Raising Chidren To Be Christians
In Post-Christian America

Dateline: 23 December 2014

I’m sure that Christian parents have, through the ages, always been greatly concerned about passing their Christian faith on to their children. But it truly is so much more difficult today than at any time in the history of the world for Christian parents to raise their children to follow them in the faith

It is harder because modern American civilization has an incredibly effective tool for separating children from the faith of their fathers and mothers. It’s called popular culture (pop culture). Pop culture is the evil spawn of our industrialized world. Without the advanced technology of modern media (as it has evolved over the past 100 years, or so) pop culture would not exist. We would still be an agrarian culture and agrarianism is a cultural paradigm that best supports the generational transfer of the Christian faith.

Kevin Swanson contrasts faith-sustaining agrarian culture and faith-destroying popular culture in the following excerpt from his excellent new book, The Tattooed Jesus


Everything changed in the 20th century. The 19th century farmer boy in upstate New York was not rocking out to Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. For 5900 years, most children were far more influenced by their own parents, or by the Folk culture developed in their local communities, than by a cultural machine centered in a place called Hollywood or Nashville. The farmer boy had never heard of MTV, Lady Gaga, Star Wars, Two and a Half Men, hook-ups, shack-ups, iPods, and online pornography. If he wanted to find a Proverbs 7 sort of harlot, he would have had to ride his horse for two or three days, and he may have found one in New York City. Today, 80% of young men, 18-25 years old are hooked on online pornography, at a frequency of weekly or monthly visits. Hard as it may be for a young person to imagine today, there was no television, no YouTube, and no Top 40 songs for over 5900 years of world history. Pa played his violin during the long winter evenings as the family gathered around the fireplace. The local community showed up for the barn dance on Saturday night, and that was about it. Cultural patterns developed in a decentralized context. Pastors and parents acted as the cultural leaders in each community with every successive generation.

Popular culture is power culture. These cultural systems enter almost every home in the country by way of hundreds of 50,000-watt transmitters. This now provides for far more energy and reach than one man could ever produce even when speaking very loudly at a public event (such as the Superbowl). Expensive satellites beam signals into every home, whether it be in the most remote village in Ecuador, a farm town in Iowa, or an apartment in downtown Chicago. They all receive the same message, the same standard of “cool,” the same form of music, the same standards of morality (or lack of it), and the same role models in the same dysfunctional movie stars and singers. None of this would have come to pass without the centralization of media control in the cultural capitals of Hollywood and Nashville. 

In the music industry today, the top five recording artists lead the way for the top 40 artists in the nation. These, in turn set the cultural standards for the top 100 artists, who will set the cultural standards for the lesser artists in the genre who provide cultural guidance for the Christian Contemporary artists, as well as a million fourteen-year-old star wannabes in every neighborhood from here to Manhattan, Kansas. The modern cultural milieu turned into a semi-monolithic pyramid capturing billions of people in its web. To question the morality or worldview of it would be to suggest that human nature is something depraved, which is unthinkable for modern man. Most Christians prefer to keep culture in the category of adiophora—”things indifferent”—and assume it is harmless or of little influence.

Popular culture would never have achieved such a high degree of influence had it not been for the disappearance of family culture and Folk culture. Without a social revolution, there would have been no cultural revolution. Without age-segregated high schools and the disappearance of the family farm economy, there would have been no Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, or Katy Perry. As fathers left the family farm, and mothers disappeared from the home, children were drawn into a different social system with its own culture. Popular culture shapes youth culture. It is a culture more hightly influenced by Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber than by Ma and Pa. Media, social media, children’s literature, schools, peer groups,church youth programs, and extra-curricular activities have worked together to produce this new socio-cultural order. The sheer power of this system over a child’s social and cultural development is astounding. With the exception of certain immigrant communities, fragments of the homeschooling movement, and a few family economies, popular culture virtually consumes modern society. Even these exceptional movements have been largely incapable of overcoming the impact of Pop culture. The cultural war is more powerful and more fundamental than the political battles.


So it is that raising children to embrace the fullness of the Christian faith truly is an epic challenge for Christian parents in this day and age. The anti-Christ culture around us is so incredibly powerful. While it is relatively easy to guide young children in the faith, it is a different story when they get older and allow themselves to be influenced by popular culture.

But there is always hope....  hope that God’s grace will work in our children’s hearts, hope that the foolishness of the culture will not consume them, hope that the pride of life will not destroy them—hope that they will fear God, be humbled, and come to a life-changing place of discernment and repentance. 


And, frankly, as I ponder on all of this, I also wonder if perhaps I should be hoping for something like an 1859 Carrington Event, a repeat of which, many experts say, would would wipe out the American electrical grid for a very long time. The power of popular culture would wane and quickly disappear without electricity to fuel it. 


Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

I tend to always like what Swanson puts out. This book sounds like a good read. And I'll admit that sometimes I too think an electrical grid failure would be a good reset for culture. That being said I do like my electricity.

Anonymous said...

Interesting ideas. Again, though, let's not forget the role of the economic meddling of our government and its fiat currency in continuing to artificially subsidize so much of this cultural rot. One way or another, a major economic depression, if not totally, will eliminate a good deal of what ails us. If it weren't for the very real hardships, I could almost wish for it to come!

I'm every thankful God's in control, because we're making a mess of things, aren't we!

Regards (and Merry Christmas!)
David Smith

Everett R Littlefield said...

Yeah, I could go for an electrical reset! Except I wouldn't be able to order stuff from Planet Whizbang until the snail mail got back to working again!

shannon templeton said...

Yes, Everett, you are right. We would miss hearing from the good folks. But it is time... or past time. Time for us to be thrown into the water and hope we can learn to swim.

wildbillb said...

it really is a challenge to work against the power of media.

i would also suggest the challenge is that the same media is pulling the parents away from the children, too. Parents need to turn off the media and focus time again with their children.

we have 7 kids, ranging from 22 to 7 yrs old. not having cable or broadcast TV has been huge help. we still budget movie $ and rent DVDs, and emphasize parents watching WITH the kids, and all of us maintaining a standard of moral behavior from our media.

computers (and TVs) are NOT allowed in bedrooms or behind closed doors - the family computer is located in the kitchen area so public, and our kids are trained on how to search to avoid "oops".

we have tried streaming content, but never keep it longer than a week. too much risk for that 10 second "exposure" we don't want to ever have happen.

movie ratings are always PG (including what the Parents watch).

just some ideas. we do monitor music, but it is not really us "monitoring" as much as just keeping up with what the kids are interested in, etc. same with books.

key is parents working hard to spend the time to know (and share opinions and discussion) with the kids.

Kathy Williams said...

Very true. However in addition we have the church going through so many changes, that the foundation of the church has been shaken. What use to be a solid church base is now all over the place in terms of bringing in new ideas. If you were having trouble with your kid someone would back you up. Now the people at church look at you sideways if you try to take a stand. With the church and the family under attack it feels like we are trying to fight a battle standing on jello instead of solid ground. God has allowed this all. It is His will. He has told us ahead of time that judgement first needs to come to the church before it can come to the world. I suppose He is tired of fence sitters. I think of the verse in Revelation that seems to settle things.
"He who is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still; and he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he who is righteous, let him do right still; and he who is holy, let him be holy still. Rev. 22:11 Amplified version

This is God's last word, last message, it is followed by we reap what we sow, and of course come quickly, yes, Lord Jesus come quickly.

Mrs. G said...

Before I'd wish for a Carrington Event, I'd read the book "One Second After", I can't recommend it enough.

We have 10 children from 3 to 24 and we have never had network TV, we will watch movies together, but nothing else. We home school as well and are careful about associates for the youngest children especially. We do not espouse the idea of sending the children to Gov't school and call that being "salt and light." And still I worry, maybe it's not enough. Our prayer is the Lord will do whatever it takes for us to have Godly children.

Pam Baker said...

Merry Christmas Mr. Kimball,
Good to read your words and ideas.
I too would like to step back in time to live a more agrarian/self sufficient life. I too thought a Carrington event would be something needed to right the world.
But after reading a great deal I think the fallout from such an event and dealing with it would not justify the end result. I'm not sure I would be able to defend myself/ourselves and all that we
have worked to obtain. For, as another of your readers mentions, One Second After is a good peek at a world made different in the blink of an eye. It is not a pretty picture. However, building a world such as the one M. Night Shyamalan does in the movie "The Village" would be more desirable or at least a less violent transition.
But in the end, people don't really change. We'd still end up the same way with the same issues. Isn't that the story of Noah? Aren't we at that same place of moral and cultural decline God said the world needed cleansing?
Just some musings on this day of celebrating His birth.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post! It's encouraging to know that we are not alone in our battle to keep our family "unstained by the world". May we all take courage, knowing that "He has overcome the world."


Tucanae Services said...

We really don't want another Carrington event. Millions would die, especially in the cities. Besides Mr. Kimball, could you imagine making all those clothes pins with just hand tools?? :)

One must keep in mind that most pop culture is disposable. Fact most marketers dream of the fad gone big then dead just a quickly. But that would also be its Achilles heel if we were to exploit it. So when one has to separate the chaff from the wheat when times go bad Pop will just go `pop` so to speak.

Have a wonderful New Year.