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Volume 8, Issue 4: Magistralis

Today's tantrum Tomorrow's Tyranny

Gregory Dickison

"Family values" is a hot ticket this election year. The civil government is waging an all-out war on the family for control of children, and every candidate for office wants us to believe he is our staunchest ally. But the war did not begin in the legislature, and it cannot be won legislatively by passing "pro-family" laws and by legally enforcing "traditional family values." To think otherwise is to grant the enemy the philosophical victory; by waging the battle politically, we acknowledge the state's claim that parenting is a political function in which the state plays a significant, if not absolute, role. While a certain amount of legislative work is necessary--a legion of bad laws usurping the family need to be repealed--the real battle against the paternal state takes place in the home.

Politicians with bad ideas don't fall out of the clear blue sky. Like all of us, they were raised by parents who instilled in them a theology of child-rearing. What we believe about families in general is based upon what our parents taught us about our own family. When a generation is raised with a clear and conscious understanding of the covenantal nature of the family and takes its place in the city gates, then the battle will be won. The victory is a long-term proposition.
Consider all the confusion that exists in the area of child training. National Public Radio (the modern Areopagus, where you can always be assured of hearing the newest stupid idea) recently aired a report on the state of spanking. Researchers discovered that, in spite of all the teaching against corporal punishment by psychologists and other "experts," a majority of parents still believe that spanking children is an acceptable form of discipline and the best way to instill traditional values. Progress is being made, however, because children taught in school that spanking is child abuse are able to cow their parents by threatening to call the cops.
The problem is not that the experts were not spanked when they were children; most of them may have been. The problem is that they were not given a right theology of spanking by their parents. Discipline does not occur in a vacuum. We are taught by scripture not only to discipline our children, but to teach our children. The corollary is that we are to teach children about the discipline they are receiving. Children who are spanked but not taught can learn, like Pavlov's dog, to avoid behavior associated with physical pain. But if they are not taught about the spanking itself, they can also grow up to reject it because it also is associated (very directly) with physical pain. Children who are constantly told that spanking is commanded by God to train them away from evil and toward righteousness, and that spanking is an act of love, will not only see that love clearly demonstrated in the spanking, but will grow up to understand it, embrace it, and give thanks for it. Such children will know very plainly the difference between child training and child abuse, and those in civil government should be very careful to draw a proper distinction between the two.
The same principle applies to all the other areas where confusion reigns. Another favorite NPR topic is the latest research on the differences between male and female. The experts blame such differences on socialization, and constantly tell parents (and in government schools, the children) that male/female stereotypes should be rejected. Again, it is not that the experts did not have mothers who stayed at home to raise them. The real problem is that without teaching why boys and girls are different, people see the differences as arbitrary. Children must be taught that God created them male and female, that He created women to be homemakers and helpers to their husbands, that He placed men at the head of the home and the family, and all the rest. Children who grow up not only seeing the example in their parents, but also understanding the theology underpinning the example, will continue in that tradition and teach others to do likewise.
As always, certain basic assumptions must be stated when painting with such a broad brush. The teaching we give our children must be solid biblical teaching. Generic conservatism and "traditional family values" rest on a sandy foundation, as they provide no absolute and transcendent principles to support them.
The teaching must be constant. We can't tell our children something once or twice. We must teach diligently; when we sit in our houses, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up. The Bible is full of admonitions to parents to permeate their children's lives with wisdom, as well as admonitions to children to pay attention, learn, and remember. We are a race prone to sloth and forgetfulness, and we are constantly one generation away from completely obliterating what went before.
Finally, we do not believe with the humanists that education is the answer. Teaching must be in the context of saving faith in Jesus Christ. We are a race of sinners, and only rebel from the truth unless the Spirit of God dwells in us. We must remember God's covenant faithfulness to families, and faithfully teach our children with the expectation that the promises of salvation apply to them.
Our rulers are faithless because their parents were faithless. The civil government does not honor us as parents because our governors were not taught to honor their own parents. The spoils of the war on the family are divided in the political arena, but we must remember that the battle takes place at home. If we faithfully raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and if we teach them what it means to honor father and mother, then we are one generation away from victory.

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