A Spirit of Fear

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Have we created a spirit of fear, in our children and even our selves that is hindering our ability to share the gospel?

A few days ago, I read an article from Relevant Magazine, that has me camped out on this question.  The article, “3 Youth Group Lessons I’ve Had to Unlearn” was originally written for youth leaders, but it is entirely relevant to the body of believers.

I’m just going focusing on the first of these three lessons:

1. Your Classmates/Peers/Friends/Teachers are Going to Persecute You for Your Faith.

One of the recurrent themes in my Christian youth was the pressure to stay strong for God around peers and teachers who, I was told, would be antagonistic toward my beliefs. So many talks and sermons and rally-sessions wrapped tight around this topic, constricting my chest with the urgency of knowing how to accurately and compellingly disseminate the specifics of the Christian faith to others—even if they mocked me for it.

I spent the duration of junior high and high school braced against the entire student body, sure that they secretly mocked/hated/despised me. I wore Christian T-shirts like some kind of bullet-proof vest. I memorized all of the brilliant apologetic arguments in favor of Christianity in case any teacher or student ever cornered me in the hall and forced me to debate my faith.

But no one ever did.

What actually happened is that I distanced myself from everyone who didn’t believe like I did. It wasn’t that they didn’t like me—it was that I had barred my arms in an eternal defensive pose, and no one could even get close. So after a while, they stopped trying.

I understand that there are places in the world where persecution exists. And it’s  is not something to take lightly. But the American cultural climate, right now, is not violent toward Christians. And despite the popularity of Christian movies like God’s Not Dead, I’d argue that 99 percent of teachers are not in it to shatter students’ faith. And yes—kids can be cruel. But, in the land of first-world problems, it’s usually not about anything quite as noble as religious beliefs.

I’d love to see youth pastors and teachers who refuse to play into that “Us” and “Them” paradigm. Who encourage, instead, their students to understand that we are all so much the same—complicated and quirky and broken and beloved.

Instead of teaching kids that Jesus is something we have and they don’t, let’s teach them to look for the bright image of God in each person that crosses their paths.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/god-our-generation/3-youth-group-lessons-ive-had-unlearn#2MGvpCByqquj2QVU.99

We are called to be bold about our faith, we are supposed to encourage our children to stand firm in their faith… but then we negate that lesson by saying “and you are going to be picked on for it”.  Anyone who has raised a child knows that is not going to turn out well.  These are kids who are desperately trying to fit in, and we are telling them to do something that will hinder that.

No wonder they avoid it like the plague.

To date, however, I can not think of ONE SINGLE INSTANCE where my daughter came home with a story about the girls who wear hijabs being picked on, or that anyone gave the Jewish kid a hard time when he passed out his Bar Mitzvah invitations.  Please do not think me naive that discrimination doesn’t happen in these cases elsewhere in the world.  But, for our town, this has been a non issue.

So why then, are we telling our Christian teens that they will be made fun of for it?

Which then led me to additional thought…  if they are being made fun of, is it because we as a culture have said it’s ok to do it… because Christians expect it?  Have we taught a spirit of fear to our children vs. a expectation of respect that other religions demand?

When I was in high school, we had several different clubs/events that would happen that were “Christian” and I went to a public school.  I remember being intrigued by it, because it seemed like such a bad idea…. putting a target on their backs to be made fun of.  I watched from the side lines.  No one made any derogatory comments about the club, or showed up in protest about their on campus events.  If they didn’t like it, if they didn’t share those same beliefs, they just went on about their business as usual.

But, for those who did… and watched from the sidelines… it created a feeling of safety.   It is ok to claim this as your faith, no one here is going to hurt you for it.  In fact, they really couldn’t care less about it.

What if we said something different to our kids?  What if we said something like….

Your school is made up of a lot of different kids.  They come from different countries, with different traditions.  They come from different religions, with different rules and celebrations.  Just like they have their beliefs, we have our beliefs.  Not everyone is going to agree with you, and not everyone is going to understand you.  That is ok.  You are not going to totally understand everything they do and celebrate either.  You just continue to be you, answer their questions, don’t get into arguments or debates.  It isn’t worth it, take the higher road.  Love them anyway, be kind to them regardless of what they say. 

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BOOK REVIEW: More than just THE TALK, by Jonathan McKee

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “More Than Just The Talk” by Jonathan McKee.  While Family Christian sent me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own.

thetalkFor a Christian book, More Than Just the Talk, is pretty raw.  It was not what I was expecting, at all.  At the same time, it was exactly what I needed. I am a mother of three daughters, one of which is sixteen… and has a boyfriend.  A great kid.  Who despite how much we love him, still wonders when we will “trust him” and “trust them” to be alone together.

I say, when they are married.  My husband, he claims never. HA.

This book is so entirely relevant not just to my sixteen year old… but to my twelve year old… and to my eight year old.  All of which are exposed to the sexually charged media of the world we live in.

It’s time to be real, parents, the influence the world has our kids … even from those who sit in our church pews … is a struggle we not only need to fight against, but a fight that has to start sooner.  We can not afford to give up.  This is a real battle, that will not be easy to win.  Some of us won’t.  Thank God for grace.

Recently I was in a discussion regarding 1 Corinthians 7.  In this letter, Paul basically says it is best to be unmarried (to remain fully focused on God and His calling), if you can’t avoid temptation to get married, and if you get married to stay committed to that person for ever.  Pretty straight forward, but we have to understand WHY Paul wrote this letter.  The Church at Corinth, was in the midst of a city full of sexual sin.  The Church at Corinth, was itself spiritually immature.  This is exactly the situation we find ourselves in, in the United States.  We are country, much like Corinth, that is a hub of various cultures and religious beliefs.  With many different views as to what is and isn’t moral, pure, and good.   We are influenced by those around us, because the further we draw away from the New Testament days, the less mature we are as a body of believers.  We no longer have that same fervor that the early Christians… those taught by Christ and his immediate disciples had.  That fervor gets watered down each generation.

Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth, could easily be a letter written to every church in the United States.  This is what our youth today face. They face music, television and movies that are sexually charged.  We have phones with apps that can allow us to secretly view materials and participate in conversations, and many parents are blissfully unaware.

And, as author Johnathan McKee points out in the book, we are not alone.  This temptation and these materials are making their way in to the hands, minds and hearts of Mennonite and Amish communities.  It’s flooding in from everywhere, and even the “good kids” are getting exposure to it when they are at a friend’s home.  Even when that friend is another Christian.

Many parents are familiar with giving “The Talk” about sex.    It might be very technical about how the body works, coupled with scripture and religious views.  Some may delve in a bit deeper talking about the consequences (physical and emotional).  Some parents may be stricter teaching abstinence only, where as others will support abstaining coupled with information should the child choose not to.  It is a subject talked about at church, school and also home.  Usually, but not always.  In fact there is still some uncomfortably in talking with our own kids, about such a big topic.

If you are hoping this book is going to make you more comfortable talking to your kids, let me forewarn you…. it won’t.  In fact you are probably going to find yourself a little comfortable reading it, let alone thinking about talking to your kids about it.  However, with that uncomfortably … you will also find yourself feeling a sense of urgency to act.  You are going to realize that you need to do more than just talk about it, but actually take some steps.

Investigate what your kids are reading, what music they are listening to, and watch television shows they are watching.  Understand the way teens are looking at sex, and justifying what is and isn’t ok.  Be honest with yourself about not only what they are being exposed to at school… but what is seeping into the home (what channels are you subscribing to, that show late night content that is pornographic).   Take a moment to really understand that those lyrics you think you kids don’t understand the context, they know more than you think.

When your 8 year old asks you, “Mommy… what is 50 Shades of Grey about?”  …. when you don’t own the books, didn’t watch the movie, and don’t talk about in your home.  That tells you, this stuff is everywhere.  They are seeing it & learning about it, somewhere.  Someone is talking to them.  The radio?  Their teachers?  Their fellow students?

There is a lot of influence and we need to be prepared and proactive with our children.  More Then Just the Talk is not a comfortable read, but a necessary one.   Whether you are a public schooling mom, or a Pastor’s wife…. your kids are exposed, they are in need of real … straight forward … and sometimes explicit truth.

First, More Than Just the Talk, exposes that the content of “the talk” has changed.  We are also given tools on how to talk about it with our kids, with chapters specific to sons and daughters.  Each have their own approach, own needs.  However, I wouldn’t advise skipping one of those chapters.  Even if you only have daughters, you need to read the chapter on sons.  Your daughters will one day have boyfriends, and the sons chapter gives you some perspective, and you may… at some point… find yourself having a conversation with him.  This chapter will be beneficial.  The book also helps us navigate through the tough and uncomfortable questions they will surprise us with.  Because, right now, statistics show us that Google is where they are getting most of their information.

I don’t know about you, but I am not ok with that as their primary source of information.

What I also appreciate about the book, McKee recognizes that some of us will be reading this book after the fact.   There will be some of us that have a child that has had a sexual experience to some degree. Instead of shaming, the book helps us point our kids back onto the path.  We help them to realize that their past mistakes don’t negate a positive future.  New choices can be made, new standards put in place.  They can be forgiven and not defined by who they were at that time.  I also appreciate the book addresses children who have been victimized, where they had no control over the decision to become sexually active.  They are not forgotten, and they too are not defined by their past.  There is hope for all of them, for all of us.

More Than Just the Talk, as uncomfortable as it may make you, needs to be in your arsenal.  Use it, don’t just shelve it.  Read through the difficult parts.  Decided, under prayerful consideration, how and when you will begin these conversations with your kids.  Don’t assume it won’t apply to you, your kids, because of your conservative beliefs.

“More Than The Talk” is a powerful tool, that we can use to shape and redirect the path our children are taking.  It opens our eyes, and calls us to action.

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