Blog Category: What Josh is Reading Now



5 Earth-Shattering Events Linked to the Bible

(Original posted by Sean McDowell here)

In the recent update to my father’s classic book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, we begin with a chapter on the uniqueness of the Bible. Unquestionably, in comparison to every book ever written, the Bible stands out as unique in a number of areas including authorship, literary genres, translation, geographical production, circulation, survival, and impact. The Bible truly stands in a category of its own.

And yet I was recently reading a new book (which is part of a larger series of books being released this fall as part of the opening of the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C.) about the Bible’s influence on key historical events. The book is called 99 Earth-Shattering Events Linked to the Bibleand its fascinating!

The authors show how the Bible played a core role in scientific discoveries, ancient voyages, the founding of universities, and more. Here are five of my favorite examples:

1. The Puritans found Harvard. On September 8, 1636, Puritans founded the first institution of higher learning in the American colonies, Harvard University. The purpose was to train pastors to serve their newly founded churches. According to the founders, “One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”

2. A Christian monk helps abolish gladiatorial games. In the 5th century A.D., a Christian monk named Telemachus traveled to Rome and attended the gladiatorial games. He was horrified and deeply disturbed at the bloodshed and lack of value for human life, contradicting the biblical command not to murder (Exodus 20:13). He rushed into the arena, appealing for the games to stop, but in an uproar at the disturbance, the crowd stoned him to death. Because of his bold stance, the Roman emperor Honorius abolished the games three days later.

3. The Magna Carta inspires universal human rightsIn the early 1200s, King John signed the Magna Carta in England, which declared for the first time that kings would be subject to the law, and not above it. Although it was not initially successfully, “…it was revised in later years and eventually set a standard, based on the Bible, that laid the foundation for the English system of common law. Today, our modern democratic society continues to reap the benefits.”[1]

4. Copernicus reveals order in the universe. Copernicus was convinced the natural world designed by a creator (Psalms 19:1-2). He said, “The universe has been wrought for us by a supremely good and orderly Creator.” With the release of his book On the Revolutions, Copernicus challenged the belief that sun revolves around the earth. He did this not to undermine the church or the university, but to proclaim the truth he had discovered through his scientific work. Copernicus is considered by many to be the founder of modern astronomy.

5. Johann Sebastian Bach composes breathtaking music. Bach is one of the most influential composers in world history. His St. Matthew Passion is considered one of the greatest achievements of western civilization. Bach was both dedicated and inspired by the Bible. In the margins of his Bible, next to 1 Chronicles 25, he wrote, “This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing music.”

These five are only a smidgeon of the influence the Bible has had on world history. It also shaped the development of the Red Cross, motivated the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, inspired the civil rights movement, and much more.

These examples don’t show that the Bible is true, of course. But they do show that the book has shaped more lives and cultures than any book in world history. If you haven’t read it, don’t you think it’s time to personally see why this book has been so influential?

And not only have you read it, but have you considered the evidence that the Bible is actually true? The impact of the Bible is surprising to people who are not aware of its impact. Similarly, if you are not familiar with the evidence, I think you will be pleasantly surprised as well.


[1] Christopher Hudson, editor, 99 Earth-Shattering Events Linked to the Bible (Washington D.C., Museum of the Bible, published by Worthy Publishing Group, 2017), 20.



​Apologetics Is Not Saying You’re Sorry

(Original post by Sean McDowell found here.)

As a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, I (Sean) help prepare students to answer tough questions raised against the Christian faith. One day someone from outside the Biola academic community called our university to ask why we offer classes on apologizing for the faith. She thought apologetics meant teaching students to say they were sorry for their beliefs! While her question was well intentioned, she didn’t grasp the nature of apologetics and its role in the Christian life. Christians certainly should apologize for their faith, but not in the way she had in mind.

Apologize…for What?

The word apologetics does not mean to say you’re sorry. Instead, it refers to the defense of what you believe to be true. This is exactly what my father and I do in the updated and revised Evidence that Demands a Verdict. We lay out the historical evidence for the Bible, the deity of Christ, the resurrection, and more.

Theologian Clark Pinnock explains the nature of apologetics in this way:

The term derives from a Greek term, apologia, and was used for a defense that a person like Socrates might make of his views and actions. The apostle Peter tells every Christian to be ready to give a reason (apologia) for this hope that is in him (1 Peter 3:15). Apologetics, then, is an activity of the Christian mind which attempts to show that the gospel message is true in what it affirms.[1]

New Testament Examples of Apologetics

The New Testament uses the Greek Word apologia, often translated in English as “defense,” eight times in the New Testament. Consider three examples:

  • Acts 22:1: “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”
  • Philippians 1:7: “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
  • 1 Peter 3:15: “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, as always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet you do it with gentleness and respect.”

First Peter 3:15 uses the word defense in a way that denotes the kind of defense one would make to a legal inquiry, asking, “Why are you a Christian?” A believer ought to give an adequate answer to this question. The command to be ready with an answer is directed toward every follower of Jesus—not just pastors, teachers, and leaders.

In other words, every Christian is an apologist. All believers are called to proclaim and defend Christianity. Simply put, although we are not called to say sorry for our beliefs, we are called to “apologize” for them.


[1] Clark Pinnock, “Apologetics,” in New Dictionary of Theology, edited by Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright, and J.I. Packer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 36.



Humorous Bible Translation Errors…and What They Mean for Biblical Reliability

Original post by Sean McDowell here.

Jewish and Christian scribes took inordinate care in copying the Bible from one generation to the next. For a variety of reasons, we can have great confidence that our present Bibles have considerable fidelity to the original writings.[1] Hands down, the Bible is the most carefully preserved book from the ancient world.

And yet throughout the history of biblical transmission, there have been some intentional and unintentional changes in the text. Some people think this undermines its reliability, but that is not necessarily the case. While there were certain scribes with doctrinal agendas, the vast majority considered it their duty to copy the scriptures faithfully. And they did so. Typically, when variants are found across different manuscripts, textual scholars can reconstruct the correct reading with a high degree of probability.

According to professor Dan Wallace, one of the leading textual critics in the world, there has not been a single manuscript discovery that has produced an authentic reading of the New Testament that tells a totally different story of Jesus.[2]

The reason for this is the remarkably careful procedures practiced by the scribes. When scribes made a mistake in copying a Biblical book by hand, it would only produce one flawed copy. Later scribes would often catch these mistakes by comparing them against earlier copies to preserve the original reading. Even today, textual scholars can catch copying mistakes by comparing them with other ancient manuscripts.

But this changed with the introduction of the printing press. After the press, a single bad copy could result in hundreds or thousands of defective Bibles. Here’s a few of the most famous (or you might consider them infamous) examples.[3]

1631: Readers were stunned encounter to Exodus 20:13, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” (Instead of, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”)

1653: 1 Corinthians 6:9 read, “Know that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God,” (Instead of, “Know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”)

1763: The final printed text of Psalm 14:1 read, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is a God.” (Editors accidentally inserted the word a for no).

These humorous examples show that despite the utmost care and effort, humans do make mistakes. But they also illustrate how scholars are able to correct such mistakes and still be able to transmit ancient texts with care and precision.

While there have been many intentional and unintentional mistakes throughout the history of biblical transmission, scholars are able to catch the vast majority of these (as we have with the examples above), and transmit the Bible with remarkable accuracy.

If you are not convinced, we invite you to check out the soon-to-be-released update of Evidence that Demands A Verdict. My father first wrote this book chronicling the evidence for the Christian Scriptures, even though, ironically, he began the journey attempting to disprove the Bible. In this updated edition, we have carefully and painstakingly laid out the textual, historical, and literary evidence that the Bible has been preserved with the highest care.

Yes, there have been some mistakes in transmission. But the vast majority of these have been identified and corrected. All things considered, evidence shows that the Bible is the most well-preserved book of antiquity.

 


 

[1] See chapters 2-4 in Josh and Sean McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2017).

[2] Ibid., 66.

[3] Lawrence H. Schiffman & Jerry Pattengale, The World’s Greatest Book: The Story of How the Bible Came to Be (Franklin, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2017), 176-177.

 



Interview: Updated and Revised “Evidence That Demands a Verdict”

Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.

My friend Timothy Fox at Freethinking Ministries recently interviewed me regarding the updated version of Evidence That Demands A Verdict, which I had the opportunity to co-write with my father. He asked some great questions about the history of the book, its impact, and details regarding some of the updates. Enjoy!

Tim Fox: Can you tell me about the history of Evidence That Demands a Verdict? When was the first edition and why did your dad write it?

SEAN MCDOWELL: My father first wrote Evidence in the early 1970s because people were asking for his notes after he spoke at universities, conference, and churches. So, he printed them out and sold them for $1 at his speaking events. He sold thousands of copies of his notes, and quickly realized how hungry people were for accessible apologetics material.

He decided to compile his notes in a book, which eventually became Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Amazingly, no publisher wanted Evidence, but then when it was finally published, it became an instant best-seller. He has updated it in 1979 and 1999, and now we have a completely revised and updated version coming out October 3.

What has been the impact of Evidence over the years?

I can hardly travel anywhere without someone sharing a story of how Evidence was either the tool God used to bring them to faith, or how Evidence helped them hold on to faith in college. And this is also true for scholars. Some of the leading Christian scholars today, such as William Lane Craig and Craig Blomberg, have personally told me how powerful the book was in the lives.

Since 1972, Evidence has been translated into forty-four languages and published worldwide. World Magazine named Evidence as one of the top 40 Christian books of the 20th century.

Given the impact of Evidence, it’s actually quite humbling to be part of the update. And to be honest, it is one reason I really wanted to get it right!

Why make an updated version now?

Culture has changed dramatically since the late 90s. And the main reason for this is the ubiquity of the Internet. When my father first wrote Evidence, the value of the book came from the scarcity of the information. People simply did not have access to accessible apologetics material. But now there is an abundance of information. But Evidence still has value for two reasons. First, it is a trusted brand. When everyone has a platform to proclaim ideas, there is tremendous value in the Evidence brand that has proven trustworthy over four decades.

And second, Evidence is a time-saver. While the information is much more available today, the one (big!) volume of Evidence will save students, pastors, parents, skeptics and others a remarkable amount of research time.

Here’s the bottom line: Culture has changed. Questions have changed. Apologetics still matter deeply. And Evidence is a brand people have come to trust. Why not do an update?

What are some of the new or updated topics?

While we updated the classic chapters in Evidence, such as the uniqueness of the Bible, evidence for the resurrection, prophecy, and the reliability of the Bible, there are some new topics as well. For instance, there is a chapter on the martyrdom of the apostles, which was based on my academic book The Fate of the Apostles. We also added chapters on the claim that Christianity is a copycat religion, the Gnostic Gospels, the nature and knowability of truth, an appendix responding to some of the claims of Bart Ehrman, and more.

And the section on the Old Testament is almost entirely new. In the 70s-90s, the Documentary Hypothesis was a big deal. But now it is a minor issue. So, to be current, we added issues on the exodus, the conquest, and other key events and people from the Old Testament including the historical Adam.

What does it mean to you personally to have your name attached to this version along with your dad’s?

This is not the first book we’ve written together, but there is something deeply meaningful about partnering on this book. Evidence that Demands a Verdict is undoubtedly one of my father’s signature books, along with More Than A Carpenter. It is what he is most known for, and a remarkable tool God has used to impact millions of lives. I certainly don’t want to take any credit from his work and ministry. Rather, I see this as an opportunity to help continue his story, and the impact of Evidence, into a new generation.



Has the Church sought out Unbiblical Power to Further the Gospel?


[Original post by Sean McDowell found here.]

Apologist Sean McDowell interviews author Kyle Strobel on his new book.

Kyle Strobel has been a friend of mine since we were classmates in the M.A. Philosophy program at Talbot in the early 2000s. Now we are both professors at Biola (he’s at Talbot Theological Seminary and I am in the Christian Apologetics program). Kyle has a recent book that, in all honesty, is going to stir up some people. He didn’t write it just to provoke, but because he really believes the church today has co-opted some non-biblical ideas that radically undermine the gospel.

And I tend to agree. If Kyle is right, then we the church need to seriously rethink how we approach ministry. I hope you will genuinely wrestle with his responses to my questions in this interview, but even more importantly, get a copy of his book The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb: Searching for Jesus’ Path of Power in a Church that has Abandoned It. You can follow Kyle on Twitter: @KyleStrobel or on his website www.metamopha.com

SEAN MCDOWELL: You make a pretty provocative claim that the church has made use of demonic power in spreading the gospel. Can you explain?

KYLE STROBEL: When my best-friend Jamin Goggin and I started to explore the question of Christian power for our new book, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb, this was the reality that really knocked us on our backs. We came to see that the church has adopted a power system that is destroying it. I certainly think that the vast majority of people in ministry have good ends in mind – they long for people to know Jesus, they want to be faithful, and they genuinely desire to adhere to the truth. But we can’t underestimate how easy it is to allow our good motivations to blind us to the kinds of power we use to further Christ’s kingdom, and how certain forms of power are antithetical to the way of Jesus.

To use language from Galatians 6, we are always tempted to try to sow to the flesh and still try to reap in the Spirit. Regardless of our motivations, if we are sowing to the flesh we will reap in the flesh, that is biblically axiomatic. But more often than not, we think that “sowing in the flesh” is simply sinning – as if the flesh merely named bad behavior. In Scripture it is much more nuanced. Our flesh includes the power system we have adopted, the way we seek to be powerful in our lives, and that is where most of us are tempted in ministry. We can seek to use evil power to further the kingdom, and when we do it slowly destroys us from within.

MCDOWELL: When you talk about “evil power” or “demonic power,” what are you referring to?

STROBEL: In James 3 we discover that the ways of the world, the flesh, and the devil are interconnected (James 3:15). This is not simply the way of deceit, murder, and lust, but is much more “mundane” than we might expect. James claims that this way of evil is characterized by “jealousy and selfish ambition,” and where these characteristics exist, “there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16). This means that even with good motivations and ends in mind, we can employ the same power that fuels the demonic. I see jealousy and selfish ambition in pastors who see each other as competition, in people who use ministry for their own grandiosity, and in those who grow in knowledge but not in wisdom. There are good motives behind these desires – to be faithful, to be good at what we do, to be knowledgeable – but they too often seek these things through a power system that is of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and not of Christ. This is how certain forms of preaching actually make the cross “void” (1 Cor. 1:17), rather than cohering with the cruciform power of Christ’s kingdom.

MCDOWELL: If you could narrow it down, what are the key elements of kingdom power over worldly power? How do they differ?

STROBEL: While Scripture gives lists of the virtues of kingdom power (Gal. 5:22-23, James 3:17-18), perhaps the best way to think about kingdom power is in Jesus’ words to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). True kingdom power is power in weakness for love, whereas worldly power always seeks for power in strength for control. Too often I see folks trying to utilize their strength for the sake of the Gospel – and this can be true in preaching, in evangelism, in apologetics, and in discipleship – and, if I’m honest, too often I see this temptation in me. The problem is that we hear this call and, quite simply, we don’t think it will work. We are still convinced that the only way for Christ’s kingdom to come is through our savvy, ability, and strength. Unfortunately, this way is sowing to our flesh and trying to reap in the Spirit, and in the end we will always reap what we have sown.

MCDOWELL: What do you think has caused the church, and Christians in general, to be tempted by worldly power over kingdom power?

STROBEL: In general, I don’t find Christians making the distinctions the Bible makes concerning this issue. We have overly-simplified the notion of power, so that we basically accept that worldly power is the only kind of power there is. This is why love, self-giving, and even, for many, the church, feel powerless. We come to think that weakness is just that, weakness, rather than being the location of Christ’s strength. When our worldview gives us a definition of power that is ultimately worldly, we have no hope of seeing how the way of Christ is truly powerful. So we try to take the message of Jesus and force it into a framework that ultimately destroys it.

The question we have to grapple with, all of us, is that if Christ’s power is known in weakness, are we embracing our weakness or trying to destroy it? Can we utter Paul’s words, “Therefore I am well content with my weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10)? I don’t know about you, but I struggle to say this. I am not content with my weaknesses, let alone insults, persecutions, etc. But for Paul, the power of God was in such places of content. That is what, deep down, I struggle to have the faith to embrace. But this is our calling.

MCDOWELL: On a more personal note, why did you chose to go into studying spiritual growth and being a professor?

STROBEL: I have always been gripped by questions about the Christian life and faithfulness. In many ways it is my own struggle with faithfulness, and probably even more so my struggle with faithlessness, that has driven me to wrestle with these things. For me, this has always been a deeply existential quest. I am not a pure academic where these questions are just academically interesting to me. My study and teaching is a longing to understand the nature of our life with God and what it looks like to be filled with the Spirit. Too often, I think, we have left these questions off of our academic study of theology, but they are at the heart of what the theologian does. So this is how I see my role as a professor – guiding students into deep questions about living with God who is always with us.

MCDOWELL: I can’t help asking because, as you know, I can relate! What was it like for you having “rock-star” apologist Lee Strobel as your father? How has being the son of Lee Strobel shaped you?

STROBEL: One of the great gifts of growing up in a household that was oriented around apologetics is that questions were not scary. When asking questions is a virtue, you don’t have to be afraid of where they take you. My own calling, unlike my father’s, is not in the area of evangelism or apologetics, but in Christian living and theology. But just as my father’s questions as an atheist led him to the Lord, my own questions as a young Christian led me into deeper study of theology, spiritual growth, and life in the Spirit.

But there is another virtue he passed on to me that is a bit more unusual. My father has always had academic questions, but he took those questions back into the church. This desire to serve the church, and to help folks in the church answer difficult questions, has really driven his ministry over the years. As an academic, sadly, I could easily avoid this, even as a Christian academic. But I have a similar drive to take my academic study and bring it back into the church. This has become a central part of my own ministry as a theologian. In a sense, a true theologian is never in service to the academy, but always ultimately to the church. This is something I hope to embody in my own ministry.

 

 

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.

 

 



The Story of Reality: Apologist Greg Koukl Discusses His New Book


[Original post by Sean McDowell found here.]

Although I first heard of Greg Koukl as an undergrad at Biola University in the mid 90s, we became good friends in the early 2000s as students in the M.A. Philosophy program at Talbot. Greg is one of the leading apologists of our day and has had a huge impact on my personal and professional life.

He gave me the honor of endorsing his recent book The Story of Reality, and I can honestly say that it’s fantastic. In the words of Tim Challies:

“Koukl promises to tell the story of reality. He does, and he does it beautifully. You’ll benefit by reading his telling of how the world began, how it will end, and all the important stuff that happens in between.”

Greg was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about his new book. Check out his answers and then think about getting a copy of The Story of Reality. It is perfect for a believer who wants to go deeper in his or her faith, a small group, or for a seeker genuinely exploring the Christian faith. Enjoy!

SEAN MCDOWELL: Greg, what motivated you, in particular, to write The Story of Reality?

GREG KOUKL: Two important things come to mind immediately. First, I wanted to offer a kind of primer on Christianity’s basics—each of the critical, essential elements at the very foundation of our worldview—the kinds of things that are so important, if you took any one out you wouldn’t have Christianity anymore, but something else.

But I didn’t want to write another theological textbook. Rather, I wanted to show how the important pieces fit together in a fascinating drama. I wanted to give a wide-angle view so Christians—and others—would never get lost in the details again.

Second, I wanted to continually press the point that what I describe in the book is not my personal spiritual fantasy, my religious wishful thinking, or my make-believe-to-make-me-feel-happy kind of story. The Story doesn’t start out “Once upon a time” for a reason. It doesn’t mean to be telling a fairy tale. Rather, I wanted the reader to understand that the things the Story describes actually exist and the events in the Story really happened (or, in some places, are yet to happen). It is an accounting of the way the world actually is.

Nowadays, people have a habit of relativizing religion, reducing it “your truth” versus “my truth” versus “their truth,” and that’s the end of it. But as I say in the book, “If the Story is not accurate to reality, it’s not any kind of truth at all. So it can never be ‘my truth’ or ‘your truth,’ even though we may believe it. It can only be our delusion or our mistake or our error, but it can never be our ‘truth.”” (32) I want people to see that Christianity claims to be true in the deep sense, and if it isn’t, then it solves nothing at all.

MCDOWELL: What was the writing process like for this book?

KOUKL: I wanted to engage my reader in a way that was memorable and accessible. The structure is simple. The book is built around five words that tell the most important details of Christian Story in the order they took place: God, man, Jesus, cross, and (the final) resurrection—beginning to end.

I also wanted the reader to enjoy the journey, so I adopted a storytelling “voice” for the narrative. I wanted anyone who picked up the book to feel I was talking directly with them, that I was personally walking them through the account of how the world began, how it ends, and everything important that happens in between.

MCDOWELL: What makes this book unique?

KOUKL: The Story of Reality is a kind of Mere Christianity for a new generation, if the comparison doesn’t seem to bold. It’s a wide-angle look at the Christian view of the world and the meaning of the drama of human history, in a voice that’s conversational and not religious, with what I call “soft apologetics” mixed in—thoughtful reflections that are friendly appeals to common-sense insights we all have about the world that point to the truthfulness of the Christian take on reality—without being overly argumentative.

I also wanted readers (especially Christian readers) to see that the two biggest objections to Christianity—the problem of evil and Jesus being the only way—are not the problems for us that people think they are, that a proper understanding of the Story shows how these two fit together perfectly, complementing each other in a remarkable way. One of our deepest concerns about the world is, “What went wrong?” The Story answers that question, and gives the singular solution, God’s rescuer. Indeed, the problem of evil is what our Story is all about—and the Story is not over yet.

MCDOWELL: You title the book The Story of Reality? I can imagine people thinking, “How arrogant. This guy thinks he has the corner on reality.” How would you respond?

KOUKL: This is a popular challenge nowadays, but it’s an odd one when you think about it. Everyone has their own take on reality, it seems, and everyone thinks his or her own view true, right? So I don’t see why I should be faulted for offering my perspective, especially when I’m careful to give my reasons for it. As I say in the book,

It has always struck me as odd when some have been faulted simply for thinking their views correct. They’ve even been labeled intolerant or bigoted for doing so. But what is the alternative? The person objecting thinks his own views correct as well, which is why he’s objecting. Both parties in the conversation think they’re right and the other wrong. Why, then, is only the religious person (usually) branded a bigot for doing so? (24)

MCDOWELL: How do you hope people will use, or benefit from, this book?

KOUKL: Every writer would like to say his book is for everybody, but in this case I think that’s not too far off.

Most Christians who have been around for a while have their Story in bits and pieces, but have never seen how powerful it really is when assembled as a whole. This book is for them. Many are young Christians just putting it all together for the first time, so this book is for them, too, to help them get a solid start. Some older Christians know the Story, but don’t know how to tell it succinctly and memorably for their congregations, their Bible study groups, their youth groups, or their own disciples. This book is for them, too.

On the other hand, many non-Christians don’t take the Story seriously because, for one, they’ve never seen how well it fits together and how it offers tremendous explanatory power regarding the world as we actually find it. That’s why every time I sat down to write, my chief thought was reaching out to the moderately-interested skeptic in a way that would not offend him with condescension and empty slogans, would hold his interest and get him thinking, and would help him see that a chief reason for taking the Christian Story seriously is that it simply is—as I often say—“the best explanation for the way things are.”

MCDOWELL: Any final thoughts?

KOUKL: I think The Story of Reality will help many readers understand Christianity in a way they never have before. They will see how it all fits together, how it resolves the problem of evil, and why God’s solution is the only solution. Even better, though, they’ll see why they can be confident that Christianity is actually “true Truth,” as Francis Schaeffer used to put it—that is, God really does exist, Heaven actually is real (along with Hell), Jesus really did exist and did the things the historical records—the Gospels—say He did, the resurrection of Christ really happened, and there really is hope each of us can count on for “the kind of perfect world our hearts have always longed for.” (83)

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher.Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.



The Case for Dedicated Dads

Fathers who get involved in their kids’ education have a big effect on the health, academic success, and happiness of their sons and daughters.

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The Case for Dedicated Dads

by Jessica Lahey for the Atlantic

 

One out of every three American children grows up without a biological father.

These 24 million kids miss out on the many benefits of having a dad around, like being less likely to get involved with crime or abuse substances, and being more likely to achieve academic success. According to a report on involved fathers published by the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services,

“Research has shown that fathers, no matter what their income or cultural background, can play a critical role in their children’s education. When fathers are involved, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact.”

Mothers are very important to their children’s development, of course, but research has shown that fathers help kids grow in specific ways. Children with involved fathers are more ready to succeed academically when they start school and tend to show more patience. As those kids grow, this leads to “better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement.” According to a 2001 U. S. Department of Education study, “highly involved biological fathers had children who were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly As and 33 percent less likely than other children to repeat a grade.”

Other researchers have found that highly engaged dads contribute to their children’s mental dexterity, problem-solving skills, intellectual curiosity, and enjoyment of school, which is no small thing. Children who are curious and enjoy learning are far more likely to be able to tap into their intrinsic motivation and curiosity, resisting the discouragement that can come with school environments that rely heavily on external rewards like grades, test scores, and awards.

 

Fathers don’t have to be perfect, know best, or have all the answers.

Recently, some authors have claimed that parents don’t really have much of an effect on educational success. “Parental involvement is overrated,” wrote the New York Times in April. The authors argued that “…most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it.”

But many experts on education and child development vocally disagree. Some challenged the methodology behind the claims; others, such as developmental psychologist and researcher Marilyn Price-Mitchell, felt the authors were too limited in defining what qualifies as academic success:

“Family engagement affects many aspects of youth development, including resilience, learning, social skills, caring, self-awareness, creativity, strategy, and character. All of these things, when integrated into a ‘whole view’ of the child, are really what makes kids succeed.”

 

Fortunately, fathers are becoming more and more involved in their children’s lives.

The number of dads who stay home with their children has doubled since 1989, and schools are trying hard to welcome the men who volunteer at their kids’ schools. Last fall, 100 schools across Maryland’s Prince George’s County invited fathers, grandfathers and uncles into their schools for “Men Make a Difference” day. Administrators hope this annual event will show these “male role models … the importance of being engaged in a child’s education and how such involvement could change a child’s life.

While educators work on finding ways to invite fathers into school life, others are trying to help fathers invest in their children’s social and moral education at home. Actor, hip-hop artist, and father Tray Chaney, best known for his role as Malik “Poot” Carr on HBO’s The Wire, has launched a “Dedicated Father” campaign in an effort to “uplift and encourage fathers” to be present and engaged in their children’s lives. He’s also fighting stereotypes, trying to change perceptions about the myth of the absent black father. In his “Dedicated Father” video, Chaney appeals to men to be role models and support their children’s emotional and educational growth.

 

All this attention to the importance and influence of fathers may be starting to pay off.

summary report on fathers’ involvement in their children’s learning published by the National Center for Fathering and the National PTA shows that, over the decade between 1999 and 2009, fathers have “significantly increased their involvement with their children at school” and “significantly increased their interaction with teachers, school officials and other parents.”

But the report also identifies a few areas with room for improvement. Thirty-nine percent of fathers report that they never read to their child, 32 percent never visit their child’s classroom, and 54 percent never volunteer at their child’s school.

 

The first step toward encouraging fathers to get involved in education may be just to ask.

Nearly half of the fathers polled by the PTA indicated that they had never been invited to join the organization. As a result, it started the PTA MORE campaign: Men Organized to Raise Engagement. The PTA and the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have all recognized the need to invite fathers into the educational process, offering simple changes schools can make that would make it easier for fathers to be involved, which include:

 

  • Invite fathers into the process of educating their children.

Because the popular assumption around school invitations and events is that “parents” is a euphemism for “mothers,” fathers may not feel welcome to attend. Reach out to fathers and seek to include them—specifically—in school events.

  • Make paternity leave a viable option for fathers.

When asked what is keeping them from becoming more involved in their children’s education, “Fathers ranked institutional practices and barriers imposed by the workplace as the most important reasons for their low levels of involvement … Paternity leave is the most frequently discussed means of enhancing paternal involvement.”

  • Eliminate language barriers.

Many fathers do not speak the same language as their children’s teachers. Some are deaf, and others are functionally illiterate. In order to remove this barrier to engagement, reach out to all parents, in all their native languages and forms of communication.

  • Be flexible in scheduling conferences.

Many parents find it challenging to schedule conferences during work hours, and for many, taking time off from work for a conference is simply not economically feasible.

  • Educate parents about how to get involved. 

Many parents want to be involved, but don’t know how. If fathers have not traditionally been involved in their children’s education, it only makes sense that schools need to give them a place to start.

 

It may be difficult to quantify a father’s involvement in his child’s education in terms of standardized test scores, but engaged dads have a big effect on kids’ overall learning and development.

Fathers don’t have to be perfect, know best, or have all the answers to their kids’ homework; they can still shape their kids’ character, ethics, sense of self-care, social skills, resilience, and responsibility. At school and in life, those are the skills that matter most.

 



Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to Be Trained for the 21st Century

The American culture has shifted dramatically in a relatively short period.

Man holding tablet PC sitting at vintage handcrafted wooden desk

From shifting social rules and cultural expectations to new, pervasive technologies, the pastors of today are facing a different world than their predecessors. Besides the obvious and always-necessary training in unchanging, Biblical truth, what tools and training do pastors need to minister to the mission field that is America?

 

 

Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to Be Trained for the 21st Century

(thomrainer.com article)

 

Any pastor or other church staff member should be prepared in biblical truths. Theology is a key discipline as well. Indeed none of the classical disciplines should be forsaken, nor any of the practical disciplines, such as missions, evangelism, or church planting.

But the American culture has shifted dramatically in a relatively short period. The United States is becoming more like an international mission field. As a result, ministry training, whether formal or informal, should reflect this reality. Missionaries are typically required to receive intensive cultural and language training before they go overseas. Frankly, a similar need exists today for those in American congregations, or those planning to go to these churches.

So where are the greatest needs? My list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order. But I do see all of these areas as key to reaching our new and challenging culture.

1. A new language.

If a pastor or church staff member does not “speak” social media, he or she is neglecting one of the fastest growing trends in our nation, indeed in our world. It is no longer a fad; it is a primary means of communication.

 

2. A non-Christian culture.

Our nation is fast becoming a non-Christian nation. While we lament the relative decline in the numbers who follow Christ, we must also accept the reality that those in our community cannot be assumed to be like us, or to hold our values.

 

3. The decline of cultural Christians in churches.

The Pew Research project confirmed the dramatic increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. For our churches, this development means that most people do not feel cultural pressure to attend churches. More and more, those who are there are convicted Christians and not Christians in name only.

 

4. A new work/life balance.

Pastors and church staff members have always been on call 24/7. But now they are connected 24/7 as well with computers, smart phones, and other technological advances. For better or worse, the world of work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred.

 

5. Unregenerate church members.

Cultural Christians are those who really know they are not believers, but are affiliated with churches for cultural reasons. But another group includes those who may cognitively assert a belief in Christ, but have really not had a conversion. For certain, this development is not new. But we are seeing the cumulative cost of weak discipleship and false conversions in our churches. How will we respond to the issue of numbers of members who are not truly believers?

 

6. The community as a mission field.

Can we change our mindsets and be better prepared? Our communities are not just changing because there are fewer Christians. They are changing with an influx of new ethnic groups and people of other religious beliefs.

 

7. Less automatic cultural respect of church leaders.

In past years, those who held the title of “pastor” or some similar nomenclature were revered in the community just by the position they held. Such is not the case today. Respect must be earned one day at a time.

 

8. A more critical world.

Many pastors and church staff members do not deal well with the more transparent and critical world in which we live. Some retreat to a form of passivity or paths of least resistance. And some quit altogether.

 

9. A greater need for leadership skills.

The world in which we live is complex. We may long for simpler times, but that won’t change our realities. Church leaders must be better leaders in more challenging times.

 

10. More churches in need of revitalization.

This last item may be last on the list, but the need is huge. As many as nine out of ten of our churches are in need of some level of major revitalization. There are tens of thousands of these churches, and the implications for equipping leaders for them are vast.

This list may be discouraging to you as you read the cumulative implications. I see it, however, from a different perspective. I see this new reality and this new mission field as a great opportunity. No, it’s not your father or mother’s church. It’s a new and challenging reality requiring a missional mindset. It requires total dependence on the One who sends us to the mission field. And that is exactly where God wants us.

 

What do you think about this mission field called America?



The Effects of Porn on Marriage

The effects of porn on marriage are widespread and devastating.

Difficulties in relationship

 

Researcher Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. completed a major study of pornography and called it a “quiet family killer.” His study found that 56% of divorces had one partner with an obsessive interest in porn.

 

 

 

The Effects of Porn on Marriage

(allprodad.com article)

 

The effects of porn on marriage are widespread and devastating. Researcher Patrick Fagan, Ph.D. completed a major study of pornography and called it a “quiet family killer.” His study found that 56% of divorces had one partner with an obsessive interest in porn.

On average, 40 million Americans regularly view porn, and the overwhelming majority are men. That’s the admitted figure. I feel safe writing to you that I believe well over 90% of the men that will read this (including the one writing it) have viewed porn on the internet. It’s a simple click away at all times. It is the number one temptation facing all adult men. If allowed to fester in our lives, porn slowly erodes not only our rational senses but our very souls. A marriage is diseased when outside sexual influences work their way into it, and as those influences progress, the marriage falls deeper and deeper into despair.

This is a difficult topic for us to talk about. It’s one of those things that we just keep silent. But the reason we are here, the reason this site exists, is to teach us to strive to become better men. Something as treacherous as pornography undermines everything we try to achieve as husbands and fathers. With that in mind, let’s focus on the effects of porn on marriage.

 

True Passion is Nullified

Great marital sex has little to do with technique, stamina, or experience. The genuine passion built up between two people in love connecting in the highest physical form of intimacy is what makes for great marital sex. This is difficult to achieve even without porn introduced into the equation. Children, stress and busyness all take their toll on genuine passion. Pornography will outright destroy it. In studies, many women will say they don’t feel that their porn addicted husband is truly present when they make love.

 

Ridiculous Expectations

Porn is a multi-billion dollar per year industry. It has to be visually exciting and instantly grab your attention to be successful. It’s entertainment performed by actors. Just as your marriage and family life is much different than a 30-minute sitcom, the same applies with your sex life. When we fill our minds with the false images of porn, we naturally take those expectations with us to the bedroom. This leads to disappointment for the husband and a wife with a wrecked self-esteem.

 

The Loss of Trust and Intimacy

Most, if not all, wives (if they are being honest), consider their husband viewing pornography as cheating. Another woman, even just her image, has been introduced into your relationship and she’s now having to compete with it. Continual viewing of porn will erode the trust built in your marriage until it is gone completely. Meanwhile, the ability to actually feel intimacy together will wear away at the exact same pace as the trust.

 

Creates Shame and Emptiness

A husband addicted to porn will justify his actions to himself. He’ll find blame to place on his wife or his life but what he’s really trying to cover up is the shame he’s feeling. The best way to explain this is to imagine the best sex ever had with your wife and the euphoria that accompanied it afterwards. Porn has no chance of ever producing that feeling. It’s not real and it leaves only shame and emptiness after the fact.

 

Progressively Worse and Unsatisfying

Addictions all work the same way. As they progress, you need more and intensified versions of your addiction. In time, no matter how much is consumed, that satisfied feeling felt in the beginning can never be reached. A porn addict is no different than a drug addict, in that they are both desperately trying to find that high that keeps eluding them. In the end, the addict will either seek help or watch his life fall apart piece by piece. There is hope in the resiliency of the soul. For the sake of all involved, shut the porn down.  Seek help. Here is a place to start. 

 

Source: Marriage Gems



8 Science-Backed Reasons Why Dads Deserve More Credit

From birth to adulthood, a Father’s involvement makes a huge difference in a child’s world.

Father playing with his happy and smiling baby daughter

People make jokes, advertisers make commercials, and studios make movies and TV shows that tell a discouraging, insulting story of useless, unnecessary Dads. Clearly, they haven’t been talking to researchers any time in the last several years.  The numbers are in, the scientists agree—Dads have a vital, unique role to play in their children’s development.

 

 

 

8 Science-Backed Reasons Why Dads Deserve More Credit

By Rebecca Adams for the Huffington Post

 

 

Yes, dads are more involved in their childrens’ lives than ever. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still the butt of almost every parenting joke.

Just think about the 2012 Huggies ad claiming that the brand’s diapers were the ultimate “Dad Test” — a joke that landed flat, as a backlash prompted the diaper company to pull the campaign from Facebook. Then, of course, there was that 2007 Verizon ad, which was banned for depicting another hapless “Everybody Loves Raymond”-type of father. Shows like Lifetime’s “Deadbeat Dads” and Fox’s“Bad Dads” have also raised more than a few eyebrows. Sensing a theme here?

Fortunately, a growing body of scientific research is there to back up these poor, patronized dads. Here are eight things science has taught us about the father-child relationship that might convince you to move beyond the “bumbling dad”stereotype.

 

Playtime is important, and dads have it covered.

Studies have consistently found that the most common way for fathers to interact with their children is in the context of play. Mothers, on the other hand, tend to take on more of the planning and organization that go into caregiving.

 

The way dads interact with children encourages them to take risks.

Play has been shown to help teach children how to control their bodies as well as their emotions, encouraging them to take risks and be more ambitious in the long term. Even the way fathers hold their children makes a difference. Melanie Horn Mallers, an associate professor at California State University, Fullerton, told The Huffington Post that dads tend to hold their kids out to the world, while mothers tend to hold their children in, facing them. This subtle difference is actually a way in which fathers encourage their kids to take risks, Mallers said, which can benefit them later on in life in terms of their ability to engage with their environment, feel confident, solve problems and cope with stress.

According to Mallers, mothers are more likely to give their children a sense that they are safe and protected from the world. While dads may also convey this sense, they are far more likely to communicate that, as Mallers puts it, “Yes, the world is safe, so now go and explore it.”

 

Playtime with dads can actually help kids form strong relationships later in life.

The bond between father and child can influence the child’s ability to form close relationships with other people later in life. A study published in 2002 found that “adolescents’ attachment representations were predicted by fathers’ play sensitivity,” meaning a father’s ability to know when to challenge a child and when to back off during playtime. Essentially, this rough-and-tumble play is quality time between a father and child, and it shouldn’t be undervalued.

 

A father’s rejection could hurt a child even more than a mother’s rejection.

Ronald Rohner has been studying father-child relationships since the 1960s. “Like most Americans, I started out 50 years ago thinking, ‘OK, sure, fathers are there and they’re important in some ways, but the really important one is Mom,’” Rohner, executive director of the Ronald and Nancy Rohner Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection, told The Huffington Post.

In the course of his research, Rohner made the startling discovery that a father’s love often contributes to a child’s personality development more than that of a mother. Specifically, a father’s rejection can cause a child to develop behavioral problems, and the resulting feelings of insecurity, anxiety and hostility can lead, eventually, to drug or alcohol abuse or addiction. Rejection by a father can also hinder a child’s long-term ability to form trusting relationships.

Rohner notes that there are always exceptions, and that in some of the cases he looked at, the influence of both parents was about equal, or a mother’s love was the factor more indicative of a child’s development. But the overwhelming trend he found was that dads tend to wield the most influence when it comes to rejection.

 

Bad father-child relationships can make children more stressed in the long run.

Rohner isn’t the only one who’s found that a father’s perceived love (or lack thereof) packs a developmental punch. In a 2012 study of 912 men and women, Mallers found that sons who reported good relationships with their fathers were better at handling stress than sons who didn’t perceive their childhood relationship with their father to be strong. Mallers says this also ties back to playtime with fathers, which helps children develop problem-solving skills and keep calm when difficulties arise.

 

Basically, time spent with fathers matters.

Though different studies have reached different conclusions, the results all point to a key takeaway: Spending time with Dad can improve a child’s ability to connect with others in a positive way. Richard Koestner, a psychologist at McGill University, studied the results of longitudinal research conducted at Yale University in the 1950s and concluded that the less time a father spent with a child, the less the child was able to feel empathy.

“We were amazed to find that how affectionate parents were with their children made no difference in empathy,” Koestner told The New York Times in 1990. “And we were astounded at how strong the father’s influence was after 25 years.”

It’s worth noting, however, that Rohner didn’t find that to be true in his research. He says it’s quality of time, not simply quantity, that counts when it comes to kids perceiving their fathers as loving or not. But however you slice it, children benefit from face-to-face time with dads.

 

Dads bond with their children thanks to the “love hormone.”

A mother’s hormone surge and subsequent attachment bonding at the birth of a new baby is a well-known concept. But dads release plenty of hormones, too.

Studies have suggested that new fathers have increased levels of oxytocin, aka the “love hormone,” during a newborn’s first weeks. Oxytocin allows new dads to bond with their babies, making it more likely that they’ll engage in that all-important playtime. In fact, the surge of lovey-dovey hormones in fathers is thought to be sparked by parenting itself — “tossing the baby in the air, pulling the little one up to sit, or encouraging exploration and laughter,” according to a Live Science report of a 2010 study conducted by psychologist Ruth Feldman at Bar-Ilan University.

 

In fact, new dads experience all sorts of important hormonal fluctuations.

Fathers exhibit about a 30 percent dip in testosterone during their infant’s first three weeks, allowing the dads to unleash their inner nurturer and squash any aggressive behavior. Additionally, while waiting for their babies to be born, fathers experience a spike in cortisol, the “stress hormone” that also prompts attachment, and prolactin, the same hormone that causes mothers to produce milk.

Since men aren’t producing hormones to help create a baby, Mallers hypothesizes that the stress of a new child causes many new dads to experience these fluctuations.

 

In short, don’t underestimate the importance of fathers.

 

 



Covering the Key Sexual Topics

Remember, you do want them to hear it from YOU first though you may feel they seem too innocent right now.

asian father and elementary-age son sitting on grass outdoors having a serious conversation.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a frank discussion with your kids about sex, someone else will—the average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11 years old [1]. If you want your kids to have a healthy, Biblical view of sexuality, you’ve got to talk to them now.

It’s not easy or comfortable, but your kids are depending on you—don’t let them down by leaving them to navigate our sex-obsessed culture on their own.

Dr. Dave Currie has a list of 40 key topics to get you through the discussion. God bless you and your kids as you guide them to a Biblical, healthy, joyful view of sexuality.

 

Covering the Key Sexual Topics

Parenting: SEX TALK Part 3

By Dr. Dave Currie for Doing Family Right

 

Here are the Top 40 Topics to discuss with your child in your Pre-Teen Sex Talk. Recognize that though you may not cover all of these issues in one sitting, know that they all still need to be discussed over a short span of time. It is better not to overload one session but have a weekend away or two or three nights in 10 days or so. Remember, you do want them to hear it from YOU first though you may feel they seem too innocent right now. Truth is never wrong to tell. Attach your values throughout so they have your heart on it all.

For the actual talk, you may want to use these points as your guideline through the talk. I put them in a logical sequence so you can work right through the list and check off each idea as you cover it. Say it in your words. Explain it so they get it. You may dwell on some concepts longer than others. Some may only take a minute or so. No problem. Add examples and illustrations to get the point across. Helping them understand the truth is what matters. God bless you on this journey of being intentional and wise parents.

 

God-Honouring Views On Human Sexulaity…

1. Sex is God’s idea. He created all living things to have a male and female counterpart to reproduce each one after their own kind.

2. God created men and women to be sexual creatures to be able to enjoy their sexual differences within a marriage and to enjoy having children within a family.

3. The world’s standards about sexuality are often in contrast to God’s standards and appear to take anything that God created as good – sex included – and twist or pervert it so it becomes far less than God intended.

4. Sex gets trivialized and vandalized by our society. Sex is used to sell. Point out ways that the culture capitalizes on sexual interest. Refer to examples in media: magazines, commercials, movies, TV, Internet, billboards and more. Discuss the expectations and assumptions about sex that is conveyed.

5. Sex is a powerful drive. It is a new appetite that you will acquire rather suddenly. Pressures from within you and from without you will be strong to engage in sex before marriage.

6. God’s plan for sexuality is clearly counter-cultural and yet so simple. His design is for one man and one woman to enjoy exclusive intimacy for life.

7. Start early casting the dream about waiting for God to reveal His gift to them for their life partner. Challenge them to trust in God knowing that He has someone in mind for you – perfectly suited for you.

8. We are to be faithful to that one person we will marry for the rest of our lives. Sex is enjoyed only with that one person, your spouse, after you are married. Sex, as God intended, is worth waiting for.

9. Faithfulness to your spouse – the person you will one day marry – starts right now, long before you are married. An extramarital affair involves sexual unfaithfulness with any person other than your spouse. God doesn’t want you to mess around with people either before or after you are married.

10. See your sexuality as a gift from God to give to your spouse on the Honeymoon night. Just like opening a gift before Christmas or opening someone else’s gift spoils the event, the surprise and its specialness, premarital sexual involvement makes the wedding and the gift of sex rather lack luster.

11. Know what the Bible says about sexuality and share your views and understanding of it.

 

Understand The Normal Sexual Changes…

12. Puberty is a time of change within the bodies of all preteen boys and girls. This is the time when the sexual capacity awakens. It’s like God downloads a new interest and capacity into young people and the timing of it varies.

13. A growing interest in the opposite sex is a normal and healthy part of puberty. It includes both a physical and sexual draw as well as an emotional and relational appeal. Talk about the transition into puberty where the mind and the body “come of age” as youth become aware and alive to this new drive or appetite.

14. A growing curiosity into sexuality itself is normal and healthy as it corresponds to the new sexual capacity and strong new sex drive.

15. Reinforce that sex is a good thing and should be seen at as a gift from God to look forward to. Sex needs to be seen as both fun and sacred, viewed with both anticipation and caution, and a valuable gift to be treasured.

16. Sexual abstinence before marriage is a great decision and God’s design and norm for our family.

17. Give your reasons why having sex before marriage is wrong both biblically and emotionally. Sexual abstinence – why having sex is for marriage. Do you want to marry a person who has had sex with many others? Not likely.

 

The Nature Of Sexuality: How It Works…

18. Explain the following purposes of sexuality in marriage:

– Promote unity – the joy of oneness between husband and wife
– Pleasure your partner – the joy of the fun, thrill and refreshing of each other
– Prevent fornication – the joy of faithfulness by focusing on one person
– Produce identity – the joy of role-fulfillment as a man and a woman
– Procreate children – the joy of parenting – one of life’s greatest rewards

19. Explain what transpires in sexual intercourse. What it is? How does it happen? Explain the naturalness and the beauty of it. This was God’s plan and this is how you got here.

20. Explain the miracle of how a baby is conceived through intercourse, the nature of pregnancy, the development of the child, the process of childbirth and even the nature of breast-feeding.

21. Explain contraception and the basic methods of prevention – the pill and the condom. Be prepared to discuss your thoughts on when a person should consider using them.

22. Discuss the implications of premarital pregnancy, the common myths about how people get pregnant, that you can get pregnant the first time you try and what abortion is.

 

Understanding The Female Anatomy…

(to be shared with both girls and boys)

23. Discuss puberty and the accompanying body changes in girls. Understand this is the beginning of the transition into looking more like and becoming a woman. It is the beginning of carrying a new sexual capacity to create children. This process is triggered by the release of hormones into your body. It happens at different ages for different kids. For girls, the changes include developing breasts and hips, growing pubic and underarm hair, blemishes, emotional ups and downs, and the start of the menstrual cycle.

24. Explain the Menstrual Cycle: Why it is there? What happens during it? How should it be handled? What are the practical guidelines that need to be given to remove fears and uncertainty? Present a positive perspective on the menstrual cycle.

25.  Discuss the nature and purpose of the womb, ovaries, breasts, vagina, uterus and eggs. Draw or show simple diagrams to convey better understanding where needed.

26. Coaching Girls Emotionally and Relationally:

a.    Teach them about modesty.

b.    Teach them they have a right to say no.

c.    Remind them to keep their hands off – wait until they are married.

d.    Help them understand maleness – they are visually stimulated

e.    Taking responsibility for your actions during menopause.

 

Understanding The Male Anatomy…

(to be shared with both boys and girls)

27. Discuss puberty and the accompanying body changes in boys. Understand this is the beginning of the transition into looking more like and becoming a man. It is the beginning of carrying a new sexual capacity to create children. This process is triggered by the release of hormones into their body. It happens at different times for different kids. For boys, the changes include growing bigger, growing pubic, underarm, and facial hair, and the beginning of internal sexual drives.

28. Explain Nocturnal Emission: This phenomenon is sometimes called “wet dreams”. Discuss also the reason and the means for the hardening of the penis.

29. Discuss the nature and purpose of the penis, testicles, sperm, semen, erection, and ejaculation.

30. Coaching Boys Emotionally and Relationally:

a.    Understand the strong attraction to women and noticing and liking shapes, figures, and pretty girls.

b.    Help them to understand femaleness with the high need of emotional closeness.

c.    Teach respect of women. Discourage pressuring into any type of sexual contact.

d.    Remind them to keep their hands off – wait until they are married.

e.    Taking responsibility for your actions in control of your sex-drive.

31. Discuss your views on masturbation and the normal process of sexual self-discovery in both girls and boys. Give cautions on its addictive allure without creating guilt.

 

Other Sexual Issues To Explain…

32. Discuss healthy personal and family privacy and sexual boundaries with siblings, cousins and friends whether peers or younger than them.

33. At some point, it will be wise to talk through the main slang terms for each of the sexual terms. They are going to hear it and wonder what it means. Teach them it is NOT the way to talk about sexuality.

34. Talk through the power, the corruption and the effects of pornography on your future sex life whether watched on the Internet, in movies, in magazines or even live. Warn regarding the dangers of “sexting” as a criminal offence.

35. Petting is the sexual touching of all that is normally covered by clothing with those they will date.

36. Oral sex is not okay. Though you may not get pregnant, it compromises who you are and your sexual freedom in the future. It is reserved for married couples when they are comfortable.

37. Sexually Transmitted Infections – HIV warning needed.

38. Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

39. Gay, lesbian, & homosexual.

40. Pedophiles, sexual predators, and child abuse.

 

1.  Page 4 of the Parent Primer on Internet Pornography — CPYU’s Digital Kids Initiative. 



A Harvard Psychiatrist Says 3 Things Are the Secret to Real Happiness

A Secular Study follows Two Groups of Men for 75 Years

Outdoor Portrait Of Multi-Ethnic Crowd

…and while their findings might surprise some, Christians shouldn’t be surprised at all: your relationships are the most important part of your life. Your health and happiness are vitally linked to the connections you have to the people around you. Read the article below to learn how strong relationships effect health and well-being. But ask yourself,  if relationships with people are important—what about a relationship with God?

 

A Harvard Psychiatrist Says 3 Things Are the Secret to Real Happiness

 

By  for Business Insider

 

Happiness is one of the most important things in life, yet it’s also one of the hardest to study.

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life ever conducted. Waldinger described some of the secrets to happiness revealed by the study in a recent TED talk.

The study followed two cohorts of white men for 75 years, starting in 1938:

  • 268 Harvard sophomores as part of the “Grant Study” led by Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant
  • 456 12- to 16-year-old boys who grew up in inner-city Boston as part of the “Glueck Study” led by Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck

The researchers surveyed the men about their lives (including the quality of their marriages, job satisfaction, and social activities) every two years and monitored their physical health (including chest X-rays, blood tests, urine tests, and echocardiograms) every five years.

They came away with one major finding: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.

In his TED Talk, Waldinger pointed out three key lessons about happiness:

 

1. Close relationships

The men in both groups of the Harvard study who reported being closer to their family, friends, or community tended to be happier and healthier than their less social counterparts. They also tended to live longer. By comparison, people who said they were lonelier reported feeling less happy. They also had worse physical and mental health, as defined above.

A 2014 review of dozens of studies published in the journal Social and Personality Psychology Compass suggests that loneliness can get in the way of mental functioning, sleep, and well-being, which in turn increases the risk of illness and death.

 

2. Quality (not quanity) of relationships

It’s not just being in a relationship that matters. Married couples who said they argued constantly and had low affection for one another (which study authors defined as “high-conflict marriages”) were actually less happy than people who weren’t married at all, the Harvard study found.

However, the effect of relationship quality seems to depend somewhat on age. A 2015 study published in the journal Psychology and Aging that followed people for 30 years found that the number of relationships people had was, in fact, more important for people in their 20s, but the quality of relationships had a bigger effect on social and psychological well being when people were in their 30s.

 

3. Stable, supportive marriages

Being socially connected to others isn’t just good for our physical health. It also helps stave off mental decline. People who were married without having divorced, separating, or having “serious problems” until age 50 performed better on memory tests later in life than those who weren’t, the Harvard study found.

And other research backs this up. A 2013 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that marriage, among other factors, was linked to a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

All of this suggests that strong relationships are critical to our health.

Society places a lot of emphasis on wealth and “leaning in” to our work, Waldinger said. “But over and over, over these 75 years, our study has shown that the people who fared the best were the people who leaned in to relationships, with family, with friends, with community.”

You can watch the full TED talk here.

 



How a 10-Year-Old Got Her Father to Quit His $100 Million a Year Job

One Dad realizes that—though he can buy his little girl anything—all she really wants is time with him.

The girl writes a letter

Not many people see that many zeroes in a year—but that’s not the point. You could be king of the world, but your kids won’t care how much you make if you don’t meet their basic needs—one of which is to have a loving, involved father.

How are you going to make time for your family today? What about tomorrow?

 

 

How a 10-Year-Old Got Her Father to Quit His $100 Million a Year Job

 

By David Clark Scott for the Christian Science Monitor

 

OK, dads, Mohamed El-Erian has thrown down the Father of the Year gauntlet.

The CEO of global investment firm Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) quit his $100-million-a-year job in January [2014] to spend more time with his daughter.

However, he admits that she shamed him into the decision.

 

In Worth Magazine, Mr. El Erian describes how his 10-year-old daughter gave him a hand-written list of her important events and activities he’d missed because he was at work.

“Talk about a wake-up call. The list contained 22 items, from her first day at school and her first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade.

“I felt awful and got defensive. I had a good excuse for each missed event. Travel, important meetings, and urgent phone call, sudden to-dos ….

“But it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point.

“As much as I could rationalize it – as I had rationalized it – my work-life balance had gotten way out of whack, and the imbalance was hurting my very special relationship with my daughter. I was not making nearly enough time for her.”

 

Most dads don’t have the financial nest egg to walk away from their job to spend more time with their children – as much as they’d like to. And El Erian acknowledges that he’s in a privileged position.

 

While most parents cannot simply quit their jobs to salvage a relationship, El Erian’s choice highlights a common work-life balance challenge.

Sadly, he also represents a unique perspective among male executives, according to a March 2014 Harvard Business Review survey of some 4,000 executives worldwide. Most men, the article noted, still see the work-life balance problem as a “woman’s” issue. And they rationalize their decision to be primarily a provider rather than a father and husband.

Here’s how one executive says he sees his divorce:  “Looking back, I would have still made a similar decision to focus on work, as I was able to provide for my family and become a leader in my area, and these things were important to me. Now I focus on my kids’ education…and spend a lot more time with them over weekends.”

Men, the article notes, seldom feel guilt over lost time with family. But women executives do, and HBR offers this example:

“When you are paid well, you can get all the [practical] help you need. What is the most difficult thing, though—what I see my women friends leave their careers for—is the real emotional guilt of not spending enough time with their children. The guilt of missing out.”

 

A March 2013 article in in Psychology Today argues that work and family responsibilities don’t have to necessarily compete, but rather can “enrich” and improve the quality of life both at home and work.

“Work-family enrichment is most likely to occur when organizations provide that family-friendly environment such as providing their workers with support and schedule control. As we’ve just seen, work and family can enrich each other. When they do, not only are the employees happier and healthier, but the organization benefits as well.  Managers who provide support to employees through such measures as accommodative work schedules, have employees who actually become more productive and are less likely to leave the organization, according to a recent study by Gettysburg College psychologist Heather Odle-Dusseau and colleagues (2012).”

 

If one looks at a broader group of fathers, not just executives, the statistics tell a more positive story.

American fathers have nearly tripled the amount of time they spend with their children, from 2.5 hours in 1965 to 7.3 hours per week in 2011, according to a Pew Research report. Despite that increase, Dads still feel guilty. The Pew study showed that 46 percent of fathers said they spent too little time with their children, compared with 23 percent of mothers who said the same; half of dads said they spent the right amount of time.

How’s El Erian managing his new work-life balance?

El Erian still works at what he describes as “a portfolio of part-time jobs.” And he says his wife and he alternate waking up their daughter, giving her breakfast, and taking her to school. He says he attends more of her after school activities and he and his daughter have planned a father-daughter vacation.



9 Reasons Why Church Leaders Should Read the Daily News

Read your Bible first every day . . . but then read the news through gospel, Great Commission lenses.

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You’re a busy person. Work, family, and church responsibilities all pile on top of each other a vie for your attention. Taking the time to sit still and read the news—much of it often unpleasant—may simply be on the bottom of your to-do list. Perhaps it isn’t there at all.

Professor Chuck Lawless weighs in on why Christians—especially busy church leaders—need to make the time to read the daily news. 

 

 

9 Reasons Why Church Leaders Should Read the Daily News

 

By Chuck Lawless for thomrainier.com

 

 

If you’re a church leader, whether laity or clergy, I know you’re busy. I get tired just thinking about non-stop meetings, prospect visits, member ministry, lesson and sermon preparation, e-mails and phone calls, community responsibilities, reading, and dozens of other tasks – not to mention personal spiritual disciplines and family priorities.

With this much to do, who has time left to read the newspaper every day? Even when we have access to the news via the Internet, the time required for a full reading is still not insignificant.

Think about, though, these reasons for reading the news:

 

1. We need to know the world God loves.

Because He loves the world, we need to know that world. In today’s paper, I read of Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, China, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Switzerland, and Myanmar. Get a map, and locate these countries. Find out what unreached people groups are there. It’s all God’s world, and He died for all. To know only our part of the world is too self-centric.

 

2. Missionaries live in much of that world.

Missionaries often live in volatile places. They go there under God’s call, believing and trusting we are praying for them. As you read the news, let that news drive you to prayer on behalf of missionaries in those areas. I assure you they long for it. If you suspect missionaries may not be there, ask God to open a door there.

 

3. That world lives among us.

You know this reality: internationals live beside us, work with us, take classes with us, and attend church with us. They most often know the news of their countries of origin. Sometimes they have family in difficult situations. Our ignorance of those realities simply because we do not follow the news is poor pastoral leadership.

 

4. Others in your church and community are reading the news every day.

They may, in fact, be leaders in your church or city. Perhaps their job requires their reading the news, or maybe they just want to be informed. They can speak intelligently in many circles. When we cannot join them in the conversation because we’ve ignored the news, we limit our ministry opportunities.

 

5. The news moves us outside our local Christian bubble.

Read the “local news” section of your paper, and you might learn something you need to know as a Christian leader in your community. For example, I read today that the local Muslim leadership in my city sponsored an event this weekend to share their faith with residents. I will now seek to learn more about the size of the Muslim community, and I will pray with more focus and fervor – as a result of reading the newspaper.

 

6. Even evil people need prayer.

I am hesitant to name names here, as all of us are sinners in need of the gospel. It’s easy, though, to read the news and label our enemies as evil. We are quick to condemn and reject those who commit sins that are not ours. Without ever compromising a call to righteous judgment, however, we are still to love our enemies and pray for them (Luke 6:27-28). Reading the news will challenge you to do so.

 

7. The news provides relevant and current applications for our teaching.

All who teach God’s people are continually challenged to help others see how the gospel applies to life. Entire websites are devoted to providing sermon and teaching illustrations, but those illustrations are often dated or overused. The news can provide contemporary illustrations (as in today’s feature story in my city’s paper – a story of a man who has trusted God through a horrendous illness).

 

8. Reading the news will challenge you to keep learning.

Consider into how many areas reading the news will take you. Politics. Geography. Economics. Business. History. Vocabulary. Sports. Weather. Religion. Media. Relationships. Arts. Advice. Vocations. Health. Medicine. Science. Language. And the list could go on. God has given us a brain to use as we do ministry, and reading the news will stretch that brain every day.

 

9. We are reminded of the urgency of the gospel.

The news is about life, from the weekly birth announcements to the daily death notices. It’s about people – people we minister to, people we are trying to reach, people who have never heard of Jesus. It’s about the effects of human sin, including pride in our accomplishments and depth in our wickedness. It’s about a world that needs the message of Christ.

Read your Bible first every day . . . but then read the news through gospel, Great Commission lenses. You will look at the world differently.

 

As a Christian leader, what other benefits do you get from reading the news?

 



A Generation of Skeptics Are Open to the Resurrection

Evidence Even the Critics Will Accept

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What do you say to skeptics who refuse to accept that the Gospels were written by their traditional authors? Who insist that the accounts were written long after the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry had all died? Even using only evidence that these critics will accept, Dr. Gary Habermas thinks that the case for the resurrection is still stands, as strong as ever. The discussion, according Dr. Habermas, begins with the Apostle Paul…

 

A Generation of Skeptics Are Open to the Resurrection

By Napp Nazworth, Christian Post Reporter

 

CHARLOTTE — Due to the evidence, a generation of skeptics are now open to believing in the resurrection, the foundational event for the Christian faith, Gary Habermas explained at the Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 21st Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics.

Critics have recently begun to acknowledge facts central to Jesus’ resurrection, he claimed.

Habermas, distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University and visiting professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, is an expert on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has written 18 books, and over 100 book chapters and journal articles on the topic. His next book will be 3,000 pages compiling his life work. Half of the book will be new material that does not appear in any of his previous books, Habermas announced during his talk.

One of the critics Habermas mentioned was Bart Ehrman, a former Evangelical Christian who has become an agnostic. Ehrman currently serves as the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has written or edited over 25 books on the life of Jesus and the New Testament. Several of his books have appeared on The New York Times best sellers list, including his most recent book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.

Gary Habermas, distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University and visiting professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, presenting on "Jesus' Resurrection for Skeptics," at the Southern Evangelical Seminary's 21st Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics, Charlotte, N.C., Oct. 10, 2014. (Photo: The Christian Post/Napp Nazworth)

Gary Habermas, distinguished research professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University and visiting professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary, presenting on “Jesus’ Resurrection for Skeptics,” at the Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 21st Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics, Charlotte, N.C., Oct. 10, 2014. (Photo: The Christian Post/Napp Nazworth)

To make the strongest possible case, Habermas said he only uses evidence allowed by the critics, those who deny that the resurrection happened.

Since the critics admit that Paul was a historical figure, had a genuine conversion experience and wrote seven of the 13 New Testament letters that Christians believe he wrote, he used only those seven Pauline epistles (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon) to make his case. In particular, 1 Corinthians 15 is a central passage, which Habermas believes could hold the record for having the most publications about it than any other passage in Scripture.

The critics also acknowledge that Paul had his conversion experience somewhere between one and three years after Jesus’ death, Habermas pointed out, and in Galatians, Paul noted that he went to Jerusalem three years after that. Fourteen years later, Paul recounts in Galatians 2, he returned to Jerusalem and met with three people who knew Jesus best — James, John and Peter.

Since Ehrman does not accept the traditional authorship of the four Gospels, he wrote that this meeting was the closest eyewitness accounts of the life of Jesus available, Habermas explained.

Paraphrasing Galatians 2:2, Habermas said it was at that second Jerusalem meeting that Paul compared what he had been preaching with what the other apostles had been preaching and they decided, “we’re all on the same page.”

This is important, Habermas explained, because it means it dates the Gospel message to only one or two years after Jesus died on the cross.

In other words, if James, John, Peter and Paul are all on the same page in terms of the Gospel they are preaching, Paul was converted one to three years after the death of Jesus, and James, John and Peter began preaching that same Gospel even earlier than Paul, then that Gospel was preached within one to two years after the Cross, even by the evidence that the critics will acknowledge.

And indeed, Habermas said, Ehrman and other critics have recognized this.

These early eyewitness accounts that even acclaimed critics accept are “knockout arguments for the resurrection,” Habermas said.

“That’s why a generation of skeptics are open to the resurrection evidence today,” he added.



7 Reasons America Has Not Been Reached for Christ

“There are over 300,000 Protestant churches in America.”

Loneliness

“Virtually every city in the United States has an abundance of Bible-believing faith communities. Millions upon millions of Christians attend these churches and, yet, this country is not reached for Christ yet. Why?”

 

 

7 Reasons America Has Not Been Reached for Christ

 

By Greg Stier for the Christian Post

 

There are over 300,000 Protestant churches in America. Virtually every city in the United States has an abundance of Bible-believing faith communities. Millions upon millions of Christians attend these churches and, yet, this country is not reached for Christ yet. Why?

 

Here are seven reasons:

 

1. We have outsourced the work of evangelism.

We have delegated, relegated and abdicated our outreach efforts to those who have the “gift” of evangelism. We wait for the next festival or outreach to come to town before we even think about this God-given duty. After all evangelism is the domain of the greats like Graham, Palau and Laurie, not common people like Larry, Curly and Joe Schmo. Right? Wrong!

Instead of “leaving it to the professionals” we need to take THE Cause of Christ personally. Let’s stop waiting for the big wigs of evangelism to roll into town and start going ourselves to make disciples of our own next door neighbors, co-workers, family and friends.

 

2. We have lost our sense of urgency.

Take hell out of the equation and evangelism seems like a nice, but not necessary, activity. Put hell back in and suddenly everything changes. Suddenly souls are at stake and time is a wastin’. We start to reach out like there is no tomorrow…because there may not be for those who don’t know Jesus.

And simmer down my dear Reformed friends. It was the great reformer himself (aka “The Apostle Paul”) who asked “how will they hear without a preacher?” right in the middle of his longest explanation of the doctrine of election (Romans 9-11.) It is possible to believe in election and to be motivated to “snatch others from the fire and save them” (Jude 23.) It happens when we stop trying to connect dots that were never meant to be connected. It happens when we stop trying to reconcile God’s sovereignty and our responsibility. It happens when we choose to live in the tension and share the gospel like lost souls depend on it.

 

3. We are ashamed of the gospel.

I believe that many Christians are secretly ashamed of this catalytic “narrow minded” message. To tell someone that Jesus is the only way to heaven and that faith is the only means to Jesus is to say in effect that all other paths lead to hell. We live in an inclusive culture that values every path so when we proclaim Jesus to be the only path it can lead to mockery, marginalization and mayhem. And nobody likes being mocked…so most keep their mouths shut when it comes to evangelism.

But Jesus himself reminds his disciples in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Instead of being ashamed we need to boldly proclaim the gospel with gentleness and respect. Let us embrace every sarcastic response to our evangelistic efforts as a hug from Jesus Himself.

 

4. Many Christians can’t explain the gospel.

Put a microphone up to the face of most church-going Christians and you’ll discover that most can’t clearly explain the gospel message in a simple way. It’s hard to share a message that you can’t explain clearly yourself. Napoleon had three instructions for his war time messengers, “1. Be clear! 2. Be clear! 3. Be clear!” We need to heed his advice by mastering the message of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3,4) and then clearly articulating it to those we encounter (Colossians 4:4.)

For a simple way to share the good news go to www.dare2share.org/gospeljourney. Like chords on a guitar, master the basics of the message and then play the beautiful music of the gospel with your own style and personality.

 

5. Church leaders are not leading the way.

Most church leaders I have encountered are not actively leading the way for evangelism in their faith communities. They may pull off an outreach every now and again. They may bring in some professionals to exercise their gift of evangelism in their church services once or twice a year. But most are not actively leading in evangelism on a personal or public level. Ask your pastor, youth leader or even outreach pastor to tell you the people they are currently engaged in an evangelistic conversation with and you may be surprised…and disappointed.

As the old statement goes, “When there is a mist in the pulpit there’s a fog in the pew.” This is true of both bad exegesis and non-existent evangelism. If the spiritual teachers in the church aren’t sharing their faith personally then why would we be shocked if their students are failing at Evangelism 101. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:24, “No student is above his teacher.”

 

6. We have forgotten how to pray.

For years I relegated intercessory prayer to little old ladies and crazy people. Why? Because the intercessors I knew were over eighty years old or seemed like they needed Ritalin. But God slapped my hand and shut my mouth when he brought me to my knees four years ago.

The Great Recession taught me how to pray. At first it was for financial provision for our ministry which had been hit hard by a loss of major donors after the Stock Market crashed. But then, as God provided financially, He turned my prayers toward the Mecca of ministry. I started interceding, not just on behalf of Dare2Share(the ministry I lead), but on behalf of my unreached neighbors and friends.

When church services spend more time in announcements than intercessory prayer then you know something is broken. If we want to reach every person in this nation with the good news of Jesus we need God to act on our behalf. We need Him to soften harden hearts and open closed doors. We need to pray like we mean it.

 

7. Churches don’t mobilize their young people to share the gospel.

The vast majority of those who come to Christ do so by the age of 18. So why aren’t more churches inspiring, equipping and unleashing their young people to engage evangelistically with their peers?

If I were selling a certain product and I knew that a certain demographic was most likely to buy my product then I would put the majority of my marketing dollars to get in front of that particular demographic. This is only common sense.

While we, as Christians, aren’t selling anything (we’re actually giving it away!) we know that the demographic most likely to believe our message is young people. But, instead of focusing on training and unleashing Christian teenagers (who are searching for a cause) to reach non-Christian teenagers (who are more open to the gospel), we spend the vast majority of our money on buildings, budgets and Bible studies to minister to adults. This doesn’t make common or kingdom sense.

At Dare 2 Share we equip teenagers to share the good news. We do it through large-scale training events, cutting-edge resources and powerful evangelistic tools. If you’ve never checked us out, check us out. Join us in our quest to reach every teenager for Christ through a teenager they know. Pray for us. Support us. Join us.

 

It’s time we drop our lame excuses and reach this nation for Jesus Christ. Who’s with me?

 



Equip Your Kids to “Say No” to Porn

Josh McDowell came across this article and wanted to share it with you.

Original Post: jenwilkin.blogspot.com

“The first time porn was served at the cafeteria lunch table, my son was eleven years old.” [Jen]

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“How should I prepare my child for if they see porn?” is the wrong question to ask, according to Jen Wilkin. The question you need to be asking—when your children are still very young—is this:

“How should I prepare my child for when they see porn?”

Equip Your Kids to “Say No” to Porn

Original Post: jenwilkin.blogspot.com

The first time porn was served at the cafeteria lunch table, my son was eleven years old. Does that seem young to you?

Research suggests that one in three children ages 11-14 have viewed pornography on a mobile device. Add to that the very real possibility that a child will stumble across explicit content on YouTube or in a pop-up during innocent computer usage, and one thing becomes clear: parents must be proactive in talking about porn with their kids.

I’m not a fear-monger when it comes to parenting. In fact, I think fear is a terrible motivator for making parenting decisions. But if children are being exposed to porn at young ages, the loving thing to do as a parent is to equip them to know how to respond. The most frequent parenting question I’m asked is, “When should I talk to my child about sex?” My adamant answer is, “Much earlier than you might think.” If you’re concerned about your child being exposed to porn, you’ve got to talk about sex, and you must do so early.

Let me tell you what played out at the sixth grade lunch table that day.

When the phone with the images was offered, my son responded, “I don’t look at porn.”

The owner of the phone, perplexed, asked, “Then how will you know how to have sex?”

My son responded that his parents had told him all about it. Jaws dropped.

Not one other sixth grade boy at the table had had a conversation with his parents about sex, or, it would seem, about porn. But they were by no means lacking in instruction.

We may stall on the sex talk, but the world will not. If we delay introducing the topic because of personal discomfort, shame, or uncertainty about how to begin, our children will form their first ideas about human sexuality based on the reports of their peers, the images on their devices, or the pop-ups that introduce them to porn. They will also assume their parents are not willing or equipped to handle discussions about sex.

Ask the right question

Too many parents are still asking the wrong question with regard to children and explicit content. We can no longer ask, “How should I prepare my child for if they see porn?” We must ask, “How should I prepare my child for when they see porn?” External controls are important, but they only shield your child from a handful of instances when porn can make an appearance. Mobile devices are everywhere, and your neighbor’s unsecured wi-fi is easy to find.

This means we must begin giving our children internal controls as early as possible. We must give them a way to flee danger as soon as it presents itself. Just as parents of my generation taught their kids a script for when they were offered drugs, we must teach our kids a script for when they are offered porn. And we must be ready to have frank, fearless conversations about what they may have already seen, conversations free of any hint of condemnation that maintain a safe environment for openness and ongoing dialogue about this and other difficult topics.

Your child may very well be exposed to porn before they are developmentally able to understand what they are looking at. They need your help to know how to respond. Give them red flags, a script and a plan.

Red Flags, a Script and a Plan

Though not developmentally ready for a full blown explanation of the nature and dangers of porn, young children can learn two red flags to help them avoid contact with it, two red flags that also guard against predators. Teach your child at a young age that “naked is private”, and that “don’t tell your mom and dad” means danger. Both of these red flags will help them recognize when they are being shown something you wouldn’t want them to see.

Train your child how to respond to an offer of porn by giving them scripted words to use, and a plan of action:

Parent: “If someone shows you a picture of something and asks you not to tell anyone, what should you do?”

Child:     “Tell them ‘no thanks’, and then come tell you.”

Parent: “If a picture of something strange comes up on the computer, what should you do?”

Child:     “Ex it out, and then come tell you.”

Rehearse this language, just as you would rehearse what words to use in other situations, like if a stranger offered them a ride home from school.

A Culture of Confession

Children need to know they can come tell a parent without fear of getting in trouble or setting off high drama, even if (especially if) they looked at what was offered.

When we give them permission to come to us, we reinforce a culture of confession in our homes. We may not be able to shield our kids from pornographic images, but we can give them the internal tools they need to protect them from becoming entangled in secrecy, shame, and a warped view of sexuality.

Whether they are eight or twenty eight, we want our children to choose confession over concealment every time. Reward their courage in coming to you by reacting calmly, affirming that they have done the right thing, and then helping them process what has happened and what to do moving forward.

We must communicate clearly to our children that porn is telling a lie and that we will tell them the truth. As your child gets older, talk frankly about what porn is, about how it teaches a perverted view of sexuality, and about how it exploits both the viewer and those who are in the images. Talk about the consequences of having a wrong view of sex and sexuality, the dangers of lust, and the sin of objectifying another person made in the image of God.

Start Early

If you have preschool aged children, begin gathering resources now to help you naturally introduce the topic of sex in age-appropriate ways as opportunities present. (In other words, if you take your kids to the zoo in the spring, be ready to broach the subject if the animal kingdom introduces it.) Rather than think, “How long can I put off the sex talk?” ask, “How soon can I begin to equip my child to filter messages about sex and sexuality in age-appropriate ways?”

Be the first voice your child hears about sex and sexuality, and about fleeing porn exposure. Don’t let fear cause you to delay beginning this conversation. And don’t let fear cause you to have the conversation in a way that scares your child or casts sexuality in a negative light.

Get educated about what resources are available to help you confidently and calmly discuss sex as a beautiful gift from God, to be enjoyed within the good boundaries He has set. Lovingly teach your kids red flags, a script and a plan. And trust your Heavenly Father that even this parenting hurdle is one He can help you surmount.

 

 

 



8 Online Etiquette Rules Every Tween Should Know

Proper online etiquette isn’t just something to consider teaching your tweens, it’s crucial for solidifying their digital safety.

Friends with laptop showing thumbs up

Parents, have you ever heard of “subtweeting?” Are you aware that college administrators and potential employers sometimes look at candidates’ social media profiles? Do your kids know what to do when they see someone getting bullied online? Below, see 8 essential rules of Social Media etiquette (or “Netiquette”), laid down by bloggers, consultants and authors. 

 

 

8 Online Etiquette Rules Every Tween Should Know

By Steven Woda for uKnowKids.com

 

With college administrators and employers often checking candidates’ social network profiles and tweens and teens online more than ever before, it’s extremely important to ensure that your tweens and teens are representing themselves online appropriately. Social Media “Netiquette” consists of a variety of factors including language used, tones emitted through word choice and sentence structure, and the manners in which people conduct themselves when posting behind screens (especially when done anonymously).

Luckily, teenagers admit that social media etiquette is an important factor in their lives. A recent Teen Trend Report from a Stage of Life survey found that 91% of teens indicate that civility, manners and etiquette are either “important” or “very important” to them. 69.3% (the majority) of teens say that they learn “bad manners” from the media, whereas 97% of teens expressed that they learn their “good manners” at home.

With uKnow’s Social Media Etiquette Twitter Party around the corner, we asked social media bloggers, consultants, and authors about their top concerns and rules for teens’ and tweens’ social media ‘netiquette’. More than anything, the contributors emphasize how easy it is to be offensive online, whether someone is intending to offend or not. See what they believe are the most important facets of social media etiquette.

 

1. Post for Your Future

“From a career point of view, teens are quite flippant about what they share on social media, and that might concern a prospective employer in the future.

X-rated and offensive pictures, as well as aggressive and even illegal comments can scupper a teen’s chances of getting a job in the future. Teens should protect themselves by thinking before they post”.

Lauren Riley, Social Media & Marketing Manager of Bubble Jobs Ltd

 

2. Employ a Positive Online Tone

Social media is YOUR brand. Use social media for the greater good. Connect with your favorite musicians and people you admire. Don’t waste1 energy hiding behind a screen making negative comments to people”.

Kim Schultz, Bob Weir’s TRI Studios

 

3. Don’t Post to Self-Promote

“Teens should remember that there’s more to social media than the number of followers you have. It’s OK topost an Instagram photo without using #follow, #instalike, #tagsforlikes, etc. as your hashtags. By demanding likes and followers, teens misuse social media and use it to boost their own vanity. It’s not wrong to post a selfie now and then, but it’s good to also think about what you can contribute, not only what you can take”.

Lisa Parkin, President of the Social Media Consultancy The Social Climber

teens taking a selfie“Teens today have grown up with easy access to other people’s opinions of them. Often times, those opinions foster feelings of insecurity. Interactions on social media can become unhealthy forms of validation. Many teens I’ve worked with tell me that on social media it’s common that they will upload a photo, and delete it if it doesn’t get a certain number of ‘likes’ or ‘comments.’ This is concerning, as it can get dangerous to so closely tie your self-worth with ‘likes’ on a photo.”

Michelle G. Lopez, Digital and Design Editor for The Mash, Chicago Tribune’s Teen Edition

 

4. Avoid Sub-Tweeting

A trend that Common Sense Media has noticed, particularly among teens, is “subtweeting.” It’s when kids use social media to bad-mouth or gossip about someone without naming the person directly, but use identifying language, descriptions, or characterizations so everyone knows who is being discussed. This is a form of cyberbullying that not too many parents are aware of it because it has developed as a way for kids to avoid the consequences for their actions.

Subtweeting is very insidious because it has plausible deniability: The victim is not named, so everyone can claim they weren’t really talking about that person.1 Kids – more often girls – use subtweeting to isolate and gang up on their victim, and it’s really difficult for the victim to rally kids to his or her defense because – again – he or she is not being explicitly named.

At Common Sense Media, we believe it is crucial for parents to talk to their kids about subtweeting and also dig a little bit to find out if it’s happening in their kids’ social circle. It’s also really important as a parent to be informed about the different roles that kids play in cyberbullying – there’s the victim/target, the bully (or lead perpetrators), and the bystanders. Bystanders may be casually interested and simply checking in on the social media conversation to be aware of what’s going on and to make sure that they don’t suddenly become targeted themselves.

It’s key for parents to stress how important it is for their kids to switch from the role of bystander to “upstander” – the person who stands up to the bully and for the victim. Research has demonstrated that a peer standing up for a peer is one of the most effective ways of changing the dynamic in a cyberbullying situation.

Be an “upstander”, not a bystander. If you witness someone being bullied online, don’t just stand by and let it happen. You can help support the victim by either standing up to the bully or telling a trusted adult such as a teacher, parent or coach.

Caroline Knorr, Parenting Editor at Common Sense Media

Go to http://www.commonsensemedia.org/cyberbullying for tips on standing up to cyberbullying. You can also download Common Sense Media’s free cyberbullying toolkit at http://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/cyberbullying-toolkit.

 

5. Don’t Attempt to Flirt Via Sexting

“Flirting and impulsive choices are in the job description of anyone with ‘teen’ in their age. It has been that way since the beginning of time, but the major difference between current generations and previous ones is that now everyone has a camera with them at all times.

As a therapist and sex educator, I believe one of the biggest concerns underagers need to understand in light of this variable is that any naked image of anyone under the age of 18 can be defined as child pornography on a Federal level – even if it is their own naughty bits. Every single female client I have had in my office in the last seven years has had at least one guy send an unsolicited, inappropriate picture to her on her phone.

Sexting is not only illegal in many states, but it is also a revolting way to flirt. It is more legitimate to ask someone out via text message, though you score points for bravery, class, vulnerability and romance if you can cowboy-up and do it in person”.

Jo Langford, author of The SEX EDcyclopedia and blogger for beheroes.net

 

6. Think About the Faces Behind the Screens

“Exercise empathy, not apathy. When people post anything, it’s usually because they identify or align with what they’re putting forward in some way. Don’t be quick to judge, call out, or criticize; recognize that it’s all coming from somewhere”.

Vincent Ferrer, Social Media Strategist for Graphic D*signs: The Small Business Advertising Agency

 

7. Be Conscious of What You’re Posting

“Working in the area of social media and Internet safety for kids, I’ve found in my experience that kids aren’t aware of the words that they post on social media are damaging not only to them, but to others. That could be attempts at humor gone wrong, gossiping about someone, and venting about a situation. They aren’t fully aware of how public their words are or the big picture of the impact of what they have said. Social media is a word of mouth with a megaphone. And once it is out there, it becomes part of their digital footprint.

Have regular, open conversations with your teen about what is being said on social media by asking them to identify with how they feel when others say mean things to them. Encourage them to be aware of their words and actions. The old adage of ‘stick and stones may break bones, but words never hurt’ doesn’t really work; words definitely do hurt.”

Ann Marie van den Hurk, Principal of Mind The Gap Public Relations, LLC and author of Social Media Crisis Communication

 

8. Don’t Lose Yourself in Anonymity

“Many anonymous, secret-sharing apps like Whisper, Secret, and Truth are currently trending. I worry about anonymity on the web and the popularity of apps like these.

Anonymous secret-sharing online opens the gates for a whole different brand of cyberbullying. These apps encourage users to express their true feelings for the world to see. This mentality can be very dangerous, as anything written that is hurtful or malicious doesn’t require ramifications, making teens more likely to post negatively. It’s also one thing for a rumor to spread among people, but to have a secret or rumor exposed and magnified across friend groups at once strengthens the power and access of the gossip. These factors combined make anonymous, secret-sharing apps extremely disconcerting.

Talk to your kids about how rumors or secrets spread through these apps can be damaging. Some things are simply better left unsaid.”

Tim Woda, Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of uKnow

 

Although teens and tweens aren’t the only people who use poor social media etiquette, it is important to instill netiquette in them in order to curb the prevalence of sexting, cyberbullying, and other online dangers. No one wants their tweens to provoke a situation online that could negatively impact their lives or the lives of people around them. Proper online etiquette isn’t just something to consider teaching your tweens, it’s crucial for solidifying their digital safety.

 

Sources:
Teen Trend Report: Where Has Civility Gone? Stage of Life. 2013. <http://www.stageoflife.com/StageHighSchool/TeensandCivility.aspx>.


Ten Fears of Church Leaders

Pastors have fears, too.

Pastors, elders, leaders; they’re not anxiety-proof. Below, find ten fears that plague our brothers in the pulpit, and the biblical comfort and encouragement to address them.

fearless pastors

 

TEN FEARS OF CHURCH LEADERS

(thomranier.com article) I have not hidden my love for pastors and other church leaders. And I have said and written on many occasions that these church leaders often have a very difficult work. In fact, I recently told a large gathering of seminary students to consider very seriously their calling. No one should enter the ministry unless the calling is clear and secure.

As I converse and hear from church leaders across the country and beyond, I often hear of their challenges and fears. We all know that God has commanded us not to fear but, in our humanity and sinfulness, we do lapse into fear. I certainly did as a pastor, and I still succumb to that sin today. Tweet

So what are the most common fears of church leaders today? Here are ten I hear often, listed in my perceived order of frequency.

1. Fear of critics. Leading a church means the leader will have critics. Sometimes the criticisms become so frequent that it seems easier not to lead. For pastors and other church leaders, the steady inflow of negative comments becomes emotionally, spiritually, and physically draining.

2. Fear of failure. This fear is almost universal, and church leaders are not exempt from it. Leadership requires faith-based steps, what the world calls risk. Some church leaders do not lead forward because they fear they will not succeed.

3. Fear of power brokers. These church members often are the informal but true decision makers of the church. Some of them have great influence. Some of them are big financial givers to the church. Some of them are both.

4. Fear of failing to please. All of us want to be loved, and church leaders are no different. Sometimes this desire develops into a people-pleasing attitude. When it does, the leader is constantly confronted with the reality that any decision or action is likely to displease someone.

5. Fear of change. Most of us have our own comfort zones. Some pastors and church staff are willing to move and lead out of their comfort zones. But some are not.

6. Fear of nitpickers. There is obvious overlap in this fear and the fear of critics. The nitpickers often don’t view themselves as critics; they offer suggestions about points of minutia. For example, this group includes those who remind the pastor to make announcements of minor matters five minutes before a worship service begins.

7. Fear of finances. This fear takes at least two different forms. The first is a general fear of anything financial because the church leader was not trained in this area. The second is a fear to take prudent steps of financial faith lest the finances of the church are harmed.

8. Fear of others seeing weaknesses. Pastors, in particular, are often expected to be omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. But the reality is that no leader or no pastor is good at everything. Some leaders are fearful that those areas will be exposed to church members.

9. Fear of offending others. Those who are in vocational ministry often must take stands and speak truth that goes against the grain of culture, and even can offend church members. While all church leaders should speak truth with an irenic spirit, many do not do so because they don’t desire to hurt the feelings of others.

10. Fear of success. A number of pastors have shared with me their fear of doing well in some area of ministry, but then not having the ability to build on their successes. One pastor told me in a moment of vulnerability that he tries to keep his church small, because he fears he doesn’t have the skillset to lead a larger church.

So what is the purpose of this article? Am I trying to shame pastors and other church leaders for their lack of faith and their succumbing to fear? Not really. More than anything else, I am offering it as a reminder and a challenge. We all are prone to different fears and insecurities at times. And, yes, our fear of these types of matters does reflect a lack of faith in God.

Perhaps more than anything else, I am encouraging church leaders to lean more upon the God who called us, the One who promised He would always be with us. Tweet

Let me know what you would add to my thoughts.

In the meantime, here are a few verses from Psalms as good reminders, all verses are from the HCSB:

  • “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
  • “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all fears.” (Psalm 34:4).
  • “When I am afraid, I will trust in You.” (Psalm 56:3)
  • “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust, I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:4)
  • “He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7)

 


 

wpq-small-newSUGGESTED RESOURCE:

ExPastors.com is an oasis of encouragement for pastors and church leaders who have or are going through a break-up with the church or have left a position of active ministry due to things such as: burnout, stress, frustration, fear, or moral failures.

Equally, it is a place to support, equip, and empower those looking to enter or are currently serving in ministry.

ExPastors.com aims to educate current leadership by offering resources that provides a bridge between those currently serving and those previously serving in a pastoral or lay leadership capacity.

Need prayer? Contact us.



Advice to Nonresidential Fathers

All Dads are vitally important parts of their kids’ lives.

Father tying shoe laces of his son traveling in train.

In our culture many Dads may no longer live under the same roof as their children—but their kids still need fathers. Here are six ways for nonresidential fathers to be the best Dads they can be for their kids, no matter the situation.

 

 

 

 

Advice to Nonresidential Fathers

 

Child Welfare Information Gateway

 

 

1. Respect the mother of your children.

Regardless of their feelings for the mother of their children, fathers need to treat her with respect—for the sake of their children. Children are happier and feel more secure when their parents get along. Fathers should ignore negative comments, compliment the mother when they can, and keep the lines of communication open. Fathers should try to seek common ground with mothers around common goals for their children, and they should never criticize their children’s mother in front of their children.

 

2. Keep your promises.

Children who have endured divorce or the breakup of a parental relationship often feel abandoned and distrustful of the adults in their lives. Nonresidential fathers need to be careful to nurture or restore their children’s faith in adults and in them, in particular. Hence, they need to keep the promises they make to their children. If this means promising their children less, fine, but fathers need to earn their children’s trust by keeping their word.

 

3. Do not be a “Disneyland Dad.”

Nonresidential fathers are often tempted to play “Disneyland Dad,” that is, to spend virtually all the time they have with their children in fun activities. “Disneyland Dads” miss opportunities to help their children grow in virtue; they also miss chances to get to know their children in their ordinary lives. Nonresidential fathers need to challenge their children to grow in virtue and they also need to spend time doing ordinary things with them. They need to help their children with homework, to have them do chores around their home, and to tuck them into bed on a school night. Generally, they will discover much more about their children amidst the ordinary struggles of daily life than they will eating popcorn with their children in a darkened movie theater.

 

4. Stay in regular contact.

Nonresidential fathers should stay in regular contact with their children. If they live locally, they should be faithful about seeing their children on a given day. If they do not live close by or are incarcerated, they should be faithful about calling or sending a letter or email to their children on a weekly basis. Children thrive on maintaining regular contact with their fathers. This advice holds even for teenagers, who may have to be asked to make sacrifices in their social or sports schedules to keep up with their fathers. In the end, maintaining the father-child bond is more important than a missed game or movie with friends.

 

5. Do not be soft on your kids.

Nonresidential fathers often feel like they should go easy on their children when it comes to discipline. Given the brevity of father-child visits, many fathers do not want to alienate their children by disciplining them for misbehavior, but this is a big mistake. Children will take advantage of their fathers’ laxity by pushing the behavioral envelope even more. Nonresidential fathers should be firm, consistent disciplinarians with their children, even if that means that one or two visits are spent largely on discipline. In the long-term, children who are disciplined well are better behaved and more respectful of their fathers than children who are given a free reign.

 

6. Take care of your children financially.

Nonresidential fathers need to take at least partial responsibility for the financial welfare of their children. Children who receive regular financial support from their fathers do better educationally and are more confident that their father is there for them and their family. They should pay child support on time and be flexible enough to help their children when unforeseen expenses come up. If possible, they should tell their adolescents that they will help pay for college or vocational training. If employment or child support is a problem, fathers should contact a local fatherhood program to get help with job-skills, job placement, and addressing any outstanding child support they may owe.

Note: This advice draws on educational material from The Children’s Trust Fund of Massachusetts, The National Fatherhood Initiative, the National Practitioners Network for Fathers and Families, and the National Center for Fathering.

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2006). The importance of fathers in the healthy development of children. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.

 

 



Millennials and the Bible: 3 Surprising Insights

What do Millennials think about the Bible?

iStock_000006592298_Medium

Much has been made of the growing post-Christian sentiment among America’s youngest generation of adults. But how has this well-documented turn away from religion affected Millennials’ views of Christianity’s most sacred text? Has the “brand” of the Bible suffered or significantly shifted among young adults?

 

 

Millennials and the Bible: 3 Surprising Insights

Barna Group Research Release

 

In a recent study among Millennials, conducted in partnership with American Bible Society and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Barna Group sought to discover how changing ideas about Christianity might be affecting perceptions of the Bible. This study—the largest Barna Group has ever done on a single generation’s view of the Bible—looked at Millennials’ beliefs, perceptions and practices surrounding Scripture.

Three significant—and surprising—insights emerged.

 

1) Practicing Christian young adults maintain a traditional, high view of Scripture.

2) In contrast, non-Christian Millennials hold ambivalent and sometimes extremely negative perceptions of the Bible and of those who read it.

3) And while the screen age has impacted Bible engagement, print remains Millennials’ favored format for Bible reading.

 

1. Practicing Christian Millennials Maintain a High View of Scripture

When it comes to Scripture, practicing Christian Millennials—self-identified Christians who attend church at least once a month and who describe their religious faith as very important to their life—are quite orthodox and continue to hold the Bible in very high regard.

In fact, nearly all of them believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life (96%). The same proportion claim the Bible is the actual or inspired word of God (96%). Among these young adults, a plurality say, “The Bible is the actual word of God and should be taken literally, word for word” (46%); an additional four in 10 agree it is divinely inspired and has no errors, though “some verses are meant to be symbolic rather than literal” (39%); and 11% say the Bible is the inspired word of God, “but has some factual or historical errors.”

Additionally, practicing Christian Millennials cite the Bible as their greatest source for moral truth.

Of the practicing Christian Millennials who believe in absolute moral truth (71%), four in 10 point to the Bible as the main source from which they have learned or discovered absolute moral truths and standards (39%). This far outpaces any other source, with church coming in second at only 16%, followed by parents at 14%.

The survey also sought to discover how Millennials prioritize Bible reading among their faith practices. Respondents were asked whether Bible reading is more important, less important or of equal importance to a variety of other spiritual disciplines. While Millennials as a whole say reading the Bible is of equal importance to the other spiritual disciplines assessed by the survey, practicing Christian Millennials consistently rank Bible reading as more important than other disciplines.

For example, practicing Christian Millennials rank Bible reading as more important than church attendance (55% say Bible reading is more important), silence/solitude (50%), prayer (49%), worship (51%), acts of service (48%), communion (44%) and evangelism (42%).

Among practicing Christian Millennials, the Bible still holds a high—if not the highest—priority in their faith life.

 

 

2. Non-Christian Millennials Hold Ambivalent and Sometimes Extremely Negative Views about the Bible

Non-Christian Millennials, unlike their Christian counterparts, are much more likely to believe the Bible is just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice (45%). Only a combined 27% of non-Christians say the Bible is the inspired or actual word of God.

A significant disparity between Christian and non-Christian beliefs about the Bible is to be expected, of course; however, non-Christian views of the Bible often tip from benign indifference toward strong skepticism.

While a plurality of non-Christian Millennials relegate the Bible to merely a “useful book of moral teachings” (30%), nearly half agree with more negative characterizations: About one in five say the Bible is “an outdated book with no relevance for today” (19%) and more than one-quarter go so far as to say the Bible is “a dangerous book of religious dogma used for centuries to oppress people” (27%).

When asked to identify words they associate with the Bible, non-Christian Millennials are most likely to place the Bible within cultural mythology than to describe it in terms of the sacred or divine.

Their top five word choices are “story” (50%), “mythology” (38%), “symbolic” (36%), “fairy tale” (30%) and “historical” (30%). Very few choose words that reflect divine origins: Just 12% of non-Christian Millennials picked the word “sacred” to describe the Bible, one in 10 chose “fact” and even fewer selected “revelation” (8%), “infallible” (3%) or “inerrant” (2%).

More than six in 10 non-Christian Millennials have never read the Bible (62%), but what do they think about those who do read it?

For most, it seems to evoke feelings of alienation and distance. When they see someone reading the Bible in public, non-Christian Millennials say they assume the Bible reader is politically conservative (22%); that they don’t have anything in common with the person (21%); that the Bible reader is old fashioned (17%); or that they are trying to make a statement or be provocative (15%). Fewer than one in 10 non-Christian young adults indicate any kind of positive response, such as encouragement (7%) or joy (7%).

Only 9% of non-Christians say they feel curious about what’s in the Bible when they see someone reading it—a disappointing statistic for those who hope their Bible reading could spark spiritual conversation with non-Christians.

On the other hand, for non-Christians whose Bible reading has increased in the past year (11%), the second most-cited reason for that increase is seeing how the Bible changed someone they knew for the better (27%).

So, while seeing strangers reading the Bible in public may not be a positive catalyst, personal interactions with those who are affected for the better by the Bible are a strong recommendation for the Bible itself.

 

 

 

3. Millennials Still Prefer to Engage the Bible in Print

Screens have affected almost every part of modern life, and that includes religious practices. While all Millennials—significantly more than all adults—have, by and large, incorporated other mediums for engaging with the Bible, none of these trump reading a print version of the Bible (81%), or even hearing it read aloud at church (78%). In comparison, two-thirds of Millennials say they use the Internet on a computer to read Bible content (66%) and a little more than half read the Bible on an e-reader (51%).

What do Millennials think when the Bible comes to the big screen, little screen or whatever screen is currently in front of them?

When it comes to the Bible as Hollywood entertainment, Millennials have mixed feelings. While nearly half appreciate the Bible being incorporated into entertainment today (49%), a sizable percentage sees it as Hollywood trying to make money (36%). Non-Christians, in particular, express this skepticism (58%).

When Bible-themed content does come to Hollywood, practicing Christians are the group most likely to view it.

For all the shows surveyed (Noah, The Bible miniseries, Son of God, God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is for Real), practicing Christians were far and away the largest audience. In fact, only 14% of practicing Christian Millennials had not seen any of the movies, compared to 42% of all Millennials and a full 62% of non-Christian Millennials.

Stated differently, a majority of Millennials has seen at least one biblical depiction on the small or large screen in the last year. Exposure to televised or movie versions of Christian content has penetrated to more than four out of five Christian Millennials and to more than one-third of non-Christian young adults.

One common way Millennials have taken to engaging with the Bible in a digital age is to post Scripture passages on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Unsurprisingly, practicing Christian Millennials are most likely to engage in this practice. A combined 81% have posted Scripture online in the past year: 30% do so a few times a year, 25% a few times a month, 13% a few times a week and 13% do so daily.

This practice evokes primarily positive emotions among practicing Christian Millennials and ambivalent or negative emotions among non-Christian Millennials. The most common responses from Christians when someone posts Scripture to social media are to feel encouraged (56%) and inspired (53%). Just over one-third find it bold in a good way (35%).

Non-Christians’ most common response is to say it bothers them if the verses are used naively or out of context (35%), which is interesting since most admit never having read the Bible themselves. Slightly fewer non-Christians say it’s “okay sometimes if you are religious” (33%). About the same number say they find it irritating and one-quarter assume the person posting it is judgmental (24%). About one-fifth believes the person is trying to evangelize (21%) or that the practice will push others away (18%).

Of all the responses, non-Christians were least likely to feel inspired (9%) or encouraged (7%) when they see Scripture posted on social media.

 

What the Research Means

 

“Many Christians and Christian leaders are concerned about the next generation of Christians,” says David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group. “And for good reason. There is certainly a well-documented trend of Millennials leaving church or turning away from their faith. However, this current study on perceptions of the Bible gives church leaders some very good news about the Good Book: Active young Christians are holding true to historical and orthodox views on the Bible. In many ways, their commitment to the Bible stands in stark contrast to typical stereotypes of younger Christians.

“For the most part, the Bible is flourishing in the screen age, particularly among the faithful. Practicing Christian Millennials, in particular, are eager to see Bible-based content on the big screen and to engage with the Bible on the little screen by reading Scripture online and posting it to social media.

“However, these practices aren’t always appreciated by others in their generation. While many Christians might hope that Bible-based films or sharing Scripture online would reach non-Christians, our research suggests the opposite. Non-Christians tend to be more skeptical of biblical films and often feel turned off or alienated by seeing Scripture shared via social media.

On the other hand, in the rare cases when non-Christians have increased their Bible reading in the past year, they often did so as a result of seeing how Scripture changed someone they knew. Such responses emphasize the importance of meaningful relationships and evidence of life transformation.

“Finally, for non-Christian Millennials, the ‘brand’ of the Bible is a negative one,” Kinnaman continues. “The depth and range of these perceptions signal difficult challenges for younger adults who still believe in the Bible. As Bible skepticism increases in their generation, Christian Millennials will have to face those criticisms head on and wrestle with the implications for their own beliefs. Yet when it comes to the Bible—more than many other areas of their faith—Millennial Christians are starting off on comparatively solid ground.”

Comment on this research and follow our work:
Twitter: @barnagroup | @davidkinnaman | @roxyleestone
Facebook: Barna Group

About the Research

MillennialPollSM included 1,000 online surveys conducted among a representative sample of young adults, ages 18 through 30 in the United States. The survey was conducted from August 18, 2014 through August 22, 2014. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +/-3.1 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the sample to known population percentages in relation to demographic variables.

Practicing Christians describe themselves as Christians who attend church at least once a month and believe their religious faith is very important in their life today.

Millennials (or Mosaics) are the generation born between 1984 and 2002; Gen-Xers (or Busters), between 1965 and 1983; Boomers, between 1946 and 1964; and Elders, in 1945 or earlier.

The research was jointly commissioned by the American Bible Society,InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and Barna Group.

About Barna Group

Barna Group (which includes its research division, Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.

© Barna Group, 2014



Porn and the Singleness Panic

Why the state of marriage doesn’t mean we lower our standards.

Giving love

Young women raised in the church are given a number of directives for choosing their lifelong partner. Beyond simply finding a Christian, they are told–and rightly so–to seek a man who is active and sincere in his faith, who is growing in godliness, a man who will be a spiritual leader and loving father. Not that they’ll ever find a perfect husband, nor indeed themselves be a perfect wife, but they are told to have standards, to not “settle” for less. To marry wisely.

The years pass, and, because they have faithfully followed this advice, many, many of these young women are still single.

And this is causing some churches and ministers to panic.

 

Porn and the Singleness Panic

 

By Gina Dalfonzo for Christianity Today

 

In a society that largely champions sexual expression, including pornography, it is heartening to hear someone acknowledge its detriments. That’s why I was initially glad to see sociologist Mark Regnerus’s recent article in First Things.

“Revelations of pornography use end an unknown number of relationships, including plenty of marriages and many courtships,” wrote Regnerus, known for his research on sex, relationships, and family. “Contrary to what is sometimes asserted, women have the right to be annoyed or upset by porn. It’s not a good thing.”

But then he went on:

We often overlook another casualty of pornography (and the human reaction to it): relationships that fail to launch. Breaking off a relationship because of pornography use can be a rational, justifiable, and moral reaction to a problem—the predilection for peering at nudity online—but such actions contribute in ways not often noted to our broad retreat from marriage.

Regnerus brought up women who consider porn a dating deal-breaker. “While I’m sympathetic to their concern, I can also promise you that widespread departures—given the dour numbers on porn use—will only accelerate the flight from marriage in the Church and is likely to backfire on women…who would leave for pastures that may well not be greener.”

Porn is so prevalent, he says, that if all Christian women left their boyfriends or turned down suitors based on their browser histories, marriage and the future of the church would be doomed.

From his article, it’s easy for readers to conclude: Marriage is so important that we may need to start rethinking the idea of pornography as a deal-breaker.

As an unmarried woman, I fall into the target audience for such an argument. I respect Regnerus’s motivation for writing this piece. I believe he feels sympathetic toward those of us who are having difficulty finding a spouse, and that he sincerely desires to help promote marriage as a social good. But having said all that, I find his advice highly problematic. He puts undue blame on women for the state of marriage and could easily be read as suggesting they stop turning away men who view porn.

Regnerus himself states outright what many Christians already believe: Pornography is no good.

He links to a previous First Things piece (this one written by Reinhard Hütter) that calls porn “a uniquely toxic combination of the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh,” a practice that strikes at the very heart of human dignity. Yet, he seems to recommend Christian women consider choosing as their life partners men who participate in a practice that exploits women, desensitizes users, and too often destroys sexual intimacy in marriage. If we take seriously Christ’s warning that to lust after a woman is to commit adultery in the heart (Matt. 5:28), that’s asking women to tolerate adultery.

It should be noted that the term “pornography use” spans from the person who’s participated a few times and then walked away, to the person who wants to stop participating but is struggling to do so, to the hardcore, unrepentant addict. We recognize a significant difference between the person who acknowledges that porn use is wrong and is making a serious effort to abandon it, and the person who condones it and sees no reason to stop.

But unfortunately, there are plenty of the latter around, even among Christians. Having listed porn use as a “deal-breaker” in my own eHarmony profile, I’ve been scolded for my prudishness by a couple of those Christian men. Needless to say, I felt absolutely no desire to get to know them well enough for marriage.

At this point I have to ask: What happened to all those voices I heard in the church when I was growing up, the leaders telling us women to keep our standards high, and to choose only a truly godly man to be the spiritual leader in our home and the loving father of our children?

Here’s what happened: They saw singleness increasing within the church and started to panic.

I’ve written before that today’s church puts marriage on such a high pedestal that singles are often made to feel second-rate. I can now add to this that we’ve put it on such a high pedestal that we’re hinting at Christians to compromise their standards just to achieve it. In other words, we’ve turned it into an idol. And that makes singles feel more isolated than ever.

As Anthony Esolen recently wrote in Crisis: “Have you considered all those young people who want to be married, who should be married, but who, because they will not play evil’s game, can find no one to marry? The girls who at age twenty-five and older have never even been asked on a date? The ‘men’ languishing in a drawn-out adolescence? These people are among us; they are everywhere.

“Who gives them a passing thought? They are suffering for their faith, and no one cares.”

No one cares. That’s exactly how it feels when, having been taught to seek God’s highest and best for your life, and take a stand for sexual purity no matter the cost, you see some Christian leaders start start to back away from that teaching. After all, nothing could be worse than a church full of single people—that particular cost is too high—so just lower your standards and get married already!

Well, we celibate Christian singles are the ones paying the cost, so we should have a say in this discussion.

And what I have to say is this: I would rather be single for the rest of my life than marry the wrong man just to prove a point, to make a gesture, or to reassure everyone that the church isn’t fleeing from marriage. Marriage is far too important to treat it like that.

Marriage is, in fact, the social good that Mark Regnerus believes it to be. Those of us who desire it can vouch for that. But his effort to make things easier for us, in the end, only makes them harder.

Honestly, there’s a lot about being 39 and single that I don’t like. But as one of my friends said when discussing Regnerus’s piece, he’s asking us to capitulate to a worldview that says pornography gets to make the rules, and we just have to live with it.

And there’s even less to like about that.



“Go Deep” with Your Kids

“Being a dad is part art, part science, but mostly an act of faith.”

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The research is in—Dads matter. And while you can’t choose your children’s future for them, your involvement and influence make a huge difference.

How do you make sense of the paradoxes of fatherhood?

Go deep. Get involved. Be dedicated to being the best Dad you can be for your kids.

 

“Go Deep” with Your Kids

 

By Carey Casey for the National Center for Fathering

 

Just about every week, there’s another story in the news about some tragedy. A school shooting. A suicide or drug overdose by a celebrity, musician or athlete. An act of desperation or irresponsibility by a parent. Violence at youth sports.

Whenever I see those stories, the first thought that comes to mind is, Where were the fathers? A large percentage of the time, I look into the situation and see that there was a lack of influence from responsible fathers and father figures. I truly believe that a father makes a difference, and that his guidance, protection, and affirmation will help his kids do well in life and avoid major pitfalls. The research backs that up.

The rest of the cases—the tragedies carried out by people who did have present fathers—are perhaps even more unsettling.

Time and again I knock my head up against one of the great mysteries of fatherhood: sometimes great dads have children who struggle, and sometimes children raised without a dad—or raised by largely uninvolved fathers—grow up to be well-adjusted, outstanding citizens and leaders.

Fatherhood isn’t brain surgery, but it does rest on a wide range of variables. Being a dad is part art, part science, but mostly an act of faith. So how can we make sense of all of this and do our best as dads? My suggestion:

Embrace both sides of the paradox.

On one side, there are no guarantees our children will turn out the way we want.

There are many variables we cannot control, and the biggest one is that our children will make their own choices. Eventually, we’ll have to make peace with the notion that our kids are their own people. They will likely make decisions that could cost us money, energy and/or embarrassment. They are responsible for those poor choices, so it won’t seem fair. We don’t deserve that kind of humiliation, right?

We need to father our kids with a lot of grace. Even if we’re committed fathers, we aren’t perfect, and since none of us can see we did everything right, we have no reason to expect perfection from our kids. And when they do mess up, that’s where our true commitment as dads is tested. We need to hang in there and keep believing in them. Don’t ever give up! No matter what your child has done, you have to trust that the roots that you worked so hard to establish are still there. Keep the door open and the light on because that might be the only light they have.

The other side of the paradox—which we must never forget—is that as fathers, our actions do have a significant influence on our children.

While we can’t guarantee that our children will lead a responsible life, we can greatly increase the odds that they will. We should give fathering the best of our energies, make our children’s schedules and family activities a high priority, and seek to be a life-giving contributor to the entire household. These are wise investments.

To be more specific, from our research, a dad can give his best for his kids by practicing the fundamentals of Championship Fathering—loving them, coaching them, and modeling for them.

One phrase I have used to help apply those fundamentals is go deep. Our dedication to be good fathers must run deep in our lives. It means we’re willing to address tough issues with our kids. We are not sitting on the sidelines and letting Mom handle difficult situations by herself. And we aren’t assuming our kids will get information they need on their own, or that we can always trust them to stay out of trouble.

No, going deep means having those involved discussions about issues of faith, or about sex or drugs. It means staying aware of what they’re into and talking to them about any danger signs we see. It means taking a stand and sometimes laying down consequences.

Dads, we have good reasons to invest our very best in our children, despite this puzzling, often frustrating mystery that only God can comprehend. We all need to faithfully apply our best efforts and humbly allow the rest to remain a mystery, trusting that we can have a positive impact on what kind of people our children turn out to be.

Here are some Action Points to help you invest in your children. Please share some ideas of your own below or at our Facebook page.

  • Involve yourself in an activity that your child enjoys, even if it isn’t your favorite. Really invest yourself in figuring out what your child likes about it.
  • What activity serves as a bonding activity for you and your child—maybe something unique that just seems to work for you? It might be summer evenings at the lake, trips for ice cream, or time together doing a hobby. Please share it below or at our Facebook page, and make sure you make time for it regularly.
  • Make it a priority for your family to eat dinner together at least 3-4 times each week. Those can be great conversation and value-sharing times.
  • Remember that many kids out there are making poor decisions, for any number of reasons, and often it takes someone outside their families to really get through to them. Take a chance and encourage another child who needs a positive father figure.
Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. 


3 Reasons People Leave Your Church

 Do you ever feel like your church has a revolving door?

Pastors love to see new faces in the pews—except when it feels like new faces are all they see. Pastor Erik Reed gives three reasons why people may not stick with your church, and three ways to work on these issues.

How do you keep newcomers from flying away?

Three Reasons Why People Leave Your Church

As pastors, few things hurt more than seeing people show up to our churches, then leaving as quickly as they came. Some leave without reason. We had this problem at The Journey Church, where I pastor, for many years. We constantly had new faces at church. Folks enjoyed the worship gatherings and talked about how friendly people were, but after a short time they were gone.

As a church who desires to reach people and make a difference, seeing new people not stick hurt. Our backdoor was massive. Plugging the drain was a big issue.

As a staff, we were tired of the revolving door. We were working too hard to reach people only to lose them. So we worked to pinpoint the reasons we were were losing people. We discovered three dominant reasons. These three things are now on our radar. We constantly think about systems, communication, structure, and strategy for fixing these three issues. Here they are:

1. Unknown – They feel disconnected

If people come to your church and still feel like an outsider after a couple of months, they will leave. People desire to be known. People want to be connected. Good worship services and strong preaching are great for attracting people to the church, but they are not enough for keeping people in the church. You must have a plan for assimilating people into community. Folks attending your church need to eventually hear some people call them by name.

At my church, we have a Next Steps/Meet-The-Pastor each week, after each service. This lasts less than 10 minutes. I share the church’s vision. I tell them how much we need them and how excited we are they came. We tell them their next step is either to serve in a ministry and/or  find a Gospel Community (group). During the week, we send an email, thanking them for coming, and remind them of their next steps.

Questions for assessment: Do we have a lot of people coming on Sundays who are unknown and anonymous? What are we doing to move people from showing up to becoming known?

2. Unneeded – They feel unwanted or not needed

People want to make a difference. Nobody likes to be the last person picked before the kickball game. The Church’s mission is big and laborers are needed for the harvest. We should be constantly encouraging new people to plug into the mission and serve on a ministry team. At our church, we were terrible about getting people to serve. We had needs, but we failed to make them clear and to boldly ask people to help. When people believe the ministry needs in your church are “taken care of” or full, they will leave.

At my church, we have a Connection Point we direct everyone to. We communicate constantly that a next step is to serve and find a ministry. There we have all the information about areas to serve. When they sign up they get a call from the staff member with oversight of that ministry and move into service.

Questions for assessment: Do people genuinely believe there is a place/need for them in our church? What process/system are we deploying to get people serving in an area of need and giftedness/passion?

3. Unmoved – They feel stagnant or not growing

People need to be growing spiritually. It is great for them to meet people. It is wonderful for them to volunteer and serve. But if people are not maturing as Christians and growing closer to God, you can lose them. People are prone to ruts. Drifting into ditches is our natural gravitation due to our hearts being out of alignment. Our faith must be cultivated daily or it wanes. As pastors and leaders, that means we cannot assume people are growing.

At my church, we ask these questions: How does the unbeliever learn the gospel at TJC? How does the new believer learn the basics? What resources or opportunities are we providing to mature and deepen believers?

Questions for assessment: In what way are we ensuring people are truly growing spiritually? How do people get discipled at our church?

There could be other reasons why people leave your church. Conflicts between families can arise. People can disagree with decisions made. People find other ministries that match up better for them. People move. There are many reasons people can leave, but the three things I outlined you are responsible for. These are three things you must have systems, strategies, and plans to monitor.

Idea for Implementation: Meet with your staff, deacons, elders, or leadership team to go over these three things and answer the questions for assessment together for your church.



A Psychiatrist’s Letter to Young People about Fifty Shades of Grey

There’s nothing grey about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s all black.

Red heart on pile of iron grey nails, pierced by a nails

Fifty Shades of Grey is being released for Valentine’s Day, so you’ll think it’s a romance. Don’t fall for it.”

Dr. Miriam Grossman.

 

 

 

 

A Psychiatrist’s Letter to Young People about Fifty Shades of Grey 

 

By Miriam Grossman, MD

{Many of you have asked that I provide my letter to young people as a PDF. Download A Letter to Young People About Fifty Shades of Grey here.}

There’s nothing grey about Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s all black.

Let me explain.

I help people who are broken inside. Unlike doctors who use x-rays or blood tests to determine why someone’s in pain, the wounds I’m interested in are hidden. I ask questions, and listen carefully to the answers. That’s how I discover why the person in front of me is “bleeding”.

Years of careful listening have taught me a lot. One thing I’ve learned is that young people are utterly confused about love – finding it and keeping it. They make poor choices, and end up in lots of pain.

I don’t want you to suffer like the people I see in my office, so I’m warning you about a new movie called Fifty Shades of Grey. Even if you don’t see the film, its message is seeping into our culture, and could plant some dangerous ideas in your head. Be prepared.

Fifty Shades of Grey is being released for Valentine’s Day, so you’ll think it’s a romance. Don’t fall for it. The movie is actually about a sick, dangerous relationship filled with physical and emotional abuse. It seems glamorous, because the actors are gorgeous, they have expensive cars and private planes, and Beyonce is singing. You might conclude that Christian and Ana are cool, and that even though their relationship is different, it’s acceptable.

Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by a Hollywood studio. The people there just want your money; they have no concern whatsoever about you and your dreams.

Abuse is not glamorous or cool.  It is never OK, under any circumstances.

This is what you need to know about Fifty Shades of Grey: as a child, Christian Grey was terribly neglected. He is confused about love because he never experienced the real thing. In his mind, love is tangled up with bad feelings like pain and embarrassment.  Christian has pleasure from controlling and  hurting women in bizarre ways. Anastasia is an immature girl who falls for Christian’s looks and wealth, and foolishly goes along with his desires.

In the real world, this story would end badly, with Christian in jail,  and Ana in a shelter – or morgue. Or maybe Christian would continue beating Ana, and she’d stay and suffer. Either way, their lives would most definitely not be a fairy tale. Trust me on this one.

As a doctor, I’m urging you: do NOT see Fifty Shades of Grey. Get informed, learn the facts, and explain to your friends why they shouldn’t see it either.

Here are a few of the dangerous ideas promoted by Fifty Shades of Grey:

1. Girls want guys like Christian who order them around and get rough.

No! A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain. She wants to feel safe, respected and cared for by a man she can trust. She dreams about wedding gowns, not handcuffs.

2. Guys want a girl like Anastasia who is meek and insecure.

Wrong. A psychologically healthy man wants a woman who can stand up for herself.  If he is out of line, he wants her to set him straight.

3. Anastasia exercises free choice when she consents to being hurt, so no one can judge her decision.

Flawed logic. Sure, Anastasia had free choice – and she chose poorly. A self-destructive decision is a bad decision.

4. Anastasia makes choices about Christian in a thoughtful and detached manner.

I doubt that. Christian constantly supplies Anastasia with alcohol, impairing her judgement.  Also, Anastasia becomes sexually active with Christian – her first experience ever – soon after meeting him. Neuroscience suggests their intimacy could jump start her feelings of attachment and trust, before she’s certain he deserved them.  Sex is a powerful, intense experience – particularly the first time. Finally, Christian manipulates Anastasia into signing a legal agreement prohibiting her from telling anyone that he is a long time abuser.

Alcohol, sex, manipulation – hardly the ingredients of a thoughtful, detached decision.

5. Christian’s emotional problems are cured by Anastasia’s love.

Only in a movie. In the real world, Christian wouldn’t change to any significant degree. If Anastasia was fulfilled by helping emotionally disturbed people, she should have become a psychiatrist or social worker.

6. It’s good to experiment with sexuality.

Maybe… for adults in a long term, healthy, committed, monogomous relationship, AKA “marriage”.  Otherwise, you’re at high risk for STDs, pregnancy, and sexual assault. It’s wise to be very careful who you allow to get close to you, physically and emotionally, because just one encounter can throw you off track and change your life forever.

Bottom line: the power of Fifty Shades of Grey lies in its ability to plant seeds of doubt. There are vast differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, but the movie blurs those differences, so you begin to wonder: what’s healthy in a relationship? What’s sick? There are so many shades of grey…I’m not sure.

Listen, it’s your safety and future we’re talking about here. There’s no room for doubt; an intimate relationship that includes violence, consensual or not, is unacceptable.

This is black and white. There are no shades of grey here. Not even one.

 

 



Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain

Neuroimaging research shows excessive screen time damages the brain.

Two little sibling boys having fun together with tablet pc

The average child spends more than seven hours a day with a glowing screen in front of them. Parents may hesitate to place restrictions on their kid’s screen time, thinking that whatever problems may be caused by electronic overtime aren’t worth that strong a response. Who wants to have that argument with their kids?

But Dr. Victoria L. Dunckley thinks otherwise, and she has the research to prove it.

Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain

 By Victoria L. Dunckley M.D. for Psychology Today

“Taken together, [studies show] internet addiction is associated with structural and functional changes in brain regions involving emotional processing, executive attention,decision making, and cognitive control.”  –research authors summarizing neuro-imaging findings in internet and gaming addiction (Lin & Zhou et al, 2012)

But what about kids who aren’t “addicted” per se? Addiction aside, a much broader concern that begs awareness is the risk that screen time is creating subtle damage even in children with “regular” exposure, considering that the average child clocks in more than seven hours a day (Rideout 2010). As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome. These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention—much like the description in the quote above describing damage seen in scans.

Although many parents have a nagging sense that they should do more to limit screen-time, they often question whether there’s enough evidence to justify yanking coveted devices, rationalize that it’s “part of our kids’ culture,” or worry that others—such as a spouse—will undermine their efforts. Digest the information below, even though it might feel uncomfortable, and arm yourself with the truth about the potential damage screen time is capable of imparting—particularly in a young, still-developing brain.

Brain scan research findings in screen addiction:

Gray matter atrophy: Multiple studies have shown atrophy (shrinkage or loss of tissue volume) in gray matter areas (where “processing” occurs) in internet/gaming addiction (Zhou 2011, Yuan 2011, Weng 2013,and Weng 2012). Areas affected included the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, such as planning, planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control (“getting stuff done”). Volume loss was also seen in the striatum, which is involved in reward pathways and the suppression of socially unacceptable impulses. A finding of particular concern was damage to an area known is the insula, which is involved in our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.

Compromised white matter integrity: Research has also demonstrated loss of integrity to the brain’s white matter (Lin 2012, Yuan 2011, Hong 2013 and Weng 2013). “Spotty” white matter translates into loss of communication within the brain, including connections to and from various lobes of the same hemisphere, links between the right and left hemispheres, and paths between higher (cognitive) and lower (emotional and survival) brain centers. White matter also connects networks from the brain to the body and vice versa. Interrupted connections may slow down signals, “short-circuit” them, or cause them to be erratic (“misfire”).

Reduced cortical thickness: Hong and colleagues found reduced cortical (the outermost part of the brain) thickness in internet-addicted teen boys (Hong 2013), and Yuan et al found reduced cortical thickness in the frontal lobe of online gaming addicts (late adolescent males and females) correlated with impairment of a cognitive task (Yuan 2013).

Impaired cognitive functioning: Imaging studies have found less efficient information processing and reduced impulse inhibition (Dong & Devito 2013), increased sensitivity to rewards and insensitivity to loss (Dong & Devito 2013), and abnormal spontaneous brain activity associated with poor task performance (Yuan 2011).

Cravings and impaired dopamine function: Research on video games have shown dopamine (implicated in reward processing and addiction) is released during gaming (Koepp 1998 and Kuhn 2011) and that craving or urges for gaming produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings (Ko 2009, Han 2011). Other findings in internet addiction include reduced numbers of dopamine receptors and transporters (Kim 2011and Hou 2012).

In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function.

Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life—from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills. Use this research to strengthen your own parental position on screen management, and to convince others to do the same.

For more help on managing screen-time, visit www.drdunckley.com/videogames/. For more information on how the physiological effects of electronics translate into symptoms and dysfunction–as well as how to reverse such changes–see my new book, Reset Your Child’s Brain. 

References:

Dong, Guangheng, Elise E Devito, Xiaoxia Du, and Zhuoya Cui. “Impaired Inhibitory Control in ‘Internet Addiction Disorder’: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study.”Psychiatry Research 203, no. 2–3 (September 2012): 153–158. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2012.02.001.
Dong, Guangheng, Yanbo Hu, and Xiao Lin. “Reward/Punishment Sensitivities Among Internet Addicts: Implications for Their Addictive Behaviors.” Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 46 (October 2013): 139–145. doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2013.07.007.
Han, Doug Hyun, Nicolas Bolo, Melissa A. Daniels, Lynn Arenella, In Kyoon Lyoo, and Perry F. Renshaw. “Brain Activity and Desire for Internet Video Game Play.”Comprehensive Psychiatry 52, no. 1 (January 2011): 88–95. doi:10.1016/j.comppsych.2010.04.004.
Hong, Soon-Beom, Jae-Won Kim, Eun-Jung Choi, Ho-Hyun Kim, Jeong-Eun Suh, Chang-Dai Kim, Paul Klauser, et al. “Reduced Orbitofrontal Cortical Thickness in Male Adolescents with Internet Addiction.” Behavioral and Brain Functions 9, no. 1 (2013): 11. doi:10.1186/1744-9081-9-11.
Hong, Soon-Beom, Andrew Zalesky, Luca Cocchi, Alex Fornito, Eun-Jung Choi, Ho-Hyun Kim, Jeong-Eun Suh, Chang-Dai Kim, Jae-Won Kim, and Soon-Hyung Yi. “Decreased Functional Brain Connectivity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction.” Edited by Xi-Nian Zuo. PLoS ONE 8, no. 2 (February 25, 2013): e57831. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057831.
Hou, Haifeng, Shaowe Jia, Shu Hu, Rong Fan, Wen Sun, Taotao Sun, and Hong Zhang. “Reduced Striatal Dopamine Transporters in People with Internet Addiction Disorder.”Journal of Biomedicine & Biotechnology 2012 (2012): 854524. doi:10.1155/2012/854524.
Kim, Sang Hee, Sang-Hyun Baik, Chang Soo Park, Su Jin Kim, Sung Won Choi, and Sang Eun Kim. “Reduced Striatal Dopamine D2 Receptors in People with Internet Addiction.” Neuroreport 22, no. 8 (June 11, 2011): 407–411. doi:10.1097/WNR.0b013e328346e16e.
Ko, Chih-Hung, Gin-Chung Liu, Sigmund Hsiao, Ju-Yu Yen, Ming-Jen Yang, Wei-Chen Lin, Cheng-Fang Yen, and Cheng-Sheng Chen. “Brain Activities Associated with Gaming Urge of Online Gaming Addiction.” Journal of Psychiatric Research 43, no. 7 (April 2009): 739–747. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.09.012.
Kühn, S, A Romanowski, C Schilling, R Lorenz, C Mörsen, N Seiferth, T Banaschewski, et al. “The Neural Basis of Video Gaming.” Translational Psychiatry 1 (2011): e53. doi:10.1038/tp.2011.53.
Lin, Fuchun, Yan Zhou, Yasong Du, Lindi Qin, Zhimin Zhao, Jianrong Xu, and Hao Lei. “Abnormal White Matter Integrity in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder: A Tract-Based Spatial Statistics Study.” PloS One 7, no. 1 (2012): e30253. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030253.
Rideout, Victoria J., Ulla G. Foehr, and Donald F. Roberts. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18- Year Olds.” Kaiser Family Foundation Study (2010).http://kff.org/other/poll-finding/report-generation-m2-media-in-the-lives/.
Weng, Chuan-Bo, Ruo-Bing Qian, Xian-Ming Fu, Bin Lin, Xiao-Peng Han, Chao-Shi Niu, and Ye-Han Wang. “Gray Matter and White Matter Abnormalities in Online Game Addiction.” European Journal of Radiology 82, no. 8 (August 2013): 1308–1312. doi:10.1016/j.ejrad.2013.01.031.
Yuan, Kai, Ping Cheng, Tao Dong, Yanzhi Bi, Lihong Xing, Dahua Yu, Limei Zhao, et al. “Cortical Thickness Abnormalities in Late Adolescence with Online Gaming Addiction.” Edited by Bogdan Draganski. PLoS ONE 8, no. 1 (January 9, 2013): e53055. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053055.
Yuan, Kai, Chenwang Jin, Ping Cheng, Xuejuan Yang, Tao Dong, Yanzhi Bi, Lihong Xing, et al. “Amplitude of Low Frequency Fluctuation Abnormalities in Adolescents with Online Gaming Addiction.” Edited by Krish Sathian. PLoS ONE 8, no. 11 (November 4, 2013): e78708. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078708.
Yuan, Kai, Wei Qin, Guihong Wang, Fang Zeng, Liyan Zhao, Xuejuan Yang, Peng Liu, et al. “Microstructure Abnormalities in Adolescents with Internet Addiction Disorder.” Edited by Shaolin Yang. PLoS ONE 6, no. 6 (June 3, 2011): e20708. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020708.
Zhou, Yan, Fu-Chun Lin, Ya-Song Du, Ling-di Qin, Zhi-Min Zhao, Jian-Rong Xu, and Hao Lei. “Gray Matter Abnormalities in Internet Addiction: A Voxel-Based Morphometry Study.”European Journal of Radiology 79, no. 1 (July 2011): 92–95. doi:10.1016/j.ejrad.2009.10.025.


If It Feels Right…

 “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it.”

The youth of this generation are not especially immoral, certainly no more than the generations that came before, according to David Brooks of the New York Times. But, “what’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.”

Young people today struggle to understand and articulate questions of morality. Their lack of resources to think and talk about the subject has shocked researchers—but this impoverished state of mind isn’t necessarily their fault.

 If It Feels Right…

by  for the New York Times

During the summer of 2008, the eminent Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith led a research team that conducted in-depth interviews with 230 young adults from across America. The interviews were part of a larger study that Smith, Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, Patricia Snell Herzog and others have been conducting on the state of America’s youth.

Smith and company asked about the young people’s moral lives, and the results are depressing.

It’s not so much that these young Americans are living lives of sin and debauchery, at least no more than you’d expect from 18- to 23-year-olds. What’s disheartening is how bad they are at thinking and talking about moral issues.

The interviewers asked open-ended questions about right and wrong, moral dilemmas and the meaning of life. In the rambling answers, which Smith and company recount in a new book, “Lost in Transition,” you see the young people groping to say anything sensible on these matters. But they just don’t have the categories or vocabulary to do so.

When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.

The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”

Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”

Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”

Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism.

Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.

Smith and company are stunned, for example, that the interviewees were so completely untroubled by rabid consumerism. (This was the summer of 2008, just before the crash).

Many of these shortcomings will sort themselves out as these youngsters get married, have kids, enter a profession or fit into more clearly defined social roles. Institutions will inculcate certain habits. Broader moral horizons will be forced upon them. But their attitudes at the start of their adult lives do reveal something about American culture. For decades, writers from different perspectives have been warning about the erosion of shared moral frameworks and the rise of an easygoing moral individualism.

Allan Bloom and Gertrude Himmelfarb warned that sturdy virtues are being diluted into shallow values. Alasdair MacIntyre has written about emotivism, the idea that it’s impossible to secure moral agreement in our culture because all judgments are based on how we feel at the moment.

Charles Taylor has argued that morals have become separated from moral sources. People are less likely to feel embedded on a moral landscape that transcends self. James Davison Hunter wrote a book called “The Death of Character.” Smith’s interviewees are living, breathing examples of the trends these writers have described.

In most times and in most places, the group was seen to be the essential moral unit. A shared religion defined rules and practices. Cultures structured people’s imaginations and imposed moral disciplines. But now more people are led to assume that the free-floating individual is the essential moral unit.

Morality was once revealed, inherited and shared, but now it’s thought of as something that emerges in the privacy of your own heart.



10 Ways to Fight Pornography

One of the best ways to protect your kids from pornography is to protect yourself.

fight pornography

10 Ways to Fight Pornography

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A recent study asked a group of kids how often their peers look at porn online. They responded that it was often. The study also asked what parental controls were in place on their devices, and almost all said none — because their parents trusted them. These parents have no idea what their children are seeing.

Why are controls so critical? First, the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11. So if that’s the average, some children are seeing it much earlier. Furthermore, research is beginning to give us the full, frightening picture of what porn does to a brain and to a life. Much like substance abuse, it alters the brain, creating a need for a level of stimulation that a healthy, marital sex life doesn’t always provide. It sets our children up to have a distorted view of sex and suffer from a desire that can’t be satisfied.

Why are so many dads turning a blind eye to this problem? Is it because they don’t think it’s a problem? Is it because of their own porn use? Maybe they feel hypocritical setting up boundaries for their kids that they themselves can’t hold. If this is you, we want you to know that it’s not too late to protect your children, and there is hope for you too. Here are 10 ways to fight pornography:

1. Admit you have a problem.

We live in a world that wants us to make allowance for justifying and tolerating almost every off-color thing we could think of. One of the best things you can do for yourself, your marriage and your children is to admit you have a problem with pornography.

2. Invite trusted friends to encourage you and hold you accountable.

We would also suggest bringing your wife in on your struggle. Voicing your struggle to others and admitting you have a problem is a huge step in the right direction.

3. Online accountability.

Use software to monitor your online activity. Covenant Eyes is a great resource for men. It allows you to receive your accountability partner’s reports weekly for the sites they visit and the searches they make. It lets you know when you need to follow up with each other on questionable activity. Finally, it allows you to celebrate with each other in putting online struggles to death.

4. Set boundaries with your mobile device.

Nowadays, our smartphones and tablets are even more of a gateway to pornography than a desktop computer. The same online accountability applies to your mobile device. Set boundaries and use software to monitor all online activity.

5. If you have offline pornography at your disposal, destroy it.

If you are wanting to fight your addiction to pornography but are hanging on to that magazine or DVD (in its secret hiding place) then your “fight” is really just a masquerade. Man up, and destroy those items. Right now.

6. Take all forms of media seriously.

Don’t think to yourself that TV shows or movies that emphasize sexual situations or portray women in the wrong light are harmless. Even if they are not considered “porn,” they are damaging. If you’re struggling with pornography, these types of entertainment will only make your struggle more difficult.

7. If you are married, take a step back and think on your marriage.

Are you satisfied and happy in your marriage? What’s awesome about your marriage? What is lacking? Are you content with the level of sexual intimacy within your marriage? These are great questions to ask yourself. They just might lead you to the root cause for your addiction.

8. Realize that you didn’t just become addicted to porn.

How you conduct yourself in public and where you look every day have greatly influenced where you find yourself today. That long stare at the passing woman, the double take at the lady you just walked by, the thoughts that come to mind when you see the magazines in the checkout lane at the grocery store… This is where the battle starts in the everyday scenarios and situations. Fight the good fight here too. Guard your eyes and guard your mind.

9. Take a second and think beyond the images or videos you’re looking at.

This is a person, a real woman, a human being created by God, just like you. She’s somebody’s daughter, sister, or even mother. Think of what her life must be like in front of the camera day after day – exploited and made insanely vulnerable. Chances are she is wrapped up in some kind of string of human sex trafficking and your addiction is helping to fund this multibillion-dollar business. She is not there for your enjoyment. She is being held captive and more than likely is crying out for help.

10. Your pornography addiction is a heart issue first and foremost. [Tweet This]

You are exchanging truth for a lie. You are voluntarily placing your affections on the cheap thrills that are ultimately fleeting and leave you feeling worthless. You were created for God, by God. Ask God to help you every time you are tempted.

 

 



Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools

A new study shows that parental involvement matters more for performance than schools, but that doesn’t mean going to PTA meetings

happy family portrait having fun outdoors at their home

“…parents, of all backgrounds, don’t need to buy expensive educational toys or digital devices for their kids in order to give them an edge. They don’t need to chauffeur their offspring to enrichment classes or test-prep courses. What they need to do with their children is much simpler: talk. But not just any talk.” (Annie Murphy Paul, TIME)

 

 

Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools

 

By  for TIME

Given all the roiling debates about how America’s children should be taught, it may come as a surprise to learn that students spend less than 15% of their time in school. While there’s no doubt that school is important, a clutch of recent studies reminds us that parents are even more so.

A study published earlier this month by researchers at North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California-Irvine, for example, finds that parental involvement—checking homework, attending school meetings and events, discussing school activities at home—has a more powerful influence on students’ academic performance than anything about the school the students attend. Another study, published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, reports that the effort put forth by parents (reading stories aloud, meeting with teachers) has a bigger impact on their children’s educational achievement than the effort expended by either teachers or the students themselves. And a third study concludes that schools would have to increase their spending by more than $1,000 per pupil in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement (not likely in this stretched economic era).

So parents matter.

—a point made clear by decades of research showing that a major part of the academic advantage held by children from affluent families comes from the “concerted cultivation of children” as compared to the more laissez-faire style of parenting common in working-class families.

But this research also reveals something else:

that parents, of all backgrounds, don’t need to buy expensive educational toys or digital devices for their kids in order to give them an edge.

They don’t need to chauffeur their offspring to enrichment classes or test-prep courses.

What they need to do with their children is much simpler: talk.

But not just any talk.

Although well-known research by psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley has shown that professional parents talk more to their children than less-affluent parents—a lot more, resulting in a 30 million “word gap” by the time children reach age three—more recent research is refining our sense of exactly what kinds of talk at home foster children’s success at school.

For example, a study conducted by researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health and published in the journal Pediatrics found that two-way adult-child conversations were six times as potent in promoting language development as interludes in which the adult did all the talking. Engaging in this reciprocal back-and-forth gives children a chance to try out language for themselves, and also gives them the sense that their thoughts and opinions matter. As they grow older, this feeling helps middle- and upper-class kids develop into assertive advocates for their own interests, while working-class students tend to avoid asking for help or arguing their own case with teachers, according to research presented at American Sociological Association conference earlier this year.

The content of parents’ conversations with kids matters, too.

Children who hear talk about counting and numbers at home start school with much more extensive mathematical knowledge, report researchers from the University of Chicago—knowledge that predicts future achievement in the subject. Psychologist Susan Levine, who led the study on number words, has also found that the amount of talk young children hear about the spatial properties of the physical world—how big or small or round or sharp objects are—predicts kids’ problem-solving abilities as they prepare to enter kindergarten.

While the conversations parents have with their children change as kids grow older, the effect of these exchanges on academic achievement remains strong. And again, the way mothers and fathers talk to their middle-school students makes a difference. Research by Nancy Hill, a professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, finds that parents play an important role in what Hill calls “academic socialization” — setting expectations and making connections between current behavior and future goals (going to college, getting a good job). Engaging in these sorts of conversations, Hill reports, has a greater impact on educational accomplishment than volunteering at a child’s school or going to PTA meetings, or even taking children to libraries and museums. When it comes to fostering students’ success, it seems, it’s not so much what parents do as what they say.



Real Evangelicals Believe These 4 Things.

What is an Evangelical?

annine Faulkner sings during a worship service before U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., delivers an address to Liberty University students at the school in Lynchburg, Virginia, September 14, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Jay Paul)

(Photo: Reuters/Jay Paul)

You’ve probably seen it in the polls—“this percent of Evangelicals support this candidate, or that legislation.” But with researchers defining “Evangelical” in various ways, the results can be as inconsistent as they are broad.

The National Association of Evangelicals, along with a diverse group of theologians, researchers, Evangelical leaders and sociologists, think Evangelicals must be defined by their beliefs. Not by which church they attend, their political demographics, or how they identify themselves.

 

Real Evangelicals Believe These 4 Things

BY SAMUEL SMITH , for the Christian Post

Researchers should define Evangelicals by their beliefs, not by their political demographics, the church they attend or what they self-identify as, the National Association of Evangelicals, LifeWay Research and a group of sociologists, theologians and Evangelical leaders have determined.

After a two-year collaboration, NAE and the Christian research organization LifeWay Research have developed a standard definition for what it means to be an Evangelical.

Tired of numerous surveys and polls holding inconsistent definitions of what they consider to be Evangelicals, NAE announced Thursday that its board of directors adopted an “Evangelical beliefs research definition” at its Oct. 15 meeting in hopes it will lead to researchers using an accurate definition to define Evangelicals.

“Evangelicals have been misunderstood and categorized incorrectly so often, and much of that is due to inconsistent identification in research,” NAE President Leith Anderson said in a statement shared with The Christian Post. “Now we have a way to measure Evangelical belief with confidence.”

NAE called on LifeWay Research to help develop an accurate manner to define Evangelical beliefs. The organizations gathered input from a “diverse group” of theologians, Evangelical leaders and sociologists, who designed and tested 17 questions that would help define Evangelicals.

The organizations were able to narrow down the 17 questions into four fundamental statements that believers must hold to be true in order to be considered real Evangelicals.

Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, said the four statements closely match David Bebbington’s classic four-pronged definition of Evangelicalism, but with more of an emphasis on belief rather than behavior.

Those statements are:

  • The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
  • It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
  • Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
  • Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.

“Evangelicals are people of faith and should be defined by their beliefs, not by their politics or race,” Anderson argued.

Researchers have generally used two methods to identify Evangelicals in their surveys and polls.

According to NAE, self-identification and denominational affiliation are to the most common ways Evangelicals are identified in research, while political demographics are used instead of religious characteristics in other surveys.

“Though the African-American Protestant population is overwhelmingly Evangelical in theology and orientation, for example, it is often separated out of polls seeking to identify the political preferences of Evangelicals,” the NAE said.

Although the four statements aim to help make research on Evangelicals more consistent, LifeWay Research Vice-President Scott McConnell acknowledged that those who agree with all four statements are not the only Evangelicals.

“We’re not saying these are the only Evangelicals, but we are saying this will define someone as having Evangelical belief,” McConnell said in a statement shared with CP.

After coming up with the four statements, LifeWay conducted a phone survey from Sept. 8 through Sept. 21 and polled about 1,000 random telephone respondents with a margin of error of +/- 3.7 percent.

“LifeWay Research confirmed the statements are statistically valid, reliable, and form a valid scale, testing them in online and phone surveys,” the statement added

Stetzer explained that people who strongly agreed with one statement tended to strongly agree with the other three. Stetzer said the results indicate a measure of a “theological package” of Evangelical beliefs.

“This simple set of four questions reliably discerns those who share Evangelical beliefs from those who do not,” Stetzer asserted.

While 52 percent of respondents strongly agreed that the Bible is their highest authority, 58 percent strongly agreed that Jesus’ death is the only sacrifice that can remove the consequence of sin. The survey also found that about as many people who strongly agree that it is important for them to encourage non-Christians to turn to Christ (49 percent), also strongly agreed that those who only trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior can be saved (48 percent).

They also found that only about three out of 10 Americans fit the research definition of Evangelical.

Additionally, they found that only 59 percent of Protestants who self-identify as Evangelicals agree with all four statements. Only 25 percent of African-Americans who hold Evangelical beliefs consider themselves Evangelical Christians, while 62 percent of whites who hold Evangelical beliefs consider themselves Evangelicals. Seventy-nine percent of Hispanics who hold Evangelical beliefs consider themselves to be Evangelicals.

“Identity, belief and behavior are three different things when it comes to being an Evangelical,” McConnell said. “Some people are living out the Evangelical school of thought but may not embrace the label. And the opposite is also true.”



Facebook: Where Millennials Get the News and Feed Their Cows

Do you get your news and your cute kitten videos in the same place?

A young woman compares two smartphones, an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy, at a trade show (Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar)

A large segment of the population turns to Facebook to learn what’s going on in the world around them. Nick Pitts explores what this means for our increasingly polarized society, and how we can respond constructively in a biblical manner—no matter how we get our news.

 

 

 

Facebook: Where Millennials Get the News and Feed Their Cows

 

Written by Nick Pitts for Denison Forum

 

It started out as place where you poked people. It then turned into a type of farm where you milked virtual cows and were attacked by cyber chickens. As time went by, it was the marketplace where you begged people to help you with your candy crush addiction. And now, Facebook is the place where you get your news.

Yesterday, Pew Research released their findings concerning the consumption of news among generations. When asked where they got political and government news from in the previous week, about six-in-ten Web-using millennials (61 percent) reported getting political news on Facebook. Coming in second place is CNN. While CNN might pride itself on being the most trusted name in news, it is not the most consumed. I guess you could compare it to green bean casserole at Thanksgiving; it can hold its own, but it plays second fiddle to dressing.

And for this Thanksgiving feast, millennials are sitting at the table awhile. According to Crowdtap, their research indicates that millennials spend an average of 17.8 hours a day with different types of media. For those that are keeping count, that leaves a total of 6.2 hours to sleep and socialize with other life forms outside of virtual reality. But don’t worry, 80 percent of millennials sleep with their cell phones by their bed. How else are they going to send on average 67 text messages a day about the latest news?

Like your calorie count at Thanksgiving, the numbers may be alarming, but it is important to understand the context. Since the advent of news media, there have always been new mediums that have been vying for our attention in order to inform our mind. The medium is not the problem, but the types of messages being filtered through the medium are.

We live in a highly polarized society.

In the short history of our country, we have become increasingly divided over political matters and what color is the dress. While political disagreements are not new, and we have evolved past the point of challenging each other to duels over our disagreements, we need to understand the new media landscape.

The Internet has made it possible for more information, both good and bad, to be more widely distributed. However, with more information there are less gatekeepers and filters in order to thresh out the inaccuracies.  While inaccuracies are one issue, the Internet has also made it available for individuals to hear a type of news that suits their particular inclinations and political affiliations.

Known as the “filter bubble effect,” this concept assumes individuals choose to surround themselves figuratively with voices and sources that confirm their biases. Though they may not identify themselves politically on Facebook, this social media organization has the ability to remember what articles you read and suggest presently and into the future other sources that might suit those partisan interests.

It has been reported and substantiated that the Facebook newsfeed algorithm will tend to amplify news that piques your political flavorings. Facebook researchers have tried to counter these arguments, but it comes across like cigarette companies funding research with regards to the health benefits of smoking – an inevitable defeat.

Facebook isn’t the only one losing in this matter.

While there can be a lament over how a new generation is consuming highly polarizing information, one cannot forget the present  state of the network and cable news. These sources which previous generations have utilized in order to become more informed have inserted themselves into the news more than reporting the news. Brian Williams stretched the truth, George Stephanopoulos is being questioned as to whether he can objectively report the truth, and Bill O’Reilly is facing accusations as to his trustworthiness.

There are obviously concerns about the medium through which the message is being communicated, however the greater concern is the messages flowing through the medium. The sheer amount of “news” requires a robust filter in order to discern truth from false, good from bad. So instead of lamenting the medium, we should construct sturdy filters that discern truth.

John Milton, the sixteenth century English poet and civil servant, believed the freedom of the press to be paramount in order to inform the public and hold government accountable. Ignorance within the mind, according to Milton, “can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” In his work Areopagitica, he wrote “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

Cautiously accepting claims at face value, we are to perform the due diligence of researching well and reading widely in order that we might build a filter that can discern truth and defend it.

As followers of the One who is wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30), we are to seek wisdom and knowledge wherever we might find it, whether on Facebook, MSNBC, or out of one those things called books (Proverbs 2:4). We are to love the Lord our God with all of our minds, affirming truth wherever we might find it. As Augustine observed, all truth is God’s truth.

More than affirming it, we are to defend it both in season and out. We have news that even the angels yearn to hear (1 Peter 1:12).

Though we might not have the chance to sit down in the No-Spin Zone with Mr. O’Reilly, we do have the chance to post a status that our friends might see.

That status can contain words that do not return void (Isaiah 55). And these words are more than dressing at Thanksgiving, but they are like honey on the lips.

 



Pornography and Crime

In March of 2011, the Kansas Legislature debated passing a bill requiring police to report any and all pornographic materials found during sexual crime investigations.

crime scene protect by caution tapeTestifying in favor of the bill, Psychologist Mary Anne Layden laid out findings, including her own experience in treating sexual trauma victims and perpetrators, as well as her own research and that of colleagues.

Overwhelmingly, the research agrees. Porn and sexual crimes are inseparably linked.

Dr. Mary Anne Layden:

“Thank you for allowing me to address you today.

“I am speaking today in support of the passage of HB 2042, The reporting of pornographic materials during the investigation of sexual crimes. There are many reasons why this is an important bill and why this bill can help solve the kinds of psychological and criminal problems that I deal with everyday.

“I had been doing this work for more than 10 years before I realized that I had not treated one case of sexual violence that did not include pornography.

“The types of cases that I treat are varied and differ in many important ways. Sexual harassment cases are different from rape cases which are different from incest cases. However, they all involved pornography.

“Most people understand intuitively or from looking at research or clinical experience that there is a connection between using child pornography and the behavior of child rape. The images in child pornography are Permission-Giving for sexual behavior between adults and children. Child rapists tell me they know that kids like to have sex with adults because they have seen their smiling faces in the child pornography they access on the Internet.

“The same people who understand this connection may forget that adult pornography is Permission-Giving as well: for adult rape, for combining sex with violence, for the message that when women say no they mean yes, for male sexual entitlement to have sex with whomever they want, whenever they want, however they want, for the message that male sexuality is viciously narcissistic, predatory and out of control and that female sexuality is insatiable and indiscriminant.

“Pornography is hate speech against men and women and is mis-education about sexuality.

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“It is also Permission-Giving for psychological psychopathology and crime.

“The crimes that are connected to the Permission-Giving Beliefs which are spread in pornography are not just incest and child rape. They are adult rape, sexual harassment, adult and child prostitution, adult and child sex trafficking and domestic violence combined with sexual assault. All of these connections have been found in both clinical experience and in research.

“Research also indicates that there are three factors that predict sexual violence. (1) Hostility toward women (2) The belief that sex is a non-intimate, recreational, adversarial behavior (3) The use of pornography.

“In fact, all of these factors are connected to the use of pornography.

“My own research indicates that the earlier young males are exposed to pornography the more likely they are to engage in non-consensual sex and the more pornography females use the more likely they are to be victims of non-consensual sex. Pornography is an equal opportunity toxin for both males and females.

“You can find these research results in the research summary I have provided with a listing of 29 findings showing the connection between pornography and crime.Tweet

“While today we are focusing on the crimes connected to pornography, the research indicates that the social, psychological, physical, developmental, financial and spiritual consequences of pornography are enormous as well.

“Due to the universal availability of pornography on the Internet the world is facing a sexual tsunami unprecedented in history. We know that sexual abuse is the most effective way to produce psychiatric problems in adults and it shows up in the histories of adult patients more than any other factor.

“To help stem the tide of this criminal and psychological catastrophe, we need laws, we need enforcement, we need education, we need research, we need treatment. A good first step would be to have police report the presence of pornography connected to crimes. They may find what I have found that there is no case of sexual violence that does not involve pornography.

“Knowledge is power, but once you know the truth silence is complicity.

“I urge you not to be silent. I urge you to pass this bill.

“Thank you.”

 

Dr. Layden is the director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the Center for Cognative Therapy, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania. For 25 years she has specialized in the treatment of sexual violence victims. In the last 8 years she has also worked with sexual violence perpetrators and sex addicts. She has testified before the US Congress on five occasions and has spoken at one Congressional Briefing.

Adult (>18 years old) exposure to pornographic media is connected with:

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  1. Believing a rape victim enjoyed rape
  2. Believing women suffer less from rape
  3. Believing women in general enjoy rape
  4. Believing a rape victim experienced pleasure and “got what she wanted”
  5. Believing women make false accusations of rape
  6. Believing rapist deserve less jail time
  7. More acceptance of the rape myth
  8. More acceptance of violence against women
  9. More likely to go to a prostitute and to go more frequently
  10. Increasing their estimates of how often people engage in sex with violence
  11. More self-reported likelihood of forcing a women sexually
  12. More self-reported likelihood of rape
  13. Creating more sexually violent fantasies to get aroused
  14. Engaging in more sexual harassment behaviors
  15. More likelihood of forcing a woman sexually
  16. More likelihood of future rape
  17. Using physical coercion to have sex
  18. Using verbal coercion to have sex
  19. Using drugs and alcohol to sexually coerce women
  20. Having engaged in rape
  21. Having engaged in date rape
  22. Having engaged in marital rape
  23. Being an adult sex offender
  24. Being a child molester
  25. Being an incest offender
  26. Engaging in sexual abuse of a battered spouse
  27. More willingness to have sex with 13-14 year olds
  28. More sexual attraction to children
  29. Having sexually abused children

 

 

Studies Supporting These Points

  1. Believing a rape victim enjoyed rape

Check, J. & Malamuth, N. (1985). An empirical assessment of some feminist hypotheses about rape. International Journal of Women’s Studies, 8, 414-423.

Ohbuchi, K. Ikeda, T. & Takeuchi, G. (1994). Effects of violent pornography upon viewers rape myth beliefs: A study of Japanese males. Psychology, Crime & Law, 1, 71-81.

 

  1. Believing women suffer less from rape

Check, J. & Malamuth, N. (1985). An empirical assessment of some feminist hypotheses about rape. International Journal of Women’s Studies, 8, 414-423.

 

  1. Believing women in general enjoy rape

Check, J. & Malamuth, N. (1985). An empirical assessment of some feminist hypotheses about rape. International Journal of Women’s Studies, 8, 414-423.

Ohbuchi, K. Ikeda, T. & Takeuchi, G. (1994). Effects of violent pornography upon viewers rape myth beliefs: A study of Japanese males. Psychology, Crime & Law, 1, 71-81.

 

  1. Believing a rape victim experienced pleasure and “got what she wanted”

Millburn, M., Mather, R. & Conrad, S. (2000). The effects of viewing R-rated movie scenes that objectify women on perceptions of date rape.  Sex Roles, 43, Nov 2000, 645-664.

 

  1. Believing women make false accusations of rape

Ohbuchi, K. Ikeda, T. & Takeuchi, G. (1994). Effects of violent pornography upon viewers rape myth beliefs: A study of Japanese males. Psychology, Crime & Law, 1, 71-81.

 

  1. Believing rapist deserve less jail time

Zillmann, D & J. Bryant. (1984). Effects of massive exposure to pornography. In Malamuth, N and Donnerstein, E. (Eds), Pornography and sexual aggression. San Diego, Academic Press.

 

  1. More acceptance of the rape myth

Check. J. V. P., & Guloien, T. H. (1989). The effects of repeated exposure to sexually violent pornography, nonviolent dehumanizing pornography, and erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryan (Eds.), Pornography: Recent research, interpretations, and policy considerations (pp. 159-184). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Weisz, M.G., & Earls, C. M. (1995). The effects of exposure to filmed sexual violence on attitudes toward rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 10, 71-84.

 

  1. More acceptance of violence against women

Allen, M., Emmers, T. M., Gebhardt, L., & Giery, M. (1995). Pornography and rape myth acceptance. Journal of Communication, 45, 5-26.

Weisz, M.G., & Earls, C. M. (1995). The effects of exposure to filmed sexual violence on attitudes toward rape. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 10, 71-84.

Hald, G., Malamuth, N. & Yuen, C. (2010).  Pornography and attitudes supporting violence against women: revisiting the relationship in non experimental studies. Aggressive Behavior, 36, 14-20.

 

  1. More likely to go to a prostitute and to go more frequently

Monto, M. (1999). Focusing on the clients of street prostitutes: a creative approach to reducing violence against women. Final report for the National Institute of Justice. Available at www.ncjrs.gov.

Stack, S., Wasserman, I. & Kern, R. (2004). Adult Social Bonds and Use of Internet Pornography. Social Science Quarterly, 85, 75-88.

 

  1. Increasing their estimates of how often people engage in sex with violence

Zillmann, D & J. Bryant. (1984). Effects of massive exposure to pornography. In Malamuth, N and Donnerstein, E. (Eds), Pornography and sexual aggression. San Diego, Academic Press.

 

  1. More self-reported likelihood of forced sex acts

Check. J. V. P., & Guloien, T. H. (1989). The effects of repeated exposure to sexually violent pornography, nonviolent dehumanizing pornography, and erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryan (Eds.), Pornography: Recent research, interpretations, and policy considerations (pp. 159-184). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

 

  1. More self-reported likelihood of rape

Check. J. V. P., & Guloien, T. H. (1989). The effects of repeated exposure to sexually violent pornography, nonviolent dehumanizing pornography, and erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryan (Eds.), Pornography: Recent research, interpretations, and policy considerations (pp. 159-184). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

 

  1. Creating more sexually violent fantasies to get aroused

Malamuth, N. (1981). Rape fantasies as a function of exposure to violent sexual stimuli. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 10, 33-47.

 

  1. Engaging in more sexual harassment behaviors

Barak, A., Fisher, W.A., Belfry, S., & Lashambe, D. R. (1999). Sex, guys, and cyberspace: Effects of internet pornography and individual differences on men’s attitudes toward women. Journal of Psychological and Human Sexuality, 11, 63-92.

Bonino, S., Ciairano, S. Rabaglietti, E. & Cattelino, E. (2006). Use of pornography and self-reported engagement in sexual violence among adolescents. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 3, 3, 265-288.

Brown, J. & L’Engle, K. (2009). X-Rated: Sexual attitudes and behaviors associated with U.S. early adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit media. Communication Research, 36, 129-151.

Vega, V. & Malamuth, N. (2007).  Predicting sexual aggression: The role of pornography in the context of general and specific risk factors. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 104–117.

 

  1. More likelihood of forcing a woman sexually

Boeringer, S.B. (1994). Pornography and sexual aggression: Associations of violent and nonviolent depictions with rape and rape proclivity. Deviant Behavior, 15, 289-304.

 

  1. More likelihood of future rape

Check. J. V. P., & Guloien, T. H. (1989). The effects of repeated exposure to sexually violent pornography, nonviolent dehumanizing pornography, and erotica. In D. Zillmann & J. Bryan (Eds.), Pornography: Recent research, interpretations, and policy considerations (pp. 159-184). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

 

  1. Using physical coercion to have sex

Carr, J. & VanDeusen, K. (2004). Risk factors for male sexual aggression on college campuses.  Journal of Family Violence, 19, 279-289.

Crossman, L. (1995). Date rape and sexual aggression by college males: Incidence and the involvement of impulsivity, anger, hostility, psychopathology, peer influence and pornography use. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 55, 4640

 

  1. Using verbal coercion to have sex

Boeringer, S.B. (1994). Pornography and sexual aggression: Associations of violent and nonviolent depictions with rape and rape proclivity. Deviant Behavior, 15, 289-304.

 

  1. Using drugs and alcohol to sexually coerce women

Boeringer, S.B. (1994). Pornography and sexual aggression: Associations of violent and nonviolent depictions with rape and rape proclivity. Deviant Behavior, 15, 289-304.

 

  1. Having engaged in rape

Alexy, E., Burgess, A. & Prentky, R. (2009).  Pornography use as a risk marker for an aggressive pattern of behavior among sexually reactive children and adolescents. Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, 14, 442-453.

Baron, L. & Straus, M. (1984). Sexual stratification, pornography, and rape in the United States. In N. Malamuth and E. Donnerstein (Eds) Pornography and Sexual Aggression.  New York: Academic Press.

Boeringer, S.B. (1994). Pornography and sexual aggression: Associations of violent and nonviolent depictions with rape and rape proclivity. Deviant Behavior, 15, 289-304.

Bonino, S., Ciairano, S. Rabaglietti, E. & Cattelino, E. (2006). Use of pornography and self-reported engagement in sexual violence among adolescents. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 3, 3, 265-288.

Carr, J. & VanDeusen, K. (2004). Risk factors for male sexual aggression on college campuses.  Journal of Family Violence, 19, 279-289.

Cramer, E. & McFarlane, J. (1994). Pornography and abuse of women. Public Health Nursing, 11, 4, 268-272.

Crossman, L. (1995). Date rape and sexual aggression by college males: Incidence and the involvement of impulsivity, anger, hostility, psychopathology, peer influence and pornography use. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 55, 4640

Malamuth, N., Addison, T. & Koss, M. (2000). Pornography and sexual aggression: Are there reliable effects and can we understand them? Annual Review of Sex Research, 11, 26-68.

Marshall, W. L. (1988). The use of sexually explicit stimuli by rapists, child molesters and non-offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 2, 267-288.

Senn, C. (1993). The research on women and pornography: The many faces of harm. In D. E. H. Russell (Ed.), Making violence sexy. New York: Teachers College Press.

Vega, V. & Malamuth, N. (2007).  Predicting sexual aggression: The role of pornography in the context of general and specific risk factors. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 104–117.

 

  1. Having engaged in date rape

Warshaw, R. (1988). I never called it rape. New York, Harper and Row.

 

  1. Having engaged in marital rape

Simmons, C. A, Lehmann, P & Collier-Tenison, S. (2008). Linking male use of the sex industry to controlling behaviors in violent relationships. Violence against Women, 14,  406-417.

 

  1. Being an adult sex offender

Marshall, W. L. (1988). The use of sexually explicit stimuli by rapists, child molesters and non-offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 2, 267-288.

 

  1. Being a child molester

Marshall, W. L. (1988). The use of sexually explicit stimuli by rapists, child molesters and non-offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 2, 267-288.

 

  1. Being an incest offender

Marshall, W. L. (1988). The use of sexually explicit stimuli by rapists, child molesters and non-offenders. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 2, 267-288.

 

  1. Engaging in sexual abuse of a battered spouse

Shope, J. (2004). When words are not enough: The search for the effect of pornography on abused women. Violence Against Women, 10, 1, 56-72.

Simmons, C. A., Lehmann, P. & Collier-Tennison, S. (2008). Linking male use of the sex industry to controlling behaviors in violent relationships: An exploratory analysis.Violence Against Women, 14, 406-417.

Sommers, E. K. & Check, J. V. P. (1987). An empirical investigation of the role of pornography in the verbal and physical abuse of women. Violence and Victims, 2, 1, 189-209.

 

  1. More willingness to have sex with 13-14 year olds

Hegna, H., Mossige, S. & Wichstrom, L. (2004). Older adolescents’ positive attitudes toward younger adolescents as sexual partners. Adolescence, 39, 156, 627-651.

 

  1. More sexual attraction to children

Briere, J. & Runtz, M. (1989). University males sexual interest in children: Predicting potential indices of “pedophilia” in a nonforensic sample. Child Abuse and Neglect, 13, 65-75.

Smiljanich, K. & Briere, J. (1996). Self-reported sexual interest in children: Sex differences and psychosocial correlates in a university sample. Violence and Victims. 11, 1, 39-50.

 

  1. Having sexually abused children

Bourke, M. & Hernandez, A.  (2009). The Butner study redux: A report of the incidence of hands-on child victimization by child pornography offenders.  Journal of Family Violence, 24, 183-191.

Carter, D. L., Prentky. R. A., Knight, R. A. & Vanderveer, P. L. (1987). Use of pornography in the criminal and developmental histories of sex offenders. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2, 2, 196-211.

Kingston, D. A., Fedoroff, P., Firestone, P., Curry, S., Bradford, J. M. (2008) Pornography use and sexual aggression: The impact of frequency and type of pornography use on recidivism among sexual offenders. Aggressive Behavior, 34, 4, 341-351.

Proulx, J., Perreault, C. & Ouimet, M.  (1999). Pathways in the offending process of extrafamilial sexual child molesters. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 11, 2, 117-129.

Seto, M. & Eke, A. (2005). The criminal histories and later offending of child pornography offenders. Sexual Abuse: Journal of Research and Treatment, 17, 2, 201-210.

Wheeler, D. L. (1997). The relationship between pornography usage and child molesting. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 57(8-A), pp. 3691.

Compiled by Mary Anne Layden, PhD

 



United by Love

How diversity reflects the kingdom of God

Diverse People Friendship Togetherness Connection Aerial View Co

“Throughout all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, we see God working to redeem a people for Himself, a people from every tribe and tongue and nation—colorful and diverse.”

Are we reveling in the beautiful and staggering diversity of the people God created and redeemed? 

 

 

United by Love

By Trillia Newbell for Facts and Trends

 

 

In the last 50 years, the term diversity has taken on many meanings. In the early 1960s, diversity most likely would have referred to the need for desegregation. By the ’70s and ’80s it would’ve been associated with affirmative action. Now diversity is often regarded as inclusivity in a myriad of ways.

The Bible, however, gives us a compelling vision for diversity in the kingdom of God. Diversity is already quite present in God’s kingdom, but we might miss it in Scripture if we aren’t looking for it. Here are four ways we can see a biblical basis for diversity and how it reflects the kingdom.

 

Creation: Image Bearers

We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Not one of us was made apart from the creative, thoughtful design of our Creator God (Psalm 139:13-14). As image bearers, we were all made to reflect the Lord. So, if we are all created equally in the image of God, then as redeemed image bearers this is the first indication God’s kingdom is diverse.

We are created equally in His image. God doesn’t discriminate in His design—He doesn’t create one human being greater than the other. Because we are all image bearers, we can know God’s kingdom includes a variety of people groups—all ultimately created to reflect and worship Him.

 

Redemption: Gospel

We are all created in need of God’s saving grace regardless of the color of our skin. The Fall of Man affects us all, and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The good news is Jesus died for every tribe, tongue, and nation. God loved the world and made it possible for anyone who believes to have eternal life. He made the way for all people (John 3:15-16). His mission was to seek and save the lost—everyone.

The Great Commission reminds us God’s mission is our mission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” ( Matthew 28:19-20 emphasis mine).

Jesus commissioned His disciples to make more disciples of all nations. He didn’t say, “Go and find people who look and sound just like you.” He said they (and we) should seek to love and serve people from every nation.

 

Adoption: The Family of God

As Christians we are adopted children of God. Paul tells us of our new bloodline when he writes: “The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16–17). We are children of God and a fellow heir with Christ.

Even before His death, Jesus affirmed the importance of being a part of the family of God. Addressing the people while His mother and brothers stood outside, Jesus said, “‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:48–50).

Jesus isn’t suggesting our biological families are no longer important (see Matthew 15:3). Rather, He is stating that following Him is far greater. He takes priority, and so does His kingdom—so much so that those who follow Him are counted as His brother and sister and mother—His family. The family of God, the kingdom of God, is colorful.

As we begin to view members of our churches as members of God’s family—and thus as members of our family—our prejudices begin to crumble. Understanding the family of God is yet another weapon against racial intolerance in the church and beyond. Only in the family of God can people so distinctly different be the same (equal in creation and redemption) and counted as sisters and brothers in a new family.

 

Revelation: Last days

Revelation records striking accounts of the last days when all nations, tribes, and tongues will be worshipping Jesus. Heaven won’t be filled with homogeneous people—except that we will all be glorified. What we won’t have in heaven is the sin that separates us from God and from each other.

We won’t fight against racism or wonder how to build diversity. We will be diverse. We will love completely and fully. We will worship together and enjoy one another for all eternity.

Creation, redemption, adoption, and revelation prove there is a diverse kingdom. Throughout all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, we see God working to redeem a people for Himself, a people from every tribe and tongue and nation—colorful and diverse.

The church’s pursuit of diversity reflects the Bible’s description of the kingdom. We pursue diversity because the pages of Scripture are filled with it. Mostly we pursue diversity because the gospel embraces and advocates for a diversity of people to be born again into a new family for a holy and good God.

 

 



How to Be a Sex-wise Parent in a World of Penn State Scandal Media Coverage

Tips for Moms and Dads.

 

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In today’s hyper-sexualized society, kids are going to have questions about what they see and hear. The Penn State scandal was years ago, but the news never seems to be short of similar cases. What do you say if the latest case comes on the TV or radio, and your little one asks you “Mommy, Daddy, what are they talking about?”

How to Be a Sex-wise Parent in a World of Penn State Scandal Media Coverage

 

By Catherine McCall MS, LMFT writing for Psychology Today

 

The daughter of a friend of mine had just picked up her eight and ten-year-old children from swim team practice yesterday when news of the FBI Report on the Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal came over the radio. The kids’ questions were instantaneous. “What are they talking about, Mommy? What’s sex abuse? What’s rape?” Oh, how she wished she’d had the good sense to turn off the radio before picking them up!

Janet Rosenzweig is a woman who understands the impact of these situations on parents, children, and the community. She served as executive director of Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey from 2001-2007. She also was a pick for Chris Christie’s cabinet in 2010, before withdrawing her nomination. I recently heard that she had published a book entitled The Sex-Wise Parent: The Parent’s Guide to Protecting Your Family, and Talking to Kids About Sex, Abuse, and Bullying. I had never heard the term “sex-wise parent” before noting the title of her book; she’s come up with a smart term. Kevin Manahan’s article about her in the May 6, 2012 issue of the New Jersey Star Ledger includes an interview, and I’d like to share parts of it with you.

He says in the article that Janet preaches that “one of the best ways to protect children from sexual abuse is to have ‘the talk’ with them — or, more accurately, an ongoing conversation about sex… knowledge, especially at a young age, will teach children what’s appropriate and what isn’t, and if they’re abused, they’ll have the language to tell what’s happened.”

She urges today’s parents to educate themselves so that they have sufficient knowledge of the facts and comfort with the language, to naturally bring conversations about sex into their relationships with their kids whenever related issues come up. I think that’s an important point. The Sandusky scandal hit the news while we were away with several of our young grandchildren and a large TV was on in the restaurant we were eating at. There were no questions from the kids in this situation. A man dressed up like Santa Claus was seated at the table next to us and the kids couldn’t take their eyes off him. But my point is that mainstream media is not restricted to “the family hour.” How random was that, to be faced with such news in a restaurant while out with the grandkids? Kids are being bombarded with sex every day, in multiple ways, and their moms and dads need to help them with that.

Parents of today can’t simply rely on how things were when they were children, because the children of today are growing up in a highly sexualized culture.

For example, another young mother recounted to me how her six-year-old daughter who was learning to read, was in the car with her one day as they drove by the local movie theater and her daughter read aloud the name of the movie that was playing: “Sex… and… the… City,” she said. “I know the words and, the, and city, Mommy, but I’m not familiar with that word, sex. What does it mean?”  This mother was wise enough to say, “I’m glad you asked me and I want to answer you, but that’s not a conversation to have right now while Mommy’s concentrating on driving.  Let’s get back to it when we’re home and can settle into a private conversation.” At home, she kept her promise. Did she feel some anxiety about doing so? Yes, she did; but she followed through anyway. It was the right thing to do.

It seems that parents have always had anxiety about talking to their kids about sex. I remember how nervous I was before reading my oldest daughter Peter Mayle’s Where Did I Come From? when she was six years old and I was mid-pregnancy with her baby sister. But kids grow up. They become preteens, teens, young adults. The issues become more personal. They become laden with multiple emotions, many of them intense, and they inform personal choices which, in turn, have multiple consequences.

I’d like to leave you with my favorite take-away from Manahan’s interview with Janet Rosenzweig, which occurred when he asked her,  “What about if even after reading all the material I’m still terrified to talk to my child about sex?” Her response? (and I love it!) “I often steal a line from Glee,” she said.  “A father was about to discuss sex with his reluctant son.  He says, ‘Sit down son. I’m uncomfortable, too, but we’ll both be better men for having had this conversation’.”



The Skills Every Man Should Teach His Kids

Some are frivolous. Some are essential. All are abilities that your child will learn best from you.

loving african father helping son ride a bike outdoors

From telling  a good joke to making a paper airplane, from riding a bike to standing up to a bully, here’s one dad’s list of eleven things every dad should teach his kids. And one thing only a father can teach his son. 

 

 

The Skills Every Man Should Teach His Kids

 

There were bumps and bruises. There was trial and (much) error. There were growing pains, dizzying highs, and far too much Top 40 music. But I recently reached a benchmark when my daughter, following my son, hit double digits. I used the occasion to reset some parenting goals and take stock of what I’d imparted thus far. I view these life skills as my body of work as a dad (though moms can obviously teach them as well). Feel free to adopt them as your own.

Tell a Good (Clean) Joke

Childhood has its share of potentially awkward moments. Help your kid lay them to rest by having an age-appropriate riddle at the ready. “What did zero say to eight? Nice belt.” “What starts with an ‘e,’ ends in an ‘e,’ and has a letter in it? Envelope.” “What’s the difference between mashed potatoes and pea soup? Anyone can mash potatoes.” Find more at prongo.com/jokes. Once your child picks out a few favorites, have her practice her delivery until she knows each one cold.

Ride a Bike

Sure, it’s a cliché, but it’s true: Teach your child to do it once and he’ll never forget how. Some experts suggest removing the pedals first to work on balance. But here’s the method that’s worked for me twice: Position your child on the two-wheeler on a flat surface (not grass), and run behind him while gripping the back of the seat. He’ll feel your support and see nothing but open road ahead, enabling him to focus on stability and steering. With each successive attempt, reduce the amount of pressure you apply. Soon you can let go, and he’ll be off on his own.

Listen

We spend lots of time helping little kids speak but tend to shortchange the idea of paying attention to others. Explain that listening is easy because you can do it without moving a muscle. Establish this rule: When he’s in a conversation, have him ask himself, “Has the other person learned more about me than I’ve learned about him?” If the answer is “yes,” he should use his mouth less and his ears more.

Locate the North Star

Finding Polaris (aka the North Star) helped civilizations from the Egyptians to the Vikings orient themselves. For kids, it opens the door to discovering other constellations — and maybe even astrophysics.

  1. First, point out the Big Dipper, which is pretty easy to spot on a clear night.
  2. Now find the two stars that form the front edge of the Big Dipper. Draw an imaginary line through them and follow it until you reach the bright star Polaris.
  3. Go further! Polaris is the last star in the handle of the Little Dipper.

Stand Up to a Bully

You can sign your child up for tae kwon do lessons, but the key to warding off most tormentors is depriving them of what they’re truly looking for: a reaction. Show your kid how to portray positive, forceful, yet quiet body language. To a bully, lack of attention is akin to lack of oxygen. Also coach your child to call him out if necessary. Simply saying “You’re being a bully” may be enough to stop an intimidator in his tracks.

Pay It Forward

We’ve all heard the quote, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Since these words are lost on a 5-year-old, look for ways to convey the idea. Have your child volunteer at an animal shelter, give away used toys, or donate lemonade-stand proceeds to the cause of his choice. Let him accept nothing in return beyond a “Thank you.” Instead, he can suggest that the beneficiary do a good deed for someone else.

Throw a Baseball

You should despise the phrase “throw like a girl,” not only because it’s sexist and unkind, but also because tossing a ball the right way is a matter of technique. While some kids — regardless of sex — are naturals and others aren’t, it’s crucial to teach the motion early either way so that it becomes second nature to your daughter (or son).

  1. Have her form “bunny ears” across the seams of the ball with her index and middle fingers, using the others for support.
  2. Turn her body sideways to the target, feet parallel to each other and hip distance apart.
  3. Bring your child’s throwing arm straight back behind her head as she transfers her weight to her back foot.
  4. Shift the weight to her front foot as she brings her shoulder and arm forward, straight over the top.
  5. Tell her to snap her hand as she releases the ball and then follow through across her body.

Say “I’m sorry”

These two words, totaling seven measly letters, are often difficult for anyone — especially a child — to utter. With practice and much reinforcement, this apology blueprint worked for our family:

  • Have her look the subject in the eye.
  • Ban qualifying words like “but” and “if.”
  • Supplement the remorseful sentiment with a conciliatory hug or a handshake.
  • Emphasize the importance of not repeating the action that upset the other person. You don’t just want her to recite, “I’m sorry.” You want her to mean it.

Play Blackjack

Start little kids off with War, which is easy to play (flip the top card from each of your piles, and the higher number wins). But by second grade they’re ready to learn the basics of blackjack. Explain that the object is for your cards to add up to as close to 21 as possible without going over. Face cards count for 10 and aces can be either 1 or 11. (If you’ve ever been in a casino, though, you know there’s plenty of nuance.) The fun disguises this game’s other virtues. Your child can play it with Grandpa as readily as with her buddies. It’s also a surprising means of improving her math skills, teaching her the laws of probability, and instilling this ever-true lesson: The deck is always stacked in favor of the dealer.

Make a Paper Airplane

Technology can evolve as fast as it wants. No matter. Paper airplanes remain pure magic. They’re a great way to introduce kids to geometry, symmetry, and spatial relations. Beyond this, transforming a sheet of paper into a soaring object with a few strategic folds shows it’s possible to creatively reimagine our world.

  1. Start with an 81/2″ x 11″ piece of paper.
  2. Fold it in half the long way. Then unfold it.
  3. Fold the two top corners in to form a triangle.
  4. Fold the sides of the triangle in again, forming a narrower triangle.
  5. Turn the triangle on its side and fold it in half.
  6. Now fold the top edges on each of the sides down halfway to form the wings. Then take off!

Lose Gracefully

There are far too many poor sports out there. Make sure your child doesn’t become one of them. Coach him to shake hands, praise the victor, avoid excuses, and never, ever blame his teammates. Losing with dignity means that, ultimately, he wins as well.

The One Thing Only You Can Teach Your Son

Your little man will learn how to treat the women in his life by watching how you act toward his mother. But these extra steps are well worth it.

  • Encourage friendships with girls. Expose your son to female peers at an early age so he starts to see through stereotypes.
  • Point out sexism. Note obvious examples (“It was not cool of those guys to whistle when that woman walked by”) as well as subtler ones (“Why would you automatically assume the doctor is a ‘he?’ “).
  • Do away with gender roles. Teach your son how to cook dinner and do the laundry (and your daughter how to inflate a bike tire).

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Parents Magazine.



Maintaining Relational Presence in a Technological World

Are you distracted by technology?

Couple embracing and still using their mobile phones

Are you constantly checking e-mail, updating Facebook or sending Tweets? Do you find yourself avidly texting friends absent friends, and ignoring the ones you’re with?  Do your small children walk around the house imitating you…on your cell phone? If so, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Rhett Smith has some ideas to bring fruitful discussions and changes in your personal life, family and ministry.

Maintaining Relational Presence in a Technological World.

Originally published for the Fuller Youth Institute at https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/articles/maintaining-relational-presence-in-a-technological-world. Reprinted with permission.

By Rhett Smith

Becoming Aware

A shovel, a mirror, and a tray.

Recently I stood before a classroom of parents with these rudimentary objects.  The shovel, mirror, and tray presented stark contrasts to the technological tools I was trying to help parents view as influences that are shaping their kids’ lives.

The journey that brought me to this place of teaching parents about their teenager’s use of technology and how it shapes them may be similar to yours. Like many people who work with youth, as a college pastor I found myself quickly intrigued by all the new electronic media students were utilizing. Thanks to my college students I started a blog in ’04, followed by Facebook in ’05 and Twitter in ’07.  And you never saw me without my trusted Blackberry or iPhone.

But it was not until this last year that I started to become wary of the changes that I was noticing in myself.  I was distracted and unfocused. I began to feel phantom vibrations in my pocket 1 , though no cell phone was there. I noticed myself incessantly sending tweets from a Coldplay concert though I was on a date with my wife.

I knew it was getting bad when my 3-year-old daughter would walk around the house imitating me by pretending like she was talking on the phone.  More and more I felt concerned with what was happening “out there,” and not present with what was happening immediately in front of me.  It was a lonely and disheartening recognition of how technology was using me.

I’m now a marriage and family therapist, and one of the turning points for me was when it dawned on me during a therapy session that many of my clients come to therapy because it may be the only time during the week that they have someone else’s undivided attention.  As a therapist I was present with these people day in and day out, so I decided that my family deserved that same treatment and more.  From that point on, I decided to use use technology in such a way that it didn’t come in between my most important relationships.

Helping Others Navigate the Technological Terrain

As a youth pastor, volunteer, or parent of an adolescent, you are going to find yourself in the position of trying to help both kids and parents navigate the world of technology that teenagers are immersed in. My hope is that the following ideas can better provide you with the tools necessary to bring fruitful discussions and changes in your youth ministry, family, and personal life.

The Shovel—Technology Shapes Us

I first saw this analogy employed by technologist and author John Dyer.  2   John stood before the audience with a shovel in his hand, explaining that when we use a shovel, whether for good (i.e. to plant a tree), or for bad (i.e. to hit somebody), the shovel still has a shaping effect.  No technology is neutral.

In the case of the shovel, regardless of how we use it, it is likely to leave us with calluses. The philosopher and communication theorist Marshall McLuhan said that “Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot.” 3   Most of us are largely unaware of the weight of media influence in our lives.  We must begin to start thinking beyond just how we use technology, to how it is actually shaping us.

Action Step #1: Help those involved in your youth ministry understand that any use of technology will shape them in some way.

  • Hold a seminar that is aimed at helping parents, volunteers, and students understand that technology can be employed for both good (homework research; college searches; chatting with friends), and bad (viewing pornography; gossiping; bullying).
  • Demonstrate to them how technology shapes us all. For example, you could have parents think about the number of phone numbers they used to have memorized, compared with today. You could have youth talk about how texting has enabled them always to be connected, without having to be physically present.
  • As an experiment, families could download Rescue Time (http://www.rescuetime.com) to their computers, and then at the end of each week look at how much time they spent online, and where they spent it. This information can be a catalyst for determining if that’s how each member of the family wants to spend their time, and how they spend their time online may be transforming them.

The Mirror: Technology Reflects Identity

One of the things that I have really begun to notice at the gym the last few years is the amount of time that teenage boys spend looking at themselves in the mirror.  They will periodically flex their biceps or pull up their shirt to get a look at their abs.  In a similar way, social media technologies such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the mirrors by which many teenagers receive back a reflection of who they believe they are, or how they want to be seen.  This reflecting back aids in the construction of their identity.

As adolescents begin to answer the question of “Who am I?”, they use various online channels as the conduits of identity construction. There are a couple of relevant terms 4   for this construction of self, but one of the more compelling terms is that of the “saturated self” presented by psychologist and social construction theorist Kenneth Gergen.  5

Gergen’s theory is that in the formation of relationships, people often use mediating technologies. He explains, “For as new and disparate voices are added to one’s being, committed identity becomes an increasingly arduous achievement.” 6   Thus if one lacks an inner core/identity, Gergen believes what one is left with is a “saturated self”, or “multiphrenia”, which is a term he uses to explain what happens when identities are shaped by too many choices of self-expression.  So for example, as a teenager forms relationships, they are often using the technologies available to them such as their cell phones, Facebook, internet chat, etc.  But if they don’t have a strong sense of self already in place, all the technologies that they use eventually saturate them and keep them from developing a coherent identity.

Action Step #2: Help those involved in your youth ministry ground themselves more relationally in face-to-face interactions.

  • For example, you can teach several biblical passages where one’s face-to-face relational interactions bring about a clearer sense of their identity.  For instance, in Genesis 2:23 Adam becomes a differentiated being  7 , setting him apart from his initial creatureliness.  This differentiation is best realized in relationship to another person, Eve.  In I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12, members of the body of Christ construct identity, and have a clearer sense of self because of their relationship to the whole body, something they can’t achieve in isolation.
  • Work on striving for face-to-face relationships with the volunteers, parents and teenagers in your youth ministry.  When possible, meet face-to-face, rather than using email, chat, or even the phone.  In a culture where efficiency is often valued over relationship, you might be the one opportunity they have to be relationally grounded.
  • Help encourage teenagers by reminding them of the various qualities you see in their identity.  For example, a parent could keep a journal about their teenager, and on occasion share the qualities that they notice as having a positive shaping effect on their identity.  Or a youth pastor could take time hand-write a note to a student, encouraging the spiritual growth they are seeing in their lives.  The use of a different technological medium (writing) has a more personal effect than they are used to receiving through the use of much of the social media technology they spend each day using.

The Tray: Technology Needs Boundaries

“My vocation is, at each moment, to make the person in front of me the most important person in my life.” 8

As I read those words of a nun, as quoted by the Roman Catholic priest and author Ronald Rolheiser, I came to the realization that I have not always done a good job of being present with other people.  One of the challenges that technology poses is that it makes “what is happening out there” often more important than what is happening right in front of us. For example, texting friends to see what they are up to can quickly become more important than enjoying the meal with the friends who are physically present with you at the time.  But like a tray that has corners and edges, our friendships with others are constructed of relational edges and boundaries that help us know where we begin and end in relationship to one another.

Action Step #3: Help those involved in your youth ministry develop various boundaries around their use of technology.

  • For example, teach the story of creation, highlighting the fact that God created in six days and then rested on the seventh.  This Sabbath rest is a reminder to us that we need to set boundaries in our week, and around our use of technology and other tools we utilize. Doing so also reminds us that we are dependent upon God, and not upon ourselves or the tools that we use.
  • Place a tray or basket where all people present can physically place their cell phones in when entering the youth room.  Setting aside these devices visually demonstrates to yourself and others that you’re wanting to be present with those you are in relationship with.  This is a great practice to institute as a family at home, placing a basket or tray in a prominent place in the house where all members of the family can place their electronic devices.  9 )
  • Ask others their perception of your use of technology.  Sometimes we have a distorted sense of how much our use of technology gets in the way of our relationships.  Getting others’ opinions may change how we use technology.

As I reflect back on how my thinking on technology has shifted, I am constantly reminded of something one of my favorite Fuller Seminary professors once said in class.  Dr. Ray Anderson was talking about the importance of being grounded in relationships, reflecting on the fruits of the Spirit as Paul writes in Galatians 5:22-23.  Dr. Anderson commented that he could say that he exhibited those fruits of the Spirit, but what he really needed to do was go home and ask his wife and children if that was true.  They could give us the best indication of whether or not it was true.

In much the same way I have started to realize that the best indicator of whether or not I’m using technology, or it’s using me, is to ask my wife and kids.  Their responses will be a good indication of whether or not I’m really present when I’m with them, or if my use of technology is getting in the way.

I would encourage you to sit down with your kids or the youth you work with, and ask them how you may be better present in their lives.  Ask them if your cell phone, or laptop, or some other technological tool gets in the way of your relationship.  This conversation is a great start to opening the doors to what may be a fruitful interaction in your family life and youth ministry.

Action Points

Here are a few simple ideas that can be implemented immediately in the context of a youth ministry or family:

  • Begin the Conversation: Set aside a time where each member of the family or youth ministry honestly shares some ways they believe the use of technology is shaping them. Then allow others in the family or youth ministry to reflect back what they have heard to the speaker, as well as adding their own additional insight.
  • Set Boundaries: Place a tray or box in the central part of your home or youth ministry, and begin the practice of placing all electronic devices there upon arriving. Talk together about how this practice changes your experience of being with one another.
  • Technological Fast: Teach on the theological idea of Sabbath and solitude, drawing from the creation story in Genesis, and Jesus withdrawing to solitude in his ministry. Use these teachings as catalysts to practice a technological fast in your youth ministry or home. The fast can be of any length, but should be followed up by further discussion of implementing a weekly one day fast.

  1. Angela Haupt, Good Vibrations? Bad?  None at All? (USA Today, 2007). http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-06-12-cellphones_N.htm.
  2. John Dyer, Using Technology, Without It Using You (Dallas: Echo Conference,  2009), http://www.echoconference.com.
  3. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.  (Boston: The MIT Press, 1994), 17-18.
  4. Andrew F. Wood & Matthew J. Smith, Online Communication: Linking Technology, Identity, and Culture.  (London: Routledge, 2004).
  5. Kenneth Gergen, The Saturated Self: Dillemas of Identity in Contemporary Life. (New York: Basic Books, 1992).
  6. Kenneth Gergen, The Saturated Self: Dillemas of Identity in Contemporary Life. (New York: Basic Books, 1992), 73.
  7. Ray Anderson, Being Human: Essays in Theological Anthropology. (Pasadena: Fuller Seminary Press, 1991), 37.
  8. Ronald Rolheiser, The Restless Heart: Finding Our Spiritual Home in Times of Loneliness.  (Denville: Doubleday, 2004), 23.
  9. For more instruction on implementing boundaries for your electronic devices at home: Rhett Smith, Your Marriage and Facebook: Just Don’t Be an “Idiot” (2010), (http://rhettsmith.com/2010/11/your-marriage-and-facebook-just-dont-be-an-idiot/); John Dyer, Why You Need a Technology Basket at Home. (2010), (http://donteatthefruit.com/2010/05/why-you-need-a-technology-basket-at-home/

 



Josh McDowell: Call to Arms

May we rise up to be a part of the solution–starting with ourselves, then our families, our churches, our children’s schools, our countries, and then the world!

“We need a Wilberforce, a Mother Theresa and a Bonhoeffer in the church today who have the courage to battle the devastation of porn as they did slavery, poverty, and Nazism,” said Josh McDowell at the closing of the Set Free Summit.

Click here to download the documents Josh mentioned during his talk for free. We hope they’ll be beneficial to you as you answer the Lord’s Call on your life.

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Download includes:

    1. A Call to Arms (Presentation)
    2. A Call to Arms (Notes)
    3. Facts & Stats About Pornography (Vol 1)
    4. Facts & Stats About Pornography (Vol 2)
    5. Recommended Resources to Help with Overcoming Pornography

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Download other free resources:

Heartbreaking True Accounts on Pervasive Pornography – Press Kit (PDF, 106 KB)
Josh Statements on Internet Pornography – Press Kit (PDF, 85KB)
What others are saying… (PDF, 205KB)



7 Reasons the Bible is so Relevant

dan-delzell-opinion-page(ChristianPost Article) No one in the universe is more relevant than God, and so it makes sense that Scripture (comprised of 66 books) is the most relevant message ever presented. Without God, you and I would not be here. And without the Bible, we wouldn’t be able to discern which things in life are truly the most relevant.

So check out these 7 facts which demonstrate the Bible’s relevance.

1) The Bible explains how you got here.

You didn’t accidentally arrive on the scene. You have a Creator. He is the eternal God. He created the first man and woman as Adam and Eve. You have descended from them. If you miss this huge fact in the first book of the Bible, you may end up missing much of what God wants to teach you in the other 65 books.

2) The Bible explains what God did to reach us even after man chose to sin and rebel against God.

When parents have a child who is missing, they will go to any lengths to find their missing son or daughter. You and I were separated from God because of our sin. He could have allowed us to remain lost forever. Instead, He came after us by sending His only Son to rescue us. The death of Jesus on the cross “paid our way” back to the Father.

3) The Bible explains how you can please your Creator and fulfill His purpose for your life.

How am I to conduct myself so that God will be happy with me? The answer to that question is presented through hundreds of true stories and profound teachings in the Bible. God wants us to know His will for our lives, and so He made sure to send a “love letter” to His children. The Bible presents God’s message of grace and forgiveness for His people. It also reveals how God equips believers to serve others in practical ways.

4) The Bible explains how God can heal your heart after you suffer disappointment.

Everyone experiences a broken heart at one time or another. And only our Creator can put us back together. No amount of counseling can achieve the healing that God can work deep within us. When your heart has been broken, there is nothing more relevant to you than getting it fixed. And God is the great Fixer. Tweet

5) The Bible explains how to experience fulfillment in relationships.

One of the most challenging things in life is to maintain strong and healthy relationships. There are various factors which tend to work against this desired goal, and perhaps the biggest obstacle is our own selfishness. This makes it tough at times for us to fully connect with others. The Bible teaches God’s people how to make those connections in a way that promotes love, peace and unity. It is the best relationship manual ever written.

6) The Bible explains how to receive strength when you are feeling weak.

One might assume that a relationship with God will prevent hardships from touching your life. But as all of God’s children eventually learn from firsthand experience, that simply isn’t the way life works out. Everyone goes through periods of discouragement, weakness and weariness. The Bible illustrates how God’s strength empowers us especially when we feel the weakest. And of all the surprises in the Bible, that is probably one of the biggest.

7) The Bible explains the way a person can live forever in paradise.

Most people want to live forever in heaven. Even those who say they don’t believe in heaven still want to live forever in a happy place. You and I were not created to die. We were created to live forever with God. Through faith in Jesus, a person receives the free gift of eternal life. The Bible clearly spells out the path to paradise.

I hope you are beginning to see why no one is more relevant than God, and why no book is more relevant than the Bible.

Those 7 reasons are truly phenomenal. So go ahead. Dive into God’s Word. Soak in it everyday. Millions of books have been written, but only the Bible provides the ultimate explanation for life on earth, as well as life beyond the grave. Not only is Scripture #1 in terms of relevance, but there is not even a close second.

So are you ready to learn about relevance from the One who wrote the Book on it?


Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

Christians today face growing challenges to show that their faith is both relevant and credible. Find resources and articles here that will equip you with a ready defense for this decade and beyond.

mtac_squareMore Than a Carpenter: Find answers about Jesus’ deity, resurrection and His claim on their life, as well as tackling questions that today’s generation is asking.

unshakabletruth Unshakable Truth: Understand why an entire generation of young Christians is confused about what they believe, why they believe it and how its relevant.

kidsbibleanswersThe Awesome Book of Bible Answers for Kids: What our children know and believe about God, Jesus, and the Bible makes a big difference in how they live and what happens in their life.

77faqs

In 77 FAQS, Josh and Sean McDowell provide researched and insightful answers to difficult questions about God and His Word that you can use in everyday life.

DiscoverMask_smDiscover the Evidence: The ancient manuscripts God has allowed us to be stewards of belong not simply to us, but also to the Body of Christ. We want to share them. Learn more

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Watch free videos as Josh teaches in short segments about: The Attributes of God, The Bible is Unique, Is the Bible Reliable, and others.



Taking a Stand in a Self-Destructing Culture

Update: Thank you to all the speakers and and attendees who made the Set Free Summit so amazing!

Missed the event? DOWNLOAD Josh’s notes for free!

 

By Josh McDowell

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” — Isaiah 6:8

Where do you stand?

As a Christian apologist, I stand for truth. I would be remiss if I watched our culture self-destruct and did not make a stand for truth.

Living a pure life as a follower of Jesus Christ has been my passion for over 55 years. Why? It is because the nature and character of God is true and pure. As believers, God calls us to live our lives characterized by truth and purity. As a father and grandfather I am concerned for my children and grandchildren as they face life in a culture where truth and purity are no longer valued.

take-stand-self-destruct-culture

 

porn-phenom-smLast month, a study I commissioned from the Barna Group found that among Christian young adults:

  • 76% actively seek out pornography on the Internet.
  • 93% say they talk with their friends about porn in neutral, accepting and encouraging ways.
  • 52% say that not recycling is wrong while only 32% say pornography is wrong.
  • Only 1 in 20 have a friend who says that pornography is wrong.

This represents just one of the groups surveyed. The statistics for men, women, children, and especially pastors and Christian leaders are equally startling.

Technology has ushered in many wonderful improvements into our lives. Having access to biblical content on a mobile device is facilitating the spread of the gospel around the world. Social media allows us the privilege of staying connected to the world around us. But there is another side to technology. Internet pornography is a silent epidemic that is eroding our credibility as Christians. Chuck Swindoll put it this way:

“Pornography is the greatest cancer facing the church today.” — Chuck Swindoll

It is not a popular topic — most churches and pastors are not addressing this issue within their churches because it is difficult to discuss. And in many cases pastors themselves struggle personally with porn — this remains hidden while it insidiously eats away at intimacy in one’s relationship with Christ and with family members. Even more concerning, our kids and grandkids are exposed to pornography at earlier and earlier ages. It is no longer a question of if they will be exposed to pornographic images, but when!

When I realized that the scope of this crisis was greater than my preliminary research indicated, I decided it was time to take a stand on this issue. I began working toward positive solutions that every pastor, every leader, and every layperson can embrace and promote. I am convinced that pervasive Internet pornography has become the greatest barrier to faith in Christ, and we simply must do something about it.

I am personally inviting you to join me April 4–7, 2016 in Greensboro, North Carolina for the Set Free Global Summit. Over four days, 30 experts in the fields of medicine, neurology, psychology, theology, and other disciplines will present proven solutions to this pervasive issue from scientific, sociological and spiritual perspectives. Twenty percent of the Set Free Global Summit will explore the impact of this issue on men, women, young people, children, families and pastors. Eighty percent of the Summit will focus on solutions. Special emphasis and tools that pastors, youth pastors, churches and leaders can use to help equip their congregations to take a stand and help change our culture will be presented by some of the top Christian experts.

Let’s take a stand for truth!

* * * * *

josh-mcdowell-set-free-summit-speaker-squareWell known as an articulate speaker, Josh McDowell has addressed more than 25 million people, giving over 27,000 talks in 125 countries. In 1961, Josh joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ International. Not long after, he started the Josh McDowell Ministry to reach young people worldwide with the truth and love of Jesus.

At the Set Free Summit, Josh will be presenting a call to arms to take a stand in the fight against pervasive Internet pornography.

COVENANT-EYESOriginal blog post can be found at Covenant Eyes, a Josh McDowell Ministry partner. Learn more at SetFreeSummit.org.



Pocket Porn: Nearly a third of teens carry portable X-rated theaters

Jeff first saw porn when he was seven years old when he came upon a Playboy magazine. By fifth grade, the Internet became a main source of pornography for his young mind. As technology advanced, so did his obsession. But it was his iPod, and later his iPhone, that gave him such easy access.

The days of the X-rated movie theater may be nearly over, but unfortunately, many teens and young adults today are carrying around an adult theater in their pocket. Last year, US Internet users crossed a threshold. According to what is possibly the largest porn website in the world, now more than half (52%) of US porn use is coming from smartphones—yes, the majority of those who access porn in the United States are doing so from a mobile device.

Sadly, many teens are joining the ranks of mobile porn viewers. Today, 31% of 14-17-year-olds own a smartphone, and with no restrictions, smartphones can access graphic hardcore pornography with ease.

The Downward Spiral of Technology

Jeff describes his childhood introduction to the Internet as an “‘instant,’ vast, and deep hole.” Once online, he would look at anything and everything his fifth-grade mind could find. He soon discovered AOL Instant Messenger and the ability to sex chat with strangers. Peer-to-peer networks gave him access to vast amounts of porn, but with the invention of Flash and broadband Internet, his access to videos became even easier in middle school and high school.

Finally, his sophomore year of college, he got an iPod for his birthday. Jeff could lay in bed and watch porn with his headphones on while his roommate sat at the other end of the room unaware.

Realizing the depth of his addiction, he would attempt some sobriety, but these were short-lived seasons of success.

The summer after graduation, Jeff got an iPhone 4 with 3G access, and the pit got deeper and deeper.

Generation XXX

Talking to today’s college students, we know digital access to porn in the teenage years is not a new thing. More than 90% today’s college men and more than 60% of college women in the US saw porn before the age to 18. For most men (51%) their initial exposure to porn came before their teenage years (a third of women say the same).

Moreover, young men and women are not just consuming porn—they are becoming porn. Conservative estimates say about 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a sext (sexually explicit text message) from someone else. Teens use Snapchat to send nude images of themselves—with the false hope that the image cannot be saved. Boyfriends and girlfriends use Skype to masturbate in front of their webcams for each other. Teens can use Tumblr or Facebook to post leaked sexting photos of their peers. Ex-boyfriends or ex-girlfriends are even posting sexual images of their ex online—a phenomenon called “revenge porn.” Sexual images like this are often a catalyst for “slut shaming.”

The Need for Mobile Accountability

Now more than ever, parents and schools need to broaden their approach to Internet safety.

  1. Both parents and schools need to be proactively teaching teens about the negative impact of pornography. Programs like Fight the New Drug are coming to schools nationwide, teaching teens about negative health effects of porn compared to healthy human sexuality.
  2. Both parents and schools need to recognize the problem with the anonymity of mobile pornography. Schools need to think hard about the devices they distribute to their students. Do school-issued iPads have access to porn both on and off school grounds? Does that iPod touch parents purchased for Christmas have protective restrictions?
  3. Parents need to take a leading role in encouraging an environment of loving accountability in the home, showing sympathy for present struggles (if there are any) while setting appropriate limits on what should and should not be accessed on mobile devices. Accountability software should be installed on all mobile devices with a clear expectation that there is no room for privacy when it comes to harmful content online. (By the way, if you use Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability, you can now use our Android app to lock down other apps, like unmonitored browsers.)

Like Father, Like Son

Jeff isn’t the only one in his family impacted by pornography. His father, George, was also a porn addict—all while pastoring a church.

Jeff remembers his father catching him with porn when he was young and being punished for it. He also remembers the day when he was 18 years old—the day George confessed to him, his mom, and his siblings that he had an addiction to porn and had been wrapped in an affair. A few days later George resigned from his Senior Pastor position. “First he was my dad who punished me for looking at porn,” Jeff says. “Then he was the hypocrite who failed his family.”

After Jeff graduated college he moved in with his parents. After many valiant efforts to quit looking at pornography, and after a stint of victory, one day he found himself stressed out about an upcoming job interview. The stress triggered in his mind a desire to return to his old release valve of porn. He binged all afternoon and evening, and by that night he was sitting under the heavy weight of his shame.

Then a still small voice reminded him: “You know, your dad can help you with this, and he’s just at the end of the hall.” At this point in his life, Jeff still hated his father for the grief he put his family through, but he finally gave in and knocked on his father’s door.

I expected the man from my childhood to tell me how horrible I was and how guilty I should feel. Instead I was saw a man I had never met before. He told me how sorry he was. He offered to pray for me and encouraged me towards Jesus with the Gospel. I cried so hard that night, but I found so much peace. That began a healing work in the relationship between me and my father. It has taken almost four years, but he is now my sponsor, and we talk every day—if anything, just to check in. I am very thankful for him.

COVENANT-EYESBlog Post by Covenant Eyes, a Josh McDowell Ministry partner. Learn more at SetFreeSummit.org.



Develop Kids’ Convictions by NOT Answering Questions

Josh McDowell and Son: Christian Parents can Help Children Develop Their Own Convictions on Faith by NOT Answering Questions.  “For Christian parents to pass on their faith to their children, they should NOT answer their children’s questions but respond with MORE questions to help their kids think through the issues themselves…”

josh-mcdowell-sean-mcdowell

(Photo: The Christian Post/Napp Nazworth)

CHARLOTTE – For Christian parents to pass on their faith to their children, they should not answer their children’s questions but respond with more questions to help their kids think through the issues themselves rather than rely upon their parents, famed Christian apologist Josh McDowell and his son, Sean McDowell, explained recently at the Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 21st Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In raising his four children, Josh McDowell explained that he tried to never answer their questions but to respond to them with another question because he wanted them to develop their own convictions rather than simply become Christians because their parents are Christian.

“I needed to teach my kids to think,” he said, “to think logically, to come to their conclusions. Because if there is always dad’s answer, then they couldn’t develop convictions.”

Josh McDowell has authored or co-authored 120 books, including More Than a Carpenter, which has been translated into over 85 languages and has sold over 15 million copies. Sean McDowell is an assistant professor in the apologetics program at Biola University.

Sean McDowell gives the same advice to parents. He recalled one parent who approached him after a public speaking engagement and told him that her daughter asked her, “does God love Osama Bin Laden?” The parent wanted to know how she should answer.

“Oh, that’s easy,” he told her, “you say, ‘what do you think?'”

“A question is always better than an answer,” Sean McDowell explained. “Why? Jesus asked a ton of questions when he knew the answer, right? Because he wanted to elicit faith and it builds a relationship and gives you insight into what somebody is thinking.”

When a parent asks more questions, instead of answering their child’s questions, Josh McDowell added, it opens a dialogue with the child. And by the end of the dialogue “it was their answer, not daddy’s answer” and “they had more convictions about it.”

Josh and Sean McDowell both do a lot of public speaking as part of their ministries. Their Saturday talk, “Passing on the Faith: A Conversation with a Father and a Son,” was the first time, however, that they appeared on stage together.

Sean McDowell recalled a time in his life when he began to doubt his faith and told his father about it. He was 19-years-old and a student at Biola, a Christian university. After explaining that he was not convinced that Christianity is true, without hesitating Josh McDowell responded, “son, I think that’s fantastic!”

The audience laughed after Sean McDowell said he wondered if his dad really heard what he said. He then asked his dad something he had been curious about: “What was really going on in your mind?”

He meant what he said, Josh McDowell answered, “because you can’t run on your dad and mom’s faith, you’ve got to develop your own faith, your own convictions.”

Josh McDowell also explained that he anticipates difficult questions from his kids and thinks ahead of time how he will answer. So, when his son told him of his doubts about Christianity, he already knew what he was going to say.

As a father, there are two pieces of wisdom he gives his children, Josh McDowell said: 1) “Seek the truth. If you truly seek the truth without prejudice or bias you will find it. What more could any father want?” 2) “Don’t reject something because it’s the faith of your father. Reject it because it’s not true.”

“We need to put our children on a quest for truth,” he added. “If you truly seek it, you will find the truth.”

The key to raising kids, Josh McDowell believes, is building a relationship with your children. Citing a mantra he heard from a psychologist, he said, “rules without relationships leads to rebellion.”

Whenever he had difficulties that needed to be addressed with one of his four children, he explained that he always tried to put their relationship first in the conversation by asking three questions: “Do you know that I love you?” “Do you know that I love your mother?” And, “when you get married, do you want with your spouse and your children what I have with your mother and with you?”

After his children inevitably answered “yes,” he followed with, “what you’re doing here could create a barrier to ever having that.”

Original article found here.



5 Reasons Millennials Aren’t Leaving the Church

5 Reasons Millennials Aren’t Leaving the Church.  We’ve all heard the statistics about millennials leaving the church after high school or college and we don’t know if they’ll return. But…not all millennials have left the church…and in many churches, millennials are coming, or returning in significant numbers.  Here are five reasons millennials aren’t leaving the Church.

Young and Free

We’ve all heard the statistics about millennials leaving the church. We know that many millennials have left after high school or college, and we don’t know if they’ll return. We know they tend to view the Church as judgmental, too political, too fixated on sex, and generally out of touch with modern science and culture.

Dwelling on trends can leave a pastor disheartened, because they are more than statistics. Each number has a name, and a face, some of whom we know personally. As someone with a burden for college students, my head and heart are frequently weighed down with the stories of those who have walked away.

But these aren’t the only stories. Not all millennials have left the church. Many have stayed. And in many churches, millennials are coming, or returning, in significant numbers. Here are five reasons millennials aren’t leaving the Church (and a bit about the kinds of churches they aren’t leaving).

1) They Want More of Jesus Christ

Millennials love Jesus. They love the humility of the incarnation. They love the wisdom of his teaching. They love his patience with knuckleheads like Peter. They love his self-sacrifice at the Cross. They love the hope of the resurrection. They resonate with the love he offers to outcasts like the woman at the well and Zacchaeus. They love that he was unsullied by political factions, and offered a redemptive alternative for engaging with the powers-that-be. They love Jesus, and want more of him, in all his unadulterated, unvarnished glory. Don’t give them a sappy, diluted Jesus. Give them Jesus and all his difficult sayings. Give them Jesus in all the nuance and complexity of his God-man identity. Sure, some will say that they can meet with Jesus outside of “organized religion,” but many are realizing that churches who passionately proclaim and celebrate Jesus offer ways of knowing Him that no individual can equal on their own. Is Jesus the center piece of your church’s life? Is he part of every sermon? The focus of your mission? The delight of your worship? Focus on Christ, and the millennials will thank you.

2) They Want to Read the Whole Bible

This is a generation raised on cherry-picking. Starting in kids programs, they heard a relatively small canon of Bible stories, if they heard Bible stories at all. That didn’t change when they graduated to grown-up church. They’ve heard us gravitate to pet texts and our favorite inspirational anecdotes. They’ve noticed how we avoid difficult, complex passages and even entire books. Odds are they’ve never heard a sermon series on a minor prophet. Or a cogent explanation on why we eat shrimp and bacon and wear mixed-fiber clothing. Or how we should read the Old Testament in light of Christ. Most of the Bible remains closed to our hearers, because we haven’t opened it to them. They are hungry for it! Stop picking cherries and give them some red meat! Don’t spare the difficult passages. Explain the slaughter of the Amalekites. Demonstrate the importance of the Levitical code in history. Talk about the reality of Hell. These conversations are happening in classrooms and coffee shops, dorm rooms and bars, but the biblical perspective is often missing. Preach and teach the whole Bible, so that people get their whole Bibles back. Millennials are hungry for the full foundation of their faith. Give it back to them, and they will thank you.

3) They Long for Intergenerational Community

The congregation I lead is across the street from a large university campus. We are 60% college student and about 80% 13-29. Which means we have trouble paying for some things. It also means that some would call us a “student service.” Except that we’re not. We’ve resisted that, because doing so would kill us. Not just financially, either. It would also deprive us of the wisdom and experience of older generations. We value the vibrant, intergenerational community that we have, and welcome young families, younger and older singles, older families, and empty-nesters in to our fellowship. We look for ways to get these generations serving and doing life together. While we do have some ministries that focus on life stage, the boundaries are soft, and involve other generations as mentors and leaders. We’re not interested in segregating one cohort off from the other parts of the Body of Christ. Why would we do that? Millennials are the most aborted, abandoned, and neglected generation in history. They are looking for spiritual mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, mentors and role models, leaders and shepherds. Help connect millennials to people other than millennials, and they will thank you for it!

4) They Are Looking for Places to Serve

Millennials are an active generation. While they are commonly seen as bored, lazy, and distracted by social media and video games, the reality is that they are a very busy and active generation. From a young age, they have been schooled in the values of community service. They are adept at working in teams, and they are looking for places to belong. Churches which actively and strategically cultivate ways for millennials to serve will find more millennials sticking around. In the workplace, millennials are often regarded with suspicion and even disdain by their older counterparts. In the church, we should do the opposite. We ought to be welcoming, accepting, and helping them grow into the calling God has for them. Instead of sending the message that they can sit on the bench until they “grow up,” find ways to involve them. Give millennials places to serve here and now, and they will thank you for it!

5) They Are Desperate for a Purpose Greater Than Themselves

Millennials are more aware of the needs facing the world than any generation in history. Whether it’s poverty, orphan care, clean water, human trafficking, anti-malaria mosquito nets, Third World debt relief, disease-preventing footware, or one of the hosts of other causes in our world, millennials know what’s wrong with the world. And they want to fix it. Sure, there’s some naiveté in their ideas. Sure, much of what they come up with has already been tried. But their enthusiasm and energy far outweighs the drawbacks. Churches which seem to only care about themselves, and aren’t doing something about the larger world, won’t speak to the hearts of millennials. But Great Commission, Kingdom-minded churches will have heart-stirring stories to tell, and shouldn’t have a hard time connecting with cause-minded millennials. After all, the Kingdom of God is the greatest “cause” in history!

This list isn’t a fool-proof formula, by any means. None of these can be faked. Neither are they only good ideas for millennials—they are good for any generation! If we understand what millennials love and long for, and whole-heartedly put these values into practice, we will more effectively connect them to our churches.

photo is from Hillsong Young ↦ Free’s Instagram.

Original article found here.



Why Our Children Don’t Think There are Moral Facts

Why Our Children Don’t Think There are Moral Facts. What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is NOT TRUE that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised? (NY Times Article)

George Washington, depicted here taking the oath of office in 1789, was the first president of the United States. Fact, opinion or both?

George Washington, depicted here taking the oath of office in 1789, was the first president of the United States. Fact, opinion or both?  Credit via Associated Press

What would you say if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it is not true that it’s wrong to kill people for fun or cheat on tests? Would you be surprised?

I was. As a philosopher, I already knew that many college-aged students don’t believe in moral facts. While there are no national surveys quantifying this phenomenon, philosophy professors with whom I have spoken suggest that the overwhelming majority of college freshmen in their classrooms view moral claims as mere opinions that are not true or are true only relative to a culture.

A misleading distinction between fact and opinion is embedded in the Common Core.

What I didn’t know was where this attitude came from. Given the presence of moral relativism in some academic circles, some people might naturally assume that philosophers themselves are to blame. But they aren’t. There are historical examples of philosophers who endorse a kind of moral relativism, dating back at least to Protagoras who declared that “man is the measure of all things,” and several who deny that there are any moral facts whatsoever. But such creatures are rare. Besides, if students are already showing up to college with this view of morality, it’s very unlikely that it’s the result of what professional philosophers are teaching. So where is the view coming from?

A few weeks ago, I learned that students are exposed to this sort of thinking well before crossing the threshold of higher education. When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

Hoping that this set of definitions was a one-off mistake, I went home and Googled “fact vs. opinion.” The definitions I found onlinewere substantially the same as the one in my son’s classroom. As it turns out, the Common Core standards used by a majority of K-12 programs in the country require that students be able to “distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text.” And the Common Core institute provides a helpful page full of links to definitions, lesson plans and quizzes to ensure that students can tell the difference between facts and opinions.

So what’s wrong with this distinction and how does it undermine the view that there are objective moral facts?

First, the definition of a fact waffles between truth and proof — two obviously different features. Things can be true even if no one can prove them. For example, it could be true that there is life elsewhere in the universe even though no one can prove it. Conversely, many of the things we once “proved” turned out to be false. For example, many people once thought that the earth was flat. It’s a mistake to confuse truth (a feature of the world) with proof (a feature of our mental lives). Furthermore, if proof is required for facts, then facts become person-relative. Something might be a fact for me if I can prove it but not a fact for you if you can’t. In that case, E=MC2 is a fact for a physicist but not for me.

But second, and worse, students are taught that claims are eitherfacts or opinions. They are given quizzes in which they must sort claims into one camp or the other but not both. But if a fact is something that is true and an opinion is something that is believed, then many claims will obviously be both. For example, I asked my son about this distinction after his open house. He confidently explained that facts were things that were true whereas opinions are things that are believed. We then had this conversation:

Me: “I believe that George Washington was the first president. Is that a fact or an opinion?”

Him: “It’s a fact.”

Me: “But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.”

Him: “Yeah, but it’s true.”

Me: “So it’s both a fact and an opinion?”

The blank stare on his face said it all.

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How does the dichotomy between fact and opinion relate to morality? I learned the answer to this question only after I investigated my son’s homework (and other examples of assignments online). Kids are asked to sort facts from opinions and, without fail, every value claim is labeled as an opinion. Here’s a little test devised from questions available on fact vs. opinion worksheets online: are the following facts or opinions?


— Copying homework assignments is wrong.

— Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.

— All men are created equal.

— It is worth sacrificing some personal liberties to protect our country from terrorism.

— It is wrong for people under the age of 21 to drink alcohol.

— Vegetarians are healthier than people who eat meat.

— Drug dealers belong in prison.

The answer? In each case, the worksheets categorize these claims as opinions. The explanation on offer is that each of these claims is a value claim and value claims are not facts. This is repeated ad nauseum: any claim with good, right, wrong, etc. is not a fact.

In summary, our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.

The inconsistency in this curriculum is obvious. For example, at the outset of the school year, my son brought home a list of student rights and responsibilities. Had he already read the lesson on fact vs. opinion, he might have noted that the supposed rights of other students were based on no more than opinions. According to the school’s curriculum, it certainly wasn’t true that his classmates deserved to be treated a particular way — that would make it a fact. Similarly, it wasn’t really true that he had any responsibilities — that would be to make a value claim a truth. It should not be a surprise that there is rampant cheating on college campuses: If we’ve taught our students for 12 years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on.

Indeed, in the world beyond grade school, where adults must exercise their moral knowledge and reasoning to conduct themselves in the society, the stakes are greater. There, consistency demands that we acknowledge the existence of moral facts. If it’s not true that it’s wrong to murder a cartoonist with whom one disagrees, then how can we be outraged? If there are no truths about what is good or valuable or right, how can we prosecute people for crimes against humanity? If it’s not true that all humans are created equal, then why vote for any political system that doesn’t benefit you over others?

Our schools do amazing things with our children. And they are, in a way, teaching moral standards when they ask students to treat one another humanely and to do their schoolwork with academic integrity. But at the same time, the curriculum sets our children up for doublethink. They are told that there are no moral facts in one breath even as the next tells them how they ought to behave.

We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.

That would be wrong.

Justin P. McBrayer is an associate professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. He works in ethics and philosophy of religion.


Original article found here.