When activist children disciple their parents
The kids now tell Mom and Dad what to think on LGBTQ issues
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Sparks fly in Christian homes these days as parents and adolescents argue with one another. Such a phenomenon is not new. Most adults can recount going through a period of conflict and testing boundaries with their parents. But this particular collision of wills is not the run-of-the-mill tussles over independence or disobedience. No, this dispute concerns the child’s LGBTQ affirmation and the parents’ disapproval of said affirmation because of their Christian beliefs.
These disputes are increasing in Christian families. There is no reason to believe they are going to stop soon. But there is a greater concern in this. Through these collisions, many children actually convert their Christian parents into LGTBQ-affirming allies. An inverted discipleship pattern occurs between the adolescent and young adult children who should be influenced by their parents’ instruction and leadership but instead end up instructing their parents.
Why is this happening? One factor is the lack of a relationship between parents and their older children, especially adolescents. There is a transition that must take place as children mature. Parents sometimes fail to shift from being the authoritarian-minded leader to the relational influencer still in authority. It is, of course, true that parents are not meant just to be friends with their children. They are parents, after all, but parenting presents unique opportunities to exercise parental authority in the context of friendly relationships with children. Parents mustn’t confuse spatial proximity with their children and connecting with them.
Another factor is the lack of discipleship that Christian parents provide for their children. They often outsource discipleship of children to the church for a few hours a week (if that), and parents cross their fingers that it will stick. These two components set the stage for the collision.
The other factor in this cauldron of disaster is the child’s formation by something or someone other than the parents. It may be authorities at school, friends, social media, or celebrities, but everyone is being catechized by someone. If it isn’t specifically Christian catechesis, it is catechesis by something (or someone) else. The culture aggressively promotes LGBTQ affirmation, especially among adolescents. Activists and allies work hard to develop them into allies committed to the long game. Once children become allies (which gives them community, a cause, and the precious social acceptance they crave), the conflict with parents begins. When the Christian parents discover their child’s views, their hearts sink, and their faces turn flush as they lecture them that this is wrong. But the parents cannot recover lost ground in one conversation that others planted daily. A rift forms. Tensions soar. This collision results in days, weeks, or months’ worth of conflict, further separating the already frail relationship.
How does this tension get resolved? Many Christian parents attempt to repair the conflict by dropping their protests and settling for a truce. But some go beyond a cease-fire and change sides, embracing the ideology for themselves. Why? Not through their child’s persuasive reasoning but as a desperate attempt to build a bridge for establishing a relationship with them. They become allies together. The tension and conflict dissipate. But so does their ability to lead their adolescent in the way of truth (Proverbs 22:6).
This trend is a newer development that threatens to continue growing unless the church counteracts it. Churches must encourage parents to pursue and cultivate relationships with their children. They need to make time. Get one-on-one with them. Learn to converse with them beyond superficialities. The church must equip parents to disciple their kids in a Biblical worldview, including what it means to be human. It is not the church’s job to disciple the kids. The church should equip parents for the task. Parents need to discuss cultural issues with their children. Find out what they know about LGBTQ issues, then go one step further. In a culture as obsessed and confused as ours on sexuality and gender, parents need to find out what their kids know and make it a routine discussion. Someone will teach children and young adults what to believe about these things. That someone had better be parents.
Today’s youth and young adults are often better disciple-makers than their parents. They are activists passionate about spreading their ideology far and wide. The church must get ahead of this trend and begin equipping parents, or pastors will soon find their time consumed with the task of searching for families who disappeared from the church without warning.
These daily articles have become part of my steady diet. —BarbaraSign up to receive the WORLD Opinions email newsletter each weekday for sound commentary from trusted voices.