02 Nov, 2020 Time to take responsibility to educate our own children and youth again
> Discipleship and the young <
It’s time to educate our own children and youth again
This article is for Christian parents and Christian leaders. So you know where it is going – it is not promoting home-schooling or Christian schools. It is about how we, as families and churches, understand the discipleship of our youth and children within culture. As culture changes, so much our approaches in Christian discipleship.
The Jesuits said, ‘Give me the child until he is 7 and I will give you the man’ – repeating a saying hailing back at least as far as the Greek philosopher Aristotle. Hitler copied a time-tested pattern of socialism by taking state control of education and made it free for all. Through this he could indoctrinate the thinking of the children, and a generation later they were his. It doesn’t matter what side you are playing for – the education of children is important!
In our Christian understanding, the responsibility for discipling children in the Christian faith rests with the parents.
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
But what about children and youth from non-Christian homes? If they attend a Sunday school or youth group, logically the responsibility rests with the Christian community they are part of. My understanding is that this is where our cultural ideas of having ‘youth groups’ in our churches came from. The original idea was outreach – rather than the discipleship of youth from Christian families.
An increasing cultural tide for our young will stand against
The tide is increasing. If schools say that a boy isn’t a boy even though he is one biologically (i.e. sex doesn’t define gender), how many years before children accept this to be true, and a sex change the best thing – despite the statistics we aren’t told about that suggest otherwise (like 18 or 20 cases of gender dysphoria in the young self-resolving by 20, while the alternative of gender change yielded a 50% suicide rate prior two age 23)? How long before she embraces views that differ to her parents? What about abortion being ok – and any critique of it considered ‘judgemental’ or ‘anti-woman’? What about Euthanasia? Most University students vote Labour or Greens. Why is that? Has our education system come to somehow affirm a given political view?
If schools say all types of sexuality are equal while the Bible instead esteems monogamous heterosexual marriage, what would cause a Christian youth to believe the Christian view – other than faith? What is the rationality of it – if any? That is what education is about! What difference would seeing all the statistics on broken families, and the affect this has on us, make? Might the idea that monogamous marriage is sacred make sense if they saw that it was about more than the rights of the couple involved – but instead also the rights of children to grow up on stable homes for the sake of their own mental and emotional wellbeing (quite apart from a myriad of other societal implications this has). Might the law of love begin to make sense then?
‘Inside Out’ is a school program designed to teach children LGBTQ values. The challenge we face, however, is not just the principle of treating people who are different to us with grace. That’s a no-brainer to most of us, and despite plenty of failures in history the Christian Church has actually been the global leader in this! What they are aiming for is a moral agenda (not a tolerance one). They want to redefine what is right and wrong, and their expectation is that everyone complies. This is very different to teaching tolerance. This is an awkward kind of religious education – because all moral definitions come from our religious worldview (where we come from, why we are here, where morals come from, and how we define ultimate hope). Will a diversity of opinions be accepted regarding the promoted diversity of sexualities if we agree to treat all people equally and with love? It doesn’t look like it yet – but it should!
It is not intolerant to disagree with someone. Tolerance is about how we treat people irrespective of how much we disagree.
How long will our children and youth stand when picked on by students and teachers for being ‘intolerant’ because they believe something different to the teacher – who incidentally only changed their view a decade ago to comply with what they were told to believe (unless they are young, in which case they’ve never heard reasons to believe differently)? Remember, those teachers were likewise educated at the university where the same game is being played. They genuinely believing the values they are teaching are true – and can’t see it’s a religious dogma, and from a worldview in which moral values are ironically ‘relative’ (which means they’re just culture, and therefore made up; they are subjective, not objective).
…And if the school says that evolution explains our existence, how long will the student last when demeaned for being ‘un-scientific’ – despite the absurdity of saying absolutely everything including time, space and matter came from nothing without a first cause, while first life somehow came about despite it’s unimaginable complexity, and all while there is still an absence of any mechanism for an evolutionary process creating different species types (This point is explained later in this article just in case).
The problem understood
Despite the success of some churches in youth ministry, the overall pattern is still one of decline. Our estimates, based on the feedback of pastors’ groups in 2015 and 2016, were that youth ministry is attending 1/3 to ¼ of what it was 25 years ago. Godtalk.nz was our solution – to address one area of deficit in outreach focus, and conversational equipping for it. It’s met a need – but the need is bigger.
The overall situation is likely to get worse too. Persecution of youth, and pressure upon youth and children to confirm to dictated ‘norms’ in moral opinions and the like… …is fast becoming our reality. So, what is the path forwards?
The change I suggest: It’s time to take responsibility to educate our children in more areas than we have!
My point here is about how we think about discipleship, and the kind of diligence and competence we bring to it.
We have delegated the responsibility of education to our schools. We trust them with it. This is fine for math and reading – but what about regarding religious worldview (how people see the world) and all the global, moral and other ethical matters that arise from it? Things that relate to ideas of truth – affecting philosophy, history, morality, sociology and more are all taught through the ‘lenses’ of the author or teacher.
George Barna, an American cultural researcher, tell us a child’s worldview (view of the world) is established by age 14. In most churches and families, we aren’t even discussing issues like the above until youth are aged 14. The reason for considering a change in approach in view of continuing trends is clear. We run discussions with young people on various topics at age 13 or 14 at a time when their worldview are already largely set through a process involving education, public media and social pressure to conform.
Might it be time to take more seriously again the idea of properly educating our own children in some core things?
What discipleship involves
Discipleship is not only about the study of Scripture alone. Discipleship is about the study of Scripture for application in the context of our world today! We need the Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other. (Or – put differently, we need a Bible app on one page and a few news apps on the another). We have to help our children and youth understand the society they live in through the lenses of their faith – before the changing viewpoints of that world become their lens! And this means discussing the ‘philosophical’ concepts of God, truth, morality, ethics, tolerance, equality, freedom, history and more while they are still children!
While the keyword for a disciple is ‘choice’ (we make choices to honour God), the key word for a disciple-maker is ‘intentional’ (we intentionally seek to educate through a variety of means, to produce measurable change).
Examples of topics for education
In the face of LGBTQ, if we are to promote heterosexual marriage we need to intentionally educate our young with reasons for this just as our schools and media are. We need to demonstrate the benefits of certain choices, and the logic of this from sound data on the social, emotional and mental consequences for individuals and whole societies that follow. The data exists -just not in public newspapers. Many of us come from broken homes. The data is depressing.
(In LGBTQ I trust it goes without saying that we love all people irrespective of their choices – while an intelligent conversation about the limits of tolerance is hopefully all appreciated. We don’t tolerate paedophiles teaching in Kindergartens for instance. Nor should we expect the local Muslim Mosque to accept a Christian as their new Imam – with claims of ‘religious discrimination’ if they reject the applicants on the basis of their religion).
Regarding sexuality-related topics, if tolerance is said to be about accepting certain viewpoints ‘because no sexual morals actually exist’, then our children and youth also need to be taught not only why we might believe sexual morals do exist, butt also (1) what intolerance is, and then, (2) the conversational skills Jesus modelled with which he (i) engaged with interested people, but (ii) merely sought to intrigue the disinterested with stories, while (iii) fully deflecting the hostile through questions (or silence). Without this training they are going to be incapacitated. This training isn’t yet part of our ‘corporate culture’ either. They won’t learn it by ‘osmosis’ from the rest of us. It will need teaching (aka, this is about discipleship within culture)!
They also could really benefit from understanding a little about something like the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. This was penned by Eleanor Roosvelt (American Presidents wife) with a group she chaired. As a Christian, she was delighted to bring Judeo-Christian values to the world, and under the name of ‘secularism’ Christian values have indeed spread widely. (Secular historians like Tom Holland affirm the reality of dynamic – though not specifically in these words). The challenge is this: Some rights contradict others. Because the word ‘God’ is not included in this declaration, moral values are left as subjective – meaning they can be changed however it suits us. (Muslims understood this, which is why the OIC met in Cairo in 2002 to create their own Declaration of Human Rights, while rejecting that of the UN – and with considerably different moral boundaries in some areas). Because of this, changing sexual morals are on a collision course with religious freedoms in the West – which includes us. The only solution is tolerance – but those promoting their ever-changing new sexual morals aren’t yet interested in tolerance. They only want to ‘win’ – which to them means convincing or forcing everyone to admit that morality is disconnected from sexuality. Only through understanding this do we have a framework for understanding the basis and limitations of these claimed ‘rights’ – and the reality that tolerance actually is a solution we need to argue for.
Regarding morals – children and youth also need to understand why all morals come from religion. Our youth and children need to be taught this.
Children can understand profound things – but only if their teachers understand them enough to explain them simply. Making disciples involves becoming an educator!
The question of origins is another question of religion discussed regularly in all our schools, and in many TV programmes. Evolution is presented as ‘science’ – and presenters trusted as if they were somehow without any religious bias. A disciple-maker therefore gives the 5 year-old a bag of lego and tell them to shake it until accidental chance has created something amazing. The rational is simple, but actually profound. The basic mechanism of chance defies the logic that it takes intelligence to create information, and a designer to create something that shows clearly and obvious evidences of design. What can make everything from nothing? How complex is a single living cell – and is any theory regarding its ‘accidental’ coming together actually standing? How could speciation happen if we know adaption can’t account for new species types (or categories), while mutations – even if positive (which does very occasionally happen) do not account for the creation of the excessive volume of ‘code’ we call DNA? To illustrate the point: How long would it take random selecting of 1500 letters, including spaces, to create a coherent story on one page by accident – let alone a ‘design code’ that in its short form is 1000 letters per page, 1000 pages per book, and stacked1000 books high? With fun examples for each point, children can understand these things, and this is important education – equipping them to deal with the different views they WILL be presented from age 5 in our school system (as programmes including evolution exist for this age group).
In case the point if missed, from our beliefs on origins come our beliefs on the purpose of life, and then also our basis for defining right and wrong (morality) – and then also for defining hope (if there is any). Our schools are giving our children and youth an education on all these areas in various ways – and with an increasing level of conviction too. Teachers are coming into schools now who really believe what they are teaching. We need to educate with the same kind of commitment and intelligence!
Two more illustrations.
Regarding history our society says Christianity is an imposition of colonisation, and quite irrelevant to who we are. Children need to hear about the work of the missionaries in New Zealand who were invited by Maori precisely because Maori did understand a few things. Without their foresight there would have been no Treaty. No other group of non-Maori stood for the Treaty like them. No other non-Maori suffered for their stand to defend Maori like they did also! They also need to hear about Christian Maori, who transformed the violent aspects of their culture – while remaining fully Maori in themselves. Also, regarding the Christian foundation to many of our values – children and youth also need to hear about people like secular historian Tom Holland who considers secularism a ‘footnote to the Bible’ (taking Christianity’s values, but making it religiously neutral for wider application). As a non-believer defends the idea that the West is ‘Christian’ – even though this conclusion is contrary to his on starting bias. Our cultural concepts of charity and care are Christian. The cultural ideas we have related to education and healthcare even for the poor are too. Christianity ended slavery, founded the women’s rights movement, taught equality, brought honesty and prosperity to our society through its values and worldview, enabled and promoted democratic forms of government, and a lot more! To criticise it is to cut our own feet off. It’s absurd – yet happening, and our children and youth need to know this. Otherwise they will fall silent – ashamed ‘of the terrible things their irrelevant faith has supposedly done.’
Finally, our education needs to include teaching the young how to read the news – because if we believe what we’re hearing or reading in public media, we’re missing my entire point. The media is owned. People with intelligence have bought it (literally), and influence it. By influencing who are in charge you can influence the kind of person they employ. That influences the tone – and then you can impose your own rules, like deciding that no articles to be published on a range of topics that disagree with your own views. This is already the case in various media outlets in our nation. (When Christians have had power, they have done the same, protecting messages that protect high values and the strength of families. Our use of influence to promote the values we believe in is no different).
Everyone has a worldview – and the question is, what is the worldview of the person who wrote this? What are they trying to say through the way they present the ‘facts’ they’ve chosen – while possibly ignoring others. What are both sides of this argument – and how do you find that information if public media won’t tell the other side? What view is most true? Government, media and education are increasingly shutting free speech and dialogue down. These are tragic realities. This is true of our universities too – with some academics confidentially acknowledging that their own freedoms of speech are gone. Freedom of information is being shut down – and with that, what relevance freedoms of conscience and speech are actually already gone (because you don’t even have the information needed to make a decision)? If we don’t teach children and youth how to read the news – so they can then learn how to read the ‘science book’ – and also the academic telling them what science supposedly says (while ignoring other science that is inconvenient to their narrative). Without this awareness, they will believe what they hear. This is therefore a necessary part of our education!
What do you think?
Schools can do math and literacy – but has the time come for us to be more involved in values, origins, purpose, charity, truth, morality, philosophy, history and reason?
My suggestion is that a change in our thinking and approach is needed. If we don’t awaken to see that the time to change the way we educate our children I fear we’ll lose many more.
This also needs doing intelligently. This is about an ‘awakening’ of sorts – from a revelation of what is happening within our culture, and the impact this is having. We can’t change the nation. We can disciple our young. been ‘really spiritual’ as churches is great – but fails to produce disciples if it failed to truly study the Bible while holding a newspaper in the other hand.
Final historical ‘rant’: God’s Church started public education for all. No one else even though of educating the poor. It was us (the Jesus-influenced people)! Then we spread it globally. We gave our lives to doing this – often literally. We chose to love the poor. We turned native languages into written languages – and gave those cultures their own schools, and with their own teachers. We led the way in philosophy, medicine and scientific discovery. We founded the greatest universities of the world.
These have been hijacked. (Even the word ‘secular’ has been hijacked!)
What would happen if we decided to educate our own children with intelligence again?