Me-ism


Olympia_roller_coasterI was talking with a friend yesterday about the radical changes in society here in the US. We started looking at history to see if we could figure out how the earthshaking changes occurred. OK, first she related to me a discussion in a Bible study centered around Ephesians 5:16: “making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” The question came up from a Millennial, what does it mean “the days are evil”?

Well, that’s a question I think is self-explanatory. I mean, I just heard a statistic that said 90 people a day die in the US from gunshot wounds. Well, I went to verify this if possible. It’s a stat apparently Secretary Hillary Clinton has used in speeches against gun violence. On a web site that lists the numbers of deaths annually, the total they give for 2015 is 12,942 people killed “in a gun homicide, unintentional shooting, or murder/suicide” (The Trace). A little math reveals that’s more than 35 deaths a day.

Oh, so 35 isn’t 90, meaning it’s not so bad? The days aren’t really evil then? Well, 35 people would be like killing everyone (and a few visitors) in one of my classes during my teaching days. Every day! I think that’s pretty evil.

And that doesn’t begin to address the numbers of assaults, the muggings, the lies, the adulteries, the rapes, the abuse, the drunken stupors, the addiction overdoses, the robberies, the prostitution, the bribery, the corruption, the hate, the pornography, the abortions, the cursing, the betrayal. I find the evil to be overwhelming.

I mean, listen to an average news show and see what horrific things are happening in the world. The days are evil.

But this young Millennial had to ask, What does it mean, “The days are evil.”

So my friend and I began to discuss where in society is the breakdown that made this intelligent, well-educated Millennial ask for a definition of evil days. I mean, with atheism on the rise and church attendance on the decline, with terrorism seemingly unchecked, and presidential candidates who are potentially going to be indited for crimes or who have advocated for illegal action in their debates, I find it astounding that anyone would not immediately grasp the concept of “evil days.”

Thus the conclusion: something in our society has broken.

What, and when?

I suggested first, the dynamics of the home are not what they once were. During World War II and the Korean War, then the Viet Nam War, young men were not in the home, so any number of young wives were left to parent alone or to change roles from the one caring for the home to one providing financial necessities.

I didn’t mention this, but divorce also became easier to obtain and the stigma of divorce was removed. Hence, single parent homes began to increase. In short, a generation was not parented well, and they, in turn did a bad job of parenting their children who are now Millennials.

Parenting styles also changed. One difference was the determination that spanking was an inappropriate form of punishment. But there was also a surge of what my friend called “helicopter parents” who constantly hovered. I’ll add that homes became more child-centric than ever.

Our discussion ended before we reached any conclusion, but as I look at the changes in our society, I see two threads: parents who neglected their children, so they ended up growing up like weeds, and pampered children who grew up thinking the world owed them whatever their hearts desired.

Both extremes produced children who are part of the Me-ism of today. The first decided that no one else was going to watch out for them, so they had to watch out for themselves. The latter saw that everyone was taking care of them (coaches awarding participation trophies, teachers giving do-over tests, or changing their standardized test results, more recently, safe zones on university campuses where students won’t hear anything that offends them, and the like), so they expected the world to continue to center around them.

I’ll add another element. Our society has moved from one that believed in hard work and success to one that believes in happiness and safety. Our highest priority now seems to be happiness, and safety is needed to make happiness possible.

Consequently, entertainment occupies much of our time and attention. We want to have music on always. Unless we’re watching TV or the movie of our downloading choice. We read about the stars and watch “news” shows about the stars and talk about the stars. We are obsessed with the lives of people who act. Or sing. Why? Because they entertain us. And entertainment is key to happiness.

I think Me-ism is responsible for our view of truth and the push for tolerance. After all, if the most important value is each person’s individual happiness, then whatever the person wants must be good. If you want to believe in an after life, then that’s fine because it works for you. But if someone else says there is nothing beyond the grave, that’s fine too because they can be happy here and now. Because, you see, all views have to be tolerated so that everyone can be happy.

Enter Jesus saying that He is The way, The truth, The life, and no one can come to God the Father except through Him. He shatters the underpinnings of Me-ism. He shakes us from the lethargy of escape to entertainment and tells us to be on the alert. Peter explains that our enemy, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

Paul says to Christians

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6)

In short, we simply don’t have time to be caught up in Me-ism, no matter what our culture is about. Like the first church which broke from their Jewish friends, neighbors, family, and community, Christians need to break from the culture of Me-ism and hold to the standards of the Bible. Because, yes, the days are evil, but our Redeemer is coming back to set things right.

Do Good And Evil Exist?


ThroughthescopeI think people with a theistic worldview understand that good and evil exist–evil being the absence of good. However, in this present day and age, more and more people have bought into the idea that the concept of evil is the only real evil.

Everything else in human behavior which is undesirable simply needs to be bathed in education. Those who do horrific things, like shoot kindergartners in their classroom or plan to gun down their fellow students in college, simply haven’t benefited from a proper upbringing in which they’ve been given what they need.

Basic psychology, we’re told, or “common” sense says that children simply need to receive proper care and instruction at the proper time, and they will be happy and productive citizens.

Mind you, I’m not knocking proper care and instruction. Every parent should give his child love and security along with provision for their basic human needs. Every child should be instructed about the things that will make them safe and will, in turn, help them keep others safe.

As good as education is, however, kids still do things they know could seriously harm them. And the older they are, the more apt they are to do these harmful things.

That seems counter intuitive. With all the education, these older kids should know better than to do drugs, smoke, have unprotected sex. But guess what? A lot of well-parented kids who never lacked love or any of the good things in life still go against their education.

The “evil is a myth” folks answer this fact by saying children are naturally curious, so of course, if a parent says no to a toddler who wants to stick her finger in the electric outlet, we can expect her not to listen because she is curious.

Given that rationale, I don’t understand what the point of “education” is. I mean, if a person knows the child won’t listen and must discover on her own, why don’t we forgo the wearisome instruction and let kids find out the hard way that drunk driving kills, gangs aren’t beneficial groups, and drugs are addictive.

I suspect with people like Lindsey Lohan we should simply be understanding: she needs to discover what’s healthy for her and what’s not.

The thing is, those who hold to the view that those like Ms. Lohan who do anti-social things, such as steal or drive drunk, simply needed to be properly nurtured and cared for as children, have no explanation how this “bad parenting” process began.

If humans are good and only in need of proper parenting, what caused the first bad parents to improperly provide for their children? Because clearly the teetering domino effect had to start somewhere. In this way of thinking, perfect parents, parenting perfectly, can’t produce imperfect kids.

And yet, somewhere along the line, children started doing unwholesome, even harmful, things. Which suggests there’s something inside the child herself that responds imperfectly.

Of course the Bible gives the clear explanation:

At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. But how can that be? Did the law, which is good, cause my death? Of course not! Sin used what was good to bring about my condemnation to death. So we can see how terrible sin really is. It uses God’s good commands for its own evil purposes. (Romans 7:9-13, New Living Translation – emphasis mine)

It’s not a lack of empathy or proper nurturing or instruction or maturity that causes people to do hateful things. It’s sin, that thing in the human heart that makes us want to do the very thing we’re told not to do.

Of course, without recognizing our sin, we have no realization of our need for a Savior, so getting this good and evil issue right is pivotal.

Published in: on March 20, 2013 at 7:19 pm  Comments (9)  
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The Best Defense


KissesFromKatie cover“The best defense is a good offense” sports pundits say, but either parents don’t believe it or they don’t think it applies to raising their children.

Of late I’ve seen two general styles of parenting. One is protective and the other permissive. I suspect most parents are tempted to be permissive. Nobody likes to say no to a beautiful little child you love with all your heart. But some choose to be protective instead.

Permissive parents seem to believe in the Humankind-is-good idea so prevalent in Western society. They want to encourage their children, nurture them, educate them, and let them know they can do whatever they put their minds to.

The problem, of course, with this approach is that children can not do whatever they put their minds to. No matter how much they want to be butterflies, they aren’t going to become butterflies. No matter how much they want to be like LeBron or Kobe, they (most of them, anyway) aren’t going to become the next great NBA basketball player. Nothing wrong with trying hard and doing your best, but why lie to kids and give them false expectations?

Besides, giving kids their head puts them in danger. They can try things they’re curious about that will become addictions or involve themselves with people who want to use or abuse them. They themselves might even become the one who bullies or who abandons (after all, life is, they’ve been taught, all about what they want).

Parents who take the protective route tend to be the ones who see Humankind as sinful by nature. Hence, there is much to protect children from–the stranger, the kid next door, his liberal teacher, his ungodly classmates, shysters selling things outside grocery stores, the homeless, frauds coming to your door selling things, people of a different religion, from a different part of town, who speak a different language, who vote differently. The list is endless, and the means by which these parents try to protect their children can be exhausting.

Interestingly, the Bible gives lots of advice to parents, none particularly aligned with either the permissive or protective approach. Here’s one key passage, originally written by Solomon to his son.

For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course.
For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
Discretion will guard you,
Understanding will watch over you,
To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
Who delight in doing evil
And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
Whose paths are crooked,
And who are devious in their ways
(Proverbs 2:6-15a – emphasis mine)

Notice, this passage says God is the one who will protect our kids. He gives wisdom, is a shield, and preserves their way. At some point then, after being infused with God’s wisdom, kids can discern which way to go. They’ll know what they need to know about justice and righteousness, and that knowledge will protect them against those who would harm them.

The perfect example of this kind of God protection is Katie Davis, author of Kisses from Katie. I don’t know how her parents raised her except for the fact that I see the outcome. At eighteen, Katie left her comfortable home in Tennessee and went to Uganda to teach. After a short time she began adopting children, decided to stay in Uganda, and started a ministry called Amazima to provide the means for children to get an education.

Clearly, she was not acting like a child who had been protected from all that could be dangerous. She faced the dangerous every day–people with TB, who had ringworm, were HIV-positive, had infections and open sores. She dealt with rats and cockroaches and malaria-carrying mosquitoes. She was a single white woman, a teenager, who didn’t speak the local language, and yet she simply went about showing people the love of Jesus by loving them herself.

Why would she? How could she? Here’s how she explained it:

Jesus wrecked my life. For as long as I could remember, I had everything this world says is important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. But I loved Jesus.

And the fact that I loved Jesus was beginning to interfere with the plans I once had for my life and certainly with the plans others had for me. My heart had been apprehended by a great love, a love that compelled me to live differently.

Katie went on to explain that at twelve or thirteen she began to “delve into the truths of Scripture.” In short she turned to God for wisdom and found “knowledge and understanding.” She knew well before the adults in her life that she didn’t have to protect herself or rely on the protection her parents could provide. Instead, she could travel half-way around the world and live with and love people who knew poverty and deprivation that most in the Western world can’t even imagine. And she could trust that God would shield her and preserve her way.

So maybe there’s a third way for parents to raise kids–putting them on the offensive. If children learn early that God is the source of wisdom, that He is their shield, that He will preserve their way, then they can disarm people with love and fill them with truth.

We are not called to be safe, we are simply promised that when we are in danger, God is right there with us. And there is no better place to be than in His hands.
― Katie J. Davis, Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption

Published in: on February 21, 2013 at 6:23 pm  Comments Off on The Best Defense  
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Super Nanny And Moral Instruction


One way the Christian worldview differs from many other perspectives is in the area of human nature. In today’s humanistic Western culture, Mankind is viewed as good. It is society that teaches individuals to do wrong things. As a corollary, we say children are innocent and their reactions, pure.

On another site, in a tangential discussion to yesterday’s post, “Thoughts On President Obama’s Evolving View Of Marriage,” one commenter, in support of this idea, made the point that small children have a natural aversion to seeing a dog mistreated.

I’m not convinced. I’ve seen too many children pull a dog’s tail, sit on his back, bounce up and down, and grab hold of his ears.

There isn’t something innate that tells a child when he’s hurting someone or something. He does what he wants because he wants it. We are born with a selfish nature that puts us over God. We are prideful. We want to rule and we want to take.

God has ordained parents to teach children His moral standard.

You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:7-9)

Throughout Scripture — in books of the Law, poetry, and the epistles — parents are admonished to teach their children the way of the Lord. Here’s a sampling:

For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice (Genesis 18:19a)

We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. (Psalm 78:4)

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Pro. 22:6)

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Eph. 6:4)

How far Western culture has come from this idea that parents are to teach, train, instruct their children.

A few years ago there was a TV program called Super Nanny. A British woman who served as a nanny would go into homes with unruly children and teach the mom and dad parenting skills. I have to admit, it was fascinating and horrifying.

Horrifying because of the way some parents let their children rule their home. They would throw things, hit each other, sometimes hit and curse at their parents, and too often they received no correction. Sometimes the correction was inconsistent, sometimes accompanied with empty threats. And the children learned little by little that they were in charge.

The fascinating part of the show was to watch the transformation, first of the parents, then of the children. Some of the adults really struggled with the idea that they could and should tell their children what to do rather than letting them have free rein (or is that reign? 😉 ). Some felt as if it wasn’t loving to tell them what to do. Some feared their children’s anger and were sure they would lose their love forever.

How shocked they were when the techniques Super Nanny taught actually began to bring a change in behavior — the children became happier, more loving, and obedient people, all because someone instructed them and corrected them.

The writer to the Hebrews elaborates on the discipline of parents as a way for us to understand the discipline of God.

God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. (Hebrews 12:7b-10)

Parental discipline as an extension of love is almost treated as a given in this passage. Today’s phenomenon of letting children figure out their own moral standards would have been unheard of in that day.

The ironic thing is that in our culture children most often want to follow after others outside the home in making their moral choices — the very thing today’s philosophy believes is tainted (children are good; society is the problem). You don’t hear kids saying, I thought about this and have come to the conclusion that this is right. No, their argument to their parent is still, But Mom, everyone else is doing it.

I was fortunate to have parents that answered that argument with the proverbial, If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you follow?

Today we have parents who answer, Well, if everyone is doing it, then I certainly don’t want you to feel left out, so sure, I’ll change my attitude. I’ll let my moral beliefs evolve. After all, there is no authoritative right and wrong.

I can picture God’s response: Really?

Why Is Parenting So Important


I find myself writing about parenting much more than I ought to. After all, I’m not a parent. But during the years I taught school, I saw a lot of parents and different parenting styles. It was pretty easy to see similarities between those who were most effective. It was also easy to see new trends develop, and the effects on kids.

Not that any of that makes me an expert. It simply makes me an observer. The expert is God, and in the end, how we parent is important because it is important to Him.

I’ve heard before that people may form their views of God based on their views of their earthly father. I know this is not a hard and fast rule, but it should be sobering to dads. A dad who parents well is communicating not only his love and patience and consistency and justice and mercy and forgiveness, but he is making it easier for his children to see God as a loving, consistent, just, merciful, forgiving Father.

Parenting is also important because God gave parents the job of passing on their knowledge of Him and His word to their children.

You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.

One more reason I think parenting is so important, this from the side of the children. A child’s first taste of love mingled with discipline comes from his parents. How he responds sets the tone for how he will respond to God. Is he compliant? Rebellious? Responsive to correction? Willing to listen to warnings? In some ways, responding to parents is “practice” for responding to God.

But what if parents abdicate their position as disciplinarians?

God is not limited by our sin. Children who were not well-parented come to God, and He teaches them. One of my favorite verses, from Psalm 27, says, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me,/ But the LORD will take me up.” God can “take us up” by providing parent figures, disciplers, examples, direct instruction from His Word, Biblical men and women who model righteous living.

Look at the people of Israel on their way from Egypt to Israel. The parents spoke against God, supposedly on behalf of their children, bemoaning the danger they would face. What they should have been doing on behalf of their children was teaching them to trust God. The result? Not the bad things for the children that the adults feared. Rather the adults lost out on the blessing God intended for them and the children still enjoyed the promised land.

I conclude good parenting is good for the children, good for their relationship with God, and it’s good for the parents, for their own obedience and blessing.

Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm  Comments (3)  
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When Parents Don’t Parent


It was inevitable. And the sad thing is, we can expect more of the same.

Saturday I read a column written by Shirlee Smith about a mom who’s 13-month-old baby drowned. Not in a backyard pool, but in the family bathtub. The mom, you see, was in the living room on Facebook.

No, she didn’t claim addiction to social media as the reason she neglected her child. Rather, she explained that the baby “was very independent and wanted to be alone.” So of course, the mother complied and left the infant alone.

Isn’t that what parents are supposed to do — discern the wishes of their children and do whatever it takes to comply? You’d think so by listening to the way some parents talk to their children or by listening to some of the debate Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has spawned.

This book, currently number 2 on the NYT Best Seller list for non-fiction, discusses parenting the Chinese way, making contrasts to a Western parenting style. According to Ms. Chua, the Chinese method means the parents hold children to a high standard. Clearly this means the parents are in charge. The children don’t call the shots. No 13-month-old Chinese baby ordering his parent out of the bathroom because he wants to be alone.

Sadly, though, this Chinese method is full of equally unacceptable treatment:

Lots of verbal abuse, such as calling your kid garbage if he or she screws up … In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the Yale law school professor sets out to explain why she thought the Chinese approach to raising kids was superior to the Western way. And why her rebellious daughter is making her regret some of those choices.
“Chinese Parent Amy Chua Talks Extreme Discipline and Parenting Regrets”

Sadly, in researching for this post, I came across another site that was reporting the purported negative affects of physical discipline on children. Then this interesting item:

Mothers in Thailand were least likely to physically discipline their children, followed by mothers in China, the Philippines, Italy, India, and Kenya, with mothers in Kenya most likely to physically discipline their children.

So according to this list, it would seem that mothers in China are ahead of the game because they don’t spank their children — they tell them, instead, that they are garbage.

Where, oh where, is the Biblical model? Why are we listening to people who abuse their children verbally or those who lead to utter neglect? Why do we think a child can possibly know what is best for him, more so than his parent does?

First, we’ve cut ourselves off from nature. Anyone who watches Animal Kingdom ought to know that mothers of a species teach their young how to be. Apparently humans think we’ve evolved past that. Or something.

Second, we are cut off from God. We don’t take His word for the fact that our tiny little bundles of joy are desperately wicked and if allowed to go their own way without correction will do desperately wicked things. Selfish things. Hurtful things. To themselves and to others.

I bet that poor mother whose baby drowned now realizes this.

Published in: on February 7, 2011 at 6:09 pm  Comments (5)  
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Why Were the Kings Such Bad Parents?


Recently I finished reading I and II Kings, right about the time I finished reading Debbie Thomas‘s Raising Rain. Something I didn’t mention in my Friday review of the novel is that one of its theme deals with parenting. Maybe that’s why I started thinking about what bad parents the Israelite kings were.

Even the good kings were bad fathers. Take David for instance. He was filled with the Holy Spirit (see I Samuel 16:13), was known as a man after God’s own heart, wrote Scripture, but look at his sons. One raped his sister. Another murdered his brother and later organized a coup against his father. A third tried to take the throne before Solomon could.

Where was David when all this was going on ? Well, he got mad at the rapist … but did nothing else. He exiled the murderer … for a time, but eventually brought him back to Jerusalem and even back to the court. And the one who schemed to supplant Solomon? David left the problem for the new king.

What’s more, he openly favored Absalom, the son who engineered the coup. Despite his murderous intent, when David’s followers engaged Absalom’s in battle, Davide ordered his commanders to preserve Absalom’s life. When he was killed instead, David mourned and mourned—to the point that one of his commanders (his nephew) said, “I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased” (2 Samuel 19:6b).

But David wasn’t the only bad father. Time and again, Godly kings were followed on the throne by their sons who undermined everything they’d done to turn the nation back to following God.

Hezekiah, for instance, was one of the best kings, but his son, Manasseh was possibly the worst, going so far as to institute child sacrifice to one of the false gods of a neighboring country. How was it that Hezekiah could tear down the idol temples, destroy the high places, repair the temple, experience God’s healing in response to his prayer, and not teach his son to love God and worship Him?

Josiah, too. What an inspiring young man. When he heard the word of God read, he knew at once that his nation had incurred God’s wrath because of their waywardness. He sought God and went about educating his people. He purged Judah of idolatrous priests, removed the mediums and spiritists and, re-instituted the Passover. Scripture says of him, “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25a). But he ended up having three of his sons sit on the throne and in every instance Scripture records that they did evil in the sight of the Lord.

So what happened?

Were the kings too busy to pay attention to their sons? Did they have too many kids to even know them? Did they leave the rearing up to their mothers or to some other caregiver? (One boy’s grandmother tried to kill all the heirs, and his aunt saved him. Perhaps she was in place to do so because he was in her care).

Solomon is the one that mystifies me most. He who wrote such passages as “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” didn’t seem to do a very good job of training up his own son.

I suppose some of these wayward boys chose to go astray despite good training. That would seem to be the case of Joash, the boy king rescued from his grandmother. As long as his uncle was alive giving him counsel, he conducted himself as a Godly king, but once his uncle died, he did an about-face.

So the dads, and the moms, aren’t to blame for the results. But you’d think, in that whole line of kings there would have been one who wholeheartedly walked with God and whose son did likewise.

Published in: on December 7, 2009 at 5:59 pm  Comments (6)  
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