Often Christian parents who in obedience to God's Word teach their children at home or send them to Christian schools are admonished for isolating their children and failing to have them experience the socialization process that public school allows. The correct answer to such accusations is "Yes, that is exactly what I'm doing. I have no intention of my child absorbing the norms and attitudes of godless education and the results of exposure to it." However, a real question faces Christian families endeavoring to separate their children from the world and to Jesus Christ. That is, how will they function in the world as salt and light if they have not been exposed to it?
Before tackling this question, it is important to note that virtually no Christian family in our culture can totally succeed in preventing external, non-Christian influences from affecting their families. Most children are exposed to non-Christian people, along with attitudes and philosophies just by accompanying their parents to the supermarket, going to the doctor’s office, or interacting with neighbors and non-Christians in their extended families. Therefore, to assume that in 2010 we can ever achieve an isolated environment is naive at best. The ubiquitous nature of mass media also makes it a virtual impossibility.
Many Christian parents are aware that television is a major factor contributing to a morally bankrupt generation that has little respect for itself or life in general. The deliberate non-Christian/anti-Christian themes of most programming are a good reason to boycott the medium altogether. The same could be said for movies, modern music, the local public library, let alone the internet. However, the diligent parent can make use of selective programming and use it as a teaching tool in explaining the antithesis between godliness and wickedness. Films and programs also can serve as windows into the world of our humanistic culture, acquainting Christian children with what others are being seeped within their learning environments.
Family viewing can be an opportunity to apply worldview criticism to various aspects of programming content. Back when my son was nine, The Cosby Show was a popular weekly situation comedy, just as it remains today in rerun syndication. We would analyze and discuss certain episodes from a Christian perspective and I would ask him to identify the philosophy of life he thought the writers were putting forth. We discussed how, for example, the fifth commandment of honoring one's parents was presented. We would analyze how the various characters, when faced with depression or disaster, would resolve their conflicts. Did they draw on God and His Word or on their own ability to cope? Were the children excused for their disobedience or were they required to make restitution for their offenses? Was God’s Word even a factor?
This may seem like a good way to destroy an evening's entertainment; however, if you fail to comment on the contents of a show, you may leave the impression that you agree with what has been stated. This is especially so during the “holiday season” when attempts are plenteous to define Christmas in humanistic terms. Is Christmas a holiday when everyone should forget his or her differences like so many shows suggest? Or, should it be the time when we remember what makes us different?
I have found that going through this process helps children to obtain a biblical perspective on issues, providing them with the opportunity to ponder relevant matters, long before they are interacting in environments predominantly non-Christian. Once a particular program’s worldview is identified, a child is better able to see whether it is really worth viewing or should be abandoned. I saw this occur with my son, who at about age six could no longer bear to watch the Smurfs with their worship of "Mother Nature." Once he identified the ungodly premise, he had no desire to be entertained by it. Later on, he became adept at spotting humanistic premises and presuppositions in much of what he watched. He was able to identify programs that typified definitions of good and evil that were contrary to God’s Word and depicted the "heroes" or "good guys" solving their problems in a thoroughly ungodly way. In this way, I made use of all the resources at my disposal.
I am not advocating that families make television viewing a central part of their day. For those who do not have a television or who do not watch it regularly, learning about sin and its repercussions can be accomplished in a variety of other ways. However, many do watch television and, as with many other activities, television viewing can be utilized as a learning experience. Good Christian education prepares children for their calling under God, and faith gives them the ability to face up to that calling. Watching selected shows and discussing them allows parents additional opportunities, in the privacy of their homes, to teach the application of God's Word to all areas of life and thought. However even the most "innocent" shows often will come up with situations and subject matter that are inappropriate. If you find yourself inadvertently in such a circumstance, use it as an opportunity to discuss topics such as adultery, fornication, or homosexuality, or whatever else, in light of God’s Word.
There are those who criticize this approach as being too "real" with children — not letting them be children — not giving them time to grow up apart from the harsh realities of a fallen world. The same could be said about the book of Proverbs, and Solomon criticized in a like fashion. He made sure his sons knew and understood the ways of a fallen world and used examples from his culture to establish the Word of God as the only path that leads to life. Teaching your children God's Law-Word and instructing them to measure all that they encounter by God's standard will prepare them to let their light shine before men, that they may see their good works, and glorify their Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, the Chalcedon podcast, and has an active teaching schedule with women and high schooled students.. She can be reached at [email protected].