As a parent of small children, I find the children’s television landscape is filled with more fluff than substance. But a handful of shows are different. My children learn meaningful lessons from these shows about dealing with complex emotions and mastering math skills.
We enjoy such programs in our household. They spark our children’s imaginations and teach them valuable lessons. Most of the time, I don’t have to worry about what’s on. Most of the time.
By and large, children’s spaces have been free from the most controversial elements of the culture wars. Depictions of things like homosexuality had been reserved for the nightly news and primetime television, not shows for kids.
But the tides are turning. For example, in 2019 alone, the long-running children’s show Arthur featured schoolteacher Mr. Ratburn marrying another man; My Little Pony highlighted a same-sex couple; and a Hallmark commercial depicted two women kissing.
We shouldn’t be surprised by this turn of events. The new secular orthodoxy not only affirms beliefs contrary to a Christian worldview, it celebrates them. We can only assume that these sorts of depictions will continue to seep into the content our children and families consume. At their earliest ages, children will be led to believe that what is wrong is actually admirable.
We need to know for ourselves what the Bible says about marriage, gender, and sexuality and why— and then be able to articulate these truths clearly.
How should we as parents think about these instances, and what should we do in response?
1. Be realists.
We parents need a wake-up call. For some time we may have lived under the delusion that children’s spaces were morally neutral. Yes, we should be careful about primetime television, we thought, but children’s television is a different story.
But morally neutral spaces do not exist anymore (if they ever did to begin with). Our Christian faith and the kind of lifestyle it urges us to live is increasingly strange to a secular world, and we can expect that a secular media will continue to depict secular values. We should be honest with ourselves about this fact.
2. Be knowledgeable.
If your children see something relating to homosexuality, for example, in pop culture, would you be able to explain to them why Christians think differently about marriage and sexuality? Sometimes we respond to such things with blanket declarations of “It’s just wrong.” But our children can see through those simple dismissals. We need to know for ourselves what the Bible says about marriage, gender, and sexuality and why— and then be able to articulate these truths clearly.
Parents, prepare yourself now for those conversations.
First, know what the Bible teaches about the topic. Study how God created two sexes, male and female (Gen. 1:27), how he designed marriage for one man and one woman for life (Gen. 2:18-24), and how any sexual activity outside of that God-ordained marriage is contrary to his will (Matt. 19:3-6; Mark 7:20-23).
Second, know why the Bible teaches these truths. Remember how the oneness of marriage (Gen. 2:24) reflects the oneness of God’s nature (Deut. 6:4). Recall how marriage provides God’s means for filling the earth (Gen. 1:28). Most importantly, understand how marriage is a portrait of Christ’s love for the church (Eph. 5:22-33). Commit these truths to memory now so you won’t be caught off guard next time an opportunity arises to address them with your children.
If we are not actively shaping our children’s moral imaginations and worldviews, something else will.
3. Be proactive.
Once you are realistic about the world’s perspective on various issues like abortion, sexuality, and marriage, and once you are knowledgeable about what God teaches on these topics, be proactive in training your children.
We parents have too often assumed we can outsource moral formation to someone else, such as a church or the grandparents. But if we are not actively shaping our children’s moral imaginations and worldviews, something else will.
Let’s point our children to the Bible, showing them not just what God’s Word teaches but why. Let’s model for them how to love people, even those with whom they disagree. Most of all, let’s remind them of the gospel—the good news that though we are all sinners, God can save and redeem us through the blood of Jesus.
After all, our children will continue to hear competing messages, whether they be from television, social media, a friend at school or somewhere else. Let’s give them the tools—and the heart—to know the truth before they stumble upon these messages.
A version of this article appeared at The ERLC.