Our kids, their schools, parents’ role in education and how to respond are all in the news today. That fight is not new, but the intensity and the attacks on parents trying to protect their kids seems to have greatly intensified.
This week I learned about a young man that was faced with a challenge to his faith as a Christian. He is in the 8th grade and is taking a Spanish class. The teacher told them she wanted them to identify with the Hispanic culture, so the assignment for the week was to build an altar with a celebrity on it. When this student objected and told the teacher that as a Christian, he couldn’t build altars to anyone since God was the only one that could be on the altar, the teacher’s response was: “oh, this is not a religious thing; it is just cultural to identify with the Hispanic culture.” However, when you look up the definition of altar, it is: “a table or flat-topped block used as the focus for a religious ritual, especially for making sacrifices or offerings to a deity.” With that definition in mind, my immediate questions were, “not religious? To celebrate Hispanic culture? Huh?”
This child was discouraged and talked to his parents for guidance. How would you, and how should we respond to such attacks when our kids face them? Obviously, there are at least 2 approaches: attack the teacher and school district loudly and forcefully (including through media) or teach your child how to handle/deal with that attack on his faith. There can probably be a time/place for each approach, but his parents chose the approach of expressing support for their child and that ultimately if the teacher gave him a zero for refusing to make an idol – they were ok with it in that situation.
What are some lessons we can learn from situations like this that involve our kids?
- The attacks are subtle and frequently don’t directly attack the kids or their Christian faith. Giving that teacher the benefit of the doubt, she may have sincerely believed her assignment was a “cultural thing” rather than a “religious thing”. This young man knew he was not to worship anything but the one true God on an altar because his parents, his pastor, and youth leaders had taught him well. Deuteronomy 6:7 says about Biblical teachings: “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” (NLT). We as parents need to teach our kids what is right and wrong as a believer, or the world (including teachers) will “teach” them. This young man had been taught about Daniel and how he refused to bow to the king. He had been taught about Aaron building the golden calf while Moses was receiving the 10 commandments. Therefore, he was able to recognize it was wrong to build altars to a person.
- Talk to our kids. If there had not been open communication lines, these parents would not have known what was going on. Talk, talk, talk!!
- Recognize the “teaching moment” as a parent. This experience is a life lesson opportunity. While there is still the safety net that a parent can provide before your child goes off to college to deal with those situations on their own, we can help teach them how to handle such attacks. Part of the role of being a parent is to prepare them for those attacks on their faith that will surely come when they are out of the protection of their home. As a freshman in college, I had a co-worker who was an atheist. He knew the Bible (a surprise to me!) but he kept peppering me with “how can you believe this” kind of questions. He didn’t shake my faith, but I was not really prepared for that level of attack.
- Our kids need to understand that occasionally there may be consequences to standing for our faith. When your child has worked hard and is a straight A student, accepting a zero as part of your grade can feel rather traumatic. But such a valuable lesson!
- With each encounter, parents must make decisions: do I step in and fight? Do I let my child fight this one themselves? Do I remove my child from that school/class? Difficult decisions that require careful and prayerful deliberation and prayer.
- As parents and grandparents, set the example and heritage of a contagious faith. Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois are recognized by Paul in 2 Timothy 1:5 by saying “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”
David’s admonition to his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9 gives us great advice that we can pass on to our kids and grandkids: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.”