Tag Archives: family

Toleration and Moral Universals

Every family, community, nation, and civilization must find agreement of the moral norms that will govern life together. In three words, people must have some agreement on what will be prohibited (actions that are wrong, i.e., slavery in any form, abuse of children), what will be permitted (actions people debate about, but can live with the differences, i.e., peaceful diversity of religious and political affiliation), and what will be promoted (virtues for the common good, i.e., compassion, access and opportunity, justice).

Toleration at its historic best allows people of very different cultures to live next door to each other in peace. Problems arise however, when we confuse toleration with agreement or take the previously permissible and make it either prohibited or promoted.

We have a strange alliance among elites in the West. Pagan-secular progressives that reject historic Jewish and Christian influences and ideals are in an alliance with Islamic radicals: both hate the “traditional” West. The secular elites have a particular animus toward Christians, especially Catholic and Evangelical believers that affirm normal sexual morality and respect unborn life. Islamicists have a long-term aim of imposing their enlightened Islam and reconquering lands that used to be Muslim.

This mutual pact bears bitter fruit, with feminists rarely criticizing Islam’s systemic oppression of women and religious minorities. Hatred for all things Christian keeps progressives from seeing the clear threat of Islam for human liberty. The desire to upend all historic gender identities and sexual norms is subverting good science and fostering unneeded traumas.

This confusion overflows to the public square where progressives imply that practicing Christians are suspect as potential judges or candidates for appointed offices.

Serious Christians that share their faith, affirm moral norms and evangelize are labeled as intolerant, homophobic, Islamophobic or oppressive. Meanwhile, entire nations persecuting Christians are given a pass due to historic colonialism.

Is there a way forward? Yes, but only with serious debate in a civil environment. We must prohibit all oppression, permit a wide range of opinions and promote true toleration. This means living alongside one another even while we debate matters of eternal importance. Our future as a free society depends on such maturity. The alternative is anarchy leading to new forms of totalitarian micromanagement and oppression.

Nurturing Life: Pastoral Insights for Parents

The spate of Planned Parenthood videos raises many issues – almost none of which I am addressing here. The one issue germane to this essay is nurturing the life we (or our community members) have had a hand in conceiving, adopting and welcoming into our homes.

Nurturing discipleship in our communities includes biblically and theologically informed insights for parents as they express faith, hope and love in welcoming children into God’s world.

The following are insights from 35 years of parenting and pastoring in churches large and small, financial and geographic upheaval and more divine grace than my wife and I deserve.

Our aim: partnering with the Holy Trinity to make disciples that are neither anarchists not automatons, but passionate and principled volitional followers of Christ. We are parents of adult children ages 31, 28 and 25 and enjoy good relationships with each of them. They are each in different time zones, unique places in their journey and bring us no end of delight and concern.

Recognizing the diversity of family circumstances and structures, these reflections are not culled from a one-size-fits-all-prescription-laden text. Here are some thoughts for discipling parents in our communities:

  • Welcoming a child (or children) into our home is an act of faith that changes everything. I often tell parents, “Marriage changes your world; children change your universe.” Parents are divine subcontractors and stewards of life and must cry out for divine strength and wisdom hour by hour.
  • There are timeless biblical principles for nurture, but no one method of child rearing. Context and culture, personalities and particularities create opportunity for listening to God and learning from community members.
  • Do not compete with other parents for how early your children walk, read, play an instrument or enjoy fishing. Within very wide boundaries (do listen to a good pediatrician), you can chill a bit and raise more secure children.
  • If you are married, let children see (with discretion) your mutual love and respect and welcome them into family decisions as they mature. If you are a single parent, work with healthy opposite-gender congregants so your kids have a healthy view of themselves and both genders.
  • Create an environment of aesthetic, intellectual, social and spiritual growth, modeling lifelong learning and childlike wonder.
  • Teach the integration of faith, work and economics early, communicating that adding value through good work is more important that mere material wealth. Help them see work as worship to God and service to others, from the simplest of chores to the most complex occupations.
  • Nurture potential with hopeful realism. Do not offer untrue platitudes such as, “you can be or do anything you want!” Better to say, “Let’s discover how God has made you and what unique gifts you bring to the world.” The power of Ephesians 3:20 includes the wisdom of Ephesians 2:10: The Lord can do more than we imagine…and God has designed good (general and specific) works for us. By the way, when I was 12, my father wrote in Harvard Alumni Journal, “Charles is a fiery humanist and repressed basketball star (too short).” By 15 I knew the NBA was not my future!
  • Please help your children eat healthily, exercise often, turn off the computers and television and enjoy being alone with a book and comfortable with people. Respect their temperamental differences. Do not force extended solitude for extraverts or constant socializing for introverts. The aim is Christ-formed character and the blossoming of their person, not vicarious fulfillment of the parents.
  • Above, below and around all other precepts: pray and praise God together, joyfully singing and dancing. Lament together and explain that our God sheds tears as well. Without being oppressive, let your life with Christ be “Spirit-natural” and your children will never be religiously inoculated.

Joyous lament

At least once a week, my wife and I say to the Lord, “Thank you for the gift of freewill. We just wish our kids would use it better sometimes!” Every good decision makes our hearts swell with joy. Every poor one brings pangs of agitation and guilt. What an amazing window into the heart of Abba Father, the Almighty. We worship a Lord of great pathos, beaming and singing over his children (Zeph. 3:17) and longing for a desert place to weep when they rebel (Jer. 8-9).

For leaders, these insights for parents apply to our nurture of the spiritual children God entrusts to our care. May we see the Bible inform and the Spirit empower our nurture of maturing, responsible and loving children of God.

 

Vision 2016 Part 2: First Principles

As we continue this important series, it is vital that we agree on and understand the principles that support and shape our nation’s flourishing. Policies and programs, including necessary political compromises are built on particular conscious and unconscious values. Here are some of the key ideas for our nations future.

We the People unite in creating an America where…

  • Freedom of conscience and religion is protected as the first freedom and the deepest values of our citizens inform civil debate.
  • Life is cherished from conception to its natural end and no active measures are adopted to prematurely end it.
  • The freedoms of peaceable assembly, the redress of government and speech must be protected not restricted and the marketplace of ideas unhindered by bureaucratic notions of “fairness.”
  • Moral persuasion is as influential as public legislation.
  • Our natural rights are protected – not bestowed – by the government.
  • Government is subsidiary to the person, family, community, religious group and other voluntary agencies. In other words, sovereignty and support structures first rest with the people, not the federal government.
  • The Constitutional balance of power matters and all legislation gets to the floor for public debate by elected leaders and citizens.
  • Access to education, business markets and other opportunities are not stifled by corrupt business and political powers.
  • Equality of opportunity is not necessarily of equality of outcome.
  • Cultural, gender and racial diversity are celebrated along with unity on the guiding first principles of liberty, virtue and the common good.
  • Marriage is defined as one man and one woman, with legal allowance (state-by-state) for other approved adult relationships such as civil unions and domestic partnerships. Marriage so defined is one of the empirical cornerstones of future success for the next generation.
  • Citizens must show an official ID from their state and prove their residential status in order to cast a ballot. ID cards should be offered to qualified persons without charge. No votes cast by non-citizens count in any elections.
  • Disagreements do not devolve into personal attacks and caricatures and stereotypes do not obscure issues worthy of serious reflection.
  • History and hope meet and Americans can cherish their heritage and humbly resolve not to repeat her egregious errors. We live in a land of saints and sinners, humble servants and rapacious overlords, amazing sacrifice and regrettable indulgence.

With these first principles in mind, the coming posts will consider domestic and foreign policies that will bless both our nation’s residents and liberty-loving people around the world.