Parenting in Post-Christian America

September 3, 2015

Kara Barnette | Pastor’s Wife
Faith Baptist Church, Faith, NC

“Don’t you worry about raising your children in such a dangerous place?”

The question was directed to the IMB missionary who was speaking to our church a few months ago. The enthusiastic American-born missionary, his wife, and their five lovely children were reporting about their on-going mission work to Muslims in a Middle Eastern country. 

The missionary chuckled.  “Our kids are just fine.  But when we watch the news these days, my wife and I pray for you folks trying to raise kids in America.  WE are worried about YOU.”

Wow.

I have never been in the America-Is-Going-Down-The-Tubes crowd.  I have always believed the U.S.A. is the greatest and most Godly country in the world.   But then came the summer of 2015, when I joined that missionary in his concern about raising children in America.

This summer my country legalized gay marriage, spitting in the face of the sanctity of matrimony.  And this summer my country’s leaders refused to defund abortion – even after learning of the atrocities of aborted babies’ organs being sold for profit.  This summer I realized that the Christian nation I was raised in is now in spiritual Hospice, and that the Christ-centered culture of my founding fathers is ancient history.

I feel like a mom raising kids in the Land of Babylon.

My approach to parenting has to shift, because I now find myself in a minority of conviction.  So to successfully raise children in Post-Christian America…

I must keep my kids grounded in church.  The Bible is certainly in favor of consistently attending church: And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25).  But those of us who serve in children’s ministry despair over decreasing faithfulness of children within our churches.  No longer do most moms and dads believe that devotedly bringing kids to corporate worship is an obvious benefit to the kids’ well-being.  Church attendance for children has been replaced with extra-curricular pursuits, sports …or nothing at all as the “Nones” demonstrate.

We as parents must recognize that church is not an antiquated institution whose day has passed.  It is the glorious haven where our children can worship, fellowship, and learn.  It is the sweet solace where believers are (hopefully) not mocked, persecuted, or debated.  A healthy church is integral to keeping children on the right path in a fallen world.

I must live what I believe.  Young people today are programmed to call-out hypocrisy and disingenuousness.  So in Post-Christian America I must be real.  I must stand firmly on the Bible like I believe it.

Obviously, being at my 50th wedding anniversary party is preferable to being in divorce court.  But it isn’t enough to simply stay married.   If I expect my kids to embrace the truth that marriage is between one man and one woman, then my marriage had better be something to celebrate.  The world – and especially my offspring – need to view my marriage as loving, committed, and passionate.   The overwhelming joy my children see between their parents can and should drown-out the rainbow flags that are parading outside the walls of our home.

I must quit creating idols for my kids.  Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites cyclically added idols to their worship of the one true God.  The Israelites simply did not deem that God was enough.  They wanted God AND Baal (Numbers 25:3).  God AND Ashtaroth (1 Kings 11:5).

Sadly, we as parents fall into the same idolatry as the Israelites by perceiving He is not enough for our children.  We demand that our kids have God AND Christian entertainers/athletes who have made it big.  God AND a sinless youth pastor.  God AND (insert idol here)…

Two well-meaning parents once actually tried to mold me into an idol for their teenager.  (I was more diplomatically called a “mentor.”) The mom and dad began pushing me to become influential in their daughter’s life by attending her sports activities and school functions, and by taking her out to lunch once a month so she could talk to me about her problems. Ultimately I was even asked to check-in with the teen every evening to see how her day went.  I was supposed to epitomize the perfect Godly woman… which I certainly am not!  The parents were needless-to-say crestfallen when my husband and I left their church, taking with us the icon they had worked so hard to create for their daughter.

Granted, a kid looking-up to a positive adult is not a bad thing.  My husband and I are appreciative for the Christ-like men and women who are in our three children’s lives.  However, too many times today’s parents place a role model on a pedestal and then are dejected when said role model disappoints. A flesh-and-bone, “saintly” image that our kids watch on television, read about, are taught by, or chat with cannot replace the one true God who must be sought through prayer and Bible study.  No matter how well-intentioned, it is a flawed notion that a pastor’s wife, or Tim Tebow, or a well-loved preacher, or any Duggar can serve as a standard for our kids.  For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

Before we elevate anyone for our child to revere, we as parents would do well to remember that idols will displease God and disappoint our child every time.  Jesus Christ is sufficient to meet our children’s needs.

I must expect great things from the Lord.  As a conservative pastor’s wife and a homeschool mom, I have grown quite accustomed to living counter-culture.  I have learned to let rolled eyes, blank stares, and unkind words roll right off my back.  Because even though it requires patience and can be a lot of work, swimming upstream can be rather rewarding.

In Post-Christian America, I will teach my children how to stand alone.  Their peers will not always understand their standards; their teachers and employers will not always appreciate their convictions; and their government will certainly not always support their beliefs.  My children should follow the example of Peter, who walked on water because he kept his eyes on Jesus… even while standing alone in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night (Matthew 14:29).  I will not mind at all if Jesus calls my child out of the boat all by herself so He can teach her how to walk on water, too.

Parenting in 2015 is not a hopeless endeavor. The Lord often does His most extraordinary work in the darkest places.   Daniel was rescued in Babylon. Ruth was redeemed in Moab.  Joseph was raised-up in Egypt.  And Jesus was resurrected after Calvary.  So although I am saddened that my children no longer live in a Christian America, I am convinced now more than ever that their greatest days are ahead!  Their hope, after all, never rested in the ethical persuasion of their country.  My children’s hope has always been found in the divine sovereignty of their Savior.