In conversation with a friend this morning, a thought came to mind that I thought I would pass on. We were talking about the world in which things like twerking and Miley Cyrus can happen — the realm of pop culture and all the bubbles floating around it. And every bubble that floats by right this minute thinks that all the bubbles that perished five minutes ago were “dated.”
Let me limit this observation to those who know that there is a big problem “out there,” and who have done something about it. Their kids are in private school or home-schooled, they hear sermons about “worldview thinking,” they have entertainment standards in their home that actually function, and — in short — they have the disapproval down. They know what to disapprove of, and that they disapprove. The curriculum is basically okay. As my friend put it, we have eighty percent down — but when we put out to sea, I don’t want to do so with eighty percent of the hull intact.
We have everything except for what actually matters. What is going on in that remaining twenty percent? You have lyrics of pop songs that are perfectly foul, and you don’t know where the kids could have possibly even heard them. You have kids who know ten times more than you do about how to install and remove porn filters. You have kids who display the remarkable (and apparently inconsistent) ability to know all the lyrics to a song while simultaneously knowing nothing whatever about those lyrics. So you have good Christian kids who have been instructed in the eighty percent, and who, in a glaring disconnect, are simply incapable of understanding what the problem with the twenty percent could possibly be.
Now the task of Christian parents, when it comes to worldliness (to lapse for a moment into the biblical terminology for this), is to communicate a sense of disenchantment, not just disapproval. Don’t take this wrong — disapproval should be a base-line given, and it should be there and functioning. But that is not where the action is. Our task is demythologizing what the world is doing, not shaking a censorious finger at it.
It is like explaining a magic trick. When a child sees an illusionist doing something remarkable, he is amazed. But if someone explains in detail how the trick is accomplished, where all the wires are, it will no longer be possible for him not to see the trick.
Two things are necessary here. One, the person explaining the trick has to understand it himself, and secondly, he must have the loyalty of the person he is explaining it to. If he is muddled about the trick, his explanation will just be bombast — disapproval masquerading as explanation. But the last thing we need here is ignorance on fire. If a parent or pastor tries to tell the kids a bunch of things about pop culture that are manifestly untrue, whatever else we say about it, we can affirm that he is not helping.
Second, the matter of loyalty is not a trifle. If you explain the trick, and you don’t have the loyalty and affection of the one who are explaining it to, all you are doing is bursting bubbles and making people angry. Few things are as capable of angering people as the process of demythologizing can. The deeper the enchantment, the deeper the anger — which is why parents must be inculcating loyalty in their children from day one. Incidentally, you don’t inculcate loyalty by demanding it. You inculcate loyalty by showing it. But that is another theme for another time.
If someone loves the world (and refuses to be disenchanted), what is the problem? The love of the Father is not in him (2:15). As I have said in numerous contexts, the task that parents have is not that of getting their kids to conform to the standard. That part is easy, at least for a time. The task is to get them to love the standard. But learning to love the law of the Father’s house is not possible without loving the Father of the house.
This cannot be accomplished with rules, laws, or worldview seminars. The letter kills, and the truer the letters, the deader you get. Moralism operates with visible gears, and worldliness functions with invisible wires. That’s the only way twerking could happen, incidentally — somebody, the devil most likely, was jerking on the wires.
But the kingdom of God is wireless.