Ontario’s new Physical and Health Education curriculum presents the most recent challenge to Bible-based Christians in a long history of contending with the incursions by the prevailing hostile anti-Biblical culture we are surrounded with. Only now the battleground is in what we once thought was a safe place – our schools. And the battle is over the minds and hearts of our children. Sadly we have yet to see much strong leadership from our churches. Christian parents are left struggling with what to do when the new school year starts. As recently as this weekend at a gathering of concerned Christians I attended, the audience was told to ‘ engage in constructive and respectful dialogue with the teachers and the school system’. It’s always good to be respectful, constructive and dialogue when the time is right for it but that time has now passed. An anti-Biblical morally repugnant ‘sexualized’ health curriculum has become the legal curriculum of the Province. Our children are not safe.
This curriculum represents a clear and present danger to the spiritual health of our children. Their safety will not be ensured by engaging in ‘respectful, constructive dialogue’. The children will be the first casualties of this newest incursion and then after a generation our churches will be the next to fall away. How can I write this? History has shown this to be true for the mainline denominations. And the evangelical churches are now considering embarking upon the same journey of dialogue and accommodation hoping they will have peace by it. John Dickerson writing for the New York Times argues;
Some evangelical leaders are embarrassed by our movement’s present paralysis. I am not. Weakness is a potent purifier. As Paul wrote, “I am content with weaknesses … for the sake of Christ” (2 Corinthians 12:10). For me, the deterioration and disarray of the movement is a source of hope: hope that churches will stop angling for human power and start proclaiming the power of Christ.
This is all true but what about our children? They are not safe. We are commanded to protect and nurture them not abandon them to the teachings of a hostile anti-Biblical culture which has for generations been working to undermine and destroy the faith of young people. We are living the outcome of this cultural shift in the mindset of main stream Christianity.
Changing the cultural mindset of a society isn’t easy. It takes years of effort working on many fronts. One of the most effective strategies involves targeting the most vulnerable and most malleable members of the group – children. Jane Cook writing about the wider issues of being a child in our turbulent world tells us;
. . . the primary reality of being a child is being in the power of adults. Children are shaped morally and politically by the strivings, attitudes and tensions of the adult world. They are given their society’s vision for the future and the mandate to carry it out. As the psychologist, Niel Postman remarked, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
When we allow access to the minds and hearts of our children, we place our future and their future in the hands of others who may not share our values and beliefs. We do so not only to our peril but to our children’s peril. For Christians, the role of first educators and guardians of the child’s mind and heart is a precept not to be taken lightly. The Bible is clear about the responsibility of parents; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
What happens when we let others do what God has placed in our hands? We know what happens. This battle for the hearts and minds of our children has been going on for several generations now and we have lost much. Young people have abandoned the church in droves. Today, in many many churches we can look out over the people in the pews and gaze upon a field of grey.
The mainstream church is dying out. This is not news. Ir is well documented history as Benton Johnson, Dean R. Hoge and Donald A. Luidens pointed out as early as 1993
America’s so-called mainline Protestant churches aren’t what they used to be. For generations on end, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and kindred denominations reported net annual membership gains. As recently as the 1950s their growth rate equaled or exceeded that of the United States as a whole.
But in the early 1960s their growth slowed down, and after the middle of the decade they had begun to lose members. With very few exceptions, the decline has continued to this date. Never before had any large religious body in this country lost members steadily for so many years. By 1990 these denominations had lost between one-fifth and one-third of the membership they claimed in 1965 and the proportion of Americans affiliated with them had reached a twentieth-century low.
Why? Johnson et. al. point out;
. . . the single best predictor of church participation turned out to be belief-orthodox Christian belief, and especially the teaching that a person can be saved only through Jesus Christ. Virtually all our baby boomers who believe this are active members of a church. Among those who do not believe it, some are active in varying degrees; a great many are not. Ninety-five percent of the drop-outs who describe themselves as religious do not believe it. And amazingly enough, fully 68 percent of those who are still active Presbyterians don’t believe it either.
Weak faith is a church killer. The authors continue to say
In our opinion, the mainline Protestant membership loss is simply the next stage of this process of declining commitment to the church and to Christian faith and witness. The cultural revolution of the 1960s may have hastened its onset and added to its severity, but it was not its major cause. Most conservative religious communities came through the cultural turmoil in fairly good shape; the mainline Protestant churches were already too weak to mount an effective response.
Seeking to accommodate the world leaves parents unwilling or unable to pass a strong faith on to their children. Johnson et. all. describe the lack of commitment among the people;
Given the reluctance of so many baby boomers to talk about religion or to instill their own views in their children, the prospects that their offspring will make a serious Christian commitment are even dimmer than their own prospects turned out to be. And among the “religious” dropouts the prospects are dimmer still. They are virtually unanimous in wanting their children to have a religious education, but less than a third with children at home have actually enrolled them in Sunday School. Many hesitate to do so for fear of getting “roped in” to a round of church activities themselves. They are “too busy,” and they have a myriad of other commitments. Above all, they see no real point in getting involved.
Where was the leadership of the church at this time?
The challenges posed to Christianity by various secular ideologies and moral systems have been truly formidable in recent times. Mainline Protestants in general and Presbyterians in particular are well educated. Many of their forebears read such authors as Darwin, H. L. Mencken, and Aldous Huxley. In response to the currents of modernity, denominational leaders promoted ecumenism and dialogue, but they did not devise or promote compelling new versions of a distinctively Christian faith. They did not fashion or preach a vigorous apologetics.
The trend hasn’t turned around. As churches strive to accommodate the world around them they decline. Lauren Markoe states; “The majority of church-affiliated Americans belong to denominations that forbid gay marriage, including Roman Catholics, most Baptists, Pentecostals, evangelicals and Mormons. Mainline Protestants, once the majority in America, have lost ground in recent decades to other denominations and to independent churches.” (With Presbyterians in the yes column, mainline Protestants solidify gay marriage support, Lauren Markoe. March 18, 2015)
Today, Bible believing Christianity as a way of life is under attack and has been for decades. The war is for the hearts and minds of our children. We are losing that war. Sadly many church leaderships have urged accommodation and dialogue. History shows us the result of that strategy. As in the days of Ezekiel and Jeremiah there are many who would tell us to ‘go along’ and ‘get along’. Don’t listen to them; “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the people of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the Lord.” (Ezekiel 13:3,4,5) Ezekiel continues; “Because they lead my people astray, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall.” (v. 10,11) The flimsy walls have fallen! Why should we believe they will protect us again.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. The time for dialogue and accommodation is over. It has been tried many times with the same result – church decline. Will the church help us keep our children safe and speak the Gospel unashamedly with love into a world that is broken and hurting? Indeed, both are required for the church to stay on course and remain viable.
“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
Who will lead through this difficult time