|Okay kids!! Who wants a long one?|
There are some things that are culturally acceptable to leave to parental discretion: when (or if) to give them a cellphone, clothing guidelines, and what movies to watch. But there are just as many taboos for the children of those who seek “Good Parent” status: playing in traffic, handling/throwing sharp objects, and letting your kids listen to/develop a taste for country music (wishful thinking there!). So there is one thing I must include in the latter list, a parental decision I've heard countless folks talk about as a noble, libertarian step towards growing independent young people capable of free thinking; but in reality, it is even more dangerous than handing a loaded gun to a little tyke, and if any children do survive it, it is manifest proof of the merciful grace of God. What is this shocking dereliction of parental duty? I've heard it put this way...
"Oh yes, we are Christians and believe the Bible, but we don't want to force our religion on our kids. We permit them to explore other faiths, and when they're old enough, they need to choose what they will believe for themselves."
I know you've heard this said, and I must admit that the way it's phrased, it almost seems unAmerican to disagree with this democratic approach. I mean, the best way to guarantee that kids will hate something is to make them do it, right? So, a low-key approach to Christianity, to the claims of Jesus and the Bible, is surely the approach with the highest probability of keeping them in the church.
Yes, I know... playing devil's advocate is a dark gift of mine, one I hope to (but usually fail to) use for good. So let's explore this idea by seeing what the Scripture says (and if the proponents of the low-key approach truly do "believe the Bible") and then by testing the consistency of "reverse psychology" parenting.
"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deut. 6:6-9)
I don't know... sounds kinda pushy to me. I mean, talking to your kids about God and His word all the time? They'd be sick of it in a week! But one inescapable conclusion your kids would be forced to at gunpoint is that you take the Bible seriously, that every decision, event, question and even thought is weighed and judged in light of what God says, and that He is the ultimate Determiner of reality and Judge of morality. What do kids (and everyone else) hate more: a person whose actions are explained and are true to what they profess, or someone who doesn't explain why they do what they do and/or says one thing and does another? One of the most winsome qualities, even to the lost, is a willingness to suffer for conviction... thank God in His wisdom to guarantee us suffering in this life (2 Tim 3:12)! So to stop beating a dead horse, God commands us to saturate our children in His truth and to protect them from all deception (2 Tim 2:16, 3:5)... end of discussion. Obviously, we can't convert them, but kids raised in faithful homes will be forever changed, most often for the better, fulfilling God's general promise to sanctify them (1 Cor 7:14)
Even more succinctly, the consistency of the laissez-faire attitude to religion can be checked by inserting any other potentially fatal activity into the premise:
"We're not drug addicts/gang members/cult members on a compound in the middle of nowhere, but we want our kids to make their own decisions, so we let them explore other options..."?
I'm sure they're really nice once you get to know them...
Or "Yeah, we got vaccinated, but our kids don't like shots very much, so we're letting them decide if they want to risk getting polio/smallpox/tetanus"?
Just try dropping that line in conversation, and watch your "Good Parent" status get revoked! What's really at the heart of religious experimentation is the belief that all religions are basically the same/valid; if you truly believe something is fatal to your children, you do everything in your power to isolate them from it. False religion has a 100% fatality rate... and it's extremely contagious.
Photos courtesy of Anonymous9000, One lucky guy