How different are we? How different are our children?
The remnant of chapter one begins with this theme. Dr. Kimmel uses the adage of “So Little Difference” as a way of focusing our attention on a primary reason for the fear that was mentioned in last weeks post. In the stride of this concept, we find that the sheer self-admittance of our society as being one of “Christian” decent, has proven counterproductive in many ways.
The book points out that the millions of Americans who profess to be Christians have created a counter culture to that of the secular world. Today we have dedicated billions of dollars to brick and mortar institutions with more professionally paid staff to assist us in our Christian walk “than any other nation in the world.” There are Christian bookstores, Christian coffee shops, radio programs, television stations, cruises, and the list goes on. Inherently these things are certainly not bad, but Dr. Kimmel places a very different spin on their outcome.
The book very blatantly draws the correlation between the increased secularization of our society, to the Christian withdrawal from it. In simple terms, the wonderful institutions that we have created, have in many ways, drawn us inward instead of thrusting us outward. Ultimately, Dr. Kimmel theorizes that our creation of this “Christian parallel universe” has had serious negative consequences on the raising of strong Christian children. The point is made that our God-given parental responsibility is to help create adults that reflect the heart of God. This means that the “light” of Christ is to be lived out in our lives and in the lives of our children. This isn’t just for the world inside our churches but more for the world outside its walls.
“Our Maps are Wrong”
With this skewed focus, there comes a series of skewed parenting themes. Dr. Kimmel uses a broad brush to lay out some of the major areas in which parents stumble.
1. Fear-Based Parenting. We fear things like Hollywood, the Internet, the public school system, the gay community, and on and on. With this, “our fears determine our strategy for parenting.” Biblically speaking, the broadest list given by Christ in the Gospels, categorically speaking, is his command to be fearless. Parenting by fear, according to Dr. Kimmel, will produce both intimidated kids and those who lack passion for the lost. In large part, these same kids also become indifferent to the things of God.
2. Evangelical Behavior-Modification Parenting. This philosophy works from the premise that the right environment, information, education, and the absence of negative influences will create better kids. Dr. Kimmel would conclude that this flawed approach draws from incorrect assumptions. First would be the idea that the battle is primarily outside the child (its not) and secondly, that a spiritual life can be thrust onto a child’s heart as though you are downloading information on a hard drive (it can’t). This approach won’t reach much past the surface, which then creates a one-dimensional faith that can’t withstand the assaults from the culture around it.
3. Image-Control Parenting. Oh yes, the favored checklist method of parenting! Taking on the theological moniker of “legalism,” this nifty approach is very easy for parents to fall in to. The idea is that we will raise appropriate offspring by our church attendance, the way we dress, the way we speak, or by the schools we attend. According to Dr. Kimmel, these are all well-meaning decisions as parents but they are made for the wrong reasons. Moreover, we are kidding ourselves if we think that kids don’t understand the difference between living by a checklist and living by our trust in God to lead us through our decision-making. Our kids are young, they are not stupid!
At this point I must come clean and admit that I mislead you all last week. This first chapter has proven to be too rich for just two posts. Consequently, the remaining parenting faux pas, as well as the remaining topics of chapter one, will flow in to the next reader review post(s). I assure you, it will be worth your time!