In my last post, I provided an overview of the six major views on evolution and creation. On the Facebook page for this blog, I shared the corresponding flow chart I made to go with the post. The photo upload of the flow chart went “viral” in the last few days…amongst atheist groups.
Within a few hours, it had reached over 26,000 people and received 272 comments – many of which were personal attacks against me and/or the intellectual level of Christians. Not every atheist engaged in such insulting ways, but these kinds of attacks dominated the thread.
I want to share a sampling of the commentary here. I debated doing so because I don’t want to give such comments more “air time.” However, I wanted to write about shame as it relates to being a Christian today and these comments couldn’t provide better context for the discussion that follows.
- “Yeah facts and rational thought isnt very important for these crazies”
- “Poor woman, she is obviously in dire need of psychiatric care …”
- “Intelligent and religious are mutually exclusive. There is no god. End of debate.”
- “Please, don’t tell me people actually believe this.”
- “Christian Mom needs to go back to school and ACTUALLY LEARN SOMETHING. What tripe.”
- “Debating a Christian is impossible. They rely on “Faith” (fantasy) where an Atheist relies on evidence. Where there is no evidence in the existence of some supernatural deity, there can be no actual debate as debates rely on facts and evidence to create a point of view.”
- “If your children are smart, they will ask for proof… unless you already brainwashed them to the point they won’t DARE ask why out of fear that some imaginary sky being will torture them for eternity for asking such a simple question.”
- “Having a hard time keeping your crazy straight? Try our new simple to use “how stupid are you” chart.”
- “Public schools failed you, yet another reason to support separation of church and state.”
- “I’m mortified that these ignorant creatures and I are of the same species.”
- “Wow. Look how easy it is to make a graphic chart, all the better to brainwash another generation of religious, non-thinking drones.”
- “Remember, folks, these people are breeding! Why does this woman have a page anyway? Whatever happened to women keeping their mouths shut?”
- And in a private message to my page: “Perhaps you shouldn’t make slanderous charts in an attempt to validate your barbaric philosophies. Your page is being reported for slander. Congratulations.” (I resisted the temptation to explain to this person that charts can’t slander theories.)
This is the world our kids will be immersed in as they grow up in the “internet age:” a world of free-flowing attacks against Christianity behind the veil of (near) anonymity.
If I could summarize the approach underlying most of these responses, it would be an attempt to shame – either to shame me personally or Christians in general. Shame by definition is “a painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness or disgrace.”
In other words, the root of shame is feeling inadequate.
So what can we do to prepare our kids’ faith for confidence rather than shame, in light of the types of attacks they are likely to face?
Give them the specific training they need to feel (more than) adequate in such exchanges.
Here are 6 keys to doing so.
1. Proactively talk to your kids about varying views.
If we only teach our kids about Christianity – ignoring what other beliefs exist and why people have them – they will have no basis from which to evaluate the claims of others or to defend their own claims. If all they have to offer in a conversation (hostile or not) is silence because they feel inadequate to respond, shame is the natural result. Don’t wait until these issues arise before you address them. We just started talking to our kids about why other people don’t believe in God last week – at ages 4 and 2.
2. Acknowledge that Christians don’t have all the answers (and neither does anyone else).
According to various surveys, one of the most common perceptions people have about Christians is that we think we have all the answers. I understand how people can come to that conclusion, as Christians often feel the need to put on airs of bravado to compensate for answers they don’t have. That leaves kids thinking they should have all the answers too. If they grow up thinking that truth depends on having a tidy answer to every difficult question, shame will be the natural result when non-believers pose questions no Christian can answer with certainty. Make sure your kids know from the very beginning that the Bible doesn’t give us all the answers we would like…but that non-believers don’t have all the answers either.
3. Welcome the opportunity to address doubt.
I’ve never met a Christian who claims to have no doubts. But I never had even one adult in my life growing up actually tell me that Christians experience doubt, or address how to handle it if doubt arose. Once again, if you grow up to experience something (in this case doubt) that you think shouldn’t happen, shame starts to emerge. If your kids express doubts or ask questions with skepticism, praise the Lord for the opportunity to be the one to help them grow deeper in faith!
4. Teach the Bible at home.
I’ve said it many times on this blog, but I will say it again: fewer than one in ten Christian families read the Bible together each week, and that is a huge problem. Our kids simply will not learn the Bible at the depth necessary to feel confident in a world hostile to believers if their only exposure to it is in Sunday school. There may be nothing more important for faith development than studying the Bible with your kids. If you aren’t doing that right now, consider why and make the change.
5. When you teach the Bible, don’t leave out the tough parts.
Non-believers commonly see the Bible as inaccurate, irrelevant, contradictory, disproven by science and lacking credibility because of its supernatural claims. It’s really very easy to pull verses from the Bible to support such a view point, unfortunately. In the view of the non-believer, examples “promoting” slavery, rape and child sacrifice abound (especially in the first five books). Some of these verses are tough. But do you really want your kids to hear about them the first time from a non-believer? It’s wonderful and important to teach kids about all the “positive” parts of the Bible, but we absolutely cannot hide from the tough parts.
6. Teach apologetics.
Apologetics means “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.” Now more than ever our kids need to live up to 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have.” There are numerous resources online for Christian apologetics, which offer such “reasoned arguments” for common questions. I’ll be discussing these more in future posts.
Giving our kids a background in apologetics is a gift to their faith. It’s the gift of confidence – the knowledge that they are more than adequately prepared to defend their faith, so they can say with Paul, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
What “tough questions” about Christianity would you like to see covered in future posts?