Parenting, the Gospel, and MTD

Several days ago I tweeted “What’s best for our kids and what’s best for God’s kingdom generally aren’t mutually exclusive.”

I have thought about it every day since, in a variety of different situations other than the one that prompted my tweet. We want our kids to be safe, happy, and successful by American standards: well-educated, socially adept, able to earn a comfortable living. The problem is when we value those things above everything else, that’s what we impart to our children, as their beliefs are shaped by our actions more than our rhetoric. More and more American Christianity has turned to Moral Therapeutic Deism.

The fact that most Christian teens in the US believe the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself should be very sobering to the church. The good news isn’t that if you work hard, you will be successful and happy.

I’m not sure how this fleshes itself out in everyday life, but our children have to know that though they are loved and valued, their happiness, comfort and safety are not the top priority in the life of our family.

We are united to Christ in salvation, and so we share in the great work he is doing in redeeming the world. We share in his sufferings, so we can share in his glory. How can that define our family life? What difference does the gospel make in our choices for our children?

10 responses to “Parenting, the Gospel, and MTD

  1. K, loved this post and this article. Really thought-provoking.

  2. Michelle G.

    Thinking of this, I feel pulled both ways. Protecting our children isn’t just an American ideal; it is also our Christian responsibility. I’m also struggling through the idea of “Christian hedonism” as John Piper presents it: ultimately, our children will find their best happiness in pursuing God. So again, I don’t see it so much as a contrast as a misapplication–we (perhaps subliminally) believe that our children are best protected and made happy through being kept in their own little “Christian” culture, rather than through serving those around us as Christ would have us.

    The practical applications are easier to say than do. I’d like to have more goals for our family that involve helping out others, those who cannot repay us in any way, with my children serving right alongside me (protection aspect). One practical way we’ve just started to do this is to pack lunch sacks with food for homeless people. While we don’t encounter them daily (or even weekly) here, when we go downtown, we now look for homeless people we can give these to.

  3. I am for car seats, not hiring pedophiles as babysitters, that sort of responsible parenting but that’s not what I mean at all. I mean “protecting” them from the reality of brokenness and sin, or the consequences of a fallen world.

    We live in a very child-centric culture, cart our children from one activity to the next, homeschooling can even be a very child-centered thing. When our schedules, money, and more are dictated by our children, I think that sends a message about what our values are.

    Then, who do we spend our time with? Are we living lives of reconciliation? Do we have real relationships with people who are unlike us – the poor and suffering?

  4. I don’t know, I was taking something a little different than Michelle, and maybe you, intended, or maybe not. I was thinking more about how, starting with our parents generation, things started changing about what we value to make ourselves happy. I just listened to a podcast on Issues, ETC. about Feminism and they touched on this. I really want my children to grow up knowing that people and not things are what we are to value. A job is a job, but your family-church-community, is what is going to impact your life. I guess you are taking that a step further? Being willing to sacrifice some of the “extras”, that have become expected in our culture to focus on the Kingdom at large? Yes, I am with that.

  5. I am definitely not saying that I have arrived in this. We say “people matter more than things” a lot, I think you are right in the importance of that, Amie.

    Really, I am just wondering what we need to change to not send these messages to our kids that they are getting. If someone asked my girls when they are 15 what our family cared about during their childhood, what would they say?

  6. Along that line, I have a hard time deciding when to subject my children to an unfamiliar service (say a special evening service at church), or “too many” church services a week, or when I should just say that God and being in Church are what’s important in our family.

    I struggle with wanting to be “good” to them, or wanting them to feel “good” rather than giving them What is Good.

  7. Great questions. Jesus came to give us the abundant life, but was does that look like? I’d say it looks like Jesus, so it includes things like betrayal, and abandonment. We loose our life when we play it safe, we find out life when we give up playing it safe for Christ. When we party we invite the poor and the unloved, for example. Leads to far more interesting parties, but it’s not safe.

    – Peace

  8. Hey Kristen,

    I’m reading a backlog of WORLD magazines and just saw the blurb on your photography from last Labor Day. The thrill of recognition shot through me!

    Keep up your life! I admire you from a distance.



  9. These seem like hard things, Kristen, and I don’t even have kids yet. These conversations come up frequently between Rachel and me and friends. Can you engage your community and fight for good public schools without sending your kids there? The idea of sacrificing comfort and opportunities is well and good for adults consenting to submission to Christ, but how do you do that with your kids without stirring up a wealth of guilt? Will our kids resent us for not giving them what we could afford to give when society tells us that the chief aim of man is to “give one’s children more than he or she had?” Hard things, man. Hard things.

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