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Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rioting, Race, and the Root of Hardship

I watched in horror with much of the country yesterday as groups of young, violent men rioted in the streets, destroyed and looted property, and threw debris at the police. I listened to the residents who were interviewed and who were angry, not only at the violence, but at what they perceive as a system that is opposed to their success.

Over and over again, the common theme in the protesters and the residents' comments was that these people wanted to be heard. I believe that. While professional protesters and the media elevate tensions, one cannot ignore the real feelings of frustration, entrapment, and profiling those that come from the inner city experience throughout their lives. These people scream in the only way they know, with the violence that has surrounded them.

Are the Right People Listening?

I don't condone riots. This kind of lashing out is childish in its makeup. Those that want a better civilization may protest, but they can protest in a more civilized manner, a fact that Martin Luther King, Jr proved during his life. Besides, screaming frustration doesn't fix anything. You have to get the right message to the right listeners in order for it to be effective.

What is the real message? Who are those that should be listening? If I had to identify the primary disadvantage young blacks face today, I would immediately say it's the lack of fathers in black families. While stats like high school graduation rates for young blacks have risen to historic highs, according to the Pew Center,1 the number of black children being raised in an intact household has dropped enormously. NewsOne reports that 72 percent of black children are born into a single parent household.2 That means while one out of four people in the U.S. start their lives in a single-parent household, nearly three out of four black families do. That's a huge discrepancy.

The consequences of fatherless homes are well known. Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor3, twice as likely to be abused, and suffer from higher rates of school failure, behavioral problems, drug use, and loneliness.4 They are 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers.5

To me, the protests resemble a tantrum. In poorer communities, a single mother must work to provide an income since a father isn't there to do so. This not only puts incredible pressure on her, but forces the kids to raise themselves. Without a father, there is no anchor to propel the family upward economically or to model what it means to be an adult male in society. All of this was clearly laid out in 1965 in the Moynihan Report, diagnosing the problem of black stagnant economic mobility.6

As I write this, the United States Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments from those who seek to redefine marriage in the United States. Yet, for those who grew up in a culture where marriage was considered optional, where children are brought up without both biological parents committed to rearing them, the results are devastating.

There is no easy answer to the problems in places like Baltimore, or Ferguson, or South-Central Los Angeles. That's because there are no fathers to hear the screams of these children. It's easy to condemn the rioters, and their actions need to be condemned, but the problem cannot be solved by a different police force or a different educational system. To nurture civilly, one must nurture the building blocks of civilization itself, and all civilizations are built upon the family.


1. Fry, Richard. "U.S. High School Dropout Rate Reaches Record Low, Driven by Improvements among Hispanics, Blacks." Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center, 02 Oct. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.
2. NewsOneStaff. “72 Percent Of Black Kids Raised By Single Parent, 25% Overall In U.S.” NewsOne. Interactive Media, 2011. Web. 27 Apr. 2011.
3. “Statistics and Data on the Consequences of Father Absence and the Benefits of Father Involvement.” National Fatherhood Initiative. National Fatherhood Initiative, 2014. Web.
4. Wilcox, Brad. “Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from the Social Sciences.” National Marriage Project. National Marriage Project, 16 Aug. 2011. Web.
5. O'Block, Robert. “Roots of Uncertainty.” Annals of Psychotherapy and Investigative Health, Spring 2008. American Psychotherapy Association. Web.
6. Moynihan, Daniel P. The Negro Family: The Case For National Action. Rep. Washington, DC: Office of Policy Planning and Research United States Department of Labor, 1965. Print.
Image courtesy Telefonkiosk - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Building Faith Muscles in Your Kids

Last week, I got to have a nice conversation with my eighteen year old son about some different things that's been on his mind. He told me that he's been mulling over concepts of predestination and free will, and reading up on the subject.  We discussed the Calvinist and Arminian models as well as Molinism. We also talked about the nature and purpose of salvation and touched on creation models.

Some of you may think that because I'm an apologist, our family has "theology hour" or some such thing.  That would work about as well in my home full of teenage boys as it would in yours. However, there are a few things you can do to nurture the faith of your children.

1. Realize that It's Their Faith You Want to Develop

I think it's natural that people want the best for their children. In affluent cultures such as ours, that desire sometimes gets mistranslated, though. As parents we can mistake providing a safe, loving home for our kids into providing a care-free area for them to grow up where every difficulty is eliminated or marginalized as much as possible.

Probably the most important principle I can offer is this first one: your desire is not to give your kids your faith, but to have them develop a strong faith of their own. This is key. Teenagers are naturally inclined to seek out meaningful lives. They actually want to understand their world and do things that are important. But our kids don't yet have the experience to know how to go about understanding the world. They're like a young hockey player who has some raw talent, but who doesn't know what it takes to make it in professional athletics.

Your job as parent is to train them. You can't simply tell them what to believe, you have to ask them what they think in a certain situation. You have to let them understand the basics of Christianity then ask them how they would express it. This means drawing their attention to big topics.

One way you can do that is to use movies to point out different worldviews.  For example, my family may go watch the latest superhero action movie. The movie is a lot of fun, but I also try to draw attention to the values the film is promoting. Listen to their ideas of why this hero is so cool and ask why would they want to be like him or her. Ask a lot of questions! The more you explore their point of view, the more they will see where their beliefs may be inadequate. Just as a young athlete must get acquainted with the rules of the game and know the mechanics of moving  on ice skates, so the young Christian must learn to stand upon those things he or she believes. We are to train our children in the way they should go; we shouldn't try to carry them there.

2. Faith Requires Exercise to Grow Stronger

Next, don't shun tough questions that they have or difficult situations in which they're placed. We have a tendency as parents to want to "helicopter" our kids out of uncomfortable or difficult situations. But doing so actually impedes their growth. Faith is like a muscle; in order to make is stronger, one must use it.

This is again just like developing an athlete. You would never take a person who only played in a neighborhood league and force them to face the professionals. Athletes grow by joining leagues where the level of play is higher than they're used to, but where they can be coached and receive additional instruction on how to improve. As they grow, they're own style and skill come to the fore.

One way I help youth ministries do this is by leading different apologetics missions trips to places like Salt Lake City, Utah or Berkeley, CA. We take kids out of their comfortable environment and train them how to interact with students on a college campus who do not share their Christian beliefs. They get to dialogue with atheists or others and they then can see how those views compare to their own. All the while, we are training the students and talking with them after every encounter.

The problem is if we don't let our kids struggle just a bit with tough questions or with objections to their faith, they will never learn that what they believe is actually able to withstand the pressure. I've talked with many people who in college lost their faith. It wasn't because they thought the objections to Christianity were too difficult to overcome. Instead, they concluded that, since their parents and pastors told them to just ignore those "troublemakers" with tough questions that Christianity didn't really care about the truth at all. Since they had never faced someone antagonistic to their beliefs before, they never knew that Christianity could handle to toughest shots thrown at it.

Our kids can do amazing things. They are truly interested in forming their beliefs, but that formation requires them to have some experience with those beliefs. Help them grow into mature Christians by allowing them to explore their faith and be challenged every once in a while. The conversations that result may surprise you!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Don't Ask a Test Tube to be a Father

This past January, the Sundance Film Festival debuted The Kids Are Alright, a movie about the tests a lesbian couple endures when their two children seek out to find their sperm-donor father. Of course, the movie's pro-homosexual message at the end is all about the difficulties every couple faces through years of commitment, echoed approvingly by an article in Psychology Today.1 But this is a movie, and just like everything else that comes out of Hollywood, the truth is a very different – and disturbing – thing.

In this case, the truth comes from the definitively non-conservative online magazine Slate. In their article "The Sperm-Donor Kids Are Not Really All Right", authors Karen Clark and Elizabeth Marquardt look at how having a sperm donor father affects the emotional stability and overall well-being of a child, and the results are startling.  Here is just a brief summary of some of Clark and Marquart's findings:
  • Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25.
  • They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse.
  • They are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems.
Some people may be tempted to think that this is typical of any displaced child since they have unresolved questions of their biology, not knowing who one of their parents was. However Clark and Marquart also studied children who were adopted, and in comparing donor offspring to adopted children they write:
As a group, the donor offspring in our study are suffering more than those who were adopted: hurting more, feeling more confused, and feeling more isolated from their families. (And our study found that the adoptees on average are struggling more than those raised by their biological parents.) The donor offspring are more likely than the adopted to have struggled with addiction and delinquency and, similar to the adopted, a significant number have confronted depression or other mental illness. Nearly half of donor offspring, and more than half of adoptees, agree, "It is better to adopt than to use donated sperm or eggs to have a child."

In the film (disclaimer: I've not seen the movie; I've only viewed the trailer) one of the children asks his father "Why did you donate your sperm?" The man replies "It seemed a whole lot more fun at the time than donating blood." This sums up much of what is wrong with our culture’s view of creating a family. People who take a frivolous approach to having a child (or providing the materials such as sperm or ovum to create them) are not looking toward the future child’s best interest. In fact, many people seem to believe that children are just one more accessory they are entitled to, so that their list of stuff is complete. But as we see, such frivolous attitudes lead to real, damaging consequences. And these consequences not only affect the sperm-donor kids, but they affect the society as a whole who has to cope with, treat, or jail the negative actions they perform as a result.

God's original design for marriage is a father and a mother committed for life, bringing up their biological offspring. Even in our "enlightened" era, it looks like that formula is still the best for raising strong, well-adjusted individuals. No matter what Hollywood preaches, the truth tells the tale.

You can read the entire Slate article here.
You can see the actual study from Clark and Marquart here.


1. For the Psychology Today review of the movie, go here.
Image courtesy Brendan Dolan-Gavitt and licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) License.
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