Children Are Watching

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.” – Romans 13:1-2 (NIV)

Here’s the thing, evangelical Christian parents: When you trot out a verse like this (or alternately the flawed “Trump’s just King Cyrus 2.0!” argument), you’re teaching your children that your inaction against (or worse, your explicit support of) this administration’s horrors is in service of God’s will. In other words, as long as it’s part of a mysterious, unknowable higher plan, you’re fine with:

  • Relentless lying
  • Adultery, potential rape and hush money payments
  • Constant, unapologetic racism
  • Utter disregard for the environment
  • Endless attacks on journalism and objective truth
  • Separation of children from families legally seeking asylum
  • And on and on and on… (I strongly recommend checking out this piece and this video interview which both contain great insights)

You don’t get to pat yourself on the back for your strong moral stances on Sunday mornings, then remain silently complicit for the rest of the week. Your kids notice this.

You don’t get to splash around in a dirty pool of whataboutism. It’s wrong regardless of who does these things, but as Carly Simon would say, nobody does it better than Trump. Your kids notice you giving him this pass.

You don’t get to “leave it up to God’s plan!” and ignore what’s happening in our country. Have you considered that taking a stance against this garbage is God’s plan? Look to the model of Jesus in the face of the “those are the rules!” crowd:

“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’

The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’

When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.” – Luke 13-10:17 (NIV)

Watching the hypocrisy of modern-day evangelicals in the face of clear, shocking sin and injustice is deeply depressing. Is it any wonder that young people are leaving churches at an alarming rate? Jesus rebuked Pharisees too.

As They Are

Let’s say you receive a notification from your gradeschool-age child’s public school teacher, informing you that next week the class is going to be reading a story about a non-traditional family, specifically one in which both parents are women.

While many parents would just shrug or appreciate the heads-up (this potentially being a new topic that might result in followup questions), I’ve also come across a “how dare you expose my child to this?!?” crowd.

Let’s talk a bit about these people.

Their general objection tends to center around not wanting others (especially the big bad government) deciding when to “expose” their impressionable children to the existence of LGBTQ lifestyles. They’ll argue that these types of curriculum updates infringe on their religious liberty, and that this is a product of the “politically correct” modern world.

This is close-minded nonsense.

Of course details about sex and sexuality are inappropriate before children reach certain ages, but we’re only talking about acknowledging (and most importantly not marginalizing) different types of families. These types of relationships exist in the world. Ignoring them only breeds a sense of exclusion and fear. What about the child in the class that has a pair of dads, should he or she be made to feel like an outcast?

Why does it seem like we’re seeing more conversations around this topic, and at what seems like an accelerated pace? Well, for one thing, marriage equality is at long last now the law of the land, and for another, social media (for all of its flaws) has helped give a voice to the marginalized like nothing before in human history. Just because people with a certain lifestyle are new to you doesn’t mean they didn’t exist before, it’s just that they were forced to stay in the shadows. America was never really that “great” for them.

Still sticking to your outrage guns? Still want total control over your child’s experience of the world? Best of luck with that, and you’re free to homeschool and continue stewing in your own judgmental, flavor-blasted Pharisee juices. If you find value, however, in public education, it’s time to spend some time meditating on empathy and the spiritual value of engaging with otherness. I know a carpenter that would agree.

Kids With Kids

My wife Sarah (who is a few months younger than me, so I’m rounding up) met when we were 19, got married when we were 22 and had our first child when we were 24. By the time we were 28 (in 2006), we’d had two more kids.

This is, of course, utter madness (especially in Los Angeles, where, outside of evangelical circles, even getting married before 30 is as common as catching a leprechaun). Over the years though, I’ve found that our life path really carved out a unique spot for us in the modern parenting timeline, especially as it relates to the rise of certain technologies. A few examples:

  • All of our children were born before the introduction of the iPhone/modern smartphones. In all seriousness, I don’t remember how we possibly functioned, especially during sleepless nights or delicate naptimes (though let’s be real, Sarah shouldered this burden way more than I did). I guess we read books? Or sat alone with our thoughts? Or stared into the terrifying abyss?
  • While technically some social media properties existed in fledgling form for a few of the kids, it was not yet a thing. I remember throwing together a simple baby announcement landing page using some of Dave’s famous pixel art (in Flash, no less!), but there were no Instagram “bump” pics, baby shower celebration videos or (and I’m most thankful for this) “gender reveal” parties.
  • As now 41-year-old parents to teenage children, it’s slightly surreal to be sandwiched between older friends (with older kids) that are card-carrying members of the “reply all” sbcglobal email address crowd, and same-age friends (with very young kids) that are hashtagging and Postmating their brains out. While there are obviously exceptions (especially with nerds), I’ve found that when it comes to baseline technological competence/experience, a few years is often the traditional “generation gap” equivalent of a few decades.
  • Since smartphones, social media and our children all “grew up” in parallel, we’ve done hard, soul-crushing time in the ever-evolving parental controls salt mines. Lesson learned? It’s a tricky, draining, never-ending, ever-evolving balancing act between responsibly shielding and slowly loosening the reins. I wish current parents of young kids all the best as you bargain with your 2030 teen over a few more minutes of brain implant time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the bride of my youth and I need to get back to scrolling through our respective Twitter feeds with one hand and rage-shaking our canes with the other.