The war on children stems from a war on the family. We addressed some of the challenges in the last part of our series.
As Christians we want our responses to be reasoned (logically valid), informed (fact-based) and thoughtful (loving and kind). It’s easy to become emotional when children are involved, so Christians need to be convinced of the importance of a reasoned and informed response and committed to carrying out the response in a thoughtful manner.
The first opportunity a Christian may have to respond to the war on children may be in personal conversations with family members, friends, neighbors, fellow church members, co-workers, etc. The topics we’ve looked at so far, abortion and the disruption (destruction) of the nuclear family, are regular topics in the news media and social media. That means they may also become discussion topics with people you know personally. It’s one thing to talk about emotionally-charged topics with people who agree with your beliefs, but what about talking with people who don’t agree with you?
Let’s take the war on the nuclear (traditional) family for example. It’s helpful to be well-informed about any topic you’re going to discuss. As Christians, we need to know what the Bible says about the topic and what the world says about it. Many people in our circle of influence will not respond well to a conversation that includes the Bible. That doesn’t mean Christians can’t use the Bible in their response, but it does mean we need to have a broader knowledge of the topic than just what the Bible says. Being able to discuss a difficult topic well from a fact-based position often opens an opportunity to be heard on what the Bible says as well.
We know what God’s design is for the family from studying the Bible. We also know that much of the world is not following God’s design. We base that on government and private research data, and our own observations. Many people believe the Bible is very old fashioned and that the world is more progressive and has moved well past the traditional beliefs about family. We have come to a point in society where individual and societal rights outweigh the rights of children. Abortion and the destruction of the nuclear family are two examples.
Dependent Children Need Dependable Parents
A newborn baby is completely dependent on dependable caretakers to meet their basic needs for food, water, cleaning, a safe environment, and love. Children will continue to be dependent on dependable people for many years as they grow up and eventually reach independent status. God designed parents (mother and father) to be those dependable people to raise dependent children.
You probably know children who have been impacted by divorce. It has a big impact on children from several perspectives: physical (health and safety), psychological (anger and depression), economic (less money for child’s welfare), etc. God knew that when He designed the family. Divorce was not God’s plan. He knew that the best family relationship is when husband and wife remain married for life. However, after sin entered into the heart of humans, couples divorced. That was not God’s plan, but that’s what happened.
Men divorced their wives, sent them from their homes, leaving the wives in a position to marry again. The Pharisees used that very situation in an attempt to trap and embarrass Jesus of Nazareth. His response to the Pharisees gives us insight into God’s intent for marriage and response to divorce.
The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to Him, ‘Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.’ Matthew 19:3-9
In that same setting parents brought their children to Jesus so that He would place His hands on them pray for them.
Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ And He laid His hands on them and departed from there. Matthew 19:13-15
Divorce and Children
The divorce rate in the United States is almost 50%. Many of the marriages that end in divorce include children in the family. In fact, more than a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents each year (Family Research Council). Divorce can seriously complicate life for the children. It is one of many complications known as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that ACEs “are potentially traumatic events” for children. They can include violence, abuse, and growing up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Children of divorced parents can experience toxic stress that can change brain development and how their bodies respond to stress. ACEs are also “linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance abuse misuse in adulthood.” The CDC went on to say that preventing ACEs like divorce, abuse, neglect and abandonment, “could reduce a large number of health conditions.”
One group of childhood counselors explained the divorce problem for children this way:
• It introduces intense feelings of uncertainty, often for the first time if it happens very early in a child’s life
• It can cause an environment of chronic stress from anger, bitterness, and fighting
• It may cause economic strain on one of the divorcing parents
• It may separate the child not only from one parent but that parent’s family members who may have been a loving and stable influence
• It may expose a child to a parent’s new partners, which can increase risk of physical or sexual abuse
Another group explained the problem this way:
Divorce detrimentally impacts individuals and society in numerous other ways:
• Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
• Education: Divorce diminishes children’s learning capacity and educational attainment.
• The marketplace: Divorce reduces household income and deeply cuts individual earning capacity.
• Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
• Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.
The effect of divorce on children’s hearts, minds, and souls ranges from mild to severe, from seemingly small to observably significant, and from short-term to long-term. None of the effects applies to each child of every divorced couple, nor has any one child suffered all the effects we will discuss. There is no way to predict how any particular child will be affected nor to what extent, but it is possible to predict divorce’s societal effects and how this large cohort of children will be affected as a group. These effects are both numerous and serious.
Divorce can negatively affect children in every area of their lives: health, interest in social activity, emotional stability, behavior, academic performance, ability to adapt to change, as well as loss of faith in marriage and family.
Divorce affects children in three phases:
- Pre-Divorce: Parental conflict that precedes the divorce
- Divorce: Parents telling their children that they are divorcing and the actual process of divorce
- Post-Divorce: Parents and children adjusting to the divorce
Childhood experts point out that one of the primary effects of divorce is the decline in relationship that children will have with at least one of their parents (the parent with whom they no longer live). Parents have to adjust to their own internal conflicts and being a divorced parent. Unfortunately, children in divorced families often receive “less emotional support, financial assistance, and practical help from their parents” (Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 69.)
Cohabitation and Children
Another growing challenge for children is being born to parents who are not married. Here are the findings from one report published ten years ago:
Today, the rise of cohabiting households with children is the largest unrecognized threat to the quality and stability of children’s family lives. In fact, because of the growing prevalence of cohabitation, which has risen fourteen-fold since 1970, today’s children are much more likely to spend time in a cohabiting household than they are to see their parents divorce (see figure 2). Now, approximately 24 percent of the nation’s children are born to cohabiting couples, which means that more children are currently born to cohabiting couples than to single mothers. Another 20 percent or so of children spend time in a cohabiting household with an unrelated adult at some point later in their childhood, often after their parents’ marriage breaks down. This means that more than four in ten children are exposed to a cohabiting relationship. Thus, one reason that the institution of marriage has less of a hold over Americans than it has had for most our history is that cohabitation has emerged as a powerful alternative to and competitor with marriage. Why Marriage Matters – Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences
The report went on to define some of the problems children face with unmarried parents (cohabiting):
- Children are less likely to thrive in cohabiting households, compared to intact, married families.
- Family instability is generally bad for children.
- American family life is becoming increasingly unstable for children.
- The growing instability of American family life also means that contemporary adults and children are more likely to live in what scholars call “complex households.
- The nation’s retreat from marriage has hit poor and workingclass communities with particular force.
Public conversations are different from private conversations in communication dynamics. Instead of being able to have a private, one-on-one conversation with back-and-forth dialogue, public conversations include multiple people communicating in a wider venue. Some people are better at public conversations than private conversations and vice versa. We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 that God will use Christians effectively in both areas. Use your gifts in whatever way God leads you and thank Him for your gifts.
Some people are extroverted and do well speaking in public venues. Some people are introverted and do well speaking in private venues. God uses both and neither should look down on themselves or others. If you are quieter and prefer having private conversations, don’t wish you had a public-speaking gift. That’s questioning God’s choice in gifting you the way He did.
The Bible shows us the importance of unity and diversity in the Body of Christ. Let’s be smart about this. The war on children is big and growing bigger every year. We need Christians who are well-informed and able to present a logically valid response to the war in a thoughtful manner. Focus on the war against children and not on ourself. Whether you are having a private or public conversation, ask God to give you wisdom in the best way to share on the topic.
I like to use a simple conversation tool that works well for both private and public conversations. I call it ALPS.
- A – Ask questions
- L – Listen to answers
- P – Pray silently for wisdom from God
- S – Share your thoughts kindly (seasoned with salt – Colossians 4:6)
Speaking about the war on children in public brings its own challenges that are different from private conversations.
- Know your audience (friendly, hostile, neutral, mixed)
- Know the environment
- Use ALPS where appropriate
- Present your thoughts in a reasoned (logically-valid) fashion based on an informed and thoughtful response
- Demonstrate respect for those who disagree with your response
- Be cautious about allowing yourself to be pulled into an emotional exchange .. that is a tactic that opponents often use in public conversations
- If you do become emotional or make a misstatement, apologize to the audience .. everyone makes mistakes and most people will accept an apology that is offered with grace and humility .. if an opponent will not accept your apology, don’t belabor it .. the audience will recognize the opponent’s poor manners
Wars are not usually won in a day. Your reasoned response is intended to help people think critically rather than emotionally. Public discussions often become emotion-based rather than fact-based. A kind response can sometimes defuse emotions, but there are situations where that is not possible because of some of the people in attendance. There are some people who have a different agenda than you and will throw emotion-filled responses at your informed and thoughtful ones.
The bottom line is that optimal parenting is following God’s design for married couples. We can present the truth in love using both the Bible, research and statistics about the topic.
Our Number One Directive
Keep in mind that our number one directive from Jesus Christ is to “make disciples.” We do that through the preaching of the Gospel. It’s important that we do not lose sight of that when we are speaking about a topic like the war on children. The ultimate war is on the souls of men and women, boys and girls. Always keep that front and center in your personal and public conversations. Eternity must always be in clear view as we speak.
I mentioned that some people have an “agenda” in the war against children. We’ll take a look at how Christians can respond with truth and love in the next part of our series.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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