How Living Counter-Culturally Can Lead to Your Kids’ Resentment of Christianity

How Living Counter-Culturally Can Lead to Your Kids’ Resentment of ChristianityOur family just returned from a wonderful vacation to the mountains of British Columbia. It was stunningly beautiful! We spent our first day there relaxing at this picture-perfect lake:

Alta Lake

My husband and kids had a blast swimming out to a wooden platform in the middle of the lake and taking turns jumping off. I’m highly opposed to submerging myself in freezing cold water unnecessarily, so I happily enjoyed reading on the shore.

At one point I decided to walk down to the sand and take some photos. A man soon approached me and pointed to the water with a very serious look on his face.

“Leeches. The lake is filled with leeches. Look around and you’ll see that the big ones are puffed up on the blood they’ve sucked.”

I immediately freaked out, imagining that my family would soon be swimming back covered in blood-sucking creatures I would be too terrified to remove. But when I looked around the shallow water for signs of my family’s impending leech doom, I didn’t see anything. I started feeling better and decided the guy probably didn’t know what he was talking about.

When my husband and kids got back from swimming, I told them what the guy had said. My husband was as grossed out as I was and replied, “Great. I’m sure it’s not a big problem but now I don’t want to go back in. Way to ruin the rest of my day, ‘leech on the beach guy.’”

A little while later, leech on the beach guy spotted me and proudly walked over with a water bottle in hand. Inside was a gigantic leech with several babies attached.

“I told you so. She’s huge and was just sitting near the shore. They are everywhere.”

He walked away with the confidence of someone who had just revealed one of life’s greatest mysteries. But although it turned out he was right, my husband wasn’t exactly grateful for the confirmation. He still resented our leech friend for ruining his swimming plans.


When the Bearer of Bad News is Resented

That same day, I read with disgust about the now infamous Teen Vogue article promoting sodomy among teens. I truly couldn’t believe this was in a mainstream magazine. Speechless. Just speechless. And it made me consider how counter-culturally we have to live today as Christians. We’re no longer talking about a world where counter-cultural means leaving sports practice early for Wednesday night youth group.

We’re talking about having to protect our kids from widely available TEEN FASHION magazines that teach them how to be sodomized.  

(Almost equally unbelievable is the Twitter response from the magazine’s digital editor to those who think this is a problem.)

In a world like this, parents must increasingly say “no.” A lot. But if we’re not careful in how we execute our counter-cultural living, our kids can start seeing us like the alarmist leech on the beach guy and resent Christianity because of it.

There are four ways we can inadvertently allow that to happen.


1. We focus more on the dangers of the world than on the beauty of Christianity.

There’s no doubt that leech on the beach guy was right about the dangers lurking in the water. But it was astounding to see how absolutely focused he was on the leeches, seemingly missing the stunning beauty around him entirely. He only cared about leeches.

In a world that seems to be going crazier by the second, it’s easy to spend more time pointing out the darkness of culture than the light of Christianity. Now, don’t get me wrong; we absolutely need to make our kids aware of cultural dangers. But when we don’t consistently point them back to the beauty of the Christian worldview which renders our culture so ugly in the first place, our faith will become defined by what we’re against more than what we’re for. There are a lot of problems with that, but for our current purpose, suffice it to say that persistent negativity breeds resentment.

The last six chapters in my new book, Talking with Your Kids about God, are written to help parents understand and communicate the beauty of a Christian worldview versus the atheistic worldview that so often pervades secularism. It was my favorite part of the book to write, knowing how important this knowledge is today.


2. We spend more time addressing what is problematic about culture than why it’s problematic.

Because leech on the beach guy was so focused on danger that no one else saw, we assumed his level of concern was disproportionate to the reality of the problem. Without more information to properly evaluate the significance of leech danger, my husband was left with ambiguous fear while having doubt about the legitimacy of the fear.

It’s a recipe for resentment: enough concern to modify your behavior, but not enough understanding to be confident the modification was worthwhile.

When the message our kids hear is an ongoing stream of don’ts without meaningful explanation—don’t listen to this music, don’t visit these sites, don’t use this social media platform, don’t subscribe to this magazine, don’t join this political movement—they’ll start to wonder if our level of concern about the world is warranted. And meaningful explanation requires demonstrating how the problems actually relate to the Christian worldview. Simply telling our kids that a movie has violence and they shouldn’t watch it, for example, is hardly a meaningful explanation. Why is that a problem for Christians? How can that affect us spiritually? Where should we draw the line? These kinds of questions should regularly be discussed.


3. We frame our lives in terms of worldly limits more than Christian freedom.

If leech on the beach guy had a child with him, I bet that child would be longingly looking around at the groups of people having great fun. Some of the surrounding types of “fun” would be morally acceptable, some not so much. But you can bet the child would feel he or she was missing out on something by spending so much time focused on leeches…and probably resent dad because of it.

I often see ex-Christians comment about the freedom they feel in “letting go of God.” The language they use to describe their deconversion says so much. They saw religion as a limiting approach to life and therefore felt freer after shedding their beliefs in God. But as Christians we know that we are not free in our natural state at all—we are slaves to sin. When we put our faith in Jesus, we are given a new nature that is free from such bondage (Romans 6:18).

The reality, therefore, is that only Christians are actually free.

To embrace the feeling of freedom rather than limitation, our kids need to understand 1) the definition of sin, 2) the reality of sin, 3) why sin is such a big problem, and 4) why we should value being slaves to righteousness rather than to sin (Romans 6:18). Only then will they begin to understand that they’re not missing out when they don’t make worldly choices.


4. We focus more on authoritative parental decisions than on cultivating the skill of discernment.

Leech on the beach guy was incredibly smug. When he told me about the leeches, I asked him to show me where they were. He had no interest in doing so; he merely restated that he knew there were many in the lake. Had he not caught one later to show me, I probably would have left not believing him at all.

In many cases, parents have a bigger perspective than kids can possibly have given their limited life experiences. We have to make certain decisions on our kids’ behalves. But if we consistently present our “counter-cultural” lives as a series of decisions made by mom and dad (albeit for good reason), kids will naturally resent what they feel has been forced upon them. To the degree we can, we should always strive to cultivate our kids’ skill of discernment by involving them in the thought process of our decision making. After all, the second they walk out our door as adults, “authoritative parental decisions” no longer apply.


Finally, I want to mention that if you feel like you’re drowning in rather than navigating the cultural waters right now, there’s a fantastic new book out you should know about. It’s called A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, by John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle. It explains why culture matters and how to handle topics with your kids such as pornography, the hookup culture, sexual orientation, gender identity, affluence and consumerism, addiction, entertainment, and racial tension. I highly recommend it for all Christian parents.


Just for fun, I managed to snap a picture of leech on the beach guy in anticipation of this post. Here he is, water bottle in hand, combing the beach for more leeches. Don’t be like this guy. Keep your family’s eyes on the beauty of the Lord and don’t let the world’s leeches suck the spiritual life out of you.

Leech on Beach Guy


31 thoughts on “How Living Counter-Culturally Can Lead to Your Kids’ Resentment of Christianity”

  1. This is a great post Natasha! I am happy you enjoyed B.C. (my home province!) and all it’s beauty.
    I have been increasingly discouraged with the world, and with raising my three young daughters in it. How will I ever address some of the issues they will come across as they grow up? How will I even begin to arm them against things like the Teen Vogue article? But someone recently made a great point. When police officers are taught to recognize counterfeit bills, they spend very little time looking at the fake/ bad money and a lot of time looking at the real bills. So they are so steeped in the “truth” that they instantly recognize the “lie.” It truly is as you say- we must focus on God’s truth and beauty as much as we can so that they are able to more easily recognize when they come across the lies.

    1. That is a great point. I am sitting here listening to my boy’s acquaintance say, “are they boyfriend girlfriend? are they kissing? I can’t wait until that happens to me.” These are 9 year olds. Thankfully my son left the conversation after that. Not sure why but he did. I’m going to keep showing them the truth so they know clearly what the lie is! Thank you!

    2. Love the story of the police officer and recognizing the counterfeits! I’ll borrow it if I may. As a teacher, I noticed in my teaching practice that I became a less proficient speller as I was constantly viewing the “creative” spelling of my students. I think this also illustrates the point. Positive reinforcement — reading good books with good spelling is the best way to maintain your sense of what is correct. Similarly, being immersed in God’s word, his positive teachings, is what will make all the difference.
      And thank you Natasha, though my sons are now adults, we still have a lot of conversation about how to live godly lives… “Walk a straight path in a crooked world” Focusing on the straight path helps us all avoid the ditches on either side of the path.

    3. This comment might seem like it is a no-brainer, but I think the most important aspect is discipling our children so they have a relationship with Jesus and have the Holy Spirit actively transforming their lives. Resentment comes from the flesh. Walking in step with the Spirit actually leads to freedom. Freedom from the slavery to sin and freedom to live for God/follow Jesus. We live in a culture where “I” am the center of the universe. I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. We see giving our lives over to Jesus’ authority and Lordship as something to avoid. It’s not fun. It seems boring because it doesn’t have me in charge. Without the relationship and consequently the desire to please the Lord with all my life, living differently than the culture makes no sense.

      1. Yes, and that is totally how secular humanists and other “cultural” enthusiasts promote these beliefs to everyone. Hedonistic self focus seeks to place each individual on God’s throne in an attempt to justify their actions as good and remove judgement from the equation. This belief in self-godhood is preached from so many different angles in our culture today.

  2. Thank you for helping us be better equipped to parent our children, Natasha. Very good article!

  3. This article is wonderful and as a youth teacher it was so sad parents just telling their children they didn’t know about the world and they should just obey them! Kids are not dumb and they are exposed to things in a early age. Parents should be open and talk about the Beauty of Christ so they would naturally reject what’s contrary to the gospel.

  4. I’m not even a parent (only 20) and yet I learned so much of this and how I’ll in turn raise my kids so day but also how to go about being a Chrisitan in a world where that means being counterculture. I also recommend Andy Crouch’s book Culture Making

  5. This post is WONDERFUL! You nailed the problem many Christian parent have (including myself) right on the head. My oldest daughter is in college now and it is only by God’s grace that she has a strong Christian worldview. I did all of these things when I was parenting her in her younger years. I praise God that He directed me to have more of these healthy approaches when she reached high school and now I am having them with the rest of my children (7 kids total). Your last book has been a great resources as well. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. Looking forward to reading your new book.

  6. Thank you for this excellent article! I’m from the era of “Because I said so.” Yet, it doesn’t work well anymore, because authority is no longer respected. Even thought the “I said so” approach seemed to work then, maybe it is part of the reason our youth are in the predicament they are in today. Our parents were never taught to reason or discern and neither were we – so our kids see nothing to be reasoned or discerned, but only authority to be questioned. God forgive us in our ignorance, and thank you for God’s grace to use this mess for his honor and glory!

  7. I so agree with your point about how we need to teach our kids the beauty of Christianity and why the world needs more Christians. I grew up in a home of laws and this was bad and that was bad, and most of my siblings rebelled. Ultimately, like you said, we need to teach our children to make wise choices because we will not be there besides them forever. Lots here to think about.

  8. This is spot on and articulates so well a framework for parenting in today’s world. As Christian parents, it is important to parent towards something instead of parenting in fear of or away from something (e.g., the world). Great piece!

  9. Whoa, is this ever good. It is so easy to be focused on society’s leeches rather than on God’s world and real freedom.
    I’m going to share this with as many families as will listen. As another natural world analogy reminds us, we attract more bees with honey than vinegar!

  10. Excellent article that expresses so well the problems we’re seeing as we speak to parents and young adults across the children. Thank you for saying it so well!

  11. Hi Natasha,

    I am curious…you mentioned that we are to teach our children the “definition of sin”. Do Christians do that? What do you believe the Scriptural definition of sin is?

  12. A great article to thoughtfully consider. My husband and I have been given the responsibility and blessing of raising 2 of our grandchildren. We have already had to deal with many questions. Thankfully, the children are open to discussing things that they encounter. They ask why and we are teaching them to look for answers in God’s Word. Then we discuss their understanding of what God says and how it applies to them. We’ve had some pretty interesting discussions. But most importantly they are watching us to see if we “walk what we talk.” It’s very humbling to realize they are always watching.

  13. Great article. I shared it around our Sunday morning breakfast this morning and opened it up for discussion. My kids are all adults now – over 18 – so we had a slightly different twist than how you wrote it to encourage parents but I wanted to know how my kids understood the issues you raise. It was a great conversation. I’ll also be encouraging my readers to read and think about this too.

  14. Hi, thank you for your article. I thought it was well written and appreciate the topic.
    On point 4 though do you mean authoritarian parenting rather than authoritative?? Authoritative parenting is when you explain the why and rationale behind your decisions. Authoritarian parenting is when parents expect children to follow “because I said so.” Studies and university programs teach authoritative parenting styles promote the healthiest outcomes for children.
    I was confused at what you meant and was wondering if I’m missing your intention of that point.

  15. Great perspective. Looking to the positive like Mr. Roger ‘ s mom told him, “When tragedy happens, look for the helpers.”
    I don’t agree with the title. At times, many times, we are living counter culture as the current culture is debasing & ungodly. I am borrowing a quote from your article that seems to sum it up correctly.
    “persistent negativity breeds resentment.”
    As I am thankful that others show me the dangers of the water, I much more appreciate the way pointed out on how to navigate said waters.
    You, my bold friend, have just pointed that out to a generation that was mired in looking for the leeches.

  16. This is probably the best parenting advice I’ve read all year. Even after almost 23 years of marriage, and eight children, i need to be encouraged. So much of the time, i felt like i was being foolish for explaining why we did all these strange things, but i knew that as a child, i wanted to know the *why* behind the mercurial decisions made on my behalf. I don’t think i did this perfectly, but this made me feel like maybe i did it right some of the time, even if the kids took our discussions as preaching sometimes 🙂

  17. Thank you for this timely article. I’m not a parent. However, I work with youth in a restricted part of the world, and am about to hold a youth Bible camp where I will be teaching abstinence and God’s plan for marriage. Yes, the youth need to know the dangers of premarital sex, but it’s very important to stress that God has these rules because He loves them, wants to protect them, and wants to bless them with an abundant life free of regret. I need to tell them of the beauty of the Lord who longs to have a loving relationship with them.

  18. I’m so glad to have bumped into you yesterday and learned about your blog! Having raised my older son very stumbling-ly since I was trying to figure out my own faith at the time, I want to be more intentional with my wee one. This is such a good post and I look forward to reading more.

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  20. Thanks for the article! My wife and I have had similar discussions about our kids. We both felt that while they were in the single digits, the parenting style should be more authoritative, as in “Because I said so”. Expect obedience in daily activities. But as they move into the pre-teen and teenager years, we need to shift our style to the explanation method. Start giving them the reasons for our decisions, and let them realize that there is a bigger picture than they can currently see. “We don’t participate in this particular activity because….” is entering our vocabulary. They explain why Christianity is the better model for life in that particular decision.

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  23. This reminds me of Mother Gothel from Rapunzel. Of course, we know she had ulterior motives for keeping Rapunzel locked up…but the same excuses are there. “It’s for your own protection”, “There are bad people out there wanting to hurt you”, “You don’t know how to keep yourself safe”, “Mother Knows Best”, etc. All the same themes, of course. I know I’ve been guilty of focusing on the bad and not explaining the good, not helping my children find the better option or see the positives in choosing it. I don’t know if that all makes sense, but thank you for giving me quite a bit to think about.

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