francis-and-lisa-chan

You and Me Forever: Marriage Neglected

A few quick things on Francis Chan and his proposed new book, You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. I’m speaking mainly to the points offered up in this article.

For starters, and perhaps I’m quibbling, God didn’t ask Chan to write it. He felt it needed to be written. I prefer honesty rather than the “God card” being played. All sorts of people like to make the claim that God asked them to do something, but it’s a) white noise; and b) an insult to the sufficiency of Scripture. Don’t get me wrong: books can be helpful and insightful. But do we have to insist on making them divine? Let’s reserve that for Holy Scripture.

One thing I noticed immediately is the habit that Chan has of taking “serving the Kingdom” and making the primary means of serving the Kingdom some sort of set of social justice activities. The more “activist” it sounds (e.g., awareness of human trafficking, feeding the poor, adopting the orphans, etc.), the more spiritual or “appropriate” it seems to be. You can almost taste the piety off of someone who talks like this because it’s just a spiritual keeping-up-with-the-activist-Joneses type of game. Sure, many folks are in it because they legitimately care, and I can respect that: we are called to help those in need. But more on this in a moment.

Our roles of father and husband or mother and wife are some of the most precious roles described in Scripture. It is one of the first things we are told to do in Scripture, and one of the most talked-about and ubiquitous ministries in which almost all Christians participate. It is the means by which we pass on the Gospel and the Covenant. It is the means by which our race is continued (this should need not be mentioned). Furthermore, out of everything that is most challenging in this particular day and age, representing a Christian family as a father or mother and a Christian marriage as a husband or wife is the most attacked ministry of any Christian (except perhaps those in countries where they are being killed for their beliefs).

So back to the social justice stuff. Compare that to raising a godly family and keeping a marriage together. Find for me, in Scripture, the places where: a) Scripture puts our children or spouses BELOW the mission to feed the poor; or b) Scripture advocates “doing ministry together” to solve marital or parent/child strife.

Unfortunately, Chan (and Platt, at times) is known for this. Shelving the mundane practice of marriage and/or child-rearing for the ministry to the poor as a “crazy love” or a “radical Christianity”… Sound familiar?

Tell me: what good is it for us to feed the poor if our own marriage falls apart into adultery and our children walk away from the teaching of Scripture for the world? When I stand in front of Christ, I don’t think He’s going to be okay with, “But Lord, I fed the poor in your name while I neglected my immediate, obvious mission.”

Little blonde girl is playing with make-up

Flirting with Sleaziness

As I’ve pointed out before, parents take for granted the culpability to which we are immediately introduced upon conceiving a child. As if this wasn’t obvious enough in our culture’s current mindset towards the murder of unborn children, it can also by pointed out in myriad other ways.

One of these ways is the way in which we tend to raise our girls into women.

So let’s examine some compliments and see where we go from there.

“She is so cute!”

I’ve heard this about my daughters. I’ve said it about my own daughters. It’s almost always totally innocent. This sort of compliment comes when they’re as young as an infant and for several years afterward. It starts to get a bit awkward once a girl reaches a certain age, yes, but, for the most part it is universally innocent. I am happy to hear this from strangers or from close family and friends; it means they have an appreciation for the beauty inherent in God’s creations—even if they might not offer it with that depth.

“She is beautiful.”

I’ve heard this before, too. Usually not about one of my daughters—and rightly so—because my oldest daughter is only going on five years old. In my worldview, that means she still too young to receive an intellectually honest version of this compliment, though I tend to be charitable towards most people if they do happen to say it.

But this is where things get hairy. See, my wife and I have decided to encourage and example old-fashioned, conservative modesty to our girls. Not only modesty, but an awareness of the value of that sort of modesty, and that we strive to err on the side of conservative and *more* modest rather than take any chances. See, I wouldn’t want anyone to *notice* the beauty of my little girls—especially at this age. Once again, in my worldview, these girls are nowhere near old enough for courtship. Is that to say that all folks who might offer this compliment to girls their age are potential suitors (um, gross!)? I hope not! But I want there to be a clear line between what is appropriate and what is not appropriate speech towards them.

“She is gorgeous.”

This word, as far as I am concerned, is a sort of superlative. You had best be a suitor or another adult woman before you offer such a sentiment. Yes, men, I would advise caution in the use of this word for anyone who is A) not your wife; B) close to your age; or C) not an adult woman. Why? Well, because the way we speak of women is often indicative of our feelings about them, and I want my girls to grow up believing in something far greater than the value of an off-handed, over-used superlative.

In one of our discussions about raising our girls, my wife and I have talked about the difficulty in dealing with a girl who becomes so self-aware of her beauty and the compliments of others that she derives a majority of her self-worth from them.

Of course, as I’ve inferred above, this only comes from one of three things: A) the less-than-modest of the girl; B) the less-than-appropriate offerings of an observer; or C) some combination of both.

Inasmuch as we are unable to totally control the offerings of an arbitrary observer, we can certainly offer guidance and discipline in how our girls value and apply modesty.

One thing we noted was that there really is no external way of reversing the trend of a girl who has established her self-worth from compliments on her looks (and, manifestly, how she dresses and acts to flaunt the looks). Imagine a thirteen-year-old who wears makeup, dresses in tight-fitting clothes, and shows off a certain amount of skin: would she, if removed from one guardian and given to another with stricter standards, embrace the idea of suddenly dressing and acting in such a way that compliments which flowed freely were instantly stopped-up? Without some personal conviction of her own (sanctification), the chance of rebellion is barely a chance at all.

But if her rebellion is universally agreed upon as the outcome of such a scenario, why do we allow any of our girls to flirt with sleaziness? Why even take the chance? Why even test the boundary of modesty? Why are we not even more conservative when the world becomes even more lascivious?

Yet time and again, I watch as the little girls around me flirt more and more with the inappropriate. Yes, to different degrees, I’m sure many will point out… but why is any degree is acceptable?

Vicarious Envy or Separation?

What do we think happens when our children are raised by others instead of ourselves? Or perhaps by a minimalist approach to parenting? Do we somehow believe that the grace of God will prevail in spite of our negligence? Do we remember our own childhood and think, “Well, I turned out okay,” and, ultimately, believe that this is how things will go with our own offspring?

It is frightening the amount of people (including myself, at times) who truly believe in a more fatalistic approach to parenting than they would be willing to admit in more direct conversation.

I have my own sins, of course, that I must fight to overcome in my parenting. We all do, so that’s a given (though certainly not one to be taken for granted!). I recall numerous times wherein I assumed that I would parent in such a manner that my children would not interrupt my career or life choices; that they would be an accessory to my overall Plan of Frank. Such are my sins and I, unfortunately, must reap the consequences of those since in my first two children’s maturation.

I have deliberately made painstaking efforts to change this behavior.

I did so because I recognized too many trends in those around me. Those whose children are now older and whose whirlwind is now reaped by the parents who had sown with folly.

Do not assume, either, as I once did. I assumed that the children who grew to be the most troubled, most problematic, and most antichrist were raised by parents with obvious and blatant character flaws. I assumed that the parenting would manifest antichrist action and devilish disregard.

But it is not so obvious.

That is not to say it is hidden from all sight, either. Now I recognize in much greater relief the contrast of parenting that leads a child towards a broken, faithless home and the parenting that leads a child towards an enriched, faith-filled adulthood.

I now stand appalled at the inconsistencies of my former (and sometimes current!) parenting, and the parenting of those around me.

I watch, in horror, as parents accept behaviors that are self-destructive and bear witness to a god that is not of our religion. I watch as acceptance turns into participation and admiration, and then (worse yet), vicarious envy.

When I am seeing adult children of parents acting in ways that would require church discipline (and sometimes behavior that is even beyond), I am sickened and saddened. I can’t help but ask, “What would I do if my child did such things?”

And I can’t help but attempt to maintain the biblical perspective that a conversation would need to be had—especially to those that professed Christ—with threats of even separation for a lack of repentance.

Do any other parents even think about this? Or have we swallowed the cultural sentimentality so wholly that we are convinced that such a conversation would never be had by “loving” parents?

Perhaps this is a cautionary post. Perhaps I am writing this because I wish I could have more long-suffering for those that parent in this manner. Perhaps I am just too “judgey”. Perhaps (and I tend to believe this is the case) I am frightened for the future generation that professes Christ when, in reality, He will not know them when they finally stand before them.

therapy-featured

Absolutophobia

Phobias that inhibit moral judgment have found their way into all subjects, including English classes. Professor Kay Haugaard, a creative writing teacher at Pasadena City College, wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education about her class’s reaction to Shirley Jackson’s story “The Lottery.” This story describes a village that holds an annual lottery that all are obliged to enter. Each year the loser of the lottery is stoned to death. The villagers, who are otherwise moral and decent people, continue this practice because they sincerely believe it brings good fortune to the community as a whole.

Haugaard’s students did not condemn the villagers. Instead they strained to understand them, to defend them and, in the end, to exculpate them. Haugaard sought in vain to find even one student who would react with moral indignation to the villagers’ grisly custom of stoning an innocent person, but she failed. “At this point I gave up. No one in the whole class of more than twenty ostensibly intelligent individuals would go out on a limb and take a stand against human sacrifice.”

Christina Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel, MD, One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2005), p. 43.

spurgeon

Against a Heritage of Error

It is very pretty, is it not, to read of Luther and his brave deeds? Of course, everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same to-day. When you go to the [zoo] you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable, and no doubt you are right.

So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him; but such a man to-day is a nuisance, and must be put down. Call him a narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine [if] in those ages past, Luther, Zwingle, Calvin, and their compeers had said, “The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.” Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on.

Charles Spurgeon, as quoted in “Be Watchful!” from Pyromaniacs

constitution-featured

Burning Tapers at Noonday

Security to the persona and properties of the governed is so obviously the design and end of civil government, that to attempt a logical proof of it, would be like burning tapers at noonday to assist the sun in enlightening the world; and it cannot either virtuous or honorable to attempt to support a government of which this is not the great and principal basis; and it is to the last degree vicious and infamous to attempt to support a government which manifestly tends to render the persons and properties of the governed insecure.

John Hancock, Delivered at Boston, March 5, 1774

after-america-featured

Commissar of Community Services

This is the reality of small business in America today. You don’t make the rules, you don’t get to vote for people who make the rules. But you have to work harder, pay more taxes, buy more permits, fill in more paperwork, contribute to the growth of an ever less favorable business environment, and prostrate yourself before the Commissar of Community Services—all for the privilege of taking home less and less money.

Mark Steyn, After America (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2011), p. 91-2

an exercise in servanthood