Five Ideological Issues You (The Parent) Should Know Something About
There are a lot of things out there that can trip kids up. Amen?
It is easy for us parents to get overwhelmed at the scope and number of them all, and to either despair and/or simply give up and go with the flow. A glib “everything’s gonna be allright” attitude is denial, while constant fear and cowering is unhealthy and paralyzing.
In our more thoughtful moments, we recognize that none of those reactions are open for Christ following parents who seek to pass the baton of faith on to their kids.
The task is weighty, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible, so let’s break down one key area that we need to focus on in order to shepherd our kids through the mess so that they persevere both in the now and for the long haul:
The arena of ideas.
This isn’t the only thing that can steer our kids off the narrow road, but it sure is a big one.
Ideas have consequences, and false ideas have victims. None of us want our kids, either now as kids or as adults in the future, to live by lies, because living by lies ain’t healthy.
What are some of the biggest lies that our culture currently peddles, lies that have the wind at their backs, that we need to be aware of and actively counter--often--in our homes?
Here are five. As a public school teacher, these ideas are lurking in the background in conversations with students all…the…time. They form the backbone of their worldview, often without them really noticing it.
As Nancy Pearcey says, “The most powerful worldviews are the ones we absorb without knowing it.”
For each of these, I can only scratch the surface and do not have the space to flesh out a full throated argument on them. My intent is to simply point to them and suggest resources for further reading and preparation.
Our culture tells our kids right from the get go that identity, truth, and meaning is found by looking within, rather than by looking up to God or to community. Identity formation, in other words, is an internal thing. You are the authority on you, full stop, and authenticity means expressing your inner truth, while society has an obligation to affirm that inner truth as valid. Every Disney movie, even the ones Christians love, takes this as gospel.
But it is a lie. God calls the shots on who we are, and there are lots of external sources that should play a role in our identity formation (for example, our physical bodies).
The lie of “Expressive Individualism” has a long history to it, and Carl Trueman’s The Rise And Triumph Of The Modern Self is a great place to start to get a handle on this and how to course correct.
A TON of mischief here. When combined with the lies about identity mentioned above, these are difficult for our kids to see through.
The world both whispers and shouts at every opportunity that there is no higher purpose to sex, that consent alone is a sufficient guide to sexual ethics, and past that one solid boundary, I decide for myself what is appropriate sexual expression and activity; unchosen boundaries are therefore inherently oppressive.
Other lies abound here, but you get the picture. This is a deeply inhuman and foolish way to live. There is much more to harm than what is up front, immediate, physical, and obvious.
The Mama Bear Apologetics Guide To Sexuality by Hillary Morgan Ferrer and Amy Davison is a great resource to start thinking through all this.
The previous two are pretty easy to ferret out, simply because they are constantly in our face. Lies about knowledge--specifically, what counts as knowledge and how we discover knowledge--are much more subtle, but still important.
One *very* popular idea is that If science doesn’t show it, you don’t know it; knowledge comes to us by the five senses, and if a claim cannot be verified by taste, touch, smell, etc, data and statistics, then it is relegated to the arena of faith, feeling, and mere opinion. The subtle implication here is that it is not real--it’s put on the JV bench and dismissed as such.
You might not see the relevance of all this, but let's begin here: how do you think moral claims and religious claims are categorized according to this way of thinking? Yep: since they (so the thinking goes) cannot be verified by the five senses, they are tossed on the JV bench and therefore not to be taken seriously. (Philosopher Justin McBrayer explains this well here.)
But this is poppycock. The boundaries scientism sets for us are way, way too narrow.
J.P. Moreland breaks of it down and explains it brilliantly in his book Scientism and Secularism.
The ideology of the world teaches our kids that their feelings are an authoritative guide to reality.
You might think that conflicts with #3 on knowledge, but no one ever said the ideas the world throws at us all cohere completely and make sense together.
It is important not to dismiss feelings as totally irrelevant guides. Sometimes you just get a gut feeling about something. Our feelings can often alert us, for example, to certain things that are off about abusers in our midst. Our intellects might not pick up on these red flags as readily, but our intuitions might, and teaching our kids to completely ignore these reactions leave them vulnerable.
So there’s something to say about feelings, but our culture goes way further, seeing a flood and prescribing rain, treating a drunk’s alcoholism by giving him vodka.
Sometimes--many times!--there is a difference between perception and reality, and we can over catastrophize. Just because I feel a certain way doesn’t mean reality *is* that way. This rears its head when it comes to gender, but that is just one area.
Jonathan Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind is indispensable reading on this topic.
It is a good thing to be concerned about race, to fight racial injustice, and argue that it is still *very* much a problem today. Those who argue we still have so far to go are correct.
None of this is a problem in the least. The issue is that the problem is ill defined--diagnoses and solutions that are severely skewed have the mic and an outsized influence.
Caring about injustice means also caring about truth.
Some subtly suggest that race is the primary lens through which we should examine life. Pundits assert--rather than argue--that racism is the normal state of affairs in America, and disparities must be the result of oppression and discrimination.
These ideas might sound good on the surface but there’s falsehood lurking underneath. Partial truths and half-baked solutions wreak havoc on relationships, among other things. Here is one real life example of the damage done when these half truths are embraced.
Thaddeus Williams’ Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth and Thomas Sowell’s Wealth, Poverty, and Politics are two books that are immensely helpful for parents wanting to get to the bottom of things on subjects like race and resource inequality. Lastly, Neil Shenvi is a speaker and author whose writings are necessary reading when it comes to grasping the nature of the half-truths swirling about on race today and how they depart from the Bible.
Again, are these the only potholes in the road? No, far from it, but these ideas currently enjoy an incredible amount of cultural momentum, so we need to prepare ourselves in these areas so we can prepare our kids.
Let’s be like the “men of Issachar,” who “understood the times and knew what to do.” (1 Chronicles 12:32)
Don’t stop at the books mentioned above! If you want to do more study on these and other areas, check out the suggestions in our free parenting booklist toolkit.
Did you benefit from this article? Subscribe to our monthly email newsletter to get content like this and resources that will help you prepare young adults to stand firm in Truth. To sign up for the email list, go here.