights of the Child," which has not yet been adopted by the USA, but probably will be, if she is elected. This treaty has nothing to do with the rights of children. It is a replacement of parental rights with the State's rights over the children. Such a development will certainly place us in a time of persecution of the Christian family such as other totalitarian states, in the twentieth century, carried out. Such an electoral outcome will also transform the Supreme Court in such a way as to reinterpret the First Amendment, so as to forbid speech that offends anyone—meaning the bold proclamation of any biblical truth will become subject to litigation. This is not your mother's America. We must prepare our children as best we can, and then commit them to God's good care, as unto a faithful Creator.

If your children are to go to college, you must be aware that no secular college, in the immediate future, will be a safe environment. Students increasingly are required to adopt politically correct ideas, or else fail in school. It will become worse before it gets better. If your children are now very young, things may come full circle back to sanity before they are college age (one can dream). Yet, alternatives to secular college abound. Even while the children are in their teens (possibly younger) the parents can teach their children something of their own trade or professional skills. Teaching them computer programming, or computer graphics, or other computer skills, can be done by some at home—which will better prepare them for later employment than will many college educations. Learning foreign language (especially Spanish) will increase your children's employment option in the future. If you are not bi-lingual yourself, courses can be purchased or borrowed from libraries.

Many colleges now have distance, on-line degree programs, where a student can learn marketable skills without being immersed in the amoral social environment of the modern college campus. Of course, there are Christian colleges for those seeking liberal arts education. Also, there is much to be said for training children in a trade that can never become obsolete, nor be fully automated—such as construction, plumbing, auto mechanics, heating and air conditioning repair—even (my personal favorite) janitorial work. If the parent hasn't the skills to apprentice his/her children in such things, there are no doubt godly friends in those trades that would take on an unpaid teenaged assistant while teaching him/her the trade and its tricks.

Homeschooling, of course, requires a financial sacrifice, because one parent, usually the mother, must stay home and the family usually has to live on a single income. This may even require the family to relocate to a place where the cost of living is less, and to downsize into more humble digs. This is what I did when raising my children. My wife stayed home and my meager income was all we lived on. However, my children, who were born into a low standard of living, never regarded themselves as "poor," and had the incalculable advantage of a mother at home with them. The sacrifices required for successful Christian parenting are greater now than in previous generations. Every Christian parent has to seriously ask him/herself, "Are my children worth the sacrifice?" If the answer is "no," then don't have children.

These are the thoughts of an old-fashioned old man, and should not be canonized. However, I am convinced of their validity.

crgfstr1
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Re: Navigating a pagan world that labels itself christian

Post by crgfstr1 » Sat May 14, 2016 10:55 am

Thank you Steve for your detailed reply. I agree with all of your points though putting them into practice is where I am challenged.

My intent in joining the Christian home school group was to find like minded peers of both parents and children. Just like many churches have developed false doctrines that have continued to deviate from the true message, their day to day practices have strayed I believe as well. I am unsure though what I can do about this.

For example another recent post on the group was about joining an organization that would give the children recognition for their Christian out reach programs. One person could look on this as strong encouragement for children to do good things. Another (and I fall in this category) could look on it and think why on earth would you want to do that? Good works are done out of love for God not for the recognition and respect of others. Do we want to our children to become Pharisees? But I realize there is both a spiritual and practical aspect to life. I think where to draw the line is not always cut and dried. With the huge logs that remain in my own eyes I don't know if I should even humbly say anything or keep my mouth shut on these types of topics.

I am sure in many ways the people in the group are far better Christians than I am. At the same time I believe we all are very far from the path where we should be and I don't know in which areas to correct only my path and thinking and when to share with others that there might be another way to look at a matter.

As a child I was a fan of curious George so it was one of the first books series we bought for our little one. Reading the series as an adult I was horrified by stories about a monkey that gets high on ether, the man in the hat that smokes his pipe, an unruly monkey who is the hero of the stories and never gets in trouble for his misadventures, etc.

Other books we have received have many good messages in them but most of them have something that I question. For example one of them has a line about us being proud of him. Our society (likely my wife included) thinks that we should be proud of our children. Many movies depict that sadness of adults who never had a parent tell them how proud they were of them. I feel very comfortable saying I am well pleased with him, feel blessed to have him, love him and many many other positive things. What many people today don't realize is the proud is something that not only means taking some credit in the achievement but also sets one above others. Both are very bad things. But since most people don't view this word this way in their heart the sentiment they are expressing is probably not a bad thing. This is something that is tough to explain to an adult much less to a child. I don't know what to do in this case.

An example where I think we found the right course of action was with a book called The Empty Pot. Though not a Christian book it is mostly a good story I think. The one line I didn't like in it was where the child said something about "having grown flowers that were better" than his friends which we change to "having grown flowers that were nice like his" so both complementing his friend while keeping the same general message. This did cost me some "you're nuts" points so I am not sure when and where to spend them. Where is the balance?

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steve
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Re: Navigating a pagan world that labels itself christian

Post by steve » Sun May 15, 2016 5:23 am

It is definitely possible that, in wanting to protect our children from the wrong messages of our dominant culture, we may go too far and become fearful and legalistic. I can certainly understand that temptation. I think we should not be afraid to expose our children to ideas that are not just like ours.

The example of Curious George is a good case. You can point out, when they see the "man with the yellow hat" smoking, that lots of people enjoy smoking (they will certainly discover this in the real world), but that the habit can cause serious health problems that can even kill a person, and that, when they begin the habit, they often cannot stop it, so that they become prisoners of the habit. You don't have to say that the people who smoke are "bad" people, only that they may not be doing something very smart, and that they often wish they could quit, but find that they can't. It can be a good, non-judgmental, lesson on habits and dangers in doing certain enjoyable things.

I knew a mother that wouldn't let her children read "Garfield" comics, because she didn't want her children to pick up certain attitudes in the main character. This is a case similar to that of Curious George. Both characters are animals. Cats sometimes behave as if they care about no one but themselves, and monkeys, by nature, are mischievous. We can laugh at their antics without seeing them as role models to emulate. I would think both to be harmless. If you find your children beginning to take on some of the undesirable habits or attitudes of such "characters", you can simply tell them, "We are not cats—or monkeys. God made animals to act certain ways that people should not imitate, because we want to imitate God (Eph.5:1)."

Even in making this point, I think, we need to be light-hearted, and not uptight. Too many parents, out of concern for the protection of their children, give them the impression that God frowns on having fun. This seems to be the opposite of God's actual attitude (1 Tim.6:17). Children should not look back on their upbringing and be able to say, "Christianity made our family life uptight and joyless." I have heard this too many times, in cases where the children abandoned the faith as adults.

On the matter of being "proud" of your children, I would not shy away from this word, though I would also not want to behave in a way that makes my children think they are ultimately better than others (I would not be afraid to tell them that they are better than average at certain things at which they excel, so long as they do not think this makes them superior as people). If the word "proud" seems inappropriate, I think we are being too cautious about common usuage. When someone says to his child, "I am proud of you!" it really just means, "I am pleased with you!" It is natural (and good) for a child to feel that his parents are pleased with him—just as we want to hear God say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" Feeling the approval of God and parents is a wholesome thing. We are made to desire this approval, by nature. I believe it meets a deep human need. If you do not communicate to your children that you are pleased with them, I believe they will be in danger of seeking the approval of others (probably peers) in an attempt to fill that need.

It is often said that adolescent girls, who do not feel the affirmation of their fathers are more tempted to seek that affirmation from boys and men—whose approval often has undesirable strings attached. Don't be afraid to make you children feel accepted and approved by you. I would be afraid not to.

Caution and fear are very similar, but the former is prudent, while the latter is paralyzing. If we are overwhelmed with fears about our children's safety, we will not interact healthily with the world outside—nor will our children. It was the Pharisees who could not cope with contact with sinners. That is the tendency of religion. Your family should be nurtured in a Christ-like spirituality. Jesus was able to live among the unclean, associate with them, and touch them, without Himself being defiled. That is because His brand of spirituality did not involve hiding from worldly people, but chasing them to heal them. The sick need a physician who will come to them, not one who quarantines himself from them.

I know your frustration in finding likeminded families. The first thing I would suggest is to learn not to be viewed by others as too "judgmental." Even if your convictions are good ones, people tend to steer a wide berth around those whose religion is odious and all negative.

I don't know if you have listened to my series, "Toward a Radically Christian Counterculture," or not. If not, you might want to hear it, and, if you resonate with it, encourage your homeschooling friends to listen to it also. You may discover a growing number of families gradually coming to see more things your way. That series can be found here: http://www.thenarrowpath.com/topical_le ... terculture

crgfstr1
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Re: Navigating a pagan world that labels itself christian

Post by crgfstr1 » Sun May 15, 2016 9:16 am

Thanks Steve. Good advice. I can see where I was becoming too legalistic in my positioning of words and how to deal with things. I have listened to "Toward a Radically Christian Counterculture," and I just wish I knew others who had and agreed with those ideals. I am far from them and struggle moving in that direction. It would help if there were others on the same journey.

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steve
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Re: Navigating a pagan world that labels itself christian

Post by steve » Sun May 15, 2016 10:23 am

So true!

Sometimes we have to stand alone for God, like Daniel in Babylon, until God sends comfort through likeminded fellowship (2 Cor.7:6).

When I was a young man, the piece I have linked below, by A.W. Tozer, was very helpful. I am sure I have read it over 20 times through the years:

http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/t ... 010.39.htm

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